Much to the chagrin of Steelers fans everywhere, this season has developed into a clearly defined pattern: dominate on offense for most of the game, make a bonehead blunder to keep the other team alive, then hang on (or try anyway) for dear life, as the game goes down to the wire.
This past week in Motown helped solidify this disturbing trend. The offense looked unstoppable again, scoring on four consecutive possessions. The blunder this time was the second pick six of the season for Big Ben. Fortunately, the defense stepped up in the end to insure that the Steelers would hang on.
Here’s a novel thought: How about a nice, boring blowout? Shouldn’t a dominant team have a few of those each season?
It looked like last week was going to be such a game. With the Steelers up 28-13, I actually considered flipping to the Bengals-Ravens game, which at the time was a much tighter game. In the closing minutes, I was actually watching both games (two TVs).
As the Steelers have become a pass-first offense, there are a few disturbing side effects:
1. Interceptions have been a regular occurrence. Ben’s completion percentage is ridiculous (almost 74 percent). Despite that, he’s thrown a pick in almost every game, including two for six. Not every interception has been on Ben; the receivers and QB need to be smarter in this area.
2. The Steelers can’t go away from the short passes late in the game. Bruce Arians is a genius for two or three quarters and then becomes a complete moron again in the fourth quarter. The good thing is he seems to be realizing it (based on his comments after the Lions game)—a good sign that correction may be forthcoming.
Memo to BA: If your back has 65 yards in the first half, he should get 100 for the game, not 77. Mendenhall had six carries in the second half for 12 yards; half of the carries went for minus yards. This is a testament to poor play calling. That is, not knowing when to call a run play (in my opinion).
3. Steelers receivers have to stop dropping wide open touchdown passes. It’s not just Sweed; Mike Wallace and Santonio Holmes are also guilty. Couple that with Ward fumbling inside the five and it’s only Heath Miller among receivers (I know he’s a TE) that isn’t guilty of temporary insanity (not that I’m wishing he would join this inauspicious club).
As for the defense, it will be very interesting to see if Troy Polamalu really makes that much of a difference. The defense without him is quite vulnerable to the passing game, particularly the short stuff and also in the fourth quarter. It’s a mystery that Columbo would have trouble with.
Lamar Woodley seems to be another case for my favorite '70s police detective. His lack of pass rush has had a tremendous (negative) impact. It’s not clear if last year was an apparition or if there’s something wrong with Lamar. He looks like he’s only trying to bull rush and not speed rush. It would be nice to see a spin move as well; not sure if he’s capable.
We’ll also see if the run defense can survive without Aaron Smith. Smith is probably the most under-valued DL in the league (outside of Pittsburgh) among fans. His presence will be greatly missed.
So, there’s one more week to figure it all out (against Cleveland). The next three games after that will be against two undefeated teams (as of now) in Minnesota and Denver, then the first place (that’s right) Cincinnati Bengals.
If the Steelers win all three, they will again be in control of the division and will have showed the AFC that they are the team to beat (no disrespect to Indy). Anything less and it’s going to be a nail-biter all the way to the end.
So, let’s hope we can be bored for at least this week with a Steelers blowout.