Monday, October 08, 2007

Not to quibble, but ...

It may appear unseemly to take issue with just about any aspect of the Steelers’ thorough beat-down of the Seattle Seahawks ... but that won’t stop Joey Porter’s Pit Bulls!

Following the Special Teams debacle against the Arizona Cardinals, we hoped to see marked improvement on Special Teams play.

And we did.

First, Jeff Reed’s only kickoff of the day, to start the game, produced a touchback, which is the best possible outcome short of a fumble recovery. Plus, the tackling of the coverage units seemed better, as the Steelers did not allow a return touchdown, so we made progress there.

In the first quarter, however, for what it’s worth (seven points), it took a flying tackle by punter Daniel Sepulveda to bring down the speedy Nate Burleson, who otherwise almost certainly would have scored a touchdown if not for Sepulveda’s effort. Because of Sepulveda’s heroics and willingness to actually, you know, tackle, Burleson’s return was “limited” to 22 yards.

Can you imagine Chris Gardocki making that tackle? Didn’t think so.

What really bothers us is this: The Steelers committed two more penalties on Special Teams. Granted, this is a big improvement over the six in Arizona the previous week, but still …

In the first quarter, Willie Reid was flagged for an illegal block above the waist on a punt by Sepulveda. In the third quarter, Ike Taylor incurred the same penalty, only to outdone when Allen Rossum muffed the punt. He recovered the ball, but that didn't stop him from fumbling later, after a seven-yard punt return in the fourth qurter. Arnold Harrison recovered the fumble, so all is forgiven.

But not forgotten.

Those kinds of mistakes tend to get swept under the rug following a win, but they are there nonetheless. They need fixed.

We’re not suggesting there are endemic problems on the Steelers’s Special Teams …but there are too many penalties, long returns by opponents and near-misses to suggest that there isn't ample room for tightening up the play of the Special Teams units – especially for cutting down the number of penalties.

Bob Ligashesky, are you listening?

Dissa ‘n Datta

As for other penalties on Sunday, sheesh, three holding penalties on one drive, and the Steelers’s still managed to overcome them by converting third-and-long situations and scoring a touchdown. Very impressive, but three holding penalties on one drive – at home – is inexcusable. Holding calls at home are frowned upon, to say the least.

At one point, too, Cedric Wilson was lucky he didn’t get flagged for taunting, just as Nate Washington was lucky he didn’t get flagged for clipping on Najeh Davenport’s 45-yard run in the first quarter. Plus, Anthony Smith is lucky he wasn’t thrown out of the game for flying at Matt Hasselbeck’s knees in the second quarter, when Smith was flagged for a late hit.

We're almost surprised Mike Holmgren and Seahawks' fans aren't whining about the officiating.

In any case, we expect Coach Mike Tomlin covered all these penalties and near-misses in “The News.”

No Excuses

Time of possession tells the tale of this game.

Time of possession totals for the game: Steelers: 40:15; Seahawks: 19:15.

After the first quarter, the Steelers had the ball for 35:12 compared to 9:48 for the Seahawks. The Seahawks had the ball for less than eight minutes in the second half.

The second half started with a Steelers’ 17-play, 80-yard touchdown drive that ate more than 10 minutes off the clock. Following the ensuing kickoff, the Steelers’ defense held the Seahawks ran to three-and-out in 1:31. The Steelers offense took over and mounted a 13-play, 85-yard scoring drive that at up more than eight minutes.

Game over, essentially.

“It was hot out there,” Seahawks linebacker Leroy Hill said. “But they were on the same field we were and in the same heat we were, so it was no excuse. I had to come in and miss a series until I got the fluids to get back out there.”

With leading receivers Hines Ward and Santonio Holmes sidelined, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger stepped up by completing 18 of 22 passes for 206 yeards, one touchdown and a 120.8 passer rating. Most importantly, he didn’t turn the ball over. And, while the total number of yards passing is not impressive, he kept drives going with clutch throws. Roethlieberger took three sacks, but he eluded the grasp of Seattle defenders numerous other times.

“He’s talented in there, he’s big and very good at avoiding people – so if you don’t wrap him up, you’re not going to get him down,” Seahawks defensive tackle Craig Terrill said. “He just has the good awareness that the best quarterbacks have in the pocket. You never want to be on the field that much. You need to have some three-and-outs. You need to have some turnovers, and we didn’t have either one.”

While the Seahawks’ defense couldn’t get off the field, the Steelers’ defense had no such problem. It limited star running back Shaun Alexander to 25 yards on 11 carries, and Seattle’s offense managed just 144 total net yards.

“I always wondered what the best defense was that could face us,” Alexander said. “It was a good offense.”

Granted, the Steelers’ defense benefited from the gross disparity in time of possession, but it did what it needed to do, too. This defense has the look of something special.