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Lessons From Week 1: WWW’s Thoughts

Suisham’s FG can make us forget his miscues during preseason (if anyone watched them), and also make us breathe, as we got the W.

Some thoughts after today’s game:

Is Le’Veon Bell aware he must play with a chip on his shoulder?

His 197 yd effort (109 rushing, 88 receiving) made a statement, and should continue that way. Steeler Nation is a huge, diverse crowd. While some say there is no problem with him, many people think that every Steeler player should be a role model on and off the field. Forgiven but not forgotten, he can put away that incident by consistently playing like he did today. He knows that he’s under public scrutiny (at least, for those considering the role-model basis as a must approach) after the incident prior to the 3rd preseason game. Big Ben can give him advice about handling these issues.

More targets: a legit #2, and a battle for #4?

A-Brown had a monster game. The usual from him.

News for me: Ben’s confidence in Wheaton (96 receiving yds , 31 on the last 2 plays from scrimmage in the last drive). He threw Wheaton one high pass (grabbed), one tight spiral (caught) and a couple of deep throws (caught one for 40 yards). He must do it for at least a couple more games before establishing himself as our #2, but started pretty soundly.

Our #3 is Lance Moore, if healthy.

About our #4 and #5: Based on what we saw today from J-Brown, should it start a debate between DHB, J-Brown and Bryant deserving these reps?

Oline problems

Lack of depth within our Oline means we have to stick with what we have. We gave up four sacks, and they were: one on the first series (3 & G at Cle 14), two while trying to extend the lead (27-17) on consecutive snaps (3rd Q, 2nd & 6 at CLE 38), sacks for a loss of 5 and 13 yards respectively got us to 4th and 24 at our own 44, and on the 4th quarter, Steelers 27-Browns 20. 3rd & 10 at our 10, Sacked for a 5 yd loss.

Ben-Brown magic: a consequence of our lack of protection?
A nice 35 yd TD-pass from Ben to Brown put us up 17-3 early in the 2nd Q. Yes, they have a ton of chemistry going on during those kinds of plays. Unfortunately it seems to be a consequence of our Oline making Ben have to run for his life.

Is our D able to hold leads?
Give up 183 yards rushing, make Hoyer look like Montana during the 2nd half: Scheme? Execution? A bit of both. Hoyer had time, and our coverage was not even close to their receivers, particularly on bootleg plays (our LBs late-reaction to cover TEs, and our DBs biting too early on their routes).

Our ILBs were well blocked most of the time (run plays). From 27-3 to 27-27, against a shortened Browns (No Josh Gordon, No Cameron, No Tate… No Manziel? –not sure if the last one is really in place to say they were shorthanded). If it was Baseball, that was a blown save for our D.

This is when we should be getting turnovers and sacks (playing with a lead).

… And: Is our O able to hold leads?
After a halftime lead, this is what happened to our offensive series in the 2nd half:

  • 1st drive: 3 & out
  • 2nd drive: first 5 plays, 42 yards. Next 2 plays, consecutive sacks: Punt.
  • 3rd drive: 3 & out.
  • 4th drive: an early 1st down, then 3 & out (fake punt, we get another first down), 5th drive: 3 & out.
  • 6th drive: we get into their 41 and, on 3rd and 1, Cleveland stacked up the middle. You can say it wasn’t a good call from Haley (run up the middle by Blount), but Ben should have called an audible. Result: run for -4, Punt.
  • 7th Drive: Passes from Ben to Wheaton and then our 41 yd game winning FG.

With the way our D is playing holding a lead, our O will have to do much better.
During the 2nd half, we had 6 runs through the middle for less than 2 yards each, gave up 3 sacks and had 3 drives for 3 & outs, without running out the clock or establishing drives.

Penalties: how many is too many?

11 Penalties for 96 yards. While offensive holding penalties can be drive killers (opening drive, a TD called back for a penalty, settling us for a FG instead), defensive penalties can resuscitate a drive, particularly when they are committed on 3rd down. Also, several ST Penalties were called, hurting our field position.

Other random thoughts:

Nice, early presence from Kiesel pressuring Hoyer.

Heyward had a B game, getting blocked on some runs, a couple of rushes to Hoyer and a critical sack on their last drive that got things going our way.

Worilds and Jones both had sacks, and both had costly missed tackles. We’ll need more consistent plays from them in order to generate pressure.

M. Mitchell he misread something on that Cameron 47 yd reception.

Shazier made some nasty plays (one tackle for a loss and another one creating havoc on their running game).

If the Ravens watched close, expect them to use a lot of TEs going inside to get them 1 on 1 with Timmons, who looked slow (both running and reacting) covering Cameron and Dray.

Is it time for Taylor to be the #3 CB? Everyone knows Taylor can’t catch, but he was far away from his receivers during the 2nd half. Can Allen and Gay be the starters?

Coaches getting outcoached, or just pushing the Safe Button too early?
The story of the 2nd half will not calm the debate around Coaches LeBeau & Haley. There’s no excuse for getting outscored 24-3 in the 3rd and 4th quarters , even if you are playing the Super Bowl Champions (or the only team that hasn’t hosted or played in a SB). Our offense had a pretty different gameplan for the 2nd half, and that’s ok… if it works. If it doesn’t work for the first 2 series, it’s time to go to Plan B, and it should have been: do what has worked (see video of 1st half). We need to keep scoring points, even with a lead.

Defense: our lack of ability to create pressure and to stop the run should be concerning. Does it start with our front 7, or our coverage issues? LeBeau knows the answer better than anyone: if your DBs can’t cover, help them by dropping more people into coverage (what he did), or create pressure. Where is our DB blitz capability?, or our exotic LB blitzes? Playing with a lead enables the luxury of doing both.

Our special teams were special today. Brown, Archer and even our fake punt. Brown should have gone to the sideline and scored, instead of remembering us Karate Kid (to the older ones) or Kung Fu Panda (to the young ones). Although it doesn’t seem to be on-purpose, we must wait to see what Mr Goodell thinks about it. Reminder for him: it’s not the same to beat a punter than to beat your wife (just in case he’s wondering about it).

About Ricardo M.

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