Pittsburgh-Green Bay: Steelers Show Champion's Resolve, Win on Last Play of Game
In a finish reminiscent of Super Bowl XLIII the Pittsburgh Steelers ended their five-game losing streak and kept their playoff hopes alive.
With three seconds left in the game Ben Roethlisberger took the snap, dropped back, and threw a perfect laser to rookie wide out Mike Wallace, who was then able to make a beautiful catch and get both feet in bounds with no time on the clock to win the game for the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Roethlisberger had a record-setting day as he completed 29 of 46 pass attempts for a Steelers record 503 yards and three touchdowns.
He spread the passes around to all of his possible targets:
Hines Ward had seven catches for 126 yards.
Heath Miller had seven catches for 118 yards.
Rashard Mendenhall had six catches for 73 yards.
Santonio Holmes had three catches for 77 yards.
Mewelde Moore had three catches for 23 and a touchdown.
Mike Wallace had two catches for 79 yards and two touchdowns.
Stefan Logan had one catch for five yards.
With his performance, Ward topped the 1,000-yard mark for the season.
Meanwhile on the rare occasion that the Steelers ran the ball, Rashard Mendenhall was able to rush for 38 yards on 11 carries, upping his season total to 998 yards rushing.
Willie Parker carried the ball six times for 22 yards.
Roethlisberger rushed one time for seven yards.
And Holmes rushed one time for minus two yards.
And while all of these offensive stats look pretty and getting back in the win column feels great, it's all just a Band-Aid to cover up a gaping wound.
The Steelers offense is still very inconsistent. Look at this game then go back to the embarrassing loss to the Browns.
The defense seems unable to get off the field on third downs, force a turnover, or get a stop at the end of the game.
On offense, Ben Roethlisberger's God-given, athletic ability saved the Steelers from Bruce Arians God-awful play-calling and play design yet again.
Had it not been for Roethlisberger's evading of tacklers, pinpoint passes, and schoolyard big plays, along with some help from athletic catches from Ward, Miller, and Wallace, the Steelers would have lost in large part due to Arians.
Once again Arians became pass-happy in the red zone and enamored with empty backfield sets.
I will give Arians some credit; for the first time during his tenure as offensive coordinator, he used some screen passes to the running back to slow down the pass rush (I believe I counted two or three).
Regardless of this season's outcome, the Steelers must find a new offensive coordinator that will maximize players strengths, game-plan better, make better in-game adjustments, be less predictable, have more success in situational football (red zone and short yardage), and won't become pass-happy.
Basically, a better offensive coordinator, which really shouldn't be hard to do.
For example, Arians' great brainstorm this week was a bubble screen to Stefan Logan.
While the concept was good, everyone and their Mom saw it coming.
Logan comes in for one play, goes in motion from behind a WR bunch towards the middle of the field, and then back behind the bunch.
At this time I told my wife, "Bubble screen to Logan."
Low and behold, that's exactly what it is, and that was Logan's last offensive play of the day.
Great play Arians! (Note my sarcasm)
If I could tell my wife what the play was before the ball was even snapped, don't you think that players and coaches for the Packers had an idea also?
Even though the Steelers won today, the lack of consistency on offense will keep the Steelers from making noise in the playoffs, if they do make it.
The Steelers do not have the dominating defense this season to carry an inconsistent offense like they did last season.
How do you abandon the run in a close game where your defense is struggling?
Arians refuses to commit to the run. All he's looking for is great passing stats, hoping that he can land a head-coaching job.
Note to Bruce Arians: If you couldn't even get a single interview after being the offensive coordinator for a Super Bowl-winning team, that should tell you something.
This offense has too much talent to be this inconsistent.
Even the offensive line wouldn't struggle as much if they were allowed to play to their strengths.
The Steelers have a big, powerful group of offensive linemen. Let them use a man blocking technique and overpower the defense. Instead Arians and Larry Zierlein incorporate a zone-blocking scheme that requires quick linemen with good footwork to get to an area and block whomever is in that area.
Do Max Starks, Chris Kemoeatu, Trai Essex, or Willie Colon look nimble on their feet?
This scheme is not effective for the 6'8", 345-pound Max Starks or the 6'3", 344-pound Chris Kemoeatu.
Then Arians will call pass plays in which the QB utilizes a seven-step drop and spreads the TE and RB out wide so that they cannot help pick up the blitz or chip on the pass rushers.
I'm not saying that the Steelers offensive line can't pass block, but when the defense knows that it's going to be a pass play (today the Steelers passed 46 times and ran only 18) and the line has no help, it isn't playing to the strengths of the players.
That is why a defense ranked last in the NFL and that only sacked the QB 24 times total in 13 games can rack up eight sacks in one game, like the Browns did last week.
Now to the defense.
The secondary is playing very poorly. Even when the front seven apply quick pressure to the QB, they're allowing people to get open.
William Gay, while not playing as poorly as he previously had in coverage, made up for it by missing several tackles.
Ryan Clark's coverage ability was again exposed.
Tyrone Carter looked very slow, took bad angles, misplayed balls, and was out of position on numerous occasions.
Ike Taylor, while not a shutdown corner in the Rod Woodson mold, wasn't even tested by the Packers.
Joe Burnett struggled a bit, but looked good compared to Gay.
Third-round pick Keenan Lewis was again inactive.
There is nothing left to say about this group except that it is the weak link in the Steelers defense and needs to be addressed in the offseason.
But with that being said, hold on and pray, Steeler Nation, because if/when Troy Polamalu comes back, he could stabilize the secondary and the Steelers could have the ball bounce their way after basically 14 weeks of the ball bouncing the opponents way.
If they get in the playoffs anything can happen. It's not always the best team that makes it through; it's the team that is hot at the right time.
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