Wednesday, January 11, 2012

A few more thoughts on the Broncos game

Franco did an excellent job of summing up what went wrong on Sunday and, by extension, the rest of the season. Though I didn't make a prediction on here (we should really start doing that), I told Nils, Dan and Franco in the week leading up to the game that I thought the Steelers were going to lose. If that game had been a regular season game and not a playoff game, it would have had "TRAP" written all over it. A few quick observations:

  • The Steelers' offense was erratic all year long. None of the teams they beat up on during the regular season were particularly good, and while the home win over New England was impressive, the Pats' defense was so atrocious that the Steelers should have scored significantly more points than it did. Given how LeBeau's boys showed up that day, the Steelers should have blown out New England.
  • The best game all-around game this team played all year came against the Bengals. There were a lot of similarities between Pittsburgh and Cincy this year. Cincy's offensive coordinator, Jay Gruden, did a really great job of crafting game plans that catered to the strengths of his personnel -- power running attack, fast and talented receivers, a competent rookie quarterback, etc. Cincy's offensive line, though, was miles better than Pittsburgh's, and I think if there had been a Jay Gruden running the Steelers' offense -- or really anyone willing to work with the players they have rather than trying to make the players they have fit into a particular type of scheme -- this would have been a much more dangerous team. This all goes back to the severely unhealthy, enabling relationship between Ben Roethlisberger and Bruce Arians, and we've really beaten that topic to death here. To Ron Cook's credit (twice in one week! Ridiculous, no?) he wrote a great piece on this last week before the game.
  • Franco posited the following with regard to the Steelers' defensive approach against Denver:
1. Because using safeties closer to the line is more effective against stopping the run, and we were afraid we couldn't stop the run. 
2. Because Ryan Mundy is slow and big, and therefore better as a run stopper than as a cover guy. Would Ryan Clark have allowed for more Cover 1? I don't know. Certainly Mundy played a good game with what he was given, and I don't think Clark would have had any more impact plays than Mundy, but there exists the possibility that we would have been looser with the safeties.

  • I don't think the Steelers were afraid they couldn't stop the run. The Steelers stacked the box against Denver because Denver's offense is a run-first unit and, until Sunday, couldn't throw to save its life. With the truly great seasons Ike Taylor and William Gay had, I don't blame Dick LeBeau for thinking that those guys could stick with Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker in man coverage all game. Both cornerbacks were great this year. And while the Broncos had won with Tebow, they'd yet to beat anybody with the passing game. So the idea of selling out to stop the run and daring Tebow to beat you with his arm made sense before that game -- especially given how piss poor Tebow looked during most of the season.
  • FTC was prominently involved in Maurkice Pouncey's little Twitter blowup after the game. It's curious how big that story has become given that Pouncey didn't actually play in the game. Meanwhile, Ike Taylor, who did play in the game and turned out what's probably one of the worst performances of his career, sat at his locker with his head down and didn't talk to the media afterwords. I don't blame him. In fact, I really feel for the guy. The 2011 season was probably the best or second-best of his career, and that was a horrible way for it to end. This afternoon, he went on TribLive Radio for his weekly scheduled appearance, and talked about it. I don't blame Ike for not talking after the game. In fact, it was probably smart of him not to. He took a few days, decompressed, and today, spoke with great candor, sincerity and eloquence on just how painful the loss was, even saying that it hurt more than last year's Super Bowl loss to Green Bay. Ike's going to be fine. While Maurkice Pouncey was being an asshole to people on Twitter, Ike was stewing in his own failure. This is where I disagree with Ron Cook about the column referenced in the post below. Some of these guys do think of all this as a business-first thing. But Ike's immediate reaction and subsequent comments earlier today only reinforce the idea that he's someone who gives a lot of himself to his work, and that he's genuinely invested, not only professionally, but personally, in how he does. This guy cares.
  • The Steelers are, like, $22 million over the cap going into next year, and a lot of guys won't be back. If I had to guess now, I'd say that list includes Chris Kemoeatu, Larry Foote, Bryant McFadden, Will Allen, Daniel Sepulveda, William Gay and Max Starks. James Farrior, Aaron Smith and Hines Ward should retire. I believe Smith will, but if either of the other two decide to play next year, I can't see it being for Pittsburgh. It won't shock me if any of the following guys are also gone next year: Colon, Keisel, Hoke, Hampton, David Johnson. Suisham and Dennis Dixon will definitely not be back.

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