Watch Tower: Predicting Steelers Pick of Artie Burns, Almost Picking Jevon Kearse and More

A lot has happened since the Watch Tower last shined its lights at the end of March and today its focus is on the Steelers Draft, free agency’s finish, other Steelers-related comings and goings along with another round of “Taking Our Own Medicine.”

artie burns, steelers, steelers draft 2016, art rooney ii

Artie Burns addresses the press as Art Rooney II looks on; Photo credit:

Paulk Wins Steelers Draft Prediction Prize

Who will we draft? Answering that question was once a simple water cooler conversation fueled the previous night’s banter AM sports-talk radio station. Now it’s a cottage industry. Mocking the next year’s draft begins before this year’s is complete with some pundits going as far as grading teams’ performance in mock drafts (seriously).

Grading mock draft IS excessive, but mock drafting is fun and arouses imaginations of pros and armatures alike, but the Steelers 2016 Draft Class shows just how much of a minefield it can be. Everyone knew that the Steelers would look to cornerback early in the 2016 NFL Draft, but the question of which corner the Steelers would take a hot potato.

  • Steelers Nation’s true winners in its 2016 mock draft sweepstakes is Ralph Paulk of the Pittsburgh Tribune Review, who correctly tagged Artie Burns as the Steelers first round pick.

Other national writers made similar predictions, but Paulk was almost only Pittsburgh writer the Watch Tower is aware of that accurately predicted Burns going to the Steelers.

The “almost” qualifier might seem odd, but Jim Wexell also picked Burns going to the Steelers in the Steelers Digest pre-draft edition, but Wexell’s “official” pick 36 hours prior to the draft was cornerback James Bradberry from Stanford. (Alas, the Zino iPad App that I read Steelers Digest on has no linking functionality….)

Shift in Steelers Drafting Philosophy?

In an age where post-draft analysis/post draft grades is as instantaneous as it is meaningless, Mark Kaboly of the Pittsburgh Tribune Review distinguished himself by providing his readers with some meaningful insight the morning after that draft.

The Steelers 2016 draft class, in Kaboly’s estimation, confirms that the “Steelers have changed their drafting philosophy.” The change, in Kaboly’s view, comes down shifting form an emphasis on projection to one on production, particularly on the defensive side. As Kaboly expands:

The organizational shift away from deferring to what a player may be able do to what a player has already done continued for the Steelers for the second consecutive draft over the weekend.

One could certainly quibble with Kaboly’s conclusion, as both Artie Burns and Bud Dupree have been panned more as “Projects” as opposed to finished products, but Kaboly backs up his claim with Mike Tomlin’s “Speed without production is less attractive…” quote, and in pointing out that Pittsburgh have gone a dozen years since a Steelers cornerback has made 4 interceptions in a season and contrasted that with the 21 interceptions that Burns, Senquez Golson and Doran Grant recorded in their collegiate careers.

  • But even if he’s ultimately wrong on the project vs. production question, Kaboly wins Watch Tower Kudos for attempting to provide substantive post-draft day analysis.

So Steelers Almost Drafted Jevon Kearse….?

The Steelers decision to pick Artie Burns drew a lot of criticism from both the press and from Steelers Nation at large all of which prompted Jim Wexell to mount a vigorous defense of the pick. The logic of Wexell’s defense can perhaps be read here (the article sits behind his pay wall,) but it also included an eye-opening Steelers draft history nugget:

…But, still, the anger rolled in. One reader even called Burns “Troy Edwards,” in honor of the reach Tom Donahoe made in 1999 when — and I learned this a few days ago — they had the great Jevon Kearse ON THE PHONE AT THE TIME.

While it’s a little late to award a “scoop” on the Steelers 1999 draft, Wexell’s Jevon Kearse story qualifies as a major bombshell both in terms of reporting and in terms of what it potentially unveils about the depths of dysfunction that existed between Tom Donahoe and Bill Cowher at the time.

  • On the site’s message board conversation yours truly suggested the nugget could be grown into a full-length story and the Watch Tower reaffirms that here.

A year ago the Watch Tower observed that stories abounded to explain how players like Terry Bradshaw, Franco Harris, John Stallworth, Jack Lambert and the other Super Steelers arrived in Pittsburgh. In contrast, since then, stories from inside the Steelers draft war room have grown more and more scarce.

  • In just 46 words, Jim Wexell has taken a small step towards rectifying that, and the Watch Tower offers him thanks on behalf of Steelers Nation citizens who crave enlightenment.

Thank you Mr. Wexell.

An Overlooked Artie Burns-Jarvis Jones Link?

Finally, the Watch Tower’s analysis of Steelers draft coverage ends with a look at a long-form piece by Coolong on USA Today’s Steelers Wire.

  • Count Coolong squarely in the camp of the Artie Burns skeptics.

In his article, Coolong bases his skepticism on solid footing, and in doing so he draws out an interesting parallel to one of the questions Kevin Colbert was asked, about whether the rain influenced Burn’s workout times, as they apparently did during the workout of Jarvis Jones.

  • While that’s not an earth shaking connection, it is an interesting one tying together two picks who critics label as “reaches”

Beyond that, Coolong manages to make his case on Artie Burns in an article that weaves together treads concerning Bruce Arians’ firing and Todd Haley’s accomplishments. That’s no easy feat, but he pulls it off, leaving the Watch Tower to hope aloud that Coolong will manage to find more time to write similar pieces now that he’s been kicked upstairs to the position of Senior Editor of NFL Sites USA TODAY Sports Media Group.

Scoops on Jarvis Jones and Senquez Golson

As everyone in Steelers Nation now knows, the Steelers declined to offer a 5th year tender to Jarvis Jones, but Jason Mackey of DK on Pittsburgh Sports knew it before anyone else and beat the rest of his competition to the punch. Mackey was of course the first Steelers reporter to break the Martavis Bryant suspension story, so it would seem that he has a knack for finding news.

We now know that Senquez Golson’s MRI was not related to his shoulder injury, but is due to another “soft tissue injury.” Fair enough. And missing OTA’s in May for an MRI is hardly a reason to hit the panic button.

But the Steelers have a lot riding on Senquez Golson’s development – perhaps too much – and any news of an injury which might impede his development merits attention, so Lolley wins Watch Tower kudos for breaking it.

Watch Tower Takes Its Own Medicine

Watch Tower’s role to document and analyze press coverage of the Steelers with an eye toward understanding what makes it tick, offering positive or negative criticism when warranted. But if the Watch Tower is going to take reporters to task from time-to-time, then it this site’s own errors must receive the same critical eye.

  • And I’ve made a bunch of goofs of late.

Some have been trivial, such as forgetting to include cornerback in our Steelers pre-draft needs poll (something easily remedied). Others have resulted from legitimate confusion, such as mentioning that Dale Lolley’s blog was going behind a paywall (its hasn’t) or misstating that Jim Wexell is a self-identified alcoholic (he is not.)

Corrections have been made and apologies to Lolley and Wexell issued.

…Then there was the blog post that had Will Johnson following Steve McLendon to the New York Jets. Ah, yeah, Will Johnson went to New York alright, but as a Giant not as a Jet! Thankfully a reader on Twitter alerted me to the error and the post had a half-life of about 20 minutes.

  • Sure, the post came after a hectic workday and just before a 2 week long international trip.

Those were contributing factors, but the real culprit was getting so caught up in a sexy “Pittsburgh on Hudson” storyline that I missed the most fundamental of facts. Such lapses are inexcusable and to you my readers, I offer a heartfelt apology.

Please lend a hand by sharing this on Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp etc... Thanks.

Todd Haley vs Bruce Arians – Ben Roethlisberger Is Better Under Todd

Former Pittsburgh Steelers offensive coordinator Bruce Arians has taken the high road since he was forced out following the Steelers 2011 season. For those whose memories are fuzzy, here’s how things unfolded:

  • Defenders sacked Ben Roethlisberger on 9.47% of his drop backs or 215 times between 2007 and 2011
  • In 2011, Ben Roethlisberger gave up 40 sacks on 7.8% of his drop backs
  • Arians, aware of the issue, vowed to “Let Ben be Ben
  • After the Steelers Tebowing in Denver, Mike Tomlin said Arians would return
  • Art Rooney II opted not to renew Bruce Arians contract
  • Arians “retired” only to get hired within days
  • Mike Tomlin hired Todd Haley as his offensive coordinator

As noted prior to the Steelers victory over the Cardinals, things have worked out well for Arians, Roethlisberger and the Steelers since Todd Haley took the reins of the offense. Arians did however break kayfabe slightly at the NFL owners meeting recently, telling ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler, “They are opening it up and not getting fired for it” referring to Steelers offensive coordinator Todd Haley.

  • Let’s begin by conceding that Arians does have somewhat of a point.

Despite engineering a successful Steelers offensive effort in Super Bowl XLIII, one year later Art Rooney II pressured Mike Tomlin to fire Bruce Arians following the Steelers 2009 that saw Ben Roethlisberger take 50 sacks. Tomlin held is ground, and Arians stayed, but with some strings attached.

  • Art Rooney publicly proclaimed the need for the Steelers running game to improve.

While Rooney later stressed that he was speaking in qualitative and not quantitative terms, Mike Tomlin got the message. Shortly after Arians departed he shared that at certain points in games, Tomlin would give him the green light to do what he wanted. The not too subtle implication was that Arians was free to pass at will.

  • Since Todd Haley was named Steelers offensive coordinator, the question of “run-pass ratios” has largely disappeared from the discourse in Steelers Nation.

That fact alone appears to justify Arians good-hearted needling. It really does seem unfair to Arians. Except there’s a catch as the numbers below reveal:

ben roethlisberger, passing statistics, todd haley, bruce arians, haley vs. arians, ken whisenhunt, roethlisberger offensive coordinator

Ben Roethlisberger’s performance under different offensive coordinators

The first thing that jumps out is that Ben Roethlisberger’s sack numbers have dropped by almost 60%. Given the amount of punishment Roethlisberger has taken, the reduction in and of itself could add a year or two to his career.

To be fair, the offensive line was a liability for much of Bruce Arians tenure as offensive coordinator, whereas it has been a strength under Haley. However, there’s question about whether that was a priority for Arians. Beyond the line, its also true that Ben took a lot of sacks because he held on to the ball too long. Arians knew that, but didn’t want to mess with that.

  • Todd Haley’s job was to get Ben to get the ball out more quickly.

The argument in Arians’ day was, letting Ben hold on the ball is what lets him hit Mike Wallace deep. Haley, however, designed an offense that allows Ben to get the ball out quickly while improving Ben Roethlisberger’s downfield passing game as opposed to hindering it.

To be completely fair to Arians, Ben’s sack % in 2011 was already dropping, and his yards-per game average in 2011 was higher than it was in his first two years under Todd Haley. So any discussion of Ben Roethlisberger’s performance under Todd Haley vs. Ben Roethlisberger’s performance under Bruce Arians must concede that there’s some “Nature vs. nurture” at work.

It is also true that under Todd Haley, Ben Roethlisberger has Antonio Brown in his prime, supported by budding receivers like Martavis Bryant, Markus Wheaton, Darrius Heyward-Bey. Fair enough, but under Arians Roethlisberger had Super Bowl MVP’s Santonio Holmes, Hines Ward, Wallace and of course the ever dependable Heath Miller.

  • The one stat that is a little disturbing is Ben Roethlisberger’s 2015 interception % of 3.4

That is well above his career average and was one worrisome sign during the final regular season stretch of 2015. It remains to be seen if Todd Haley can correct that in 2016 or if it becomes a tendency. But until then, the numbers don’t lie: Ben Roethlisberger’s performance under Todd Haley is better than it was under Bruce Arians.

Please lend a hand by sharing this on Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp etc... Thanks.

William Gay has Found a Home with Steelers

About five years ago, there may not have been a more vilified sports figure in the Pittsburgh area than William Gay.

Yes, in a sports market that included Pirates owner Bob Nutting, Penguins goaltender Marc Andre Fleury and Steelers offensive coordinator Bruce Arians, Gay was in select company as a player fans blamed a large part of their team’s sports ills on.

  • In a way, it was probably hard to blame the fans.

After all, Gay, a fifth round pick out of Louisville in 2007, was the man Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin championed to be his starting corner in 2009, after veteran Bryant McFadden left for Arizona as a free agent.

But after being handed the keys to the number two cornerback spot, opposite Ike Taylor, Gay performed so poorly, the Steelers re-acquired McFadden during the 2010 NFL Draft weekend, and Gay was demoted back to the slot position.

Gay’s 2010 demotion, along with his being victimized by tight end Rob Gronkowski during a home loss to the Patriots in November, helped greatly in turning Gay from promising youngster to perennial whipping boy.

Quietly, however, Gay turned himself into a pretty decent corner in 2011, but, by this time, he was a free-agent, and like McFadden three years earlier, signed with the Cardinals. However, Gay was released after just one season, and Pittsburgh re-signed him with little hype.

william gay, interception, touchdown, pick six, steelers, bengals, andy dalton

William Gay takes it to the house vs. Andy Dalton and the Bengals (photo credit: Andy Lyons/Getty Images North America)

But, hype or no hype, Gay picked up where he left off in 2011, and has started 30 games at cornerback over the past three seasons. Speaking of the last three seasons, Gay set an NFL record, when he became the first player to return five-straight interceptions for touchdowns. In doing so, Gay also tied Hall of Fame legend Rod Woodson for most pick-sixes in team history.

William Gay igned a three year deal on Tuesday to remain with the team that originally drafted him. Instead of a visceral reaction, Gay’s presence on the roster is now seen as calming and even influential to youngsters such as Senquez Golson and Ross Cockrell.

  • Even back when Gay was showing a bit of immaturity with regards to his job-preparation, fact is, you never heard of any off-the-field issues with him.

Honestly, the Steelers would probably be better off if other players stepped up to seize the top two starting corner spots on the roster, while Gay took up residence in his more natural slot position. But if Gay is the Steelers’ top corner again next year, he certainly won’t be considered the major liability he was even a few years ago.

  • William Gay has 11 career interceptions to his name and zero Pro Bowl appearances.

Before all is said and done, Gay might push that first number closer to 20 than it is to 10. As for any Pro Bowl selections, I wouldn’t bet on it.

But that’s no big deal. The more important thing is William Gay has found himself a home with the Steelers, and he’s built a nice little career that he and the team should be proud of.

Free agency go your head spinning? Check out our Steelers 2016 free agent tracker and/or click here to read all articles on our Steelers 2016 Free Agent Focus section. 

Please lend a hand by sharing this on Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp etc... Thanks.

Steelers Tight End Heath Miller Retires – Pittsburgh Will Never See Another Like Him

Pittsburgh Steelers tight end Heath Miller retires in a move that comes as a total shock both inside and outside of the South Side. The Steelers drafted Heath Miller in the 1st round of the 2005 NFL Draft and, although he became and instant starter, he remained one of the most consistent yet underrated players at his position.

  • It is a testament to Heath Miller’s greatness that even in the most hostile of environments, a catch by 83 resulted in chats of “Heath!”

It is ironic that he would garner such fan fair, because Miiller never sought the attention or the limelight for himself. Heath Miller is the classic defenition of a player who came to work, buckled his chin strap, and simply made plays.

  • As the Steelers 2016 off season began, there was speculation that Miller would become a cap casualty.

Some argued that Miller was losing a step, and no longer warranted his nearly 8 million dollar salary cap value. Such talk was little more than nonsense. It is true that Miller’s yard’s per catch were down in 2015, but that may have been due as much to Le’Veon Bell’s absence and the need for Miller to work closer to the line of scrimmage.

Heath Miller, a Model of Consistency

As Jim Wexell reports on Steel City Insider, Heath Miller started 167 of 168 regular season games and 15 of 15 post season contests. He has played the most games of any Steelers tight end. Heath Miller retires as the Steelers leading tight end in catches, receiving yards, and touchdowns.

  • But numbers cannot capture Heath Miller’s contribution to the Steelers in 2015 or any other year.

The 2015 Steelers regular season finale vs. Cleveland illustrates why. Miller’s stat line for the game was 3-18 for 1 touchdown. On the surface that looks pretty pedestrian. But the truth is that Miller out muscled defenders to get to the ball both on the touchdown, and on another key 11 yard pass.

Under both Bruce Arians and Todd Haley, Ben Roethlisberger has made no secret of his desire for a vertical, gun slinging style offense and that tendency has served both him and the Steelers well. But when whenever Hines Ward, Plaxico Burress, Santonio Holmes, Mike Wallace, Antonio Brown, Markus Wheaton or Martavis Bryant couldn’t get open downfield, Heath Miller was there in the middle.

  • Miller might have been the least vocal member of the Steelers offense, but he was very much a leader.

As Dale Lolley reported, it was Miller who quietly took Antonio Brown aside and dressed him down for not giving Landry Jones the proper respect he deserved. And as Lolley recounts, it was Brown who shared the story about Miller.

Heath Miller’s Retirement Leaves Gaping Hole in Steelers Offense

Looking towards the 2016 season the Steelers offense figured to be unstoppable. Now that equation changes. The Steelers knew Heath Miller was nearing the end, but had not attempted to groom a replacement. Heath Miller’s retirement leaves a gaping hold in the Steelers offense that the team will now struggle to fill.

The Steeler will now have to find a new tight end via the 2016 NFL Draft or free agency.
Expect the Steelers to make some sort of move. But don’t expect the Steelers to find a replacement for Heath Miller. They don’t make players like Heath Miller any more.

Please lend a hand by sharing this on Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp etc... Thanks.

Pittsburgh Steelers 2015 Coaching Report Card + Special Teams and Unsung Hero Award

Taken from the grade book of a teacher who wonders if Mike Tomlin might be entering a new phase of his coaching tenure here is the Pittsburgh Steelers 2015 Coaching and Special Teams Report Card.

steelers, report card, grades, 2015 season, coaching, special teams, unsung heros

Grading the Steelers 2015 Special Teams

2015 brought a decidedly mixed bag for the Steelers special teams. On the positive side, Chris Boswell was an unqualified success and in many ways the rookie saved the Steelers season. Antonio Brown showed he could still do damage as a punt returner. Danny Smith’s special teams also created a number of fumbles on kick returns, which is much needed.

  • There’s a flip side to the Steelers 2015 special teams, and it isn’t nearly as attractive.

Outside of Antonio Brown, the Steelers have no one to return kicks, with Markus Wheaton Jacoby Jones and Dri Archer both proving to be abject failures (at least Wheaton was a failure as a punt returner – he was OK returning kickoffs.) And while the Steelers special teams spared themselves from glaring disasters, a couple of scary returns were brought back on penalties. Likewise, Josh Scoobe was a disaster as a place kicker, and contributed to two of the Steelers losses.

On balance the Steelers special teams were slightly above average in 2015 – given the injuries to the offense, the Steelers needed more from the unit. Grade: C+

Grading the Steelers Coaches for 2015

Any discussion of the Steelers coaches in 2015 must begin with the defense, where Keith Butler embarked on a new era, tasked with succeeding the legacy of Dick LeBeau – no easy feat. Butler proved to be more than up to the task. The Steelers 2015 defense might have given up more yards in 2015 than it did in 2014, but it gave up fewer points, improved in sacks and takeaways – all with only minor adjustments for talent.

  • A closer look is perhaps warranted at the role of Steelers secondary coach Carnell Lake.

The Steelers banked heavily on the development of Cortez Allen and Shamarko Thomas, and both men were disappointments. The responsibility for this doesn’t of course only lie on Lake’s shoulders, but he is their position coach, and by all accounts, Lake pushed hard for the Steelers to draft Thomas. He’s also spoken glowingly of Antwon Blake, who while he might get scapegoated far too often for the unit’s troubles, clearly was not the secondary’s strong link.

Moving over to offense, it is now clear with 20/20 hindsight that one of Art Rooney II’s best moves was to force Bruce Arians out. Mike Tomlin reacted by bringing in Todd Haley, and Ben Roethlisberger has grown and matured as a result of it. Yes, Roethlisberger’s late season “stupid interceptions” are a cause for concern, but that is something that can be corrected.

  • The naysayers might argue, “Ah, but Haley had all the weapons at his disposal.”

Yes, and any coach needs to have good players first – and having them is no guarantee of success. Don’t believe me? Look at the difference in performance between the Steelers 1991 and 1992 offenses. The 1991 was a muddling and bumbling at best under Joe Walton; under Ron Erhardt in 1992 the same talent performed much, much better.

  • Todd Haley started 3 quarterbacks, lost his all pro running back and center, lost wide receivers to injuries and suspensions and still fielded one of the NFL’s most lethal units.

And finally, there’s Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin. Art Rooney II showed his faith in Tomlin by extending his contract in training camp. Many in Steelers Nation questioned the move, clinging to the “He’s still only won with Bill Cowher’s players.” Yeah, whatever.

This is Tomlin’s team or Tomlin and Kevin Colbert’s team. And Mike Tomlin has done pretty damm good with the group of player’s he’s assembled. It is one thing to mouth the words, “The Standard is the Standard” and/or “Next Man Up.” It is another thing to believe it, and yet another to get your locker room to accept it.

Yes, Mike Tomlin teams might still have legitimate issues with “Trap Games” but he’s proven himself to be an excellent head coach. Tomlin himself will tell you that any season that doesn’t end in a Super Bowl Championship is a failure. Fair enough. But 2015 probably represented his best coaching job. Grade: A

Steelers Unsung Hero of 2015

Everyone knows that Ben Roethlisberger took a lot of punishment during the early part of Mike Tomiln’s tenure as head coach. Debates raged over how much of that was due to “Ben being Ben.” Some of it undoubtedly was. But the Steelers, for whatever reason, employed a “Plug and Patch” approach to offensive line building, and it showed.

Roethlisberger, Brown, Wheaton, Le’Veon Bell, Martavis Bryant, Heath Miller, and DeAngelo Williams put together a lot of ESPN highlight material in 2015.

  • But none of their fireworks would have been possible without the quality offensive line play week in and week out.

Mike Munchak lost 40% of his offensive line, yet the unit improved from 2014 to 2015. One can only imagine how much more might have been accomplished had Maurkice Pouncey and Kelvin Beachum stayed healthy.

As it was, David DeCastro, Ramon Foster, Cody Wallace, Marcus Gilbert and Alejandro Villanueva acted as a rock of stability for the Steelers offense, and for that the Steelers offensive line wins the Unsung Hero award for the 2015 season.

Part I of the Steelers 2015 Report Card graded the offense.
Part II of the Steelers 2015 Report Card graded the defense.

Please lend a hand by sharing this on Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp etc... Thanks.

Here We Go Panthers, Broncos! Steelers Nation Championship Sunday Rooting Guide

Here we are. It is Championship Sunday again and unfortunately the Pittsburgh Steelers are not contending for the AFC Championship. Only if….

And on goes the list. That’s unfortunate, but that’s the way the cookie crumbles. The Steelers aren’t playing, so what are Steelers fans to do? Who should Steelers Nation root for?

For that, we present the annual Steelers Nation Championship Sunday Rooting Guide.

With the Steelers out of the playoffs, there is one imperative, and it is the same imperative as in years before. Someone needs to be the New England Patriots. Yet this year this rallying cry takes on greater urgency. Last year, thanks to Russell Wilson, the Bill Belichick tied Chuck Noll as the only coach to win four Super Bowls.

  • Bill Belichick must not get one for the thumb.

Yes, Spygate and Deflategate have tarnished the Patriots legacy. Yes, Chuck Noll beat Bill Belichick in his final game before he retired. Yes, Chuck Noll never cheated, Bill Belichick most certainly did cheat.

But still, the numbers will be the numbers. So for the AFC Championship, the Steelers Nation needs to pull for Peyton Manning to pull out one final great game. Last week he didn’t look up to it. Not even close. Can he summon it for one more shot? The Black and Gold must twirl their Terrible Towels hoping he can.

God knows it would be unwise for the Steelers to bet on the Denver Broncos to beat the New England Patriots, but root for the Broncos we must.

Steelers Nation and the NFC Championship

The NFC Championship is more interesting. On the face of things, Pittsburgh West aka the Arizona Cardinals would seem like the natural choice for Steelers Nation. You have former Steelers offensive coordinator Bruce Arians, Tom Moore and Larry Foote as an assistant coaches, local favorite and member of the Steelers 2009 draft class and later a practice squad player, center A.Q. Shipley and LaMarr Woodley. You also have former Pitt standout Larry Fitzgerald.

  • So Pittsburgh West is a sentimental favorite.

But if they get past the Panthers, can the Cardinals beat the Patriots? That’s a more troubling question. Bruce Arians’ rehabilitation of Carson Palmer is an incredible success story, but he has yet to prove his a big game quarterback. And Bill Belichick won far more outings against Arians offenses than he lost.

  • Therefore Steel Curtain Rising recommends that Steelers Nation roots for the Carolina Panthers.

Panther’s owner Jerry Richardson has been described as “a special friend” by Steelers owner Dan Rooney, although most fans will be unconvinced by that argument. But the Panthers do have Jerricho Cotchery who was a fan favorite while he was with the Steelers. They also have Chris Scott, whom the Steelers drafted in the 5th round of the 2010 NFL Draft (you didn’t know he was still floating around the league, did you? Neither did I.)

  • The Carolina Panthers have been impressive this year, their near-collapse last week not withstanding, and probably have a better shot at beating the Patriots.

Steelers Nation will be forgiven if they pull for Pittsburgh We… ur, um, the Arizona Cardinals, but the smart money on stopping the Patriots should ride on the Carolina Panthers.

Please lend a hand by sharing this on Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp etc... Thanks.

Ravens Snare Steelers in Trap Game, Baltimore Beats Pittsburgh 20-17

After twin wins vs. the division leading Cincinnati Bengals and Denver Broncos, Mike Tomin’s 9-5 Pittsburgh Steelers were sitting pretty with a clear line to the playoffs. All they needed to do was knock off the bottom feeding Baltimore Ravens and Cleveland Browns. On paper it was so simple….

  • …But, beating lesser teams has too often been too tough a challenge for Mike Tomlin.

And so came the game vs. the Baltimore Ravens, a 4-10 team playing their 4th quarterback of the season, with 19 players on injured reserve, and only pride to play for. After their dramatic comeback vs. Denver, the Steelers said all the right things about only focusing on Baltimore. Their actions on the field at M&T Stadium said something different.

The sad matter is, the Baltimore Ravens were the better team and deserved to win, while the Pittsburgh Steelers earned their 20-17 loss.

Did Haley Out Think Himself….?

Following the Broncos win, Dale Lolley observed that Mike Tomlin and Todd Haley are two coaches who are intent on taking what they want, not reacting to what the defense gives them, pointing to the Steelers boldness in airing out the ball against Seattle and Denver’s tough pass defenses.

  • Yet, when the Ravens went into double deep zone Steelers enthusiastically ran the ball.

On paper, it is hard to argue with their efforts. DeAngelo Williams had close to 100 yards before the 1st quarter ended, and the Steelers appeared intent on imposing their will on the Ravens defense. Yet, the Steelers lost a key test on their first drive when they failed to convert a 4th down instead of kicking a makeable field goal.

  • While there’s no guarantee Chris Boswell makes that kick. the Steelers sure could have used those 3 points.

Fans have second guessed Haley’s decision to abandon the run. Fair enough, when you lose people ask those questions. But the success of the Steelers in running the ball wasn’t translating to points on the board.

Credit Todd Haley for adjusting his game play at half time, but the stark reality is the Steelers offense wasted an entire half, allowing the Ravens to jump to a 10 point lead. Normally 10 points would be a small margin for this offense to overcome, but this was not a normal game for the Steelers.

The Butler Did It? Mallett Carves Up Steelers Secondary

It’s been said here before, the Steelers 2015 accidental secondary doesn’t scare anyone. Yet, for one half, Keith Butler’s game plan seemed to be to sit back and force Ryan Mallett to beat the coverage.

  • Mallett was up to the task.

The Ravens were perfect or near perfect on converting third downs in the first half. In fact, it is probably fair to say that the Steelers were lucky to have held the Ravens to only 13 points at half time.

Like his counterpart, Keith Butler made second half adjustments and, while the Steelers second half against the Ravens failed to evoke memories of Blitzburgh glory, Pittsburgh’s defense did play better.

The Steelers limited the Ravens to one touchdown in the second half, and that should have been enough to win, perhaps would have been enough to win but….

Roethlisberger Reeks….

While the move was not popular with number 7, Art Rooney II’s decision to force out Bruce Arians has been equated with the Steelers President giving his franchise quarterback some tough love. Roethlisberger and Arians had a father and son like relationship, and that did not always serve the best interests of the Pittsburgh Steelers.

The Roethlisberger-Haley relationship didn’t begin smoothly, but Todd Haley’s arrival has resulted in an improved Ben Roethlisberger, save for his return from injury in ’12 and 0-4 start to 2013. Under Todd Haley, Ben Roethlisberger has played better, smarter football. His sacks have been down, and the Steelers burn people downfield with an intensity not seen since the days of Terry Bradshaw, Lynn Swann, and John Stallworth.

  • Yet, in the last few weeks, Ben’s penchant for throwing “stupid interceptions” has crept back into his game.

It resurfaced again today, with Roethilsberger throwing two ugly picks and having a couple of other passes that should have been intercepted. As it was, the Ravens scored 10 points off of Roethlisberger interceptions, and that total would have been 17 if it were not for a neutral zone infraction nullified a 100 yard interception return.

  • Even setting the awful interceptions aside, Ben Roethlisberger’s game was off against the Ravens

Time and time again, Ben Roethlisberger looked confused as the play clock ticked down to zero. His indecision cost the Steelers one delay of game penalty while early in the first half he was forced to burn two time outs to avoid two more.

  • Ben didn’t always get a lot of help from his receivers.

Martavis Bryant dropped a couple of passes he should have caught. Markus Wheaton made some nice catches but could have caught the last one thrown his way. Antonio Brown made some nice grabs, but sometimes struggled to get open. And it wasn’t until the second half that Ben Roethlisberger found Heath Miller (save for the piss poor pass intended for Miller that the Ravens picked off.)

It would be unjust to pin this loss all on Ben Roethlisberger, but by any measure, Ben played poorly.

Tap Games Continue to Trip Up Mike Tomlin Teams

This game recalls another game at M&T Stadium in December. A backup quarterback was called into action, one who’d spent the season as a discarded afterthought. The heavily favored superheavyweight faltered, and lost by a field goal. Yet the superheavyweight righted himself, and ended up winning the Super Bowl.

The Steelers collapsed after that win, but the Ravens rebounded went on to win the Super Bowl. Could the Steelers follow the Ravens model?

  • Don’t count on it.

The Steelers could theoretically make the playoffs, but this game has the feel of a season-ender. Moreover, Pittsburgh’s play vs. the Ravens indicate that they don’t deserve post-season honors. Steel Curtain Rising has been a stalwart defender of Mike Tomlin and is not inclined to change that, even after such a piss poor performance in a must-win situation.

  • But the fact remains that Mike Tomlin teams too often struggle with trap games.

Numbers don’t lie. It happened in 2007 (but not 2008.) The ugly trend resurfaced in 2009 but was blissfully absent in 2010. Trouble with trap games was at the root of the playoffless 2012 and 2013 campaigns. Throw in the Tampa loss in 2014.

The sad fact is that the Pittsburgh was out-coached by Baltimore off the field, out-executed by Baltimore on the field and, yes it hurts to write this, the Ravens looked like they wanted it more than the Steelers did.

And that’s why the headline Baltimore Beats Pittsburgh 20-17 hurts so badly.

Please lend a hand by sharing this on Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp etc... Thanks.

Michael Vick o Landry Jones? El nuevo dilema para Mike Tomlin

Debido la lesión en pretemporada de Bruce Gradkowski, los Pittsburgh Steelers se vieron obligados a contratar, el 25 de agosto de este año como segundo mariscal de campo (mientras se mantenía a Landry Jones en el 3er puesto) al 4 veces Pro-Bowler Michael Vick, lo cual produjo en la Nación Steeler muestras de rechazo y admiración en iguales cantidades.

Quienes rechazaron la contratación lo hicieron en su gran mayoría debido a los antecedentes penales del jugador y no por razones estrictamente relacionadas al juego. Los que la celebramos lo hicimos porque consideramos que el hombre pagó con prisión (tal como lo establece la ley) y con mucho más que eso: tal vez con su propia carrera.

  • Quisiera repasar algunos datos de la vida deportiva de este QB (que HA sido?) de élite:

MVick first practice

Fue seleccionado en 2001 por los Atlanta Falcons en la primera selección general
En 2010 fue el primer jugador de la NFL en lanzar para 300+ yardas, acarrear 50, lanzar 4 pases de TD y anotar otros dos acarreando el ovoide en un solo juego.
También en 2010 se convirtió en el único jugador de la Liga en lanzar 3000 yardas, anotar al menos 20 pases de TD y correr 500 yardas anotando al menos 7 TD por tierra en una sola temporada.

Posee el récord de la NFL de más yardas acarreadas como QB en una temporada: 1039 yardas en 2006

Récord de la NFL para yardas acarreadas en un solo partido como QB (173) en temporada regular y en postemporada (119)

Es el único jugador de la NFL en haber registrado en su carrera, al menos 20000 yardas aéreas y 5000 yardas acarreadas
Lo ya mencionado: seleccionado en 4 ocasiones para el Pro Bowl en los años 2002; 2004; 2005 y 2010, luego de su regreso a la Liga.
Al momento de ser fichado por los Steelers era el líder de todos los tiempos al acarrear para 6010 yardas como mariscal de campo.
En 2004 firmó un contrato por 10 años con los Falcons por u$s 138 millones.

En la temporada 2015, con los Steelers ha mostrado estos números.

Screenshot_2015-10-21-11-53-48 (2) (2)
Este año comenzó a ver acción en la semana 3 debido a la lesión que marginara del campo, aún hasta el día de hoy al QB titular, Ben Roethlisberger. Se esperaba que justificara la decisión de haberlo fichado.
En aquel partido contra los Rams, donde saliera Big Ben, se dedicó a hacer lo que hace cualquier mariscal de campo suplente que ingresa mientras su equipo va adelante en el marcador: No perder el partido.

En su primer juego como titular, enfrentando a San Diego, su juego fue intrascendente y claramente muy por debajo de su potencial, hasta el tercer cuarto, en donde pareció explotar con un pase de anotación de 72 yardas “de otro partido” para Markus Wheaton. Más adelante, condujo a la ofensiva en una serie anotadora al finalizar el 4to cuarto, que sellaría la victoria para Pittsburgh.

Pero las dudas sobre su desempeño y su capacidad de liderar el equipo hasta el regreso de Ben, a pesar de contar con una ofensiva multiestelar y contando con el regreso al juego de Martavis Bryant, ya estaban planteadas sobre la mesa de los fanáticos acereros.

El domingo pasado, contra los Cardinals de Arizona de Bruce Arians,que cuenta con una poderosa ofensiva, Mike Vick volvió a demostrar que aún no se encuentra cómodo dentro de esta ofensiva y mostró un juego casi exclusivamente terrestre, desencontrándose con sus receptores y sin opciones para salir por aire. En fin, un juego previsible y estéril.

Durante el tercer cuarto, durante una carrera hacia la banda, se lesionó Vick y el siguiente hombre en la fila debió saltar al campo: Landry Jones, un jugador seleccionado en el Draft de 2013, en la segunda de dos selecciones de la 4ta ronda (115° selección general)

La faena de Jones, aquella tarde, es ahora por todos conocida.
En su tercera temporada, Landry aún no había visto la acción en temporada regular, siempre a la sombra de Roethlisberger y del eventual segundo mariscal.
Durante la pretemporada 2015 jugó la mayor parte del tiempo. Parecía que Tomlin le daba espacio para desarrollarse, para ir mejorando, para ir aprendiendo, para ir madurando. Nunca se habló de cortarlo, a pesar de que los hinchas nos preguntábamos,¿para qué tener a este QB mediocre si cuando se piensa en que Ben se puede lesionar, Jones no será promovido al segundo puesto y van a ir a buscar a otro mariscal que lo reemplace? ¿Qué hay para cuando la carrera formidable de Ben llegue a su fin? ¿Quién queda para reemplazarlo? ¿Cuándo los Steelers seleccionarán un QB en el Draft?

Ambos jugadores, Vick y Jones, son lo que fueron. Son medidos con la vara de sus antecedentes: Vick un QB de elite, con pergaminos de sobra, pero con un futuro incierto. Jones casi un novato sin pasado en la NFL y con un futuro igualmente incierto.


Pero quiero ser provocador y estoy advertido de que las próximas líneas serán polémicas. Pero permítanme jugar…

Una historia que se me ocurrió repasar antes de sentarme a escribir estas líneas.
Había una vez un QB que fue seleccionado por su actual equipo en la 6ta ronda del Draft del año 2000, 199 selección general.
Como se ve, este jugador no era, a priori, nada especial…
Debutó en ese año al lesionarse el titular de su equipo completando 1 pase de 3 para 6 yardas.
Al año siguiente, su mariscal titular fue otra vez lesionado, ahora severamente en el tórax. Su recuperación se estimaba prolongada. Corría el 2° juego de la temporada 2001. Ese partido finalizó con este equipo perdiendo el juego por 10 a 3. Este mariscal completó 5 de 10 pases, para 46 yardas. 0 TD, 0 INT.

Los próximos partidos como titular fueron como sigue:

  • Sept 30: Victoria ante los Colts, 13 pases de 23 intentos, 168 yardas. 0 TD 0 INT
  • Oct 7: Derrota 30 a 10 vs Miami. 12/24 para 86 yardas. 0 TD, 0 INT
  • Oct 14: Victoria sobre San Diego en OT 29 a 26. 33/54, 364 yardas. 2 TD 0 INT
  • Oct 21: Victoria sobre Indianápolis 38 a 17. 16/20; 202 yardas; 3 TD 0 INT
  • Oct 28: Derrota 31 a 20 vs Denver. 35/38. 203 yardas; 2 TD; 4 INT

Y así siguió.

Esa temporada finalizó 11-5 para este equipo de la AFC. Este QB completó el 63,9% de sus pases, para 2843 yardas, (189,5 yds/jgo), 18 TD y 12 INT con un rating de 86,5
Ese año el amigo Tom Brady salió de la nada, a reemplazar a Drew Bledsoe quien nunca más volvería a ocupar su puesto luego de haber firmado una extensión de su contrato por 10 años y 100 millones de dólares, 6 meses antes de su lesión.

Los New England Patriots, bajo Brady-Belichick obtuvieron ese año 2001 el primero de varios Super Bowls y se transformarían en la leyenda que hoy son.


No intento comparar. Solo quiero dar un ejemplo de cómo se desarrollan las historias.
Cómo de la “nada” surge algo.

Solo para pensar.

Finalmente, y para terminar, ya se sabe que Mike Vick no se recuperó de su lesión, así como tampoco Big Ben, aunque esta semana está moviéndose con mayor intensidad que la semana anterior.
Es sabido que el próximo domingo, Landry Jones, será el QB titular.
Pero si Vick se recuperase, me gustaría preguntar a la Nación Steeler que lea estas líneas:
¿Cuál sería el QB que Ud escogería para abrir el próximo domingo contra los Kansas City Chiefs?

[yop_poll id=”26″]


El Dr de Acero

Please lend a hand by sharing this on Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp etc... Thanks.

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.

Please lend a hand by sharing this on Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp etc... Thanks.

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.

Please lend a hand by sharing this on Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp etc... Thanks.