The Ladarius Green Deep Threat: Can Steelers Take Heat Off of Antonio Brown?

Thanks to the season-long suspension of Martavis Bryant, the Steelers don’t have a serious number two receiving threat to take the heat off of Antonio Brown.

Oh, it seemed like they did during the first five games, when second-year man Sammie Coates was catching deep pass after deep pass (and even some shorter ones) and looked to be a viable alternative to the troubled Martavis Bryant, who has all the talent in the world but, by the end of 2016, will have missed 20 of a possible 48 career games due to suspensions alone.

Ladarius Green deep threat, Ladarius Green, Steelers vs. Colts, Steelers Colts Thanksgiving 2016

Ladarius Green catches a pass in the Steelers Thanksgiving win over the Colts. Photo credit: ESPN.com

But like a lot of other aspects of the team, Sammie Coates, who suffered a deep gash on his hand as well as a broken finger (or two) against the Jets a week earlier, began to take a turn in the wrong direction versus Miami in Week 6 and really hasn’t been the same since.

Eli Rogers, the second-year Steelers undrafted rookie free agent out of Louisville, has backed up his training camp and preseason praise by steadily improving as a slot receiver as the year has progressed. As for the likes of Markus Wheaton and Darrius Heyward-Bey, well, they haven’t been able to pick up the slack left behind by the absence of Martavis Bryant the the struggles of Sammie Coates because they haven’t been around.

Markus Wheaton was finally placed on Injured Reserve after battling a shoulder injury since training camp, while Heyward-Bey has been out since suffering a foot injury against the Ravens on November 6.

  • In other words, those rumors you heard about the Steelers having a deep and talented receiving corps were false.
  • Don’t get me wrong, it might be deep and talented, but it’s also injured, inexperienced and troubled.

Either way you look at it, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger doesn’t have the plethora of weapons many thought he would.

I know what you’re going to say. Yes, Ben Roethlisberger has the best running back in the league in Le’Veon Bell to go along with maybe the best receiver. But just ask Antonio Brown how tough the sledding has been this season, with regards to beating double and triple coverage week in and week out.

Enter Ladarius Green…

Speaking of rumors, let’s address those rumors you heard about Ladarius Green, the super-talented understudy to Antonio Gates in San Diego, who came to the Steelers as a free-agent in March with the intent of redefining the tight end position in the wake of Heath Miller‘s retirement, they seemed mostly false for close to a year.

  • Sure, you may have believed the Ladarius Green deep threat hype in March, April, May and June.

But when training camp rolled around in late-July, and Ladarius Green, who had offseason ankle surgery before evening signing with Pittsburgh, was still sidelined while recovering from the procedure (or post-concussion headaches, depending on what you believed), skepticism may have started to creep in.

And when Ladarius Green was placed on the PUP (Physically Unable to Perform) list before the start of the season, thus ensuring that he would miss at least the first six games, well, if you were like a lot of other Steelers fans out there, you may have been of the opinion that the Steelers didn’t do their homework and signed damaged goods–and it would have been hard to blame you.

  • Turns out, Ladarius Green missed the first eight games of the season, before finally making his debut in the Steelers loss to the Cowboys in Week 10 at Heinz Field.

While he did catch three passes for 30 yards against the Cowboys, fact is, Ladarius Green looked kind of lumbersome. That look carried over to Cleveland one week later, when he failed to catch a single pass.

  • This was the guy with the 6’6″, 240 lb frame who had the speed of a receiver?

But just when Steelers Nation may have been ready to write Ladarius Green off as a waste of a free-agent signing, there was Ben Roethlisberger this past Thanksgiving night at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, back-peddling to avoid a hard-charging Colts pass rush on third and 13, before unleashing a deep throw off of his back foot.

Who was this pass intended for? How about Ladarius Green, who had a step or two on the guy covering him and pulled the pass in 35 yards later, thus preserving the drive and setting up a touchdown and a 21-7 advantage.

Late in the game, with the Steelers still holding that 21-7 lead and looking for a knockout blow, Ben Roethlisberger again hooked up with Ladarius Green on another long pass–this time for 32 yards.

The Roethlisberger-Green duo didn’t deliver the knockout blow, but they did land the body shot that set up the uppercut (the third touchdown catch by Antonio Brown) that put the Colts down for good.

  • So, what am I saying with all of this?

Maybe that there’s some teeth behind the Ladarius Green deep threat. Maybe he isn’t such a wasted free-agent signing after all. Sure, he’s late to the party, but it’s not time to go home just yet. There are five games remaining in the 2016 campaign, and Pittsburgh (6-5) is in a dogfight with those Baltimore Ravens for the AFC North title.

  • Maybe Sammie Coates will never rebound from his current struggles, and maybe the Steelers receiving corps will be compromised for the rest of the year.

However, perhaps Ladarius Green deep threat, can provide the second receiving option that takes the heat off of Antonio Brown and gives Ben Roethlisberger a huge and fast target to spread the field vertically with.

Will Ladarius Green redefine the tight end position for Pittsburgh? Who knows? But maybe he’ll help redefine the rest of the 2016 campaign  for the Steelers and help elevate their offense to the Super Bowl unit everyone thought it was supposed to be.

Like this? Share it with Steelers Nation!

Did Pittsburgh Turn 2 Important Corners with the Steelers Thanksgiving Win Over the Colts?

The Pittsburgh Steelers 28-7 victory over the Indianapolis Colts not only snapped the franchise’s 66 year-long losing streak on Thanksgiving Day, but the way in which the Steelers beat the Colts offers hope that both the offense and defense have made important strides that, if consolidated, can pay dividends during December football.

Javon Hargrave, Robert Turbin, Steelers vs. Colts, Steelers beat Colts, Steelers Colts thanksgiving

Javon Hargrave stuffs Robert Turbin on Thanksgving as Steelers beat Colts 28-7. Photo Credit: Chaz Palla, Tribune-Review

Signs of an Assist for The Steelers Triplets?

Football is the ultimate team game – Even stars depends on their supporting cast for success. The Steelers loss to the Cowboys brought that painful reality clearly into focus.

The Steelers Triplets were again in fine form against the Colts. Le’Veon Bell was rushing downhill and catching the ball with authority. Ben Roethlisberger and Antonio Brown teamed for 3 touchdowns with each one looking easier than the last.

But if the Steelers Triplets’ authored “the story” of the Colts victory, members of their supporting casts made small, but potentially significant strides towards building a back story that could provide the foundation for future success.

  • Eli Rogers set up the Steelers first touchdown with a 30-yard reception
  • Ladarius Green set up the Steelers third and fourth touchdowns with 32 and 35 yard “field flipping” receptions
  • The Steelers offensive line opened holes and kept Ben Roethlisberger clean for a second straight week.

It says here that the Steelers still need a legitimate number 2 threat opposite Antonio Brown that Martavis Bryant, Markus Wheaton and/or Darrius Heyward-Bey was supposed to provide. But for the first time in weeks, it looks like the Steelers have made strides towards identifying that person.

Because Compulsive Complainers Gotta Complain…

At the end of the Browns game, Jim Wexell offered the following gem of insight via Twitter:

There is a segment of Steelers Nation that suffers from a compulsion to find something to complain about regardless of the circumstances. A 21 point Steelers win on a short week on the road after playing on the road offers no exception.

The Steelers Thanksgiving victory in Indianapolis certainly came with its share of flaws:

  • Donte Moncrief came dangerously close to catching a field flipping deep ball on the Colt’s 2nd drive
  • William Gay got burned badly by T.Y. Hinton on the next play
  • Ross Cockrell got burned on a long pass that put the Colt’s into the Red Zone
  • The Steelers made a number of drive stalling/extending penalties
  • Big Ben tried and failed to connect with Sammie Coates deep 3 times
  • Danny Smith’s special teams got caught with their pants down on a fake punt

Indeed, going into the fourth quarter, it was easy to look at the scoreboard and say, “If the Colt’s hadn’t missed a field goal and opted to kick at the goal line, it would be a one-score game….” Yes, that is true. But it wasn’t a one-core game and there’s a reason for that….

Butler’s Boys Blossoming into Men….?

Sometimes statistics provide the best way to measure a defense’s performance; other times you measure it best with plays. The Steelers Thanksgiving win over the Colts falls into the latter category.

Keith Butler set the tone on the first series by blitzing William Gay who hit Scott Tolzien with a strip-sack. On the next series, James Harrison did the honors by dropping Tolzien to set up a third and long which led to Adam Vinatieri’s field goal.

  • After that, Keith Butler’s boys put on a “Bend but don’t break” clinic.

Credit Chuck Pagano for playing to win. Going all in twice at critical junctures like that requires real guts. Two times Pagano tested the Steelers defense, and two times the Steelers defense answered his challenge.

On the first goal line stand, Pagano twice tried to impose his will by forcing Frank Gore up the middle, but Sean Davis and Ricardo Mathews stopped him cold both times. Then Tolzien tried to boot-leg it, but the rookie safety Davis read the play and committed to stopping Tolzien.

  • The rookie safety won the battle of wills with the quarterback, just as he should
  • On 4th down the veteran safety Mike Mitchell followed by knocking away a would-be touchdown pass

Undaunted, Chuck Pagano refused to blink the next time the Colts reached the Red Zone, as his offense converted a 4th and 4 and advanced to Pittsburgh’s six. From there, Pagano followed the same script, attempting to ram the ball down the middle of the Steelers defense, only to have Lawrence Timmons, Ryan Shazier and Stephon Tuitt stonewall his rushers.

  • On third down Tolzien again tried to run it in himself, only to be cut off by Mike Mitchell, and his next pass fell incomplete.

Over the course of two possessions, the Indianapolis Colts had controlled the clock for 16 minutes and 19 seconds. During those possessions, the Colts converted four 3rd downs, one 4th down, enjoyed 7 first and 10’s, and amassed 151 yards.

When an offense controls the clock for that long, moves the chains that frequently, and builds those types of yardage totals, they generally break a defense’s will, if not its back.

  • But Keith Butler’s boys refused to bat an eye

And because of that, the Steelers defense authored 8 critical plays at the goal line that defined the entire game and potentially signal one of the season’s corner-turning moments.

Steelers Must Consolidate Progress

The Pittsburgh Steelers have accomplished a lot in a short time. In the space of 5 days they’ve:

  • Snapped a 4 game losing streak,
  • Won back-to-back road games
  • Increased their sack total from 13 to 24
  • Boosted their interception total from 4 to 7
  • Notched victories against teams they were “supposed” to beat, something which Mike Tomlin teams have struggled to do of late

But emergence of potential receiving threats on offense and the development of rookies on defense are the most important achievements during this stretch. The next challenge will be to consolidate this against the New York Giants, who promise to provide Pittsburgh with a stiffer test.

Like this? Share it with Steelers Nation!

Speak Out Steelers Nation: Vote Steelers Game Ball Winners for the Colts Game

Wow, winning feels good doesn’t it? After going 42 days without winning a football game, the Pittsburgh Steelers have now won 2 games in the last 5 with their 28-7 win over the Indianapolis Colts.

As we do after every Steelers victory, we invite this corner of Steelers Nation to vote Steelers Game Ball winners. Steelers earning a ballot slot for their efforts to crack the Steelers Thanksgiving Curse are:

This poll is closed! Poll activity:
start_date 11-25-2016 11:49:35
end_date 12-03-2016 12:02:12
Poll Results:
Who deserves to win a game ball for the Steelers win over the Colts (votes for multiple players permitted)

For the second straight week Ben Roethlisberger, Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell earn ballot slots for the offense, but this time they’re joined by Ladarius Green, who saw his first serious action in the passing game and he made, as Mike Tomlin described them, “two field flipping plays.”

  • The Steelers offensive line also merits consideration. They have no ballot slot, but feel free to write them in.
antonio brown, steelers colts thanksgiving 2016, steelers game ball winners colts

Antonio Brown scores the first of his Thanksgiving touchdowns vs. the Colts. Photo Credit: Chaz Palla, Tribune-Review

On defense, Lawrence Timmons was once again all over the field, making 10 total tackles and defending a pass. Mike Mitchell came up with a HUGE goal line stop, broke up a couple of passes, and came down with the game clinching interception. Ryan Shazier was next in tackles, and notched half a tackle for a loss. Javon Hargrave notched his second sack in as many weeks, and had a hand in downing 3 Colts behind the line of scrimmage.

William Gay, who has been quiet for much of the season, opened the game with a strip sack, and added another interception late in the game. Sean Davis also earns a ballot slot, based on his strong play and goal line stop. James Harrison added to his Steelers sack total, and also downed the a runner behind the line of scrimmage.

This is Your Poll – Feel Free to Write in Steelers Game Ball Winners

Please remember, you are not limited to the choices we’ve outlined above, this is your poll. Perhaps you feel that Ross Cockrell, Anthony Chickillo and/or Stephon Tuitt deserve game balls – write their names in. Better yet, write their names in and leave a comment stating your case. (Bogus choices, such as “Kordell Stewart” will get deleted.)

Click here for Steel Curtain Rising’s full analysis of the Steelers Thanksgiving win over the Colts

Like this? Share it with Steelers Nation!

Steelers Throwback Thursday: Mark Malone’s 5 Touchdown Game vs. the Colts in 1985

Three Pittsburgh Steelers quarterbacks have thrown for at least five touchdowns in a game. Terry Bradshaw is obviously one of them. Ben Roethlisberger is another (Big Ben in fact has done it four times). But who was the third?

Surely someone like the legendary Bobby Layne, right? And if it wasn’t him, certainly it was Neil O’Donnell, Kordell Stewart or maybe even a gunslinger like Tommy Maddox, right? Nope.

Try Mark Malone.

mark malone, steelers, 5 touchdowns, former steelers quarterbacks

Former Steelers quarterback Mark Malone in 1986; Photo Credit: Rick Stewart/Getty Images

  • Yes, you read correctly, Mark Malone once threw 5 touchdown passes in game.

Mark Malone, who played for the Steelers for eight years in the 1980s and was the team’s primary starting quarterback from  mid-way through the ’84 campaign until the Steelers traded Malone to the Chargers (for an 8th round pick) following the ’87 season, was never a fan-favorite based the fact that he had to replace a future Hall of Famer and, obviously, his poor career stats.

Malone Not Alone in  Succeeding the Blond Bomber…

Malone was the Steelers first round pick in the 1980 NFL Draft, just months after they won Super Bowl XIV, their 4th championship in six years behind the legendary Terry Bradshaw.  Was Malone, a magnificent athlete who passed for 3,388 yards and rushed for another 1,344 during his three years at Arizona State,  going to be groomed as the heir apparent to the Blond Bomber?

  • It didn’t necessarily seem so at the time.

As Malone explained to New York Times in January of 1985 as he prepared to face Miami in the 1984 AFC Championship game, how could he ever replace Bradshaw, who was just 31 years old when the youngster was drafted?

When I was drafted by the Steelers, friends back home in San Diego asked, ‘How will you ever get a chance to play with Bradshaw there?

But, again, Malone was so physically gifted that when Lynn Swann was injured heading into a Week 10 match-up in Seattle during the ’81 season, Steelers head coach Chuck Noll asked him to play wide-receiver. While Malone only caught one pass, it went for a 90-yard touchdown (a franchise record that stood for years).

  • Unfortunately for Malone, he injured his knee in the game against the Seahawks that would require surgery in the offseason and force him to miss all of 1982.

Even after Bradshaw retired following the 1983 season and Cliff Stoudt departed for the USFL, the Steelers acquired David Woodley from the Dolphins prior to the 1984 campaign, and he ultimately beat-out Malone for the starting job.

But, David Woodley wasn’t up to the job, and Malone became the permanent starter in the second half of the season, as he led the ’84 Steelers to five victories, a 9-7 record and Chuck Noll’s last AFC Central Division title.

Among  those victories was an upset over the eventual Super Bowl champion 49ers in Week 7 (San Francisco’s only loss in ’84 and the 1st of two Noll/Malone wins over Walsh/Montana) and a 52-24 thrashing of the Chargers in Week 13 at old Three Rivers Stadium; in the blow-out win, Malone passed for 253 yards and four touchdowns and, according to his Wikipedia page, became the first quarterback in team history to complete over 80 percent of his passes in a game (18 of 22).

  • Other notable performances during the ’84 campaign occurred in the postseason.

Mark Malone helped the Steelers become the first road team to win a playoff game in Denver, after a 24-17 victory over the Broncos in the divisional round.  One week later, he threw for 312 yards, three touchdowns and three interceptions, as Pittsburgh fell to the Dolphins, 45-28, in the AFC Championship game in Miami’s Orange Bowl.

1985 Steelers Appeared Poised for Greatness

While Mark Malone didn’t make anyone forget about Terry Bradshaw during the second half of the ’84 season, he certainly did enough to earn the starting nod moving forward, providing the perfect backdrop for Mark Malone’s shining moment.

  • To understand this, you’ve got to understand the context in which the Steelers started the 1985 season.

The 85 Steelers were a new team with a mostly revamped roster that included an exciting, young receiver named Louis Lipps, 1984’s NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year.  And this retooled roster had renewed Pittsburgh’s enthusiasm with three-straight playoff-appearances and provided objective evidence that the Steel Curtain was poised to rise again.

  • Pittsburgh opened the ’85 campaign at home against the Colts on September 8.

Malone, coming off several impressive performances the year before, had the game of his life in-front of a sell-out crowd, completing 21 of 30 passes for 287 yards and five touchdowns, as he tied Bradshaw’s single-game record just one year after he retired.

To add to Malone’s career-day, he also scored on a one-yard touchdown run giving him a hand in 6 touchdowns in a 45-3 blow-out victory.

  • According to the young quarterback, whom the Colts defenders failed to sack all day, it was a total team effort.

As Malone clarified to the UPI after the game:

I thought I had a good game. But as I’ve said in the past–and I think it’s extremely important–when two receivers run good routes and those guys in front are giving you time and you’re running the ball, well, you’re going to have good days.

Those two receivers Malone was referring to were Lipps, who caught nine passes for 154 yards and  three touchdowns, and the legendary John Stallworth, who also tallied a score. Chuck Noll’s Steelers had struggled in the early 80’s, but Malone’s 5 touchdown game on opening day vs. the Colts, Pittsburgh appeared poised to dominate the second half of the decade.

  • Unfortunately, the Steelers finished 7-9 and suffered their first losing season since 1971; as for Malone, he only played in 10 games in ’85 due to an injury.

Malone started a combined 26 games over the next two seasons, but the playoff-less trend continued, as Pittsburgh failed to quality in 1986 and again in 1987. Whatever scorn the fans initially felt for the embattled quarterback intensified during these years, as he threw  just 21 touchdown passes to a whopping 37 interceptions.

Those fans, and many reporters, who hardly criticized Mark Malone during his time in Pittsburgh certainly had Just Cause. In eight seasons with the Steelers, Malone had 60 touchdown passes to 81 interceptions and a passer-rating of 50.2.

  • In fact, in his final season as a starter, Malone had 46.4 passer rating (yes, that forty six point four)

Malone, who has had long-lasting success as a sportscaster and sports personality after retiring, never had a career even approaching that of a decent NFL quarterback.

But on opening day of the 1985 regular season Mark Malone authored in one of the most underrated quarterback performances in Pittsburgh Steelers history. For that he should be proud.

Like this? Share it with Steelers Nation!

Pittsburgh Steelers 2016 Schedule Released

The Pittsburgh Steelers 2016 regular season schedule was released on Thursday and includes four prime-time games as well as games on Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day.

Pittsburgh kicks off its 2016 campaign with a trip to FedEx Field in Week 1 to take on the Redskins on Monday Night Football at 7:10 p.m. ET.

Much like a year ago, the Steelers will begin their home schedule in Week 2, and this time around they will take on their now most heated rivals, when the Bengals visit sans Vontaze Burfict, who is suspended to begin the season.

Along with the remaining AFC North foes, Pittsburgh’s home schedule will also include a Week 4 clash with the Chiefs on Sunday Night Football, and 4:25 tilts against the Patriots (Week 7) and Cowboys (Week 10) and Giants (Week 13).

  • Pittsburgh’s bye week will be on October 30, or three weeks early than a year ago.

The Steelers third prime-time game will be on Thanksgiving night, when they travel to Indianapolis to take on the Colts as part of the third-leg of the NFL’s annual triple-header.

Burfict will get a chance to mix it up with the Steelers in Week 15, when Pittsburgh travels to Cincinnati for its fourth prime-time game, this time on Sunday Night Football.

The Steelers regular season schedule wraps up with consecutive home games on Christmas and New Year’s, as Baltimore comes to town in Week 16 and Cleveland visits Heinz Field in Week 17.

Like this? Share it with Steelers Nation!

Steelers vs Browns Test of “Pittsburgh Plays Better on Tape Delay” Theory….

As regular readers know, Steel Curtain Rising is written out of Buenos Aires, Argentina. Watching the NFL from South America’s “Dagger pointed at heart of Antarctica” has its pros and cons.

When I first moved here that meant only being able to see 2-3 games per year, and even then it required getting up at 2 or 3 am (and having to get up for work the next day.) Night games are hell, particularly after the US goes “fall forward.”

  • The flipside is, it is relatively easy to watch Steelers games on tape delay without knowing the ending.

This is of course theoretically possible to do in the US, but a lot harder to execute in practice. I’d imagine it would be dam near impossible for someone living in Pittsburgh to pull this off, and even for the legion of Steelers fans in Steelers Nation, it would still take a fair amount of discipline, cooperation from friends (and enemies) and a fair amount of luck.

And while the rational side of my brain reminds me that there’s no connection between when I watch and how the Steelers play, the sentimental side of my brain is wont to give into superstition.

  • And the Steelers generally do well on tap delay.

My first experience with tape delay was good: the 2001 Steelers beat the Titans and Ravens at Heinz Field. In 2002 the Steelers followed up their Dread the Spread season opening loss to the Patriots by laying an egg vs. the Raiders, the later of which I saw on tape delay. Yet, later in 2002, the Steelers beat Peyton Manning and the Colts on Monday Night Football.

  • 2003 wasn’t so kind as the Steelers dropped Prime Time games to the Browns and 49ers on tape delay.
  • Ditto 2005 where tape delay had the Steelers losing to the Colts on Monday Night Football.

Since getting Direct TV in 2008, the Steelers record on tape delay is quite good. They beat the Cowboy at home on the strength of Deshea Townsend pick six. A year later, Ben Roethlisberger connected with Mike Wallace with just 5 seconds remaining to beat the Packers at home.

And so comes the Steelers 2015 season closer vs. the Cleveland Browns. This is one game that the Steelers will have to work to lose, which as last week’s loss to the Ravens reveals, they’re capable of doing it. But with Browns coach Mike Pettine reportedly already set to be fired, the Steelers should win this one in a walk.

  • So no tape delay assist (should be) needed.

However, Steelers vs. Browns is not the only iron Steelers Nation has in the fire as the 2015 NFL season closes. As EVERYONE knows, if Rex Ryan and the Buffalo Bills upset the New York Jets, the Steelers will make it to the playoffs….

…On paper the Jets should clobber the Bills.

But Rex Ryan has already upset his former employer. Doing so twice in one season, especially with the playoffs on the line for the Jets and the Bills only playing for pride is an uphill battle.

In other words, a perfect test for tape delay. Go Steelers!

Like this? Share it with Steelers Nation!

Los Steelers aplastaron a los Colts por 45 a 10 en el SNF

Un nuevo paso en el camino a la Postemporada

Los Pittsburgh Steelers iniciaron el partido contra los Colts sabiendo que perder no era una opción debido a que sus competidores por los dos lugares de comodines, Kansas City Chiefs y New York Jets, habían ganado y esperaban con sus respectivos 7-5.

De haber perdido, sobre todo teniendo en cuenta los rivales de las próximas dos semanas, el panorama se habría complicado aún más de lo que ya está.

  • Y el inicio del juego parece haber dejado entrever esa tensión, ese nerviosismo.

A los pocos pasos de comenzar, Jacoby Jones, (que realmente no parece estar a la altura del resto de sus compañeros y que fuera reemplazado por Antonio Brown luego de soltar el balón por segunda vez) sacudiendo el balón, titubeando al alcanzar a los dos primeros rivales, soltó el balón para entregarlo profundo en propio campo.

Ya temprano en el juego la defensiva se ponía a prueba, luego de haber sido foco de críticas durante la semana debido a su más que modesto desempeño la semana pasada en Seattle.
Matt Hasselbeck bajo presión lanzó su primera INT de la noche. El encargado de recibir el pase fue Jarvis Jones en la 1.

  • En la siguiente serie acerera, DeAngelo Williams soltó el ovoide resultado de lo cual indianapolis anotó sus primeros 3 puntos.
  • No habían transcurrido 3 minutos y ya se contaban tres turnovers y la mala noticia era que los Steelers habían entregado 2 veces el ovoide.
  • Sin embargo, en puntos, de 14 posibles, la defensiva había permitido sólo 3. Y el partido recién empezaba.

Big Ben, a su tiempo, arrasó el campo por aire, en particular con Jesse James quien se anotó con tres atrapadas, una de ellas de más de 20 yds.

Pero la defensiva aurinegra batiría nuevamente el parche cuando William Gay, defendiendo en zona, leyó de manera extraordinaria la jugada y desvió un pase que sería recuperado por el profundo Brandon Boykin. El resultado de esa acción fue un gol de campo del cada vez más confiable Chris Boswell de 51 yardas. Seis a 3 para los locales y ni siquiera había finalizando el primer cuarto: cuatro entregas de balón, 2 por equipo. No era el mejor comienzo para ninguno de los dos.

En el 2do cuarto, Matt Hasselbeck conectó 2 pases de veterano: el primero, largo y a la izquierda, para colocar a su ofensiva en la yarda 2 contraria y el segundo, por el centro, entre los LBs, para anotar 7 y pasar el frente por última vez en el partido.

La respuesta de Roethlisberger fue contundente: jugando sin reunión, con atrapadas claves de Martavis Bryant y Antonio Brown, conectó finalmente en la endzone con el receptor 84 para poner las cosas en su lugar.

  • Diez jugadas, 80 yardas, Ben 6/7 (71 yds), 1 TD. 2-pt convertion incluida
    10-14

Indianapolis despejó y Jacoby Jones volvió a soltar el ovoide, pero la situación fue salvada por Derrius Heyward Bey en propia yarda 40. La serie final de esta mitad, dentro de los 2 minutos finales, fue otra vez, totalmente aérea, teniendo que superar un 1er y 25 por una infracción infantil de Cody Wallace. Markus Wheaton hizo la atrapada clave en 2do y 10 ganando 27 yds y poniendo a la ofensiva en la 5. En 3er y goal, faltando 14” en el reloj Ben pasó al pilón derecho para que Wheaton estirara la diferencia a 11 puntos.

La primera mitad finalizó con Pittsburgh sumando 252 yds totales (33 por tierra y 219 por aire) mientras que los Colts sumaban apenas 114 (37-77).

  • Clara superioridad de los Pittsburgh Steelers.

Y esa superioridad se confirmaría en el inicio de la segunda mitad. Mientras la ofensiva de Indy era empujada fuera luego de 3 intentos, los Steelers convertirían otros 7 puntos a través de M. Bryant.

steelers en español, martavis bryant, steelers, colts
3 TD en las últimas 3 series. Veintidós puntos sin respuesta.
A partir de aquí se puede decir que el partido estaba decidido, más cuando el QB Hasselbeck dejó el campo por lesión.

Sin embargo se pueden destacar algunos puntos interesantes en los 2 cuartos restantes:

  • Debido a la ventaja obtenida en los 2 primeros cuartos pudo desarrollarse más ampliamente el juego terrestre: 125 de las 158 yds se avanzaron en la última media hora.
  • James Harrison produjo 3 capturas de mariscal con un fumble recuperado.
  • Antonio Brown devolvió una parada de despeje para TD demostrando la multidimensionalidad de este jugador.
  • Se limitó a 143 yds el número de yardas aéreas a la ofensiva visitante

Lo que queda del día

Hace 7 días las dudas sobre la defensiva se acumulaban en nuestras cabezas tanto que se puso en duda la posibilidad real de que los Steelers alcancen la postemporada. En realidad no es que esas dudas se hayan disipado, más bien quedó claro que si bien otro rendimiento es posible, esta defensiva es muy dependiente de la capacidad del QB rival. Matt Hasselbeck fue un rival de poco riesgo para esta defensiva.

  • Hay que destacar que los Colts apenas lograron convertir 3 de 14 terceros downs. Y de estos, se rechazaron 3 intentos de 2 yardas o menos, y 2 de 3 intentos de 4to down.

En la defensiva profunda coach Mike Tomlin tomó medidas correctivas: ingresó Brandon Boykin, quien participó en el 69% de los snaps, se anotó una INT y desvió 2 pases.

steelers en español, brandon boykin, steelers, colts
El desplazado, Antwon Blake, de participar en todas las jugadas en los últimos partidos, bajó ahora al 55% su participación con 2 tackles, sin INT ni pases defendidos.

  • De los 7 pases defendidos, 5 correspondieron a jugadores de la secundaria.

La presión sobre Hasselbeck fue incesante. Se lo capturó en 5 ocasiones (en realidad 4 a Hasselbeck y 1 a Whitehurst), siendo James Harrison el principal verdugo de mariscales visitantes, y se lo golpeó en 7 oportunidades. Las cargas se lanzaron principalmente por fuera, obligando a Hasselbeck a lanzar de manera prematura e imprecisa. La presión sobre la ofensiva rival tuvo protagonistas sobresalientes: Bud Dupree, Ryan Shazier, como siempre Lawrence Timmons, Cameron Heyward y James Harrison que parece interminable.

La asombrosa ofensiva Steelers

Hace uns semanas decíamos que daba la impresión de que esta ofensiva aún no había mostrado todo su potencial. Durante las primeras 12 semanas de este año:

  • Ben Roethlisberger completó el 18% de sus pases de más de 20 yds desde la línea de golpeo (más alto para la NFL desde 2011)

La ofensiva Steeler:

  • Completó 17 pases de 40+ yardas (mayor para la NFL)
  • Produjo 13 acarreos de 20+ yardas (empata mayor para la NFL)
  • Promedia 6.4 yds por jugada (más alto de la NFL)

Hay que tener en cuenta que esta ofensiva ha sido diezmada por las lesiones. No están LeVeon Bell, Kelvin Beachum, Maurkice Pouncey, Mike Adams y ahora Heath Miller. El propio Ben comenzó y finalizó sólo 3 partidos durante este año.
Sin embargo, como suele decir Mike Tomlin “next man up” y los reemplazos están progresando partido a partido.

steelers en español, alejandro villanueva

Tal vez el caso más prominente es el del T Alejandro Villanueva, quien este domingo prevaleció en el duelo contra Robert Mathis y el de DeAngelo Williams quien es el N° 13 en la liga en cantidad de yardas acarreadas y 6° en promedio de yardas por acarreo (se debe poner en perspectiva el hecho de que en algunos de los partidos de este año, DeAngelo fue suplente de Bell).

steelers en español, deangelo williams, steelers, colts
La línea ofensiva contribuyó de manera superlativa para que Williams acarreara el domingo para 134 yardas y que Ben no fuera capturado ni tan siquiera una vez y fuera puesto a correr en apenas un puñado de oportunidades.

El TE rookie Jesse James está viendo más acción debido a la lesión de Heath Miller y vaya que lo está aprovechando: atrapó 3 de 5 pases para totalizar 30 yardas.

El plantel de receptores, la contracara de Ben Roethlisberger, marca la diferencia. Identifican y le dan el sello distintivo a esta franquicia que antaño basara su ofensiva en corredores brutales, como Franco Harris y Jerome Bettis.

Antonio Brown atrapó el 72% de los envíos, con 2 TD aéreos y 1 devolviendo un punt (el que quedará en la historia por un festejo insólito). Martavis Bryant 4 recepciones, 114 yds, 1 TD. Markus Wheaton 3 recepciones, 50 yds y 1 TD.

Por último, en 3er down también se mostró una sensible mejoría convirtiendo 8 de 13 intentos (61%) cuando la semana anterior en Seattle tuvieron éxito en el 45% de las oportunidades.

Dos Fines de Semana sin Lugar para el Error por los Pittsburgh Steelers

Si bien los Pittsburgh Steelers aplastaron a los Colts por 45-10, Pittsburgh solo ocupan el 7° lugar en la Conferencia Americana, actualmente fuera de la postemporada pero aún en carrera.

  • El desafío es que los próximos fines de semana los Steelers chocaran contra el 1° y el 2° de la Conferencia. Los Bengals y los Broncos (ambos 10-2) ya tienen asegurado su lugar en enero.

Cincinnati se presenta como el primer escollo a sortear. Es de imaginar que volver a Heinz Field con una victoria podría cambiar y potenciar el espíritu de cara al match frente a los Broncos.
El TE Tyler Eifert, el mayor anotador de TDs de los Bengals durante esta temporada, al momento de escribir estas líneas, aún está en duda para el domingo.

Cincinnati permite sólo 337 yds netas a la ofensiva rival (10° en la liga), 240 yardas aéreas por partido (13°) y es el equipo que menos puntos permite por juego en toda la liga (16.3 puntos/partido)
Será fundamental para Pittsburgh, mostrar como el domingo pasado, un equipo equilibrado. Con la ofensiva en todo su poder y una defensiva confiable, explosiva y capaz de obtener turnovers, considerando que los Bengals difícilmente entregan el ovoide (sólo 1 vez por partido, promedio)

Será un gran desafío para el equipo. Un duelo singular, sin dudas el juego más importante de la semana.

Y para los Steelers el más importante del año
Hay que confiar.

 

Like this? Share it with Steelers Nation!

Report card for Steelers 45-10 victory over the Colts

Quarterback

What more can be said about Ben Roethlisberger? He’s on the roll of a life-time right now, and Sunday night against the Colts, he looked about as accurate as he has all season with many throws that don’t do him justice unless their seen with the naked eye. All-in-all, Roethlisberger completed 24 of 39 passes for 364 yards and four touchdowns. Grade: A

Running Backs 

DeAngelo Williams fumbled on his fourth carry of the game, but after that, he resumed his season-long role of filling-in more than capably for superstar Le’Veon Bell, who will miss a total of 10-full games thanks to suspension or injury. For the night, Williams rushed for 134 yards on 26 carries and averaged 5.2 yards a pop. Fitzgerald Toussaint added a mere 12 yards on four carries while spelling Williams, but at least he was able to provide the veteran back with a bit of a breather. Grade: B

Tight Ends

Heath Miller missed the Indianapolis game with a rib injury, and rookie Jesse James took his spot in the starting lineup. James didn’t make anyone forget about Miller, but he did pull in three catches for 30 yards–including a nifty 20-yard grab early in the game. Matt Spaeth also played Sunday night, and while he didn’t catch any passes,  the running game was healthy, and Roethlisberger didn’t get sacked all night, so his contributions at the line of scrimmage were valuable. Grade: C+

Wide Receivers

It’s been said for quite some time that the Steelers may have the best receiving corps in the NFL, and with the way it’s performed in recent weeks, very few can argue with that notion. Sunday night, Both Antonio Brown and Martavis Bryant eclipsed the 100-yard mark, while pulling in three of Roethlisberger’s touchdowns. Markus Wheaton, coming off his 200-yard performance against the Seahawks a week earlier, only had 50 yards against Indianapolis, but he did score his second touchdown in as many weeks. All-in-all, Pittsburgh’s receivers accounted for 303 of Roethlisberger’s 364 yards on the night. The only memorable mistake was another drop by Bryant late in the game that would have given No. 7 his fifth touchdown pass. Grade: A

Offensive Line

Pittsburgh’s offensive line has faced better front-sevens than the one the Colts threw at it on Sunday, but that doesn’t mean praise isn’t warranted for a job well-done by a unit missing two of its starters. Roethlisberger attempted 39 passes on the night and wasn’t sacked once, as Indianapolis was unable to generate much pressure. As for the running game, again, Williams never looked better, but he also had many massive holes to run through. Grade: A

Defensive Line

There was a short spurt there in the second quarter when it looked like Colts’ veteran running back Frank Gore was going to have a big night, after he reeled off a few good-sized runs that made the Steelers defensive line look vulnerable and out of position. However, things quickly settled down, and Indianapolis only rushed for 54 yards–including 45 by Gore on  13 carries. Grade: B

Linebackers

It was a highlight night for the Steelers linebackers. Jarvis Jones didn’t record a sack, but he did come up with the game’s first big play for Pittsburgh, when he intercepted a Matt Hasselback pass at the goal line, three plays after Jacoby Jones fumbled the only kickoff away at the 11-yard line. Lawrence Timmons was his usual machine-like self at the inside linebacker spot, recording seven solo tackles, while reserve Vince Williams added five of his own and recovered a fumble. Outside linebacker Arthur Moats tallied one of Pittsburgh’s five sacks on the night, but the legendary James Harrison found the fountain of youth and tripled that number, by coming up with three sacks–including one that resulted in the fumble that was recovered by Williams. Grade: A

Secondary 

One week after getting torched by Russell Wilson in the loss to Seattle, the Steelers secondary acquitted itself quite well and held Indianapolis’ formidable receiving corps in check. All-in-all, the Colts had just 220 yards through the air and one touchdown . Brandon Boykin, seeing his most extensive action of 2015, looked fairly sharp in coverage and came up with a diving interception off of a tipped pass by William Gay. Boykin also had two passes defensed, as did cornerback Ross Cockrell. Grade: B+

Special Teams 

In addition to Jones fumbling away the opening kickoff, he also fumbled a punt in the second quarter that was recovered by one of his teammates. After that, Brown was inserted as the punt returner, which paid off late in the game, when he returned a punt 71 yards for the game’s final score.

As for the coverage units, the Colts had zero punt returns, as Pittsburgh’s high-powered attack limited Jordan Berry to one punt on the night. The kickoff coverage team obviously saw extensive action, but the Colts averaged just under 21 yards on six returns.

Chris Boswell actually appeared human when he missed just his second field goal of the season, when his 47-yard attempt went wide-right in the third quarter. But he did connect from 51 yards for Pittsburgh’s first points of the night and was three of four, overall. Grade: B+

Coaching

There aren’t many bad things to say about the coaches when a team turns in such a complete performance that results in a 45-10 victory. There were the two fumbles to open the game, but head coach Mike Tomlin quickly stepped in and removed Jones from the game following his near fumble on a punt return in the second quarter. The Steelers looked sharp as a team and only committed 48 yards in penalties.

Obviously, offensive coordinator Todd Haley had a great game plan to attack a Colts defense that was vulnerable in many areas, and it showed in an all-around offensive performance.

The Colts may have been starting a 40 year old back-up quarterback in Matt Hasselback, and their line might be riddled with injuries, but you have to give defensive coordinator Keith Butler kudos for about as dominant a performance as his unit has turned in all season. Grade: A

Like this? Share it with Steelers Nation!

Ben Roethlisberger shines as Steelers blow-out Colts

Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger passed for 364 yards and four touchdowns, as the Pittsburgh Steelers defeated the Colts, 45-10, in a dominate performance at Heinz Field before a national audience on Sunday Night Football.

Roethlisberger looked sharp most of the night and torched Indianapolis’ defense for the second time in two seasons (he passed for 522 yards and six touchdowns in a 51-34 victory over the Colts at Heinz Field on October 26, 2014), but the  rest of the offense shined as well.

Running back DeAngelo Williams rushed for 134 yards and averaged 5.2 yards per carry. Receiver Antonio Brown caught eight passes for 118 yards and two touchdowns, while fellow wide-outs Martavis Bryant and Markus Wheaton combined for seven receptions, 164 yards and two touchdowns–including 114 yards by Bryant, who went 68 yards for his score.

The offensive line, down one starter since Week 1 and down two starters since left-tackle Kelvin Beachum tore his ACL on October 18, looked about as cohesive as it has all season, as the Steelers rushed for 158 yards as a team, while Roethlisberger wasn’t sacked once despite attempting 39 passes.

  • However, as impressive as the offense looked, the defense may have been even more critical to such a sound and dominant victory.

It looked like it was going to be a long night, when Jacoby Jones, recently claimed off waivers, fumbled the opening kickoff, and the Colts’ recovered at the Pittsburgh 11-yard line. However, three plays later, outside linebacker Jarvis Jones intercepted a pass from quarterback Matt Hasselback at the one-yard line and thwarted the drive. But four plays after Jones rescued the defense, the offense put it back in peril, when Williams fumbled, and the Colts recovered at the Steelers 27. Pittsburgh’s defense held firm once again, and limited Indianapolis to eight yards on three plays, forcing a 35-yard field goal by veteran kicker Adam Vinatieri.

  • What could have been a 10-0 or even 14-0 deficit very early in the first quarter was merely three points, as the defense set the tone for the rest of the evening.

After the Steelers answered Vinatieri’s field goal with a 29-yarder by Chris Boswell, the defense came through again on Indianapolis’ next offensive possession. On third and 15, Hasselback’s pass was tipped by cornerback William Gay and intercepted by Brandon Boykin in a diving catch that was confirmed by replay and set Pittsburgh’s offense up at the Colts’ 38. The offense couldn’t fully take advantage and had to settle for another Boswell field goal–this one from 51-yards away–and a 6-3 lead.

The Colts took a 10-6 lead midway through the second quarter on a nine-yard touchdown pass from Hasselback to running back Frank Gore (who also gashed Pittsburgh’s defense on a few rushing plays in the first half).

But just when it looked like it would be a back-and-forth struggle between two AFC teams battling for playoff berths, the Steelers put the peddle to the metal, scoring 39 unanswered points–including  two touchdowns on their last two possessions of the first half and a touchdown on their first possession of the second half to take a 28-10 lead and effectively put the game on ice with over 27 minutes left to play.

After giving up five touchdown passes to Russell Wilson in the 39-30 loss at Seattle a week earlier, the Steelers defense held Indianapolis to just 240 yards of total offense, recorded five quarterback sacks–including three by veteran outside linebacker James Harrison–and forced three turnovers.

After Jones almost lost another fumble on a punt return in the second quarter, he was replaced by Brown, who would ultimately close out the scoring late in the fourth quarter with a 71-yard punt return that included a rather bizarre celebration, when he leaped crotch-first onto the goal post before falling to the end zone turf.

The impressive victory improved the Steelers record to 7-5 and moved them up to seventh place in the AFC behind both the Chiefs and Jets, who are also 7-5 but currently hold the two wild card spots based on tiebreakers.

Next up for the Steelers is a trip to Paul Brown Stadium to take on the 10-2 Bengals this Sunday afternoon at 1 p.m.

Like this? Share it with Steelers Nation!

Ben Roethlisberger Cleared to Practice, Remains in NFL Concussion Protocols

Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger may or may not have sustained a concussion on Sunday, when he received a helmet-to-helmet hit by the Seahawks Micheal Bennett in the Steelers 39-30 loss at CenturyLink Field to the Seattle Seahawks.

Tuesday morning, during his weekly radio show on 93.7 The Fan, Roethlisberger felt pretty confident he didn’t have a concussion and that he aced the battery of tests given to him by team doctors and trainers. Later on Tuesday, at Mike Tomlin’s weekly press-conference, the head coach stated that Roethlisberger didn’t pass the tests and that his starting quarterback did indeed suffer a concussion.

Whether it’s been broken toes, a high-fever or now a concussion, there has often been a bit of confusion and miscommunication between player and coach regarding No. 7’s rather long list of ailments during his 12-year career.

However, one thing we do know is that Ben Roethlisberger was officially cleared to practice by team trainers on Wednesday and that he was a full-participant. We also know, thanks to a story by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, that Roethlisberger was a bit ‘frustrated’ with the handling of his diagnosis by all involved–including his head coach.  “I had no symptoms of a concussion,” said Roethlisberger in a quote courtesy of the Post-Gazette. “No dizziness, no nausea, none of that stuff that comes with it. When I told the doctors, Dr. Maroon and the training staff said I didn’t have a concussion. That’s why I was so confused when coach Tomlin said I had one. They need to get together and tell their players and what’s going on because I was just relaying what the doctors told me.”

Confusion aside, it’s great news for the Steelers and their fans that Roethlisberger practiced on Wednesday and appears to be cleared to play (pending any symptoms that should arise post-practice); the game coming up this Sunday night between Pittsburgh (6-5) and the Colts (6-5) will have huge playoff-implications, as will the remainder of the Steelers contests in what figures to be a hotly-contested wild card race all the way through Week 17.

 

Like this? Share it with Steelers Nation!