Sunday, October 12, 2014

A new era in Steeler football

Over the past six quarters vs. the Cleveland Browns, the Steelers have been outscored 55-13.

A new era in Steeler football has begun. Sunday's 31-10 drubbing that the Steelers "swallowed" (to use Mike Tomlin's term) makes the .500 Steelers 19-19 over the past 38 games (nearly two-and-a-half years). That record provides enough of a sample size to allow only one conclusion: The Steelers are mediocre at best. And that's being generous.

Actually, they're a bad football team right now, and the future looks unpromising. So much for "stacking wins."

Jordan Cameron scorched Cortez Allen, et al
"We have to swallow this one and we will," Mike Tomlin said after the fiasco.

That sentiment is unacceptable. We've heard Tomlin say that sort of thing before, and it's getting old. It sounds very much like Tomlin and the players and coaches are willing and able to accept losing. How about rejecting, or regurgitating, losses like this, eh, Coach? How's that for a concept?

"Hopefully it will be a learning experience for us moving forward," Tomlin added.

Apparently not. Haven't the Steelers had enough "learning experiences" over the past two-and-a-half years? How many more "learning experiences" do they need?

The on-field ineffectiveness that is becoming chronic reflects poor talent, poor preparedness and poor coaching. There's no other way to explain it.

Once again, they were lousy in the red zone (0-3) and goal-to-go efficiency (0-2). Todd Haley, do you have a clue?

The Stupid Penalties Continue
Here's a question for Coach Tomlin: What happened to the emphasis on averting pre-snap and post-snap penalties?

Bob Labriola on makes the following salient points about some of the stupid yet hurtful six penalties the Steelers incurred:
  • "The first quarter ended with the Steelers having a first down at the Cleveland 24-yard line. Following the television timeout, the Steelers had to burn a timeout to avoid a delay of game penalty."
  • "Pittsburgh’s next offensive possession ended in a three-and-out, and then Sean Spence was flagged for a false start, which meant Brad Wing ended up punting from the Steelers 15-yard line."
  • "On a third-and-5 from the Steelers 34-yard line, Troy Polamalu got good pressure on Brian Hoyer, whose hurried throw to Jordan Cameron became a first down when safety Mike Mitchell was flagged for pass interference.
  • "First-and-goal at the Browns 1-yard line. After a slant pass to Antonio Brown that was incomplete, Kelvin Beachum was flagged for a dead ball personal foul that pushed the ball back to the 16-yard line. After two mis-fires between Ben Roethlisberger and Markus Wheaton in the end zone, the Steelers ultimately turned the ball over on downs at the Cleveland 9-yard line."
Where's the Talent?
Brian Hoyer had a clean pocket and plenty of time to throw.
The lack of talent is glaring. The secondary is awful. The front seven is just bad.

How about those off-season free-agent additions? Whatever other skills safety Mike Mitchell may have, pass coverage isn't one of them. And neither is tackling. Cam Thomas is a fat slob who looks lazy, soft and slow. If he's a "space-eater," why were the Browns able to run through gaping holes up the middle after Steve McClendon left with injury? Wide receiver Lance Moore is dissed by his own coaching staff and dropped a critical pass early in the third quarter.

Why did they sign these guys?

The judgment shown in evaluating personnel merits scrutiny and second-guessing. Joey Porter's Pit Bulls keep bringing this up, and it goes back to 2012, but ... Josh Victorian over Brian Hoyer?

Maybe Kevin Colbert and Mike Tomlin should have signed Vic So'oto instead of James Harrison. As great as Harrison has been throughout his illustrious career, maybe the Steelers should have allowed him to stay retired.

This was a crossroads game for both teams, and it's clear: For the Steelers, "the arrow is pointing down."

Game 6: Steelers at Cleveland

Pittsburgh, by Peter Max
Today's game between the Steelers and Browns features two quarterbacks who were spurned by the team on the opposite sideline.

On 24, 2004, with the sixth overall pick of the 2004 NFL Draft, the Cleveland Browns passed on the opportunity to select Ben Roethlisberger. Instead, the Browns put their chips on tight end Kellen Winslow, Jr., who is out of football.

Cleveland has not had more than five wins in a season since 2007, and Roethlisberger has helped the Steelers win two Super Bowls.

Roethilsberger''s career record vs. the Browns is 18-1.

On Dec. 8, 2012, the Steelers released quarterback Brian Hoyer, who had been on their roster for two-and-a-half weeks. Instead of keeping Hoyer as a backup to Charlie Batch (after Byron Leftwich was put on injured reserve), the Steelers opted to promote reserve defensive back Josh Victorian, who is out of football. The Detroit Lions released Victorian just this past week.

In retrospect, it is mind-boggling that the Steelers kept a fringe-undrafted-free-agent-backup defensive back instead of a three-year veteran NFL quarterback who had been the understudy to Tom Brady and in the tutelage of Bill Bellichick and quarterbacks coach Tom O'Brien in New England.  Hoyer is proving this year that he is without a doubt a starting-caliber NFL quarterback. Why the Steelers discarded him for Victorian is a question only Kevin Colbert, Mike Tomlin and Todd Haley can answer.

"We really got kind of excited about Brian while he was here,'' Haley said this week. "He is a really smart guy. He was well prepared. He brought a lot to the meetings and out on the field. He has real good football intellect as far as the feel and what was going on.''

If he was so impressive in 2012, Todd, why then did the Steelers release Hoyer? Was Josh Victorian that much more impressive?

No doubt the Brown wish they had selected Roethlisberger. And the Steelers must surely regret they allowed Hoyer to slip away and become the starting quarterback for division rival Cleveland, leading a resurgence for the Browns.