Pittsburgh Steelers: The Good, Bad, and Ugly of Week 6
More accurately, the tale of two teams that played wearing the same uniform. The Steelers jumped out to a quick 17-0 lead on a Jacksonville team that entered the game ranked dead last in offense.
Pittsburgh settled for a field goal after failing to convert on a 1st-and-goal from the 3-yard line on their third drive of the game, and didn’t light the scoreboard again.
The Steelers that started the game off, played as well as they have all season, but the rest of the game presented the bad and even ugly that continues to rear its head in the Steelers’ play on a weekly basis.
Which Brings us to the Week 6 version of “The Good, Bad, and Ugly.”
The Good – the Steelers Running Backs
The Steelers averaged 5.8 yards per carry on their way to a 185-yard performance against Jacksonville.
After sitting out last week's win over Tennessee, Rashard Mendenhall answered some questions about his toughness and desire in Week 6 with a 146-yard outburst on 23 carries.
On the third drive of the game Mendenhall sprang a career high 68-yard run that showed off a running ability that he has rarely exhibited. Mendenhall ran over, around and past every would-be tackler the Jaguars could send his way until Drew Coleman tracked him down at the 5-yard line.
Mendenhall has been fairly criticized for not hitting open holes at full speed in 2011. In fact, his toughness and desire have been something I have personally been looking at all year.
Quite honestly, Mendenhall has seemed more interested in sharing his obscure views on Twitter, than he has in becoming the consistent playmaker the Steelers were hoping he would be.
A week of hearing about how the Steelers might be better off with Redman and Dwyer in the backfield might have done the trick. The last time he missed a game and took criticism he took the starting job away from Willie Parker.
The Good – Brett Keisel
The beard is back, and he looks better than ever.
After making solid contributions last week, Keisel continued to prove his worth on a Steelers defensive line that has struggled to put pressure on the quarterback in 2011.
Keisel finished the day with six tackles, three of which were for a loss, two sacks, two quarterback hits and yet another pass deflection.
Getting to the quarterback is one thing, a necessary thing, but what makes Keisel so valuable is what he does when his best effort to collapse the pocket is unsuccessful—he gets his hands up.
His ability to play fundamentally sound football, that includes obstructing passing lanes and creating situations where turnovers and mishaps take place, has been instrumental to the Steelers' success.
The Good – LaMarr Woodley
Woodley started the season slow, but over the last few weeks his play has been as big as the new contract he signed during training camp.
Coming into the game Woodley had just three sacks this season. After the game, he now has five.
Woodley’s two-sack performance was just part of an eight-tackle performance that saw him make more plays on the on the Jacksonville side of the football than the guys wearing white.
Three tackles for a loss, two more quarterback hits and a minute or so of trying to open Jacksonville fullback Greg Jones’ dome like a 2-liter, and it’s easy to see that Woodley is back to kicking tail and taking names.
The Good – James Farrior
James Farrior might be old enough to have played against his head coach in college, but he played like a man in his prime.
The Steelers were without three players who have 10 Pro-Bowl appearances between them in their matchup against the Jaguars Sunday. Minus the likes of James Harrison, Aaron Smith and Casey Hampton, the Steelers needed a leader both verbally and in terms of performance.
With 11 tackles (1TFL), a sack, one pass deflection and another quarterback hit later, James Farrior played rock solid when the Steelers needed him the most.
The Bad – Ben Roethlisberger
A week after being named the AFC Offensive Player of the Week, Roethlisberger seemed to be on his way to making a bid for this week’s honor as well.
After going 11 for his first 15, Roethlisberger finished the game 12-of-23 for 200 yards and one touchdown.
Did his protection evaporate in the second half? Sure, but it doesn’t erase the fact that Roethlisberger was extremely inaccurate even with time in the pocket.
Roethlisberger missed wide open receivers all afternoon. Whether it was underthrowing Mike Wallace deep, overthrowing Emmanuel Sanders behind the defense or making Heath Miller dive all over the field, Roethlisberger lacked touch and critical depth perception.
The Bad – Shaun Suisham
Shaun Shuisham was perfect in the regular season after taking over for Jeff Reed a year ago.
A different year, a different scenario in 2011.
After missing another mid range field goal today (1/2), Suisham is just 6-of-9 in field goal attempts this season. His inaccuracy (66.7 percent) is becoming a bit of a concern as the wind and weather conditions around the league, and especially at Heinz Field, are sure to deteriorate as fall weather gives way to swirling winter winds and temperatures.
The Ugly – the Steelers in the Second Half
After racking up 10 first downs on 226 yards, and punching in 17 unanswered points on the first three drives of the game, the Steelers gained just 144 yards of total offense on their last eight drives of the game.
After leaving the locker room at halftime up 17-3, the Steelers gained just 70 yards of total offense and punted the ball on all five of their second half drives.
If the disappearance of the Steelers offense wasn’t enough, the defense played Copperfield all game long. Never truly leaving the room, but often times absent, the defense gave the Jags and their 22-year-old rookie quarterback room to hang around until a Hail Mary ended their late-game efforts.
The Wrap Up
What can the Steelers take away from the game against Jacksonville?
The won another game, are 4-2 and have proven absolutely nothing except the inability to put together 60 full minutes of focused play above the level of their opponents.
The knock on this 2011 Steelers team has been that you don’t know which team you are going to get each game. One game they are a powerhouse football team that refuses to render a point, capable of putting up 35 points in short order, and the next you get a team that is offensively inept with a slow, if not, geriatric defense.
Now the knock has seemed to change. Which team are you going to get from quarter to quarter? There is no certain answer.
The Steelers should have been able to beat this Jacksonville team beyond anything they did to the Seahawks and Titans, but instead they proved inconsistent.
They travel to play against a struggling Cardinals team before taking on New England and Baltimore in back-to-back weeks. Arizona is certainly not a game to overlook. The Steelers are going to have to prove that they can get to a good quarterback early, and then consistently until the final whistle blows.
Any team that fields Kevin Kolb and Larry Fitzgerald in its passing attack should be a concern for the Steelers at this point. Being susceptible to the deep ball, and really any pass at this point, the Steelers have to get to the passer to prevent Fitzgerald from doubling his second-half Super Bowl performance from a few years ago.