Friday, October 12, 2012

Do you think this Steelers team can go 8-3 the rest of the way?

It's a fair question. The Steelers need to win eight of the remaining 11 games to finish with a record of 10-6, which may or may not get them into the playoffs.  Considering their play last night in Tennessee, winning eight of 11 games seems unlikely.  Ergo, the playoffs seem a remote possibility.  They already have three losses in the conference.  They haven't won a road game. 

At this point, 8-3 is a steep hill to climb, with a lot of injuries to overcome, and the Steelers haven't even played a divisional game against the Browns, Bengals and Ravens.  This could be a long, dry season.

The second-quarter blocked punt led to a touchdown.
Blunders, Turnovers, Injuries, Penalties and Plays Not Made
Before the game, we thought there was only one combination of factors that would cause the Steelers to lose this game:  Special teams blunders (such as a blocked punt) and turnovers (like a key interception leading to points just before the half).  Both happened. 

Yet, perhaps most crucially, the biggest reason for this loss was the defense failing to make plays when needed.  Non-play of the game, perhaps, occurred when Keenan Lewis flubbed a gift-wrapped interception by scissor-handing a softly thrown Matt Hasselbeck pass that hit him right between the numbers in the fourth quarter.  Clang.

That misplay kept alive an 80-yard touchdown drive by the Titans.  And the Titans ended the game with a slight time-of-possession advantage, which means the Steelers' defense couldn't get off the field when needed.  They simply didn't make enough plays; i.e., key stops and forced turnovers.

Question:  On the blocked punt, did Ryan Mundy, the personal protector lined up between the center and the punter, miss a block on the guy coming right up the middle? 

Maybe it wasn't Mundy's man to block, but we're getting tired of seeing Ryan Mundy miss tackles, chase receivers into the end zone and, now, possibly, miss a key block on special teams.  No doubt, the blocked punt was critical. It kept the Titans in the game, gave them a spark and led to seven points in a game decided by three.

Where are the Plays on Defense?
Just a side note here, but this is leading to a more relevant point about the Steelers' defense: Titans' defensive tackle Mike Martin was a guy who caught our eye at the NFL Combine, and Joey Porter's Pit Bulls wanted the Steelers to draft him.  To our untrained eye, he looked like a viable option in the second round.  Martin went to the Titans in the third round.   Not to say Mike Adams was a bad choice (although he whiffed on a Derrick Morgan sack), but Martin was a handful in this game.

Which is more than we can say about the Steelers defensive line, which was getting pushed back three and four yards on running plays. The whole line!  Watch the tape. 
It's never a good thing when your line gets pushed back repeatedly. This entire push of the defensive line has happened before this season, even in the Jets game, which was a win.  That's a trend, and it is a major area of concern.   What do you think is going to happen when we play Baltimore? 

We need more from Ziggy Hood, Cameron Heyward and Casey Hampton/Steve McClendon, as well as the linebackers, especially Jason Worilds. They're not the factor they need to be. They're not making plays; not enough plays, anyway.

Friday Morning Quarterback Second-Guessing
Why did the coaches "defer" on the opening kickoff?  You don't defer on the road. Not to a bad team with a horrible defense.  You take the kickoff, drive down the field, grab an early lead, and take the crowd out of it.
Coach Tomlin is being second-guessed for his decision to let Shaun Suisham attempt a 54-yard-field goal.  Fair enough, and not because Suisham's career-best long field goal was only 52 yards, but because it gave veteran QB Matt Hasselbeck a short field.  You know what happened next.  The Titans won the game.
Yet Another Question
Did anybody notice that Jonathan Dwyer was a healthy scratch for the second straight game?  Talk about getting marginalized.  Baron Batch looked good in limited play, though, and that is encouraging.  He protects the ball when he carries it (high up under his shoulder pads), and in the limited number of plays we saw Thursday night, he seems to have a knack for finding narrow creases, which he did on the touchdown.

Two more prime time (night) games to go, one against Baltimore at Heinz Field on Nov. 18, when the Steelers will wear their dreaded "Bumblebee Convict" throwback uniforms.  Ugh.  Something to look forward to.

Too many injuries: Maurkice Pouncey, Marcus Gilbert, Ramon Foster, Isaac Redman (knee), Rashard Mendenhall (achilles), Chris Carter and others.

We wonder what Beano Cook would have to say about this debacle. "It's a travesty."  Rest in peace, Beano.