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Lessons From Week 5: WWW’s Thoughts

Our team found a way to win a close game. And this win is big, not because the rival the Steelers defeated or how they played, but because of when it happened: after a devastating loss at home to TB, and trying to keep the Bengals and Ravens in reach (with both of them losing Sunday).

After all, we’re just 1 game behind the best record in the AFC after 5 games, and 1/2 game behind Cincinatti for the division lead. Where were we last season after 5 games?

A total of 11 different Steelers players combined for 372 yards of total offense (111 rushing, 261 net passing), while being held to only one 3 & out (first series of the game), and having success on 50% of 3rd downs. The Steelers completed 72% of its passes and produced 3.9 yards / rushing attempt.

However, the Steelers offense produced only 10 points while being sacked 4 times (two of them on 3rd down), losing the football inside the Jaguars red-zone, and having four 3rd down incompletions (two of them were drops). The Jaguars had the worst defense heading into this game, losing by at least 17 points each of their first 4 games of the season and accepting 38 points per game.

The Steelers Defense deserves the credit for the Win: 2 forced turnovers (both interceptions, one of them being a pick-six) stopped Jacksonville to three 3 & outs, had 1 sack and allowed a 25% 3rd down conversion rate, while giving up 3.7 yards per rushing attempt and allowed Bortles to complete a raw 60% of his passes. Jacksonville’s last 2 drives totaled only 24 yards.

Offense: It’s ok to move the chains and spread the ball, but how about putting some points on the board?

  • Ben Roethlisberger completed 72% of his passes to 11 different receivers for 273 with 1 TD, while being sacked 4 times (two of them because he took too much time to find an open receiver and another one while he ran into the pressure), not being intercepted but losing a fumble deep inside Jacksonville territory.
  • Overall, the backfield had 186 yards of total offense, led by Le’veon Bell (118 yards from scrimmage, 82 of them rushing), and Blount’s 46 total yards.
  • 3 touches for 10 yards, what we expected from Dri Archer? That isn’t what he displayed during preseason, and for sure that’s not the kind of stats we’re expecting from a 3rd round pick.
  • Our WRs combined for 153 yards and 10 receptions A Brown leading the way, while Wheaton made a nice catch, but was well covered the rest of the way. Both had drops on 3rd downs. Heyward Bey was targeted only once (first play from scrimmage, no gain).
  •  Is Lance Moore paying attention to what’s going on with the Steelers? He had a critical reception for 26 yards on 3rd and 9 deep in Steelers territory, but committed what actually has become a sin at Coach Tomlin’s eyes: a dead ball penalty, which led Coach T to give him an earful (Coach T will get some props for doing so). After that, Justin Brown’s number was called and had 3 receptions. While it looked like Moore was helping his own chances on-field, his attitude after the penalty surely will have consequences with Coaches Tomlin & Haley.
  • TE’s & FB: 5 receptions for 59 yards, TD. With a couple of good reads, Miller and Roethlisberger combined to get a critical 3rd down conversion on a hot reads. Good to see Palmer rebound from last week’s drop. Will Johnson has delivered as leading blocker, and also aligned as a WR (1 reception for 12 yards).
  • Backyard style TDs while running out of the pocket and sacks come in the same package which are consequences of Ben’s style. The last sack (fumble) was on Ben: he attacked right to where the pressure was coming. One week he produces a couple of TDs while making a play out of nothing, the next one, well, we all saw what happened.
  • We are on pace to give up 48 sacks this season (15 through 5 games). While the offensive line has been better the last couple of weeks from a stats-free point of view, this stat needs to drop sometime soon if we’re going anywhere: sacks = drive-killers. Jacksonville pressured with 4 men most of the time, and still managed to get to our QB several times.
  • Speaking of drive-killers: committing less penalties this game was good, but 7 is still a high number.

Defense: Where’s the pressure on the opposing QB, part IV?

  • Our defensive line had a better game against the run (suddenly, we’re the 12th rush-defense).  Jaguars rushing average: 3.7 yds/attempt, but our Defense only stopped their running game for a loss once.
  • Kiesel had one of the biggest plays of the game, creating pressure on our last defensive play, but besides that and a couple more plays, we lacked… you know, pressure from our front 3. Tuitt should be seeing playing time soon.
  • Jason Worilds was able to get an early sack (Jaguars first series) and create pressure a couple more times, while Harrison looked better than last week with a couple of hits on Bortles and a tackle for a loss. Moats was out of spot on at least 2 running plays (one of them, a 20 yard gain), and seems to have the lower ground in the OLB position battle. Our ILBs played a solid game, with Timmons doing some of the dirty work. This unit is supposed to be the one that creates pressure (5 sacks in 5 games is not enough for Steelers LBs).
  • Better coverage, getting turnovers: all on the cornerbacks. While Allen & Gay played the most complete game from our CBs so far this season, breaking up 5 passes among them, the 3rd guy on the depth chart made the highlights. Allen came away with an interception (for the 2nd consecutive week, both on the right sideline, both on deep passes), but he also got away with a couple of non-called pass interference calls (close non-calls). Gay also made some plays and handled decent coverage.
  • Are we set at 3rd CB? McCain provided the play of the game, with his pick-six. Reps will help him, and that interception should boost his confidence.
  • Are our DBs giving too much respect to opposing WRs? Short passes were completed by Bortles (Glennon, Flacco and Hoyer too), because our DBs are giving them a lot of space pre-snap (our CBs playing 10 yards away from the line of scrimmage, and our safeties sometimes looking as if they were punt returners).
  • Do we have safeties, part V? Polamalu and Mitchell continue to be non-factors. Both have combined for 1 pass defended (for the season!). Mitchell is targeting lower while hitting receivers, probably in order to avoid a fine. If Polamalu continues to play as he has so far this season, we’re seeing his last stint with the Steelers: his attempts to make a cameo of his old self haven’t been successful, and he’s been late in coverage without creating havoc.

Special Teams: 

  • Question to Brad Wing: Not trying to make you a scapegoat for last week’s loss, but: Why didn’t’ you pull out a punt last week as any of your punts today? Those would have helped last week. Either way, nice to see him rebound from his late gaffe vs TB, and almost made another returner fumble after a muff, with a great hangtime.
  • The biggest hit of the game, by Vince Williams. Seems to be long ago when he was a starting ILB.
  • Our kick & punt return units were not special today. AB couldn’t break out on punt returns, while Dri Archer wasn’t able to deliver a single solid kick return.
  • This unit alone would be able to lead the league in penalties. How many times do you remember a team had to kickoff three consecutive times due to penalties on the kicking team?

Just wondering:

  • Is Shamarko’s number about to be called? (guessing his injury is not serious)
  • Will this defensive performance help Coach LeBeau calm down his critics a little bit?
  • How long before we see some Tuitt on DL?
  • Was that Moore’s epitaph?
  • Great to have 11 players to catch a pass. Is there someone among them that can be reliable on 3rd down without consistently dropping the football?
  • Moats on his way out, Harrison to start soon? Still 6 weeks away, is this still Jarvis Jones’ spot to lose?
  • 1st and goal at Jaguars 4 yard line. Pass to AB, pass to AB, take a sack, FG. Our RBs average over 5 & 6 yards per carry respectively. Why not give them a single shot from the 4 yard line?
  • Good to see the Steelers offense is still able to close a game, sustaining a drive for more than 4 minutes to end the game.
  • The Browns are next. They just did to the Titans what they attempted to do to us 1st week of the season. Better score and be able to close the game, before Hoyer does another Montana impersonation.
  • 5 games down, 1/2 game back on the division lead, and suddenly, the Bengals and Ravens seem vulnerable. In order to have a chance, we must get scores from the bunch of yards we are making, and TDs instead of FGs.
  • And the Steelers are league leaders for the first time this season… in penalties.

By the Numbers:

3 Consecutive games without throwing an interception.

5 yards per carry, Steelers average for the 2014 season (up from 3.5 during 2013).

11 Different Steelers players caught a pass

15 sacks given up so far by the Steelers offense, on pace to 48 for the Season (up from 43 on 2013).

21 Antonio Brown consecutive games with at least 5 receptions-50 yard games, NFL record & counting.

51 Penalties for the Steelers, leading the NFL.

About Ricardo M.

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