EXTRA POINTS - Steelers vs Giants Post Game Wrap
"Archie get me out of here!!!"
*Flag Football - The Giants first scoring drive saw them gain 41 yards on a PI call and get a new set of downs at the goal line after Ryan Clark was called for a hit to the head of Cruz. Both calls were horribly bad calls. The Steelers added up 119 total penalty yards in this contest, an area they desparately need to improve... And while we are at it, let's talk about the current pass interference rules. Teams are openly game planning around lob passing deep balls anytime they see man coverage in hopes of drawing PI calls. As I have said for years, the NFL rules should be changed to mirror those of the college game where 15 yards is the maximum penalty. Calling a 40+ yard penalty on a judgement call play for a little hand fighting is ridiculous and way too harsh of a penalty.
*My Weekly "HEY TODD HALEY, THAT'S WHY YOU THROW IT DOWNFIELD" Edition - As noted above the Giants grabbed 87 free yards on PI calls in the first half by doing nothing more than tossing a few lob passes into man coverage. Despite the Steelers run game firing on all cylinders for about a month, Haley still refuses to work any sort of play action deep bombs on early downs into the game plan. Haley's refusal to go deep is equally as maddening as Arians refusal to work on an effective short passing game when Ben was getting killed by pass rushers.
*Losing Football 101 - Same shit, different stadium, better results. Again the Steelers dominated TOP (19:43-10:17) and yardage (173-97) at the half but turnovers and penalties (3-88 vs 3-15) caused them to trail by 4 at the half. Fortunately the Steelers made enough plays to overcome the Steelers. Something they couldn't do in Oakland or Tennessee.
*Anyone still think it's a good idea to let Wallace walk? - This passing offense got pretty pedestrian once Antonio Brown went down. How would they look next year if he went down for a few games and Wallace was gone? It is a passing league, you need to collect as much young talent and speed as possible. Keep Wallace at the expense of cutting an aging big name veteran.
HC Mike Tomlin - The big call was the fake FG attempt late in the game. With the Giants O sputtering like it was and facing a 4th and less than a yard inside the 3 yard line, you play to win the game there. I'd have done it with Ben and the offense, not an unatletic kicker running off edge. If you know it is 4 down territory, 2 Redman runs beats a pass and fake FG. (Grade: B-)
OC Todd Haley: Haley went ultra-conservative in this game against the Giants pass rush. The first 6 pass attempts were all less than 3 yards in the air from the LOS. With the Giants playing up, daring Steelers receivers to beat them deep, and the run game starting to roll, Haley failed to attack the Giants secondary deep at all. With a lead and less than 3 minutes to play in the game Haley continued to pound the ball into a 10 man in box on the final drive. Two called runs into a stacked box put Ben in a tough 3rd and 9 situation. Fortunately, Ben bailed them out with a big 16 yard completion. Redman then busted a 28 yard run to seal the win. (Grade: B-)
DC Dick Lebeau: Dick Lebeau's crew held the #2 passing team in the league to 125 passing yards. Eli never really seemed comfortable as the pressures got to him and the coverage was pretty good. (Grade: A)
QB: Ben Roethlisberger - Ben again had to waste two timeouts in the first half which screwed them a bit on the final drive. He had some ups and downs during the game including an awful forced pass to a triple covered Mike Wallace that was intercepted, and he had a fumble returned for a TD. Typical Ben, however, finished 8 of 9 for 93 yards including a clutch pass to Sanders on the final drive to seal the win. (Grade: B)
RB: Isaac Redman ran hard and ground out 84 1st half yards & finished the game with a stat line of 26-147-1 TD. That included an an eye-popping 5.7 YPC. Will Johnson has become a weapon receiving, running, and blocking in the Steelers offense. He is really developing into a well rounded modern era FB. He did however have a redzone drop in this game. Batch & Rainey chipped in little yardage wise. (Grade: A)
WR/TE: Losing Antonio Brown to a twisted ankle hurt the Steelers passing game and the dropsies from WRs continued. Miller had a bad drop on the first play of the 3rd drive, and Wallace dropped another ball right in his hands. Emmanuel Sanders had a nicetoe-tapping TD catch in the back of the endzone and the clutch 3rd down grab on the final drive was excellent. Wallace redeemed his early drop by taking a quick slant 51 yards to the house for a score which cut the lead to 3 points at the start of the 4th QTR. The Steelers seemed nearly out of the game before this play. Not one other player in the NFL scores a TD on that play. Speed kills. Cotchery filled in well for Brown adding 4 catches including a tough diving grab for 24 yards. (Grade: B)
O-Line: The interior O-line dominated (again) in the run game. Pouncey was moving his man, getting downfield, and beating on Mark Herzlich. Mike Adams struggled in pass protection at times. Tuck killed him one the 1st drive for sack. JPP ragdolled him for another sack on the final drive before half. Starks also gave up pressures to JPP, including the forced fumble TD return play. Overall the line allowed 4 sacks and a handful of hits on Ben, but manhandled the Giants vaunted front in the run game. (Grade: B-)
DL: Steve McClendon, who spent the first half of the season averaging about 4 snaps a game, put pressure in Manning's face and forced the first quarter INT. In short Hampton, Keisel, Hood, McClendon, & Heyward controlled the LOS, stopped the run, and forced Manning into 3rd and long situations. They clogged run lanes and pushed the pocket which never allowed Eli Manning to get his feet set. (Grade B+)
LB: Woodley whiffed badly trying to jam Cruz at line early, and stumbled around a bit like you'd expect from a big guy with a bad hammy. He did force a hurried throw or three. On the Giants last play before half his pressure forced a hurried throw by Manning and that led to the long missed FG attempt which gave the Steelers the ball and ultimately a late FG. On the Giants final drive Woodley got a strip sack, which James Harrison failed to fall on. Timmons picked up a key sack in the 4th qtr, as well as multiple hurries and hits on Eli. Larry Foote was beat in coverage a time or two, but was very active leading the way with 7 tackles. (Grade: B)
DB: Keenan Lewis made a great play on the ball in the first play of the game and had 3 pass break ups on first 2 drives alone. Later he was flagged for a long 41 yard PI call in the 2nd qtr, and got another 46 yarder called on him just before half. He was also stiff armed to the ground by Hakeem Nicks who ran his was for a 1st down into the redzone. Ryan Clark was flagged for a helmet to helmet hit giving the Giants 4 free points after the Steelers got a stop on 3rd down. Clark injured Cruz's ribs with his shoulder on this helmet to helmet hit, so I can only assume Cruz was playing with his head up his ass. That is All-Pro stuff there. It should be noted that Ryan Clark was again a tone setter in this game. Not only did he lead in tackles, but his hits also caused a few "footsteps" drops later in the game. Ryan Mundy replaced Will Allen for a series and did not cost the Steelers the game. Will Allen was again competent and very reliable at SS. Cortez Allen did a really solid job covering the slot. The Ike Taylor redemption tour continued as he picked off one pass, had his hands on another, and provided solid coverage across the field. (Grade: B+)
STs: Rainey ran two balls back for big gainers and a 40 yard average to open the game, then ran one back for 68 yards to open the 2nd half before injuring his rib cartilige. Sanders had 3 big punt returns filling in for Brown including a long 63 yarder. Suisham barely made a chip shot FG before half and failed to score on his fake FG. Coverage units were ok, and Drew Butler banged 2 of his 4 punts inside the 20. The flag partys was still in effect today unfortunately. Pope threw a blindside block on a Rainey return that backed the Steelers to their own 6 yard line. A 15 yard facemask on the return after Steelers cut lead to 3 points in the 4th qtr gave the Giants better field position. Add in a Brandon Johnson hold on the final Giants punt and you have more of the same blown opportunities by this unit. It is a tough day to grade this group. The returns by Rainey and Sanders propelled the win, but the penalties almost blew the game (Grade: Cheesburger)
Refs: After the SBXL controversy and his subsequent apology, it is clear that Bill Leavy will never make a call in favor of the Steelers again. A poor 41 yard PI call on Lewis set up Giants first scoring drive. That drive was extended when Ryan Clark's shoulder hit Victor Cruz's chest, which is an obvious helmet to helmet infraction. The TD run on that drive looked to be down short of the line, but was called a TD on the field and upheld. They ruled a fumble on Ben's botched pass and upheld the Giants TD there as well. Ben had the ball in his hand as it moved forward, clearly making it an incomplete pass. They also missed the Giants clip call on Heath Miller on that return as well. Victor Cruz clearly ran backwards for 2 yards after a catch to avoid a tackle, but was awarded forward progress. Tomlin had to waste a challenge on that spot. Mike Wallace took a helmet to helmet hit while on the ground after a catch which drew a flag, but that was subsequently picked up and waved off by Leavy's All-Star crew. They finished the game by blowing (what they do best) the whistle 2 full seconds before Ben took a knee at the end of the game (Grade: F-)
Game Balls: Willie Colon, Maurkice Pouncey, and Ramon Foster dominated the interior of the Giants D-line and allowed Issac Redman to gash the Giants for a career day. Emmanuel Sanders took full advantage of his opportunity as a receiver and return man and helped spark the 4th qtr comeback. Congrats to all those mentioned for earning our SteelerFury Players of the Game.
Goat Balls: Bill Leavy, as outlined above should never be allowed to officiate a Steelers game again.
As I stated in the podcast, I thought they key to the Giants game would be containing JPP and Victor Cruz. JPP made his splash plays, but Cruz was mostly shut down. Also, the Steelers are now 3-0 when I randomly leave a podcast mid show. Don't ever test the juju kids!
On a side note, this would be a good time to say the following: Hey Seattle, that's how you overcome a few iffy calls by Bill Leavy and win a game! You rally and win a tough game on the road despite facing officiating created obstacles along the way. It's called character, and no, character isn't something that comes Venti sized at Starbucks.
The Steelers and Indy are now tied for the top wildcard spot, a full game up on Miami and San Diego for the final playoff spot. With 8 games remaining the Steelers only have to travel away from Heinz Field 3 more times and they get the 2-win Browns twice and the 1-win Chiefs as well. Safe to say a playoff apperance looks likely at this juncture.
In my rants last week I suggested the Redskins start treating RG3 more like a pocket QB and less like a Tebow. I saw he was being taken in for X-rays again this week. I hope they don't ruin that kid.
Finally, and most importantly Jeemie lost an avatar bet. Be sure to PM me some suggestions for his punishment ASAP if you have any.