After an emabarrsing loss to Chicago last week, I didn't think they could do it again this week, but they did!
There is no excuse for this team to blow an 11pt. lead in the 4th QTR...not if they are the defending Super Bowl Champs. These two losses are going to test Tomlin's resolve as a coach, because in both contests the Steelers started out strong and fizzled at the end. Physically and mentally you have to be prepared to play the game for 60 min. and the Steelers don't look like they are. Now on to the analysis....
Is Troy Polamalu the real MVP of the Steelers? It's starting to look like that is the case. In two games without him, the Defense failed to get any turnovers. To be an elite D, you have to make plays and create turnovers. Right now, it looks like Troy is our only playmaker. His speed, agility, and instincts can make up for mistakes elsewhere on the field and force the Offence to account for him on every play. Unfortunately, Tyronne Carter can't really do those things...really no one else can, but it's looking more and more like we're going struggle until we get Troy back. Which leads me to the second question...WTF was Troy doing on the kick-block team (where he got hurt)? He's already reckless enough as is, why risk injury to him on STs? Absolutely, inexcusable!
Where is our pass rush? Harrison's been double teamed, but that should free up Woodley or someone else but I haven't seen much in the past two games. Other than Harrison, our only sack was by 350lb. Casey Hampton for crissakes! I don't recall seeing the usual number of blitzes that result in sacks or turnovers. Haven't seen any DBs coming off the edge. Maybe because LeBeau knows without Troy the secondary is vulnerable? Talyor and Gay made some good plays back there, but without consistent pressure, any decent QB will find a receiver and move the ball.
Not having a power running game is going to be the achilles heel for this team. Parker finally had a decent game running and the line seemed to be making their blocks, but when it counted we couldn't get it done. Thinking back to the opening drive when it was 4th and goal at the 1/2yd. line, you gotta go for it and set the tone right there! You have to man-up and push the ball over the goal line...if the line can get that kinda push or we don't have a back that can drive himself into the endzone, then the Steelers are almost admitting to the other team that they're a bit soft. Also if you do fail to make it on the 1/2 yd. line, then if you have a #1 Defence, you should have no worries and assume that they will pressure the other team into a turnover, Safety, or 3-and-out. Right now Tomlin has to be concerned that the Steelers might be reverting back to their 2003 version when they we're more finesse than tough. I'm not sure why Mendenhall can't be used as a goal-line back. He has displayed power at times...make him earn his #1 pick status. To that end, it's a bit disappointing that Frank "the Tank" has been more of a moped. I think many fans though he'd be our short-yardage guy and power blocker when he was drafted. would you bring Redman off the PS and give him a shot. At this point I'd sure be tempted.
What's the deal with Holmes? He started dropping balls in the Bears game and disappeared today. He is our biggest playmaker on O, and he seems to be in a funk. It sounds like Ben's pic-6 was on Holmes, in that he should have cut-off his route in the blitz situation. We need him to re-emerge if we're going to have a shot at the playoffs.
Limas Sweed.....in-effin-excusable! Can't drop a TD catch like that if you want to be active on game days. Right now, Wallace has stepped up as the #3 and is probably playing the best of the WRs right now. He can strech the field and is a perfect complement to Ward and Homles. On the other hand, Sweed seems to be too erratic right now, I'd move Shaun McDonald into the #4 spot and consider de-activating Sweed, and maybe even give Logan a shot on some quick screens.
It seemed a bit odd to me that when the Steelers faced a 4th and 4 from the 34 of Cincy the first time, they went for it instead of trying a 52yd. FG. First, they took a TO before the play, then they came back and looked somewhat sloppy on the play. Going for it didn't necessarily bother me since Reed has been less than stellar as of late, but what bothered me was when they had the same situation again in the 4th QTR, they tried the FG and missed. What at that time gave Tomlin confidence to try the FG then that he didn't have earlier? He probably felt it was safer taking the risk going for it earlier in the game, and then felt maybe if was safer to try the FG in the 4th QTR. I'd argue that it might be just as risky letting Reed try the FG the way he's been kicking lately. Plus, if I was going to take a chance, I'd have let him try the FG the first time, when it was still early enough in the game. That way you can gauge where he's at if you need him later on. If he nails it, you get the 3pts. and maybe feel confident with him later, if he misses badly, then you know what you need to do if the situation comes up again later (as it did).
Now that we've spotted the Ravens 2 games, it's going to be an uphill battle the rest of the season that will test this team to see what they are made of. It essentially makes the games vs. them must-wins (not that they aren't already), since realistically I think they aren't going to lose more games than the Steelers in all of the other games.