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Thoughts And Lessons From Week 3

Most headlines should have highlighted how the Steelers Defense carried the team to a 12-6 win at St. Louis, but they were shadowed by Roethlisberger’s injury.  News isn’t as bad as originally expected by most: for the next 4 to 6 weeks, the Steelers must find a way to win without their franchise QB.

The timing in which this defense is begining to show a reason to believe couldn’t be more precise: this team will need any help it can get to survive the stretch without Ben, and it could come from the other side of the football.

Also, having Bell back will (should) help, and Bryant is coming his way two weeks from now. After all, the Steelers aren’t asking Vick to win games on his own. Being the QB of a bunch of unproven guys is different than having Bell and Williams as RBs, with Brown, Wheaton, Bryant, Miller and Heyward-Bey as weapons.

So, this is an unofficial call to hold a bit before pushing the panic button, again.


With a series of quick throws, being able to move the football while keeping Ben out of Rams defenders’ reach, the game started quick for the Steelers Offense. No sacks, no penalties, and the first 2 drives resulted in 169 yards, good for 9 points.

However, for the rest of the game we gave up 5 sacks, committed 3 offensive penalties, managed to get only 97 net yards and score 3 points (and these points came just after the defense gave the Steelers the football at the Rams’ 31 yardline).

Here’s what our drive results look like:

  • 1st half possessions: FG, TD, INT, halftime.
  • 2nd Half possesions: Punt, Punt, Punt, FG, Kneel
  • Roethlisberger led two great drives to start the game, one of them ending on a FG after failing to score a TD from the Rams 2 yardline. His interception stalled the 3rd drive, and came while looking for a deep ball, without having any receiver close to the football, on a clear overthrow (similar to the one @ NE, W1). Penalties, sacks and, yes, abandoning the quick-pass-game slowed down his approach on the next 3 drives. Vick came off the bench rusty (as expected), was sacked twice, fumbled and threw a dropped interception.
  • Bell got 132 total yards (62 rushing, 70 receiving) and scored a TD, showing no rust after being suspended the first two weeks. DeAngello Williams didn’t have his share of carries, despite having the first run of the game (his only carry).
  • On 4 WR sets, Bell aligned as a WR and Williams as a RB (picking up blitzes and running flat / escape routes). This should end week 5, with Bryant back.
  • Brown and Bell: 18 receptions for 178 yards. All other Steelers catching a football: 7 receptions, 52 yards. That said, Miller, Wheaton and Heyward-Bey were not involved in the game as frequently as previous weeks.
  • The offensive line did not have a great game, even if your favorite columnist says so. In fact, it was a bit more of a mess: they gave up 5 sacks, committed 3 penalties (drive-stallers) and weren’t able to pull on crucial short-yardage situations. This is not what we expect from them. Keeping our franchise QB in one piece should be their #1 priority, and giving up sacks, or penalties causing long-yardage situations (which lead to longer snap-to-pass ratio) are not helping their cause.


Even though this unit forced only one 3 & out, they kept the Rams out of the redzone most of the game. And, when they reached a 1st and goal at our 7 yardline, the Steelers Defense held them to a FG. Getting two sacks and an interception, while allowing a 20% 3rd down efficiency kept the Rams out of scoring range on most of their drives.

  • Tuitt and Heyward are becoming the soul of this Defense, either stopping the run, collapsing the pocket or getting to the QB. Now, they should be able to do that on a consistent basis.
  • Without Shazier, Spence and Williams (coupled with Timmons) managed to stop their RBs, allowing just 37 rushing yards, with big stops in the red zone and short yardage situations. If you are searching for a particular reason our D stopped their running game, these three guys were the main factor.
  • The OLB rotation seems to work so far, with Dupree, Jones, Harrison and Moats being fresh and all of them making plays, either pressure, hits on their QB, sacks or tackles on the line of scrimmage. They just need to blitz in unconventional ways. Here’s hoping they are on their way this season.
  • While our DBs shined for not allowing the big completion, they got help from the Rams receivers, who dropped several throws (some of them in open field). Still, this unit managed to make crucial plays at clutch moments: an interception by Allen, that all but sealed the game, and a 4th down incompletion, forced by a hit by Blake, that led to a turnover on downs ending the game.
  • Among the missing pieces: Foles was able to complete more than 65% of his passes, even while throwing good passes that were dropped. Lack of blitzes, and our CBs giving their receivers too much space before the snap allowed him to complete short routes. Dropping Harrison into man-coverage to a guy 14 years younger doesn’t help, either. By the way, Cortez Allen, Shamarko Thomas and Boykin were supposed to be an upgrade to this defense. So far, none of them has seen significant playing time, nor been a factor.

Special Teams:

Jeff Fisher likes trickery on Special Teams, and that miss was on the Steelers Staff. Fortunately, that pass from Hekker came up short, otherwise it’s a momentum builder for them. Dri Archer is running out of chances, while Todman is starting to get reps at KR. Scobee made 2 FGs of 40+, which could become confidence-boosters for him. Coverage units allowed a 20 yard punt return.

Just wondering:

  • No, there’s no need for Tebow.
  • But… Does anyone still have Charlie Batch’s number?
  • Guess now will be the time for Brown and Bell to show they are star players not just because of Roethlisberger.
  • Having a supporting cast including Bell, Brown, Wheaton, Bryant, D. Williams, H. Miller and (yes) Heyward-Bey can’t hurt. They make any QB look a little bit better, and this should be the case with Vick.
  • Talking about Vick: Yes, you’ll have a redemption opportunity @ Pittsburgh, and everyone is counting on you to show you’re up to the challenge.
  • Something else about Vick: during his last 32 games (4 seasons), he’s thrown 29 interceptions and lost 13 fumbles (42 total giveaways).
  • Talking about this: is Ben’s injury what it takes to the end AB’s record-setting consecutive game streaks (a: 7 receptions, b: 5 catches/50 yards). He needed barely the first half to keep them alive @ STL.
  • Bell, not Vick, is the answer for the following weeks.
  • Giving up sacks and committing penalties is not the way to prove your value, while looking for a new contract. Yes Beachum, we are talking about you.
  • Having second thoughts about the approach to go for 2 early? After last week’s success, it seemed to be a very popular decision. Here’s hoping for the Steelers to continue going for 2.
  • However, trying a different play other than a slant, should work too on 2 point conversions.
  • Yes, this win was on the D. Of course, Rams’ offense lacks of firepower, but for our D, to hold the opponent at 6 points in their home sends a loud message.
  • The Steelers first rushing play of the game was by DeAngello Williams. Was that a thank-you, or a message?
  • Will Barron be receiving mail from the league this week? If so, it shouldn’t be pretty.
  • So, at the end, Scobee scored when it counted most. Here’s hoping for him to have many, many more clutch kicks this season.
  • Was there a moment, before the last FG, when Coach Tomlin thought about going for it on 4th down instead of sending Scobee? A fail would have given them the ball at their 31 with 2 minutes, down 3 points.
  • And, finally, our D grabbed an INT. And it was huge, at a time when this team needed the D to step up. Again.
  • Speaking of that: Allen is starting in place of Shamarko Thomas. Will his rookie contract expire without him starting at SS for the Steelers?
  • And talking about takeaways, will this team ever get two in the same game?
  • So, we were in need to score 30 points in order to win games?
  • Steelers 2015 season sacks leaders: Tuitt 2.5, Dupree 2.
  • Was Todman returning that kickoff a sign that Dri Archer holds the short end as soon as week 5 approaches? (remember, as Bryant comes back from suspension, one player must be cut, and it won’t be Heyward-Bey, nor Coates).
  • That turf at STL Dome isn’t safe, and I’m not talking about fireworks: That same turf saw Willie Parker’s broken leg 8 years ago.
  • Last time I checked, fireworks weren’t supposed to be used indoors. And I guess there shouldn’t be 2 types of “indoors” when writing a disclaimer.


What comes next?

At 2-1, this will be a short week for the Steelers, who will be hosting the 0-3 Ravens, on which will be the first of four-to-six games without Roethlisberger.

The next 8 weeks look like this: W4 (1) Ravens, W5 (2)  at Chargers, W6 (3) vs Cardinals, W7 (4) at Chiefs, W8 (5) vs Bengals , W9 (6) vs Raiders, W10 (7) vs Browns, W11 (8) BYE

Here’s hoping for a quick recovery, and having Ben Roethlisberger back W 8 vs Bengals. Otherwise, the Steelers will face a dilemma about playing him W10 vs the Browns, or resting him 2 additional weeks until W12 matchup against Seattle, with 6 games to go.

It’s too early to make an educated guess about the Steelers’ forecast without Roethlisberger. However, the final stretch of the schedule after the bye week is brutal for the Steelers, visiting Seattle (w12), hosting the Colts (w13), visiting the Bengals (w14), hosting Denver (w15), and visiting both Ravens (w16) and Browns (w18).

Having this stretch in mind, these 4 to 6 weeks without Roethlisberger are vital for the Steelers’ chances to make the playoffs. Reaching the bye week worse than 6-4 will make things pretty complicated to get into the post season.

A heavy dose of Bell, meaning an effective running game, will be crucial while Ben is out. 


By the Numbers:

1 Interception by the Steelers. Their 1st this season.

2 Sacks for the Steelers Defense (Tuitt, Moats), giving them 9 for the season (Ranked 3rd in the NFL).

4 two point attempts for the Steelers so far in 2015 (75% success).

6 Steelers players have recorded a sack this season (Tuitt, Heyward, Moats, Shazier, Dupree and W. Allen).

20% success rate for the Rams on 3rd downs.

35 consecutive 5 catches / 50 yard games for AB. NFL All-time record.

50% success rate for the Steelers on 3rd downs.

93% of the steelers total offense (259 yards): Bell (132 yards) and Brown (108 yards).

108 wins for Roethlisberger as Steelers QB, franchise record.

132 total yards for Bell on his 2015 season debut.

2008 The last time the Steelers won while scoring 12 points or less (10-6, vs Browns, week 2).

About Ricardo M.

Ricardo (WWW) has been a member of the Steelers message board for years, and a Steelers fan for much, much longer.