A few thoughts/musings on the Green Bay game. I apologize in advance for the ridiculous length.
First the O:
- It’s impossible to overstate how good Big Ben is when he brings his A game to the field. 503 yards, 3 touchdowns, 0 interceptions, 37 points. Ben is Truth. Fun Fact: Big Ben, Y.A. Tittle & Warren Moon are the only NFL QB's to throw for at least 500 yards and 3 TD's w/o an INT. That’s two hall of famers and one in the making.
- Mendenhall made his money burning GB in the passing game to the tune of 6 catches for 73 yards. If you add in the middle screen TD that got called back, then he‘s nearing a hundred yards in receiving alone. This guy is just going to be monstrous in all phases of the RB position. There is a reason everybody thought this guy should have been the second if not first back taken in 2007. Luckily we benefited from Al Davis and Jerry Jones drafting 40 times instead of football players. (Although Felix is just a big play waiting to happen. He just can’t stay healthy).
- However, the lack of confidence Arians shows in him (and in the running game in general) is just reprehensible. Seriously, how do you justify giving this guy ONLY 11 caries? He can grind it out, he’s capable of making the big play, he can stone a blizter and burn you through the air. I have absolutely no idea why he doesn’t get more carries.
I’m not a run for the same of running guy. But with a D that can’t get off the field, a sack prone QB, and a great young running back at your disposal, I don’t understand why you wouldn’t run it more than you do. Still, it’s hard to argue running it more when your passing game can lead to 37 points against the 2nd ranked D in the NFL.
- Ben holds the ball for too long. Ben also makes game changing (and game winning plays) by holding onto the ball past the point of sanity. As Tomlin says, sometimes gunslingers get shot. And sometimes they do the shooting. An almost perfect performance from Ben. Considering many of his incompletions were either drops or him trying to force the ball on the last drive, I don’t think you can underestimate how great of a performance this was. That’s my quarterback.
- Hines Ward is still a great receiver and will probably continue to be for another couple of years. I was critical of Hines dicision to play in the Cleveland game and I honestly think that if you look at the difference between today’s game and the Browns game you’ll see how slowed down and distracted he must have been by the pain. When he’s healthy though he is as clutch and brutal player as you’ll find. And you won’t find that description applied to a WR often.
- We all love you Mike Wallace. Why? It’s not because you don’t sometimes drop balls you should catch. It’s because you’re psychologically tough enough to come back and catch the ones that really matter. Mental toughness is something you have to learn on your own and, it needs to be said, something that no amount of training or performance enchancing drug can give you - it's a special quality that some guys just have. This guy is going to be a good WR for the Steelers for a while.
- Heath is a great TE. Put him in the Pro Bowl. Your ILB’s cannot cover him. He will repeatedly burn you on 3rd and (today) 4th downs. You have been warned.
- Holmes has probably secured himself a new deal during the off season, CBA or no CBA. He’s clearly got what you want in a WR - good route running, very good speed, good blocking, and he’s clutch. He drops too many balls, but like Wallace he doesn’t let the drops affect his play. A great day from him, especially seeing as he was going against Charles Woodson. The run after the catch on the game winning drive was absolutely key for the Steelers.
- The OL has regressed somewhat in the last few games. It’s not that they sometimes get beat on individual assignments - given the talent on the Packer’s D you’re just going to get beaten sometimes. It’s the mental mistakes, the false starts, the missed assignments, the bad communication. On an NFL OL this should not happen or, at least, it shouldn’t happen as often as it has been. I also worry that Hartwig will turn out to be a bad long term investment. He’s a capable stopgap at the position, but he’s not the trench captain you want him to be.
The (very)Special Teams:
- Skippy hit all of his field goals. Robopunter was okay, although he had a shank heard round the world. We didn’t give up any big returns on kick offs and punts. The bobbled kickoff at the end was almost a game ender and certainly took a couple of weeks off my life. Not a bad day, but not a good one either. However, given how poor the ST play usually is, I thnk they should be commended for not screwing up too much.
- Props to Reed though. His ability to kick at Heinz was the big difference in today’s game. The Chicago debacle seems like a long time ago.
- Casey, Keisel, Woodley, and Harrison continue to play at an elite level. Other than the 24 yard touchdown run by Grant (which happened because Harrison got blocked out of the play and Carter was too slow and took too poor of an angle to bring him down) they held up reasonably well against the run. Given that Smith is out this is no small accomplishment. The D has (rightfully) taken a lot of flak for their play much of this year, but we also need to realize there are a lot of guys on it that are playing really, really well right now. Until convinced otherwise, I am going to take the lack of production by Harrison in the last couple of weeks as a sign of respect by OC's. That and obvious and uncalled holding.
- Travis K, Timmons, Burnett, and Hood continue to play okay. Timmons, Hood, and Burnett have considerable upside and given their young age it’s a good sign that they’re still out there gaming. Burnett was tooled a couple of times, he caught a case of the Willie Gay’s, but overall I wasn’t too disappointed with him. Ziggy plays well in spots, but it’s clear that he’s still not entirely comfortable with the position - which is not unexpected given the switch from a 3 technique DT and 5 technique DE is considerable. Timmons is clearly outplaying Farrior, but is still prone too mental errors. By next season we’ll have a much better idea of what to expect from him. I know he takes a lot of heat on here, but I still think Timmons is at this point our best ILB and has the potential to get much, much better.
- Ike’s play is confounding. Sometimes he looks like an honest-to-God shutdown corner. A couple of plays later he looks like he’s doing a William Gay impression. I tend to think that Ike is a good corner, easily our best, but the type of guy that’s prone to mental slumps. And, perhaps, the type of guy that doesn’t give it his all unless he thinks he’s playing a receiver that’s worthy of him.
- Townsend had a couple of good stops. He was mostly invisible though. This means he didn’t make any big plays. But it also means he didn’t screw up royally often.
- Farrior, Gay, Carter, and Clark are all more or less useless in coverage - at least they are when they don’t have Troy to protect them. Much has been said about them and, honestly, I have nothing original to add here. At this point in the season they simply are what they are.
- My private Farrior theory: So, it’s well known that Farrior is intentionally playing lighter this season than the last few. To me this says a couple of things: 1) Farrior realizes his speed isn’t what it once was (there was a time in which his speed was almost as renown as Timmons) and is trying to compensate a bit by getting thinner, 2) One of the consequences of this is that he’s not nearly the player against the run that he once was - he simply doesn’t carry the weight that he used to. An unintended consequence is that he’s getting out muscled by stronger RB’s (Leonard, Rice) and TE’s in coverage. Notice how he simply can’t arm tackle at this point - he simply doesn’t have the muscle to bring somebody down or even slow them much. So, by losing weight he’s become a less than stellar player against the run, and less imposing in match up’s in coverage with stronger guys. I don’t think Farrior is slumping like Ike, I don’t think there’s any coming out of this. James has simply reached the point in his career in which he is no longer a feared ILB Pro Bowl selections be damned.
- Overall a really good game by the O (not a turnover even) and pretty much the game we expected from the D. While I know many disagree with me, I think Tomlin was absolutely right to go for the onside kick. Some have pointed out that if Ben doesn’t connect with Wallace then that looks like a horrible decision and, by this logic, Ben’s amazing game saved Tomlin’s ass. I want to answer that the only reason Ben got that chance to win the game was because of Tomlin’s guts. There is simply no way that D doesn’t give up at least a field goal to the Packers. Tomlin just made sure there was enough time left for Ben to drive the field. If Tomlin doesn’t call that play, I truly do think we lose this game.