Steelers History vs Former Assistant Coaches Gives Context to Dick LeBeau vs. Todd Haley Matchup

Tonight the Tennessee Titans come to town for Thursday Night Football. The real story and stakes of the game are in the outcome itself – the Steelers at 7-2 need to keep pace in the AFC race and can ill afford to drop a game to the 6-3 Tennessee Titans who’re leading their own AFC South division.

  • But of course the subtext behind this game is Dick LeBeau’s return to Heinz Field.

No matter how you look at it, Dick LeBeau vs Todd Haley, Dick LeBeau vs. Mike Tomlin and Keith Butler add a lot of intrigue to this game. With that in mind, we thought we’d look back to the Steelers history vs former assistant coaches.

While this list isn’t meant to be inclusive, it does highlight the Steelers record vs some of the franchise’s notable alumni.

Dick LeBeau, Todd Haley, Steelers history vs former assistant coaches

Dick LeBeau and Todd Haley in 2012. Photo Credit: Matt Freed, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

1979 – Super Bowl XIV – Noll Knows How to Beat Bud

January 20th, 1980 @ Rose Bowl
Pittsburgh 31, Los Angeles 19

The record will reflect that the head coach of the Los Angeles Rams was Ray Malavasi. But no one remembers that, because the subtext to this game was the chess match between Chuck Noll and his former defensive coordinator Bud Carson who was with the Rams.

  • Noll, as Art Rooney Jr. reports in Ruanaidh, informed his wife that “I know how to beat Bud.”

For a little more than four quarters it appeared Noll had erred. Then, facing 3rd and long deep in Pittsburgh territory, Noll ordered Terry Bradshaw to “Go for the big one!” Bradshaw launched 60-Prevent-Slot-Hook-And-Go to John Stallworth and 73 yards later the Steelers were ahead for good.

After the game, Carson complained that “All we needed to do was to stop John Stallworth.” Yep, Chuck knew how to beat Bud.

1989 – Bud Carson Gets His Revenge

September 10th, 1989 @ Three Rivers Stadium
Cleveland 51, Pittsburgh 0

Ten years later Bud Carson would FINALLY secure the head coaching job he’d longed for when he left Pittsburgh over a decade earlier. And this time it was with the Cleveland Browns. Fate would have Bud open against his former mentor on the road at Three Rivers Stadium.

The Steelers fumbled on their first possession and the Browns returned it for a touchdown. Things went downhill after that, in an afternoon that saw Bubby Brister catch his own pass.

People took the game as a sign that Chuck Noll was done. It wouldn’t happen right away, but boy would the 1989 Steelers prove a lot of people wrong.

1992 – Dungy Triumphs in His Pittsburgh Home Coming

December 20th, 1992 @ Three Rivers Stadium
Minnesota 6, Pittsburgh 3

Tony Dungy of course played for Chuck Noll, and Chuck Noll not only gave him his first NFL coaching job, but made him the NFL’s first African American coordinator. Dungy was seen as heir apparent to Noll in many circles. But, after the 1988 Steelers disastrous defense Dungy resigned rather than accept a demotion.

Ironically, Dungy took a job as Bill Cowher’s secondary coach in Kansas City, but by 1992 he was back as a defensive coordinator of the Minnesota Vikings. While the Steelers managed to get Barry Foster his 100 yards, they couldn’t get it into the end zone and Dungy won his first game back at Three Rivers Stadium.

1996 – Dom Doesn’t Dominate, But Spoils Kordell’s Parade

December 22nd, 1996 @ Ericsson Stadium
Carolina 18, Pittsburgh 14

It only took Dom Capers three years as a defensive coordinator in Pittsburgh to land his first head coaching job. And he’d face his former mentor, Bill Cowher in the final game 1996.

The game was meaningless for Pittsburgh, as its playoff seeding was locked, but Bill Cowher tried it out in an attempt to test drive his secret weapon – putting Kordell Stewart under center as the full time quarterback.

Stewart didn’t start the game, but was inserted midway through, and while he threw over a dozen incomplete passes, he eventually started connecting with his wide out and burned the entire Panthers defense with an 80 yard touchdown scramble. Stewart would come with in a dropped touchdown pass as time expired of leading a comeback.

1998 – Dungy Dominates in the “Crying Game”

December 13th, 1998 @ Raymond James Stadium
Tampa Bay 16, Pittsburgh 3

By 1998 the Kordell Stewart roller coaster had soared to tremendous heights and was now locked in a serious decline. Save for a few games in the middle of the year, Kordell Stewart had struggled for the entire season, and after the Thanksgiving Day Coin Toss Disaster had led and inept offensive effort against New England.

This followed a rainy game in which Bill Cowher replaced an in effected Kordell Stewart with Mike Tomczak, followed by Kordell confronting his coach, only to be seen on the bench crying, and THEN reinserted into the game.

2005 – Steelers Backups Spoil Mularkey’s Starters Playoff Hopes

January 2nd, 2005 @ Ralph Wilson Stadium
Pittsburgh 29, Buffalo 24

The story of the 2004 season for the Pittsburgh Steelers was of course rookie Ben Roethlisberger. But Big Ben sat this one at as the 2004 Steelers already had home field advantage locked up.

  • Not so for former Steelers offensive coordinator Inspector Gadget, aka Mike Mularkey’s Buffalo Bills, who went into the game with their playoff hopes alive.

Alas, they were hoping in vain. Tommy Maddox would start for the Steelers, and together with Fast Willie Parker, the Steelers backups would defeat the Bills and keep them out of the playoffs.

2007 – Whisenhunt & Warner Get Better of Roethlisberger

September 30th, 2007 @ University of Phoenix Stadium
Arizona 21, Pittsburgh 14

When Bill Cowher resigned as Steelers head coach, the question most minds was whether the Rooneys would hire Ken Whisenhunt or Russ Grimm. Art II and Dan opted to do neither, and hired Mike Tomlin.

  • But that wasn’t the real story behind this matchup.

Ben Roethlisberger had made some seemingly disparaging comments about his former offensive coordinator, to the point where Mike Tomlin publicly admonished him that he should be excited “Simply because he’s playing a football game.”

Excited or not, Ken Whisenhunt platooned Kurt Warner and Matt Leinart to get the better of Roethlisberger in what would mark the first loss of the Mike Tomlin era.

2008 – Super Bowl XLIII – LeBeau Wins Chess Match with Whisenhunt

February 9th, 2009 @ Raymond James Stadium
Pittsburgh 27, Arizona 23

The two sides would get a rematch less than 18 months later in Super Bowl XLIII. And by that time, all eyes were on the chess match between Dick LeBeau’s dominating 2008 Steelers defense and Ken Whisenhunt’s explosive offense featuring Kurt Warner and Larry Fitzgerald.

While its true that last minute heroics from Ben Roehtlisberger and Santoino Holmes were needed to secure victory, those heorics were possible in part by Dick LeBeau’s defense in the form of the 99 yard pick six authored by James Harrison.

Note, that represented at least a 10 if not 14 point swing in the Steelers favor in a game decided by 4. So yes, Dick LeBeau won the chess match vs. Ken Whisenhunt.

2009 — Roethlisberger and Wallace over Green Bay, by a Nose

December 20th 2009 @ Heinz Field
Pittsburgh 37, Packers 36

By this point in time Dom Capers had had two unsuccessful runs as a head coach, but was back in the booth as Green Bay’s defensive coordinator. But the Zone Blitz defensive model that Capers and pioneered with Dick LeBeau (and Marv Lewis) in the early 1990’s in Pittsburgh had gained traction throughout the league.

And the Steelers and Packers entered this game with two of the league’s top defenses which is ironic, because there was no defense to speak of in this game. The Steelers inability to stop the Packers aerial attack was such that Mike Tomlin ordered an on-sides kick late in the 4th quarter with the Steelers holding a two point lead, conceding that  the Steelers coudln’t stop them.

The Steelers couldn’t but got the ball back, as Ben Roethlisberger marched 86 yards in 2 minutes to make the game-winning throw to Mike Wallace with just 3 seconds remaining.

2015 – Bruce Arians Foiled by Landry and Martavis

October 18th, 2015 @ Heinz Field
Pittsburgh 25, Arizona 13

The story of Bruce Arians, Mike Tomlin and Art Rooney II is well known, perhaps too well known for its own good. Bruce Arians “retirement” can be measured in days, if not hours, and when he returned to Heinz Field to face his former team, he brought a 4-1 record, a stealer defense, and was viewed as a Super Bowl favorite.

  • The Steelers, in contrast, were quarterbacked by backup Mike Vick, where on their 4th place kicker and decided underdogs.

Things appeared to go from bad to worse in the second half, when a scrambling Michael Vick left the game with an injury. In came Landry Jones, and most fans felt this spelled doom. But, supported by Le’Veon Bell’s rushing, Landry Jones quickly led the Steelers to a touchdown when he connected with Martavis Bryant in the end zone.

Although the two point conversion pass to Antonio Brown would fail, the Steelers would tack on two more Chris Boswell field goals, and were clinging to an 18 to 15 point lead at the two minute warning, when on second and 8 Jones hit a short pass to Bryant over the middle. Here’s what happened next:

Bruce Arians expression says it all! The Steelers beat the Cardinals 25-13.

 

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Looking @ the Steelers Thanksgiving Record – Can Pittsburgh Break the Turkey Day Curse?

The NFL is “honoring” the Pittsburgh Steelers for the 8th time by putting them in the national spotlight on Thanksgiving Day. Given the Steelers Thanksgiving record, one can imagine Art Rooney II saying a heartfelt “Thanks but no thanks” the next time the NFL offers them a turkey day slot.

Here is a look at the Steelers Thanksgiving record that has made for many a memorable turkey day that most of Steelers Nation Wish they could forget.

steelers thanksgiving record, steelers thanksgiving history, le'veon bell, le'veon bell concussion ravens, steelers ravens thanksgiving

Le’Veon Bell loses his helmet in the Steelers 2013 Thanksgiving loss at Baltimore. Photo Credit: Matt Hafley, Post-Gazette

Pre-Noll Era Steelers Thanksgiving Record 1-2

The Steelers played the Philadelphia Eagles on Thanksgiving Day in 1939 and 1940. The Pittsburgh Pirates, as they were still known then, lost to the Eagles on Thanksgiving in 1939 17-14. In 1940 the newly renamed Steelers had no better luck, losing to the Eagles 7-0.

The Steelers would have to wait another ten years, including their World War II stint as the Steagles, before playing on Thanksgiving Day. However, the NFL matched the Steelers up with the Chicago Cardinals on Thanksgiving day in 1950 and Pittsburgh prevailed led by Joe Geri’s 101 rushing yards, two touchdowns and 3 extra points.

1983 – The Thanksgiving Day Massacre

November 24th, 1983 @ The Pontiac Silverdome
Detroit 45, Pittsburgh 3

The 1983 Steelers had played the entire season without Terry Bradshaw, but despite that Cliff Stoudt combined with a defense that looked to be Super Bowl caliber had given the Steelers a 9-3 record and command of the AFC Central Division heading into their Thanksgiving Day game against Detroit. Detroit for its part was only 6-6.

As defensive coordinator Woody Widenhoffer admitted later, the Steelers weren’t prepared. And then some:

  • At the time, it was the Steelers worst loss in 36 years.

Cliff Stoudt threw 4 interceptions Mark Malone threw 1, Franco Harris gained 16 yards on 5 carries as both Harris and Walter Abercrombie’s combined totals were less than Frank Pollard’s. Meanwhile, Bill Sims looked like genetic fusion between Jim Brown and Barry Sanders, and Eric Hipple looked like Johnny Unitas.

The Steelers would lose the following week in Cincinnati. The week after it would take the last throws left in Terry Bradshaw’s arm to left them over the Jets as the Steelers stumbled into the playoffs where the LA Raiders quickly eliminated them.

1991 – Joe Walton Fails the Steelers. Again.

November 28th, 1991 @ Texas Stadium
Dallas 20, Pittsburgh 10

Considering that Dallas went to the playoffs and won a game and followed the next season with a Super Bowl Championship, one might wonder why this game was close at all. But it was.

  • And in many ways it symbolized all that was wrong with the Joe Walton era of the Steelers offense.

The Steelers still had a talented defense that had finished number 1 overall in 1990, led by players such as Rod Woodson, Greg Lloyd and Carnell Lake. It still had the offensive core that had led the rallies that fueled the 1989 Steelers improbable run. But unfortunately, Chuck Noll’s last hire was his worst one, as he’d name Joe Walton his offensive coordinator and gave him total control.

The Steelers defense kept the Dallas Cowboys to 13 points until late into the third quarter, when Warren Williams narrowed the score to three.

  • Alas, Steve Beuerlein to Michael Irvin pass put the gave the Cowboys a 10 point lead.

And under Joe Walton’s offense, Neil O’Donnell couldn’t muster more than 167 yards, and no other skill player could break the 60 yard mark. In other words, in those days 10 points was far too much to overcome in a quarter.

1998 – The Phil Luckett Coin Flip Thanksgiving Day Fiasco

November 26th @ the Pontiac Silverdome
Detroit 19, Pittsburgh 16

For as bad as 1983’s Thanksgiving Day Massacre was, the Thanksgiving Day Coin Toss Disaster is standard by which every disappointment on the Steelers Thanksgiving record will be judged because it signified the end of an era.

The 1998 Steelers had had their ups and downs. Without a doubt, this Steelers team was missing something and Kordell Stewart clearly lacked the mojo he’d shown in the season before. But these 1998 Steelers had authored enough Tease Games – convincing wins over serious contenders – to give fans legitimate hope Bill Cowher’s boys could pull it together for a deep playoff run.

The scenario for the 1998 Steelers Thanksgiving Day game had all the trimmings for one of The Chin’s late season surges. The Steelers were fresh off a win at home over the division leading Jacksonville Jaguars and took a 7-4 record to Detroit. Jerome Bettis’ parents even had the entire team over for Thanksgiving dinner the night before.

  • It was not to be.

The Steelers played a sloppy game filled with blown coverages and easily catchable balls that receivers dropped. Nonetheless they opened a 13-3 lead in the third quarter, only to see the Lions kick a field goal, followed by a Charlie Batch to Herman Moore hook up that tied the score. Jacksonville added another 3 and the Steelers had to fight to get into position for a Norm Johnson field goal to tie the game.

  • Carnell Lake and Jerome Bettis approached midfield, called tails, the coin landed on tails but referee Phil Luckett awarded the ball to the Lions as Detroit’s captains struggled to suppress their laughter.
Jerome Bettis, Steelers Thanksgiving Record, steelers thanksgiving coin flip, phil luckett

Jerome Bettis clearly called tails, but Phil Luckett said he heard “heads” in the infamous Thanksgiving Day Coin Flip. Photo Credit: USA Today For the Win

The Lions got into scoring position thanks to another Herman Moore reception that came at Carnell Lake’s expense. A ticky tacky face mask penalty gave Detroit even more yards as they kicked the overtime field goal for the win.

The loss knocked the wind out of the 1998 Steelers sails, who would go on to lose their next 4 games. The Pittsburgh Steelers had been contenders since Bill Cowher and Tom Donahoe began in 1992, but that era ended on Thanksgiving Day 1998 in Detroit.

2013 – The Tomlin Two-Step and the Failed 2 Pointer

November 28th @ M&T Bank Stadium
Baltimore 22, Pittsburgh 20

Outside of Pittsburgh, everyone remembers this game because of Mike Tomlin’s sideline two-step, but inside Steelers Nation this one was a heart breaker – not because the Steelers played poorly, but because they played so well. The 2013 Steelers had of course started at 0-4 and the 2-6 yet had clawed their way back to 5-6. A win vs. the Ravens would have restored the Steelers record to .500 and put Pittsburgh within striking distance of the AFC North title.

  • Alas, it was not to be.

The Ravens scored a quick touchdown, but the Steelers defense held Baltimore to field goals for the rest of the night. The Steelers offense stalled during the first half, but in the second half Le’Veon Bell and Emmanuel Sanders scored touchdowns, as Ben Roethlisberger connected with Heath Miller 9 times.

With time expiring the Steelers moved into scoring position:

  • Ben Roethlisberger hit Heath Miller for 19 yards and an apparent touchdown. Overturned on replay.
    Le’Veon Bell rammed it in from the one. Overturned on replay because his helmet slipped off as he was being concussed.
  • Two plays later Roethlisberger hit Jerricho Cotchery in the end zone…
  • ….but the two point conversion failed.

The Steelers tried an on-sides kick, but failed and the Ravens ran out the clock. While this loss was disappointing, it was Steelers-Ravens slugfest in the truest sense of the word.

Can the Steelers  break their Thanksgiving Day curse vs. the Colts in 2016? Time will tell.

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RIP Buddy Ryan: Buddy Ryan’s Record vs Steelers Shows Pittsburgh Struggling vs. 46 Defense

NFL defensive mastermind Buddy Ryan passed away this week as the league mourned one of its most create, colorful and cantankerous personalities in a generation. The Pittsburgh Steelers only stood on opposite side lines to Buddy Ryan five times and perhaps Steelers Nation should give thanks for that..

  • Buddy Ryan’s record vs. the Steelers tells tale of one-sided domination.

This site prefers to celebrate and commemorate Steelers successes, but Buddy Ryan simply had the Pittsburgh Steelers number. Sure, Terry Bradshaw, Franco Harris, Bennie Cunningham and Jim Smith might have hung 38 points on Ryan when he was defensive coordinator of the 1980 Chicago Bears. But the Steelers were 4 time Super Bowl Champions and the Bears were 4 years away from a winning record.

  • Make no mistake about it, Buddy Ryan and his 46 defense owned Chuck Noll and Bill Cowher’s Steelers.

When Chuck Noll’s 1988 Steelers took their 2-8 record down the Turnpike to face Buddy Ryan’s Philadelphia Eagles, Ryan showed no mercy as his defenders sacked Bubby Brister 4 times and intercepted him another for good measure. The Steelers did hold a narrow lead going into the 4th quarter but the Eagles won 24 to 23.

Buddy Ryan Breifly Revives Steelers-Oilers Rivalry

Pittsburgh paid little mind when Houston Oiler’s named Buddy Ryan defensive coordinator early in’93 off season. They should have because Buddy Ryan was about to reignight a revival of the Steelers-Oilers rivalry that was as intense as it was brief.

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Buddy Ryan and Michael Barrow during Ryan’s stint as Houston Oilers defensive coordinator; Photo Credit: John Makely, Houston Chronicle

In the late 80’s the Giants, Redskin and Eagles vied for supremacy in NFC East and interesting divisional dynamic emerged. Bill Parcell’s Giants had an edge on the Redskins, the Redskins had an edge on the Eagles, and the Eagles edge on the Giants. In other words, Buddy Ryan knew how to defend against Ron Erhardt, and Ron Erhardt was Bill Cowher’s first offensive coordinator.

  • The first matchup came on the Sunday after Thanksgiving in 1993 on Sunday Night Football.

The Steelers and Oilers were going toe-to-toe for AFC Central supremacy, and it wasn’t even close. Oiler’s “only” won 23 to 3, but that doesn’t even begin to detail their domination, as the Oilers sacked Neil O’Donnell 4 times and Mike Tomczak two more times. Houston limited Steelers running backs Leroy Thompson and Merril Hoge gained 38 yards on the ground.

  • The Steelers in fact pulled O’Donnell, put him back in the game, then pulled him again.

Ernie Mills, Jeff Graham, and Dwight Stone dropped multiple passes including one in the end zone that saw Jeff Graham have the ball hit him in the hands, bounce off his face mask, and then slip again through is hands. Late in the game a Houston defender removed Mike Tomczak’s helmet, put him in a headlock and punch him.

  • The Steelers rallied behind, “We play them again.”

Play them they did. Perhaps their best effort of the game was Gary Anderson’s deep kickoff. The 26 to 17 final score makes it look like the Steelers were competitive. Those 17 points were pure garbage time glory. The Oilers schooled the Steelers in every sense of the word.

Again Oilers defenders dropped O’Donnell and Tomczak 6 times, while O’Donnell threw a pick six. The Steelers lost Greg Lloyd in a game that had seen him deliver Gary Brown a full force hit that failed to even slow that one-season wonder.

After the game, Buddy Ryan boasted, “I thought Pittsburgh would play more physical than they did. All the talk they do, they just don’t walk the walk.”

Few Can Match Buddy Ryan’s Record vs Steelers

Steelers fans hoped in vain for a third shot at Buddy Ryan in the 1993 playoffs, but the Steelers would tangle with Buddy Ryan one final time in 1994 season on Ryan’s final NFL stop as head coach of the Arizona Cardinals.

Dan Rooney has stated that the Steelers trip to Arizona in 1994 was the first time he noticed an unusual number of Steelers fan in an opposing stadium. At the time however, the game was known for several bizarre plays. One was failed fake field goal that saw Gary Anderson gain his only 3 yards rushing in 23 NFL seasons. Another was Eric Green running out of bounds with a clear shot at the end zone simply because he ran out of gas.

  • Those blunders, pared with some uncanny turnovers led to 20 to 17 Steelers over time loss.

Buddy Ryan’s 46 defense didn’t dominate the Steelers in that final match up as it had a season before, nonetheless, they did drop Neil O’Donnell to the turf 4 times. More importantly, they bettered Buddy Ryan’s lifetime record against the Steelers to 4-1.

  • There are not too many coaches who stood opposite Chuck Noll and Bill Cowher who can boast that kind of winning percentage, but Buddy Ryan can.

Buddy Ryan self-assuredness made Bill Parcells and Bill Belichick look humble by comparison. But when it came to confronting the Steelers, Buddy Ryan walked the walk, and talked the talk. May Buddy Ryan rest in peace as Steel Curtain Rising offers his sons Rob and Rex Ryan its sympathy and prayers.

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Drugs Continue to Fuel Martavis Bryant Downward Spiral, Steelers Wide Out Faces Year Suspension

Martavis Bryant needs help. And he needs it fast. Drugs continue to fuel Martavis Bryant’s downward spiral to a dangerous level.

Last August when news broke that Martavis Bryant would miss the first four games of the season due to repeatedly failing the NFL’s policies regarding marijuana use, Martavis Bryant said all the right things and took all the right actions.

  • Words were important then, because acknowledging an addiction is the first step to beating it.

Fans can debate the wisdom of the NFL’s substance abuse policies as they apply to pot specialists can haggle over the finer points of whether marijuana is addictive or not, but as Rebecca Rollet said on Going Deep with the Steelers, if you risk losing your job for using pot and you continue to use, you’ve got an addiction.

  • And so it is with Martavis Bryant.

News broke on Saturday the March 12th that Martavis Bryant is facing a year long suspension for additional violations of the NFL’s substance abuse policy. The on the field implications of this news for the Steelers can wait for later. This pieces concerns the implications for this news for Martavis Bryant the person.

When news of his first suspension broke last August, Steel Curtain Rising suggested that the tragedies of Tim Worley, Bam Morris and Eric Green offered a cautionary tale, and asked if Bryant could break out of the self-destructive spiral.

  • Sadly, the self-destructive spiral seems to have seized Bryant full-force.

Just consider some of what transpired since Bryant returned from his suspension:

Following the Broncos game, there were no shortage of NFL analysts saying that Bryant had Randy Moss like talent. That game proved that such comparisons were accurate. Bryant dominated in a game that saw Antonio Brown out, the Steelers playing their 4th and 5th string running backs, and Ben Roethlisberger at less than 100%.

More importantly, Bryant gave all the signs of someone who had settled down. As Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com reported, in December Bryant stood in the Steelers locker room and “…spoke softly but excitedly about his daughters getting snow at Christmas for the first time. He sounded like a guy who wanted to make a home in Pittsburgh. You wanted to believe it.”

The Pittsburgh Tribune Review’s Chris Adamiski shared something similar:

Now all of that is at risk.

The NFL’s drug guidelines indicate that Bryant’s next failed test would lead to a 10 game suspension. The fact that he’s facing a year suspension implies he failed two tests.

And for those of you counting, Bryant has now failed 6 drug tests. Following his four drug test and suspension Bryant sought conseling and advice from renowned former NBA player John Lucas. This was the right, move, but clearly it wasn’t enough.

His agent Brian Fettner confirmed that Bryant would enter rehab be evaluated for depression, confiding “We’re all stunned, me included. We clearly miscalculated the issue. His isn’t a party issue. It’s a coping issue and a depression issue, and he’s got to take care of it.” Whether his addiction is rooted in depression or something else, Martavis Bryant clearly has demons he must struggle with.

Teammate Will Allen suggested on Twitter:

https://twitter.com/WillAllenWAF/status/708771873983754240

That would seem to good advice for Steelers Nation.

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Steelers Report Card for Win Over Arizona Cardinals

Taken from the grade book of a teacher who is pleased to see his students taking the “Next Man Up” philosophy to heart, here is the Pittsburgh Steelers Report Card for the win over the Cardinals.

Quarterbacksteelers, report card, grades, Cardinals
After coming alive in the 4th quarter vs. the Chargers, Michael Vick performance was again anemic for the first half vs. the Cardinals. He threw at least one should have been pick six, and was averaging 0.8 yards per pass when he injured his hamstring. When no one is ready to say Landry Jones “made everyone forget about Ben Roethlisberger” he did provide the Steelers offense with the spark they needed going 8-12 for two touchdowns. Jones performance was excellent, but Vick’s struggles bring the grade down. Grade: B-

Running Backs
Its clear that the Steelers offense cannot survive on a diet of Le’Veon Bell alone, although Bell ripped off some excellent runs at times when the Cardinals KNEW what was coming. DeAngelo Williams had one carry for a loss. Roosevelt Nix continued to work as a fullback, and to great effect. Grade: B

Tight Ends
Heath Miller only caught one pass, but it was his only target. Will Johnson along with Matt Spaeth were used in the blocking game. Grade: B

Wide Receivers
Antonio Brown is clearly a gifted wide receiver, you don’t establish the kind of track record he has without talent. But he’s not been the same wide receiver without Roethlsiberger. The start of the game was of course Martavis Bryant, who made an excellent touchdown catch in traffic at the goal line, and then sealed victory by converting a would-be game winning 1st down into an amazing 88 yard touchdown play. Markus Wheaton had 1 catch for 8 yards. Grade: B+

Offensive Line
Losing your left tackle is normally an ominous sign for any NFL team, but when Kelvin Beachum went down, Alejandro Villanueva came in and the Steelers offense didn’t miss a beat. The Steelers offensive line did well enough in the running game and kept both of its quarterbacks upright. Grade: B

Defensive Line
It is a shame that Cameron Heyward’s getting so much attention for honoring his father Craigh Heyward, because he continues to pay excellent football, even if his stat sheet looks mundane. Hewyard is playing at an All Pro level, and is clearly a disruptive force. Stephon Tuitt left the game with an ankle injury. Steve McClendon only made one tackle, but the Cardinals average 2.8 yards a carry. That doesn’t happen if McLendon isn’t doing his job. Grade: B+

Linebackers
Lawrence Timmons lead the group and continues to play at an All Pro level, making a Troy Polamlauesque interception which showed both great presence of mind and concentration on his part. Vince Williams and Sean Spence had 4 tackles followed him in the tackle count. Aurthur Moats had a key tackle behind the line of scrimmage on 3rd and 2 to force a field goal. James Harrison’s sack on third down helped force a punt, preventing the Cardinals from answering the Steelers go-ahead touchdown. Grade: B+

Secondary
IT was the best of times, it was the worst of times…. Michael Mitchell came up with a key interception which snuffed out nearly any chance of a Cardinals comeback, and make Carlson Palmer look like a rookie in the process. Robert Golden got his first start, and didn’t do anything to attract attention to himself, which can be good for a safety.

ON the flip side, Antwon Blake continues to miss tackles, and Ross Cockrell’s physical play helped sustain a Cardinal’s scoring driven and quite frankly he got away with several other plays he should have been flagged for. Grade: B-

Special Teams
Danny Smith’s special teams continued to commit some costly penalties, but and while the Cardinals returns weren’t damaging, they were better than one would like to see. Brown had one good punt return, and Dri Archer had a 35 yard kick return and overall a decent average. Jordan Berry boomed off a 79 yard (OK, he got a REALLY good bounce) although his kicks were erratic. Overall and above the line day for the Steelers special teams. Grade: B

Coaching
Todd Haley’s choice of play calling with his two quarterback spoke volumes of how he sees his offense, and one has to wonder if the rumblings of Landry Jones seeing action didn’t come from him. Either way, his offense has protected the ball, and executed with Landry Jones under center.

Keith Butler is making a lot of Fantasy Football owners happy, but his defense continues to deliver when it counts by making critical third down stops, securing turnovers, pressuring the quarterback, and playing its best football when defending its own Red Zone.

Since the day he was hired, Mike Tomlin has preached “The Standard is the Standard.” It is easy to say the words, but clearly he’s instilled the mentality into his football team, and they have responded. Grade: A

Unsung Hero Award
The Steelers beat the Cardinals by a score of 25 to 13, yet only scored two touchdowns. The rest of the scoring came from a man who was unemployed just 15 days ago. Chris Boswell not only went 4-4 on field goal attempts, he made field goals of 47, 48, and 51 yards at Heinz Field, the NFL’s most difficult stadium to kick in. And he made it look easy. A miss on any one of those could have dramatically altered the dynamic of the game. But he made all of his tries, and for that Chris Boswell wins the unsung hero award for the Steelers victory over the Arizona Cardinals.

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Landry Jones Leads Steelers Over Cardinals, 25-13

“Pro football teams define their identity during the first 4-6 weeks of the season.”

It is a cliché uttered by Mike Tomlin and Bill Cowher alike. Those words also probably passed Chuck Noll’s lips, in some form or fashion. Truth transforms phrases into clichés. Six weeks into the 2015 NFL season the truth on Pittsburgh Steelers have defined their identity as a gritty team ready, willing, and able to claw and scratch its way to victory.

Cardinals Can Outmatch, but Not Outwit the Pittsburgh Steelers

And that gritty identify served the Pittsburgh Steelers well against the Cardinals just as it served them in the win vs. the San Diego Chargers.

  • The Pittsburgh Steelers are quite simply a different team without Ben Roethlisberger on the field.

Most teams are different without their starting quarterback, but at this stage of his career, Ben Roethlisberger is clearly a quarterback who helps unlock the talents of the players around him. After playing 3 games without him, Antonio Brown will whole heartedly agree.

And so it was that early in the game it became clear that the Bruce Arians’ Arizona Cardinals were going to be able to move the ball on the Steelers. It was also painfully clear that Pittsburgh’s offense was give punter Jordan Berry a lot of reps.

As it was, the Cardinals dominated the Steelers in just about every phase during the first half, as the Steelers offense managed 1 field goal and 5 punts. Yet, the Steelers were only down by 7. Grittiness was keeping the Steelers in the game, but it was an unexpected hero would push the Steelers over the top.

Landry Jones Rides to the Rescue

The third string quarterback is an afterthought on many, if not most NFL teams. Some franchises only carry two on their active rosters.

  • Kevin Colbert and Mike Tomlin have long marched to the beat of their own drummer on this one.

The Steelers have firmly committed themselves to a three quarterback system. When final cuts came in, many fans ridiculed the decision to keep Landry Jones. Yet today, Landry Jones vindicated the Steelers patience in carrying him on the roster since drafting him in 2013.

  • Michael Vick wasn’t getting it done at quarterback during the first half.

3 of 8 for 6 yards simply will not do it in the NFL. You can believe Mike Tomlin when he says he wasn’t thinking of pulling Mike Vick, but Todd Haley’s decision to let Vick scramble at will shows how little confidence he had in his backup signal caller at that point. Scrambling had its price, as Vick pulled a hamstring paving the way for Landry Jones first NFL action.

Quarterbacks do not get a choice about the conditions in which they make their NFL debut, but Landry Jones can thank Antown Blake and James Harrison for forcing a fumble that gave him the ball on Arizona’s 32 yards line. Next he can than Le’Veon Bell for ripping off a 22 yard run on a play when the defense HAD to know it was coming.

  • Let the record reflect that Landry Jones first NFL pass fell harmlessly incomplete to the turf at Heinz Field.

His second pass found its target in Martavis Bryant and suddenly the Steelers were leading instead of struggling.

With the help of Chris Boswell, Jones added six more points in his next two possessions. 12 points on your first four NFL drives isn’t bad. But would it be enough? The Arizona Cardinals were driving….

Pittsburgh Steelers Reality Football Brought to You by Keith Butler

Carson Palmer threw for 421 yards. John Brown had 10 catches for 196 yards. Larry Fitzgerald had 8 catches for 93 yards. Michael Floyd had 5 catches and a touchdown. Like Philip Rivers and Antonio Gates last week, the Pittsburgh Steelers defense made a lot of Fantasy Football owners happy.

  • Fortunately, the Pittsburgh Steelers defense is concerned with “Reality Football.”

And that is where the true grittiness of this team becomes so important. No one is ready to call Keith Butler’s unit a “Bend but don’t break unit.” It doesn’t feel right. But after six games a few things are clear about Keith Butler’s defense:

  • They struggle against elite tight ends
  • They play extremely tough in the Red Zone
  • They bring pressure and penetration from any and all angles
  • They create turnovers at opportune times

Consult the Steelers defensive stat sheet and you’ll be surprised. Only James Harrison recorded a sack. That doesn’t seem right, given the amount of pressure Palmer was facing all day, taking hits from Cameron Heyward, Arthur Moats, Lawrence Timmons and William Gay.

Keith Butler’s defense put on a clinch demonstrating how you can give up yards, but still turn in an “Above the line” performance as evidenced by Lawrence Timmons’ Troy Polamaluesque interception and Michael Mitchell’s end zone interception.

The lesson Keith Butler’s defense has left thus far is simple, “We will defend the field blade of grass by blade of grass. We might give up a few, but you will only game them at a price.” (Full disclosure, we have it on good authority that you’ll soon find more on “Steelers Reality Football” at Rebecca Rollet’s “Going Deep”

Oh Yeah, Martavis Bryant’s Back…

Five years ago the Steelers found themselves playing their third string quarterback, backed up against their own end zone with the two minute warning approaching and a need to convert a first down.

Mike Mitchell’s interception and James Harrison’s personal foul penalty left Landry Jones in the same situation. On first down Le’Veon Bell got 2 yards. Like he did against the Chargers, Mike Tomlin refused to play it safe. Landry Jones again found Martavis Bryant. Bryant caught the ball far enough down the field to get the first down the Steelers needed. But Bryant didn’t stop there:

The Steelers offense has been “Good” with up until this point in the season. With Bryant in the lineup they can be lethal….

…The “Downside” of Martavis Bryant’s 88 yard touchdown romp is that it gave Arizona the ball back with almost two full minutes left. Those of you who took notes at home will remember that the Cardinals advanced all the way to the Steelers 9. And those who pay attention to what is important will note that Steelers defense buckled down in the Red Zone and turned over the ball on downs…

The 2015 Pittsburgh Steelers are indeed a gritty team that fights and claws tooth and nail to find a way to win.

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Los Steelers vencieron a los Cardinals por 25 a 13 en Heinz Field

Primeras ideas sobre la resurrección de una ofensiva absolutamente muerta…
Los Steelers, por segunda semana consecutiva, remontaron un partido que se presentaba muy adverso, en el campo y las estadísticas, aunque no en el marcador.

  • La defensiva acerera hizo las veces de ofensiva sustituta y sostuvo el tanteador hasta que brotara la chispa que encendiera a su ofensiva.

Seis días atrás, contra los San Diego Chargers, esa chispa provino del QB Michael Vick con su bombazo de 72 yardas para Markus Wheaton, que cambió por completo el escenario del partido.
Esta tarde, en Heinz Field, la historia la escribió el 3er mariscal de campo, Landry Jones, quien es (o era…) fuertemente resistido por la mayor parte de la Nación Steeler.

De la Ofensiva, nada.

El reemplazo del lesionado QB Ben Roethlisberger, Michael Vick, hoy sencillamente, pareció no haber salido al campo para lanzar. La mayor parte de sus yardas conseguidas fueron acarreando el ovoide: en 5 acarreos completó 47 yardas mientras que por aire lanzó para unas increíbles 6 yardas (3 pases completos de 8 intentos)

mike vick, steelers, cardinals, qb scramble

Al fin de la primera mitad, mientras Carson Palmer había lanzado para 200 yardas, Vick había retrocedido 6 yardas por aire…

Al fin de la primera mitad los Steelers habían despejado en 5 oportunidades y convertido un gol de campo, mientras la defensiva había permitido solo 10 puntos evitando que la diferencia en el marcador se hiciera irrecuperable. Además, proveyó de una intercepción que la ofensiva transformó en despeje luego de 3 jugadas.

Pero en la primera serie del 3er cuarto, el QB #2 de los Steelers saliendo por la banda, se lesionó la rodilla. A la vuelta de un Fumble provocado por veteranísimo James Harrison y recuperado por Mike Mitchell en la yarda 32 de Arizona se produjo el cambio del segundo por el 3er mariscal, Landry Jones.

La controversia Landry Jones. Capítulo 2

La semana anterior, cuando la ofensiva de Michael Vick se ahogaba en su propia sangre, comentamos desde este espacio que en un momento publiqué un tweet en donde me preguntaba si no era el momento de probar la opción de Landry Jones, quien cuenta con menos pergaminos que Vick, pero que conoce mejor el esquema de la ofensiva y que también es capaz de lanzar con precisión.

El partido parecía perdido y Jones podía o NO ser capaz de cargar con su equipo al hombro e intentar dar la vuelta al resultado.

 

Landry Jones, Steelers, Cardinals, Mike Vick
Contra los Chargers, Michael Vick, terminó demostrando que él fue capaz de levantarse de sus cenizas, que él fue quien se repuso y que por eso, desde estas líneas se lo valoró en gran medida.

Pero abriendo un gran paréntesis en este relato, quisiera ir hacia atrás en esta temporada. Repasando las estadísticas del mariscal de 3er año en aquellos encuentros de pretemporada se verá que no son nada despreciables, si se tiene en cuenta que hablamos de un 3er jugador en un determinado puesto.
Intentó 120 pases completando 65 (54%), para 797 yardas, 4 TD/2 INT.

Además, como se tratan de juegos de preparación, participó en menos snaps, y la mayor parte de las veces no era acompañado por los jugadores del primer equipo.

Con esto quiero señalar (y aclaro que estoy advertido de lo polémico de la opinión que sigue a continuación) que a mi parecer, es difícil emitir juicios de valor sobre el desempeño o la calidad de un jugador si es que no se lo ha visto en cancha, en temporada regular y jugando con el primer equipo.

Dicho esto, volvamos a la tarde hoy.

Martavis Bryant, steelers, cardinals
En la tercera jugada de esa serie, luego de recuperar el fumble, y desde la yarda 8 de los Cardinals, el QB recién ingresado lanzó un preciso pase al fondo de la zona de anotación, alto, a un sitio en donde sólo podía llegar el receptor, el recién reincorporado Martavis Bryant, para concretar su primer pase de TD de su carrera

Baste decir que desde aquí en más, todas las series ofensivas de los Steelers fueron de anotación. Claro que, es justo decirlo, la consecución de estas anotaciones dependieron en gran medida de las destrezas y cualidades de los ejecutantes finales de estas jugadas (Otra vez M. Bryant y Chris Boswell, el novato kicker acerero)

Pero no se puede desconocer el momento en el que Jones ingresó al campo: Una ofensiva inerte, incapaz de avanzar el ovoide, jugando de locales y estando abajo en el marcador.
En esas circunstancias, lanzó el primer pase de TD de su carrera.

Landry Jones, Steelers, ChargersEntonces ahora sí, podremos empezar a juzgar el carácter y la calidad o no de este mariscal.

  • Su faena, en esta tarde finalizó con 8 pases completados en 12 intentos para 168 yardas y 2 TD.

Mientras la defensiva se debatía en soledad para impedir que el partido se escapara, apareció esa chispa que a veces enciende a los equipos. Esa chispa esta vez no apareció por el lado de Vick, sino de parte del uno de los jugadores más resistidos por la Nación Steeler (con justa razón o no. Es muy debatible. Y creo que en base a un solo partido tampoco podremos saberlo)

Ahora es tiempo de que este joven jugador disfrute de su tarde de gloria. Del día que hizo que su equipo, nada menos que los Pittsburgh Steelers, remontaran un partido que parecía imposible.
Le deja al cuerpo de entrenadores la difícil tarea de decidir quién saltará al campo de juego la próxima semana, al comando de la ofensiva, mientras se espera a que todo vuelva a ser como debe ser, el día que regrese el #7, Ben Roethlisberger
.
Mientras aguardamos su regreso el Standard es el Standard

Estamos 4-2

Podríamos estar 2-4. No lo dudo.

Gracias a la defensiva, gracias a Vick, gracias a Jones, gracias a Bryant y gracias a Chris Boswell los Steelers vencieron a los Cardinals por 25 a 13 en Heinz Field.

El Dr de Acero

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Steelers Nation Votes: Steelers Game Ball Winners for Win over Cardinals

The Pittsburgh Steelers pulled out an improbable 25-18 victory over the Arizona Cardinals. And as usual Steelers Nation now has the pleasure of voting Steelers game ball winners:

This was the Steelers third game without Ben Roethlisberger, but Michael Vick was not the signal caller to lead the Steelers to victory. That honor fell to the oft maligned Landry Jones.

Jones hooked up not once, but twice with Martavis Bryant for two touchdown passes, and led the Steelers to 21 second half points as the Steelers held on for a victory against Pittsburgh West aka the Arizona Cardinals.

Le’Veon Bell makes our ballot by virtue of his 88 yard rushing performance. Rookie kicker Chris Boswell also makes the ballot thanks to his 4-4 field goal performance. On defense Michael Mitchell, Antwon Blake, Cameron Heyward, Lawrence Timmons, James Harrison and William Gay also win slots on today’s ballot.

However, this victory was a true team effort, and Steelers Nation is encouraged to write in their choice for game ball winners. And you make a case for including Antonio Brown and/or Heath MIller? If you think you can, by all means write their names in. Ditto Robert Golden, who was second on the Steelers in tackles. Perhaps you might even find some love for Dri Archer.

Please take a moment to vote for the Steelers game ball winners, and remember to check back for full analysis of the Steelers win over the Arizona Cardinals.

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Art Rooney II’s Forcing Bruce Arians Firing Benefited Both Arians and Steelers

An appropriate sub-headline for this blog could be “Blogger remembers when he got caught with his pants down.” Why, well, read on….

Shortly after the Steelers suffered their Tebowing in Denver ending their 2011 playoff hopes, Mike Tomlin declared that both Bruce Arians and Dick LeBeau would return as offensive and defensive coordinators. And that’s the way things stayed, for a while at least. Within a few weeks shocking news broke that Bruce Arians had “retired.”

  • And truth be told, as DK on Pittsburgh Sports writer Neal Coolong has pointed out, Arians did actually file retirement paperwork.

But the retirement didn’t last long. Within days Arians was headed to Chuck Pagano’s staff on the Indianapolis Colts and word leaked that “Arians retirement” had been brought about by Art Rooney II’s refusal to renew Arians contract.

Of course, Steel Curtain Rising was silent on the Bruce Arians firing at the time, because, as always happens when big Steelers News breaks, I was on vacation and unable to write (well, I did try to sneak in something, but I got “caught” by my wife.) Fortunately Pittsburgh West’s (aka the Arizona Cardinals) impending visit to Heinz Field provides plenty of opportunity to discuss this in depth.

Arians and Roethlisberger – Coach & Quarterback Too Close?

Steelers defensive coordinators might not win popularity contests with everyone in Steelers Nation, but they do generally command respect. The names Bud Carson, George Perles, Tony Dungy, Dom Capers and Dick LeBeau generally get discussed in reverential tones by Steelers fans.

  • Offensive coordinators aren’t so lucky.

To this day you can probably find Steelers bars fans will gleefully burn likenesses of Joe Walton, Chan Gailey, Kevin Gilbride, and most certainly Bruce Arians in effigy. That’s just the way it works.

But let the record reflect, that before Bruce Arians took the reigns of the Steelers offense, a large swath of the NFL wrote off Ben Roethlisberger is nothing more than a mere “game manager.” Super Bowl XLIII ended Arian’s second year as offensive coordinator and it was at about that point that the “Roethlisberger game manager” nonsense died.

  • Whereas Ken Whisenhunt kept Roethlisberger on a tight leash, Bruce Arians simply let Ben be Ben.

And it is hard to argue with the results. Under the guidance of dynamic duo of Roethlisberger and Bruce Arians Pittsburgh Steelers went 75-25 and appeared in two Super Bowls. Since Todd Haley arrived the Steelers are only 30-23. But Bruce Arians hands off philosophy had its cost. From 2007 through to 2011 Ben Roethlsiberger was sacked 215 times.

  • Arians adamantly refused to ask Roethlisberger to adjust his game.

Some of that came from simply not wanting to cover coach Ben, but part of it also came from the close, almost father and son relationship the two men shared. A December game between the Redskins and Patriots, Art Rooney II saw New England offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien berate Tom Brady on the sidelines. At that moment, according to Gerry Dulac, the idea of firing Arians was born.

Art Rooney Forces Bruce Arians Firing

Of course Rooney’s firing of Arians was awkward. Four games into his tenure as offensive coordinator of the Colts, Chuck Pagano got cancer and Arians found himself as interim head coach, where Arians promptly went 9-3 and won AP Coach of the year honors.

The Arizona Cardinals saw a good thing and hired Arians as their head coach and since arriving in Pittsburgh West Arians has gone 21-11, resurrected Carson Palmer’s career, and made it to the playoffs in 2014 despite having to start 3 quarterbacks.

Ever since Art Rooney II forced the Bruce Arians firing, the arrow has pointed up for Arians.

 

Of Haley and Roethlisberger….

If Bruce Arians and Ben Roethlisberger had a father and son-like relationship, at first Ben Roethlisberger and Todd Haley were more like Chuck Noll and Terry Bradshaw. Of course, during Haley’s first season in Pittsburgh both Haley and Roethlisberger said all the right things. Every time any reporter tried to finger a bone of contention between the two, both men denied anything was wrong.

2013 got off to a rocky start, as you’d expect an 0-4 team to, but return of Heath Miller, the addition of Le’Veon Bell, the benching of Mike Adams and starting of Kelvin Beachum helped turn the Steelers offense around.

steelers, ravens, thanksgiving, ben roethlisberger, todd haley

Ben Roethlisberger struggles to direct Steelers comeback vs. Ravens on Thanksgiving Day 2013

But even as late as the Steelers 2013 Thanksgiving Day loss to the Ravens, reporters were sniffing out tension between Haley and Roethlisberger, as Dejan Kovacevic dissected the Steelers late game play calling and concluded:

But this offense still clearly lacks imagination, diversity and, yeah, let’s bring it up for the millionth time, a healthy vibe between quarterback and offensive coordinator.

The process was painful, but as Joe Starkey of the Pittsburgh Tribune Review observed, under Haley Ben has evolved “from a quarterback who held the ball longer than anyone in the NFL to one who gets rid of it faster than all but a few.” Starkey backed up his opinion with hard numbers,

  • Per Pro Football Focus, Ben released the ball in 2.5 seconds in 2014, vs. 3 seconds in 2007
  • He also faced less pressure than all quarterbacks not named Peyton Manning, Aaron Rodgers, Andy Dalton

Early in his tenure, while no one had said the Steelers had become a “West Coast offense” there were complaints that Todd Haley’s offense was too horizontal. Yet again, Starkey’s statistics show how misfounded those arguments are:

  • In 2014 the Steelers attempted more “bombs” passes of 40 yards or more
  • Only Andrew Luck attempted more passes that traveled 20 yards or more
  • Roethlisberger was third in yards-per-pass attempt

The process has taken some zig zags and some twists and turns, but the Bruce Arians firing, while painful at times, also benefited Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers as well.

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Steelers Atomize Arizona 32-20

Pittsburgh vs. Pittsburgh West. Three years ago these two teams met in The Big Dance, but few hyped this game as some sort of Super Bowl rematch.

No, the question wasn’t whether the Steelers could replicate their past success against Arizona, but rather whether they could avoid a repeat of a movie that has already been played too many times only seven games into the 2011 season.

Starting Out as Scripted

When the Steelers haven’t been falling flat on their faces, as they did in the Debacle in Baltimore or the Thrashing in Texas their script has been as simple as it has been maddening:

  • Start fast and build up a solid lead vs. an inferior opponent
  • Allow the said inferior opponent into the game penalties, errors, turnovers and inopportune sacks
  • Hold on for dear life as the clock ticks towards zero

Against the Cardinals the Steelers began in familiar form, albeit with the wrinkle that they, gasp, secured a turnover which the offense promptly turned into 7 points.

The Steelers defense held up its end of the bargain forcing three straight punts.

Midway through the second quarter, Steelers Nation was treated to another familiar sight:

If Ben Roethlisberger to Mike Wallace deep for 6 is a familiar, and pleasant, sight what came next was equally familiar but all too unpleasant.

Arizona got the ball back and almost on cue the Steelers defense started to commit penalties that helped the Cardinals get into scoring range, and ultimately score inside the two minute warning.

Sure Steelers managed to make some lemonade out of lemons with their last minute field goal, but that fact that those points were more due to Arizona’s own penalties than the Steelers own efforts lent to the feeling that the Steelers had only set themselves up for a second half stumble.

Arizona Shines in Act II

Both Pittsburgh’s and Arizona’s first possessions in the second half only lasted 6 plays – and that was a problem. After converting a third down the Steelers were forced to punt.

Arizona looked much sharper, rebounding from a LaMarr Woodley sack by catching the Steelers defense flat footed for a screen pass that they converted into 73 yard touchdown.

Suddenly, what was once a two-touchdown lead was now a meager three points. Once again it seemed, the Steelers were letting an inferior team guided by an inexperienced quarterback threaten to upset them.

Act III

Classic Greek drama has the protagonist finish Act I on a high note, find himself in dire straights in Act II, only to rebound to triumph in Act III.

If there is an appropriate word to describe the Steelers in Act III this season, “survival” is far more fitting than “triumph.”

However, against the Cardinals, the Steelers broke the template by answering Arizona’s score in decisive fashion.

On the ensuring drive, Ben Roethlisberger hit Health Miller, Emmanuel Sanders, and Antonio Brown for gains of 21, 17, 13, and 20 yards to bring the team to the goal line, where Roethlisberger fired a bullet to Emmanuel Sanders to lengthen the lead to 10.

  • LaMarr Woodley took over from there, forcing an intentional grounding call on Kevin Klob, tacking on two more points to the lead.

The Steelers still refused to lift their foot from the gas pedal. Up to that point the men in Black and Gold had been unable to run the ball, but Mewelde Moore and Rashard Mendenhall led a drive 55 yard drive the ended in a field goal and more importantly, burned 7:12 off of the clock.

After a three and out by Arizona they did it again, running the score up to 32 to 14.

Arizona did bounce back to mount a respectable 71 yard drive that theoretically gave them a chance to get back into the game. Ken Whisenhunt gambled that his defense would get him the ball back.

  • Ben Roethlisberger made his old mentor pay.

Credit Isaac Redman and Mewelde Moore for some impressive runs on the Steelers final drives, but on three obvious running situations Ben Roethlisberger threw the ball converting each of those for first downs. The Steelers executed perfectly on that drive, allowing them to finish by taking a knee.

The Steelers Varsity Schedule Begins

Steel Curtain Rising took a cautionary tone following the Steelers victory over the Jaguars, but concluded that what troubled the Steelers was a set of loose ends to be tied up rather than a set of fundamental flaws.

The Steelers were far from perfect against Arizona where they:

  • struggled to run the ball consistently,
  • gave up too many sacks,
  • were sloppy in the secondary

But they looked sharper in the passing game, didn’t suffer a special teams snafu and, most importantly, they put their opponent away.

The Pittsburgh Steelers must consolidate those gains quickly, because next week brings Tom Brady and the New England Patriots to Heinz Field. If the Pittsburgh Steelers history against the Patriots suggests anything, it is that the men in Black and Gold will need every edge they can muster.

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