Sunday, September 07, 2014

STOMP, Stomped, and then a Win. "Obviously."

Antonio Brown stomps Spencer Lanning.
Photo Credit: Gene Puskar / AP
The final score almost doesn't matter.  Yes, it was a win, thankfully, but the second half is pretty much all anybody will talk about, and it was alarming. As's Scott Brown wrote, "The Steelers were unstoppable in the first half and unwatchable in the second half."

Final score: 30-27, in favor of the Steelers, but ... mistakes, 11 penalties, poor choices, plays allowed and plays not made, including Ike Taylor's trademarked interception-drop to be followed by an opponent's touchdown a few plays later.

It almost doesn't matter what the Steelers did in the first half. They stunk up their own stadium in the second half. The defense let the Cleveland Stinking Browns come back from a 24-point halftime deficit. That was Disgusting.

Good defenses don't blow 24-point halftime leads.

Granted, there were numerous good plays by more than a few Steelers, and several players were downright outstanding: Antonio Brown, Markus Wheaton, Heath Miller, LeVeon Bell, Justin Brown and Ben Roethlisberger.  Even the Special Teams were mostly good.

In some positions, however, maybe the Steelers just don't have the right talent. The front office gave contract extensions to Cortez Allen (why?), Maurkice Pouncey (?) and Marcus Gilbert (??). The offensive line anchored by Pouncey and Gilbert allowed four sacks, which is too many. "Obviously."

Let's see, four sacks a game for 16 games = 60 sacks. Obviously. Numbers like that rarely extrapolate so neatly, but, still, the idea is to protect Ben, isn't it?

And the defense? Ugh. In Joey Porter's Pit Bulls' posts during the week before the game, it was noted the Steelers must stop the run. They didn't.

The Browns racked up 183 yards on the ground, including runs of 29 and 25 yards, and 6.1 yards per rush.

Allowing 183 yards on the ground is unacceptable by anybody's criteria.

The porous defense allowed running back Terrance West, a small-college (Towson) rookie playing his first NFL game, to run for 100 yards, and another small-college rookie, Isiah Crowell (Alabama State), to score two touchdowns. West averaged 6.8 yards per carry; Crowell averaged 6.4 yards per carry, and starter Ben Tate averaged 6.8 yards per carry before leaving with an injury.

Mike Mitchell, in trail
Backup and no-name receivers running free made us wonder why Cortez Allen got an extension.

And, we have to ask, where was Mike Mitchell, the big-money free agent safety? He was in on seven tackles, but if anybody thinks he had anything resembling a good game, uh, no. Same goes for Ike Taylor, Jason Worilds, Cam Thomas and Steve McClendon.

Each of the linebackers had at least one good, noteworthy play, but there were plays and tackles left unmade, and that was obvious by the numbers.

The Steelers had better get their act together by Thursday.

Next game: Thursday night in Baltimore vs. the Ravens, who clearly have problems of their own.

Game Day 1: Browns at Steelers. "Singular Focus. Obviously."

You'd think, hope and expect the Steelers will be ready to start the 2014 season today. At home. Versus the stinking Cleveland Browns, the Black 'n Gold's historical and geographical arch-rival, never mind the 24-4 record vs. the Browns since 2000.

The Steelers should stomp this team.

Then again, you'd think the Steelers would have been ready to open the season in 2013. At home. Versus a mediocre Tennessee Titans team that had no business coming into Pittsburgh and beating the Steelers.

The Steelers also lost their 2012 season opener, 31-19, in Denver. And they got walloped in an ugly, 35-7 beating by the Ravens in the 2011 season opener in Baltimore.

The concern for today's game, though, goes back to last year. There's no disputing the Steelers weren't ready for the 2013 season. They went 0-4 to start the regular season.

And the Steelers didn't look particularly crisp this pre-season.

The Browns have been worse than the Steelers in season openers. In fact, the Browns have lost nine season openers in a row. When they lose their 10th today, it will set an NFL record. For what it's worth, Vic Carucci on the Browns' website noted, "the last time the Browns began a season in Pittsburgh, 1989, they also had a first-year head coach in Bud Carson. They won, 51-0. "

On the other hand, Mike Pettine, Cleveland's rookie head coach, surely is aware that the last seven Browns head coaches have lost their debut with Cleveland.

What about today?
To win today, the Steelers must stop the run. Last year, opponents averaged 4.4. yards per carry vs. the Steelers. The Browns are going to try to run the ball. It's all they have on offense. The Steelers must stop the run.

On offense, the Steelers would do well to score early and force the Browns to play catch-up, on the road in a noisy, hostile environment, with a new coaching staff and a squad comprised of 12 rookies, 23 undrafted free agents, numerous first-time starters, and a whopping 26 players who weren't on Cleveland's roster at the end of last season.

The Steelers can and should win this game ... IF Mike Tomlin has them ready this time around.