The Hidden Truth
Steelers Fever Exclusive Editorial
|Wednesday, October 31st, 2012
By Tiger Rowan
Steelers Fever Columnist
Before I even start my report on the WASH-PITT game, I have to make one quasi-tangential comment:
Mike Wallace had a great game.
I have been on him for a few weeks, and it appears that he heard me… because, he caught some very difficult passes, which was no minor feat, considering the wet conditions (i.e. one could easily have used the weather as an excuse for underperforming). Furthermore, after those receptions, Wallace drove upfield with vigor, and even stretched out for a first down. Great game, Wallace!!!
On the flip-side of that coin, were Washington’s receivers. You will hear from the nay-saying talking heads that Pittsburgh “lucked out”, because Washington dropped so many balls. To which I retort, “Uh… NO.”
First of all, you will hear that Robert Griffin III (RGIII) had touchdown passes dropped. While this is true, to an extent, the reality is that the people who are pointing out the drops are actually hiding some important facts. Those trying to rain on Pittsburgh’s parade, are not necessarily lying; they just are not telling the entire truth. Let me use one particular drive as an example: Washington’s touchdown drive.
On that drive, RGIII hit three receivers in the hands, with perfectly placed throws, each of which should have been a touchdown… and then his receivers dropped those aforementioned passes. So, while his team technically dropped three passes, that individually could have been touchdowns, the fact remains that those three drops occurred on the same drive. And, simply, one can not score four touchdowns on a single drive.
So, Yes, the receivers dropped three passes that could have been touchdowns, but ultimately, Washington STILL scored a touchdown on that drive… so, they STILL got a touchdown, regardless of the first three drops. In other words, if those other three players had indeed caught the ball, that drive would have resulted in the same number of points (a touchdown)… with the only differences being that a) the touchdown would have occurred slightly sooner in the drive, and b) it would have been caught by a difference receiver.
Again, some of RGIII’s touchdown passes were indeed dropped… but, what has been hidden by the media, is that, in the end, Washington STILL ended up with a touchdown.
Furthermore, at least one other possible touchdown pass was batted away by a Pittsburgh cornerback. Sure, it “could” have been a touchdown, if Keenan Lewis had not gotten his hand in the way. But, by that logic, every single run made by a running back “could” have been a touchdown, if the defense had not tackled him.
Speaking of the defense, I counted at least three passes, where a Washington receiver alligator-armed and/or looked around for the “big hit”… which resulted in a dropped pass. Simply, Washington’s receivers looked & acted intimidated.
In summation, even if one uses the gaudy number of eleven dropped passes by Washington (which I feel is too high, but was indeed a number that I heard on the radio this morning)… doing some math… taking away the three touchdown drops before the actual touchdown, the pass defensed by Lewis, and the three scaredy-cat drops… that leaves only four dropped passes. And, four dropped passes is what the Pittsburgh receivers also committed. In other words, people can talk about the drops all that they want, but the truth is that Washington simply played against a better team.
Along those same lines, of hidden statistics, is the lost yardage that ensues from all of the Pittsburgh’s penalties… which, at times, has occurred in droves, and in all three facets of the game: special teams, offense, and defense.
We will start with the most glaring, being the special teams. On Sunday, Antonio Brown had a beautiful punt return for a touchdown… that was called back, due to a penalty. Not only did it negate seven points, it swung the field position battle into Washington’s favor. Instead of Pittsburgh getting the ball at around the forty-yard line (where Brown would have fair caught it), the Steelers started that drive just outside of their own red-zone. A few plays later, they were punting to Washington, who took over with decent field position.
The worst part is that in the past two games, six big returns have been called back, due to penalties. Some of these penalties negated touchdowns; other penalties simply destroyed Pittsburgh’s edge in field position. It might only show up in the stat-sheet as a fifteen-yard penalty, but more often than not, it has actually negated much more… such as a sixty-yard swing in field position (even though it is only listed as fifteen-yards). Simply, the loss of these “hidden” yards is a major problem. When it occurs against bad teams, Pittsburgh has kept those bad teams close (see: Oakland & Tennessee). If it were to happen against good teams, Pittsburgh could be facing some serious trouble.
That said, I am certain that the special team penalties will improve… because, Pittsburgh has already gotten better on both offense and on defense.
On offense, during the Washington game, the Steelers were not shooting themselves in the foot, with false starts and holds. Those five or ten extra yards can kill drives, because it is hard enough, in three downs, to go ten yards, let alone go fifteen or twenty. Thankfully, on Sunday, the Steelers committed nary an offensive penalty… and the result was scores on five of their first six drives (with the sixth being a punt, which pinned Washington at their own one-yard line).
Similarly, the defense, which was listed as having the second least passing yards against them, continued to hold Washington to few passing yards. The difference between this game and prior games was obvious: penalties… or, lack thereof.
People who do not pay attention, probably see the similar stat-lines, and wonder what I am talking about. Let me explain it this way. Sure, Pittsburgh’s secondary has been giving up very few passing yards, but they have not actually played well. Why? Because, while the defense has not given up passing yards, they have indeed given up huge chunks of yardage due to penalties. In other words, when an opponent goes sixty yards for a touchdown, but fifty of those yards comes from Pittsburgh penalties, cheering that “Pittsburgh only gave up ten yards passing” is silly. Whereas, when the defense has very few penalty yards, and still only gives up ten yards passing, THEN one may cheer to one’s heart is content. So… go ahead & cheer, because Pittsburgh’s secondary played one heck of a game.
In conclusion, Pittsburgh crushed Washington, despite what anyone tries to tell you. Pittsburgh’s offense was clicking, with crisp passes, and once they had the lead, they ran out the clock. Likewise, the defense was hard-hitting and penalty-free. If Pittsburgh plays like this, in every game, they will be very hard to beat.