...here are a few observations:
1. Bruce Arians play calling was excellent. I have been a huge critic of Arians (and Larry Z), but I will be the first to admit that the play calling was quite good on Sunday. It looks like the coaches have realized that the passing game is truly the strength of this team and they cannot run unless it’s set up by the pass. The running game worked after throwing first. They (the coaches) also realized the Steelers will not score touchdowns with a traditional run up the middle from inside the five. Both touchdowns were great calls. Of course, Ben always makes a scramble interesting, due to his less than nimble feet, but the bottom line was two touchdowns on designed scrambles; something we haven’t seen too much of from the Steelers.
As for the much aligned O-Line play, the right side played great, on both run and pass plays, although I think Essex got away with a hold on the long run by Mendy. The left side (Starks and Kemo) continue to disappoint in that they can’t get any push and are inconsistent, although Kemo looks damn good when he pulls. Starks was definitely the more inconsistent. In the game of woulda/coulda/shoulda, if Max gives Ben a half second more on the pick, it might have gone for six to Wallace (he’ll catch a deep ball one of these games).
2. Jeff Reed did miss two fields, but both drives could have very easily ended in touchdowns. On the play before the first miss, the Steelers had a 3rd-and-8 from the 11. Chicago came with a fierce blitz, which Ben saw coming, so he knew he had to get rid of the ball quickly. He looked left for his hot read, where he had two receivers (not sure who); both must have been covered, since he held on to the ball and was sacked (setting up Reed’s miss). But Health was on the right—he came in motion toward the line as the play was snapped. He was wide open and would/could (more of this fun game) have crawled in, had Ben only looked right for the hot read instead of left (not sure if anybody else saw this).
Of course, we all know the play before second missed field goal, but I’ll address that in my next observation.
3. Memo to Santonio Holmes. You want to be considered an elite receiver in this league? Then you damn well better make catches like the one you should have made (here’s more —a bit of a recurring theme) in the end zone before the 2nd missed Jeff Reed field goal. Yes, it was a tough catch. Yes, it was rainy and the ball may have been wet. Yes, the defender put his arms up at just the right time to distract you, Santonio. But you got both hands on that ball and the defender didn’t get one (despite what you say). I’m not even going to mention the two drops on very easy catches on the sidelines earlier in the game. At a critical/turning point in the game, you’ve got to make that catch. Enough said.
4. This is clearly not the same defense without Troy Palamalu, Tyrone Carter injury notwithstanding. How many times have we seen Troy absolutely blow up a screen play—I mean, just come out of nowhere and turn a 15 yard gain into a three yard loss? The answer is a lot before Sunday; on Sunday, not at all. Obviously, not from Troy, but not from Carter either. There were five or so downs which would have been vintage Troy plays that went for 10-15 yards with him not there. Did anybody notice Tyrone Carter waiting for defenders to come to him deep in the secondary? Is there anyone on this earth that could see Troy doing that? My guess is that if Troy plays, Chicago doesn’t have two long touchdown drives.
James Harrison, LaMarr Woodley, Casey Hampton, James Farrior—all great players. But Troy is definitely the true most valuable player on this defense.
So, that’s it. It took me three days to get over the loss and get up the strength to write this article. I completely stayed away from any football news since Sunday (OK—I peeked at the Indy/Miami game). But I’m over it now and looking forward to the Cincy game. I thought the Steelers would be 3-1 after the four games. That’s still possible, of course. So, here’s to building on the good things that came out of this loss and going to 2-1.
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