Sunday, December 08, 2013

Didn't the Steelers used to win this sort of game?

The one that got away: Charles Clay scores the winning TD
after Troy Polamalu and Cortex Allen failed to bring him down.
Missed tackles. Blah. Blocked punt. Blah. A Ben Roethlsiberger fumble that led to a Miami touchdown. Poor clock management. Nine penalties. Dropped catches, off-target throws, sloppy play all around.

The Steelers' defense surrendered their 11th play of 50 yards or more this season, and it couldn't have come at a worse time: late in the fourth quarter, when running back Daniel Thomas broke a run for 55 yards on the decisive winning drive where Miami drove 80 yards to score with about three minutes left.

This came after another ineffective punt from Mat McBriar, who bounced one into the end zone for a net of 28 yards. That meant the Dolphins started their drive on the 20-yard line instead of backed up against their goal line.

The Steelers have had punting problems all season, and today was no different. In the first half, Miami blocked a McBriar punt and went on to score a touchdown. The Dolphins won by six points.

Center Cody Wallace played reasonably well.
On the plus side, the offensive line played reasonably well, and that includes third-string center Cody Wallace, who made his first start six seasons into his NFL career, and tackle Mike Adams.

Antonio Brown played well, although he had a drop, and almost won the game at the end had his momentum not carried him out of bounds. That would have been a play for the ages. Emmanuel Sanders had a touchdown catch among his four receptions but had a drop, too.

On defense, Jason Worilds and Cameron Heyward played well.  Also on the plus side, Mike Tomlin stayed on the sidelines.

Who's Calling the Plays?
Le'Veon Bell carried the ball only 16 times (for 63 yards), and had just one carry in the second quarter after gaining 36 yards on nine carries in the first quarter. We could ask why the Steelers didn't try to run the ball more in classic wintry conditions, especially in the second half. In fact, the question was asked of a testy Ben Roethlisberger during his post-game meeting with the media, and his response was a terse "No idea. Coach Haley's over there. You can ask him."

It was a legitimate question, though, and we hope somebody asks Haley, or Tomlin, and actually gets a meaningful answer, but that's not going to happen. Roethlisberger's response, though, just invites more speculation that there may be, and probably is, tension between Roethlisberger and Haley and provides more evidence of a disconnect between the two.

Oh, by the way, Mike Wallace caught only two passes for 19 yards and was not much of a factor. We didn't expect him to be.

Game Day 13: Miami Dolphins at Pittsburgh Steelers

Warm-weather team visiting a cold-weather city? Joey Porter's Pit Bulls dismiss that. The Dolphins play road games every year in Buffalo, New England and New York (last Sunday, in fact).

Mike Wallace burning a Steelers secondary that has surrendered an astounding 10 plays of 50 yards or more this season? Maybe. But Miami's offense, which hasn't scored 30 points yet this season, simply hasn't been able to put together a vertical game to take advantage of Wallace's speed. Why? don't know. It could be coaching design, or quarterback Ryan Tannehill's unwillingness or inability to throw deep, or the inability of a patchwork offensive line to protect Tannehill, or the ineffectiveness of Miami's running game to set up play action.

Or it might just be Wallace, and the fact that he is a hit or miss player whose performance can be maddeningly erratic.

This season, as noted by the Miami Herald,
"Wallace has only three touchdowns of any length, only two longer than 30 yards, only one on the kind of “go long” routes that open up defenses for everyone else. As far as yards per catch this season, Wallace’s 13.3 barely beats Brian Hartline’s 13.0 yards per catch."
The article containing that quote was headlined, "Mike Wallace Primed to Lead Miami Dolphins," which prompted the immediate thought, "Mike Wallace has been called a lot of things, but 'leader' isn't one of them."

We're not too concerned about Mike Wallace. We're more concerned about Miami's pass rush and ability to take the ball away (16 interceptions in 12 games).