Steelers Seven - Cardinals Post Game Wrap
Farewell to a Legend
1. Woodley is back
Lamarr Woodley led the way today with 7 tackles (6 solos), 2 sacks, and a forced safety that should have been ruled a third sack. After his slow start to the season Woodley has stepped up his game in the absence of James Harrison, and now has 7 sacks through 7 games. On the first drive he shed a block and made a solo tackle in the run game for no gain. He followed that up by cleanly beating a block by Cardinals RG Rex Hadnot and pulled in a timely drive ending sack on 3rd and 11. It was not a coverage sack as Woodley cleanly beat the block and had the QB in his grasp in less than 3 seconds. Woodley was stout in the run game and laid a signature big hit on Alphonso Smith in the 3rd quarter. A few plays later he destroyed Cardinals Tight End Jeff King off the edge and got a sack despite being badly held on the play. He then forced Kolb into intentional grounding in the end zone on a play he was unblocked. Woodley did a nice job of not being juked by Kolb and his pump fake on the play. Lamarr is now on pace for a 16 sack season which isn't too shabby for a guy many were calling an over-paid bust a few weeks ago.
2. Everybody Hates Chris
Chris Kemoeatu welcomed himself back to the Steelers starting lineup by racking up 30 yards in penalties on the first two drives. First he had a personal foul for illegal hands to the face which
cancelled out a defensive holding call. He wiped out an automatic first down with that play. Not done yet, Kemoeatu came right back with a 15 yard personal foul for picking a player off the pile with a late hit. The play was over and the hit was nothing more than a brain-dead and selfish play made by a guy who has a long history of doing just that. This penalty was after an Antonio Brown grab that would have brought up a 3rd & 3. Instead the Steelers were pushed back to a 3rd and 18 which they fell 3 yards short of converting. Those penalties didn't change the way he played as he was seen getting into multiple shoving matches after plays that could have drawn more flags. His one lone redeeming quality, being able to pull and open holes in the run game, failed miserably today as Cardinals linebackers had no problems getting around his attempted blocks. That is, when he actually attempted to block the correct guy. We spoke a bit on the podcast about the Steelers salary cap situation and the O-line heading into next year. Kemoeatu and Colon could both be cap casualties. Would anyone miss them?
3. Old, Slow, Done.... & Reloaded?
The average age of the 6 defensive linemen for the Steelers in Week 1 last year: 31 years old. The average age of the 6 defensive linemen for the Steelers in Week 1 this year: 30.5 yrs old.
The average age of the 5 defensive linemen for the Steelers in this week's game: 25.4 years old.
It's amazing how quickly things can change in this league. With Corbin Bryant and Steve McClendon showing some signs of development, the Steelers are one young nose tackle away from having completely rebuilt their geriatric defensive front. Hood was very good again this week, Heyward continues to flash in limited opportunities, and McClendon held his own in his first career start. Let's hope all of these young guys can live up to their full potential.
4. Random Thoughts of Randomness
*Why was Larry Fitzgerald standing on the sideline living and dying with every play during the first half? Did he think a win in this game gets him the Lombardi he lost a few years ago?
*Anyone still wish the Steelers signed free agent corner Richard Marshall to the $6 million per year contract that Arizona did in the off-season? He gave up the 95 yard bomb to Wallace as well as a few penalties.
*I've always wondered why they send a blimp to cover a game in a dome stadium. I now know what the University of Phoenix Stadium roof looks like. Big, white, and boring. Dan Dierdorf wasn't enough?
*Dear CBS, please stop highlighting the Steelers name in yellow on top of the screen. Every time I look up I think there is a flag on the play.
*The Steelers remain the worst screen team in the history of organized football. On the one designed screen pass today, Ben again threw an incompletion intended for Mendenhall on a 2nd and 6 play.
*Was that the most impressive road showing by Steelers fans we've seen yet? It appeared that crowd was 50/50. The Nation never ceases to amaze me.
5. Reflection & Respects
This is as good a time as any to sit back and reflect on what we've witnessed over the past decade with the Steelers. From 2000 to 2010 the Steelers won 65% of their games, made 7 playoff trips, 5 AFC Championship Game appearances, and 3 Super Bowls. Their overall defense, scoring defense, and run defense was Top 10 pretty much every year, and a Top 5 unit in those categories more often than not. This was undoubtedly the best decade in Steelers history aside from the 70's. By the end of next season most of the core that made up the 2000's Steelers will be retired. Over the past 10 days we have seen Alan Faneca show up on the South Side as a trim 240 pound retired man, Aaron Smith sent to the Injured Reserve one last time in need of surgery on his injured neck, and Joey Porter on the opposing sideline looking a shell of his former self. The ticking of Father Time's clock just can't be ignored at this point. Aaron Smith, Joey Porter, James Farrior, Hines Ward, Alan Faneca, Casey Hampton, Jerome Bettis, Marvel Smith, Max Starks, and Larry Foote very likely will all be retired by the end of next season. James Harrison, Brett Keisel, and Ike Taylor won't be far behind. Fortunately the Steelers are doing a nice job of replacing their aging stars with young talent behind them, but this was truly a special group that each deserves a tip of the cap as they fade into our memories. I'd love to see the day where the Steelers build a Hall of Fame or Ring of Honor outside Heinz Field to honor all of their great former players.
Congrats to Ben Roethlisberger and Lamarr Woodley for earning our SteelerFury co-Players of the Week! Ben had a very accurate and efficient three touchdown, 361 yard day complete with a 121.8 QB Rating. He paced the offense and was able to run up the scoreboard on a day where the run game was stuck in neutral. On the other side of the ball Lamarr Woodley provided the spark on defense as he led the team in tackles and forced 3 sacks including a safety. The Goat award is still on hiatus, but was one more knucklehead play by Chris Kemoeatu away from being dusted off. Keep up the good work fellas!
7. Report Card:
QB = A
Ben had a much needed mistake free game where he completed 66% of his passes and spread the ball around to 8 different targets. Perhaps the best thing Ben did all day was the excellent job he did of dumping the ball off to backs when under duress. Instead of pump faking and continuing to look downfield, Ben smartly came back to his check downs and dumped the ball off for positive gains instead of taking sacks. This was the first thing mentioned by Tomlin when asked to evaluate Ben's game today. Hopefully hitting check downs was a point of emphasis in the meeting rooms. Ben's signature play was the perfectly thrown deep ball to Wallace on the 95 yard hook-up. On the down side, Ben miss fired to an open Antonio Brown and Manny Sanders deep in the hurry-up drive before half. He also got very lucky on the 3rd down pass in the 3rd QTR that Adrian Wilson went for the big hit on Hines Ward. If he played the ball he was in position to pull off an easy pick 6. One random thing I noticed in the game was Ben taking the snap too quickly in the 4 minute offense. Ben typically loves to take the snap just a second or two before the play clock expires under normal circumstances. On the final drive after the Redman first down run, with the clock running, Ben hurried to the line and took the snap with 11 seconds left on the play clock instead of draining more time. Overall it was Ben's best effort of the year.
RB = B-
The Steelers Jekyll and Hyde running game was back to being non-existent this week. they totaled only 9 rushes for 11 yards in the first half if you don't count the backwards pass to Miller as a run, which I don't. Mendenhall took what was there, but was only able to carve out a lowly 2.5 YPC average again this week. Redman had a few nice powerful tackle breaking runs including a quality 5 yard run when the Steelers were backed up to their own 5 yard line to open the third drive of the game. Mewelde Moore made his return this week and chipped in with 6 carries for 26 yards. Overall, the backs did their drive. They ground out tough yards, were active in the passing game, and didn't make costly mistakes. The 91 rushing yards and 3.3 YPC average was more of a reflection on the blocking than the backs.
WR/TE = A-
Was it coincidence that as soon as Hines Ward went down with an injury the passing game became more explosive than it had been all year? Brown and Sanders stepped up and immediately caught four balls for 42 yards and produced a TD on the drive that Ward got hurt. More importantly, Ben completed 12 of 16 passes (75%) that were intended for these two youngsters, which is far better than their season average. The 12 catches for 148 yards was also the best combined production in a game for the young money boys. Mike Wallace can't keep burning teams deep play after play all year. As he draws more and more coverage attention, the #2 and #3 receivers become even more important. The better they play, the more it will help to free Wallace back up. Speaking of our boy Burnell, he now rightfully owns the longest catch in Steelers history. Can you think of a receiver in Steelers history that deserves that distinction more? A few plays prior to the 95 yard TD pass, Ben threw a nice deep ball that Wallace appeared to slow down and misjudge the ball as it sailed over his head. Heath Miller made nice contributions as both a blocker and receiver in this game. On the down side the two young TE's in Johnson and Saunders got called for false starts (3 total for the game) and Miller was also flagged for a hold. That many penalties on the Tight End position is completely unacceptable.
O-line = C+
In 41 drop backs Ben was sacked twice and hurried a few other times. For the most part the O-line kept him clean and bought him enough time to make plays. Pouncey and Kemoeatu both seemed to have trouble identifying or blocking Cardinals ILB Daryl Washington as he knifed his way into the backfield to blow up several running plays. Ramon Foster did a solid job of neutralizing Darnell Dockett who finished with only 1 tackle and no impact as a pass rusher. Starks and Gilbert acquitted themselves well on the outside, but facing Joey Porter and Clark Haggans will do that for you. The lack of any lanes in the running game drags the overall grade down.
D-line = B
Arizona had some success running the ball right up the gut at McClendon and Foote several times. McClendon had a solid game as he beat some blocks to make some nice play, and was able to get some penetration rushing the passer. Ziggy Hood applied multiple pressures again in this game, a category that he leads the team in. He and Keisel each had solid, yet workmanlike games. Heyward got a few snaps and a few pressures.
LBs = B
Lawrence Timmons had a nice bounce back game as he shed blockers to make tackles in the run game, got good pursuit from the back side, and had some solid coverage. His pressure forced the Kolb hurry and interception to open the game. As outlined above, Lamarr Woodley was the star of the group with his sacks, pressures, and quality play in the run game. James Farrior was active early before leaving the game with some cramps. In the second half he got tooled badly by Larod Stephens-Howling out of the backfield on a short pass that turned into a 73 yard score. Larry Foote chipped in with 3 tackles, but took some bad angles and was pushed out of plays in the run game. Stevenson Sylvester finally got a little time on defense as well.
DBs = C
Ike had an up and down day as he got beat by Fitzgerald for a 31 yard grab down the sidelines despite having tight coverage. He later got a bad call on an awful pass interference penalty where he had inside coverage and knocked the ball away, but drew a very late flag. Ike then got an illegal contact call on two 3rd down plays in a row that extended the Cardinals scoring drive at the end of the first half. Ryan Clark grabbed a pick off of a tipped ball to start the game and Troy dropped another INT right in his hands. The theme of the game for the secondary was simply too many missed tackles. Housler and Fitzgerald each bounced off of Taylor and Polamalu tackle attempts and Beanie Wells ran over Ryan Clark. Polamalu later fell down on the Stephens-Howling TD pass. The rest of the DB's can learn a thing or two from William Gay, who was picture perfect in his tackling techniques.
ST's = A-
All Suisham needs to be a good kicker is time, a spotless field, a dome, perfect weather, and no wind. He connected He was perfect on FG's from 39, 41, and 42 yards. Sepulveda had an adequate day averaging 39.3 yards on three punts with two being downed inside the 20. Antonio Brown added in 116 return yards on 5 kick and punt returns. The coverage units continue to shine as they kept the Cardinals return man Stephens-Howling in check and tackled him inside his own 20 several times.
Coaching = A-
Tremendous play calling by Arians late in the game. He mixed in enough smart passing plays in with runs to move the chains and drain the full 4 minutes off the clock in the 4 minute drill. The rest of the offensive game plan was equally impressive. They ran the ball enough to keep the Cardinals off balance, but didn't force the run too much when it wasn't working. The short passing game was used to complement the deep passing game, and the play action pass bomb to Wallace from the shadow of their own end zone was a gutsy call. On defense, Lebeau dialed up enough pressure to Kolb from finding a groove. The coaching staff has it' work cut out for it as New England rolls into town next week. Let's hope Dick Lebeau tries to emulate the Ryan brothers approach to stopping the Patriots as opposed to failed schemes he's attempted to use against them for the past decade.