STEELERS: GHOSTS OF CHRISTMAS PAST
Lest you think this is another history lesson from one of this site’s old-timers, well…it is…but just for a bit. There are some historical parallels to be noted, one completely meaningless, the other potentially more relevant.
*The former is that the last time the NFL schedule included Christmas Eve and New Year’s Day matchups was the 2005 season. I was on vacation in the Florida Keys at the time, and watched both contests at the Shanna Key in Key West, a bar which looked more apropos to Pittsburgh than to Sunny Florida. The Steelers, then, as now, needed some help at this supposedly joyous time of year, and found it on Christmas Eve as the Chiefs victory over the Chargers paved the way for the Steelers to sneak into the playoffs as the #6 seed. Of course, the Steelers were on a good run of productive scoreboard watching that December as they need two losses apiece by both the Chiefs and Chargers in the season’s final four weeks in order to land a playoff berth. The rest of that season, as we know, is sweet history. Unfortunately, this parallel is completely irrelevant to the Pittsburgh Steelers, circa 2011.
*More relevant, unfortunately so, is the Steelers record since the 2005 season when they return home to Heinz Field following a Monday Nighter on the road. The Steelers are zero for their past six in this circumstance. Additional complications to this historically dire situation is that this road trip happened to take place three time zones hence and the upcoming home game is on Saturday rather than Sunday, making the short work week even more abrupt.
Okay…thoughts on last night, none of them particularly original:
*The usual complaints, from the usual suspects:
-The line didn’t protect Ben well: Seems to me that the o-line rose to the occasion and protected the guy that always has their backs. Ben was sacked three times, all of them in the 4th quarter
-Steelers couldn’t produce on 3rd down: Steelers 3rd down production was stronger than at any point during the Steelers 4-game win skein. They were 8 for 14 on the night, including 6 for 7 in the first half.
-Arians, always Arians: No one runs on the 49ers, and Arians is being taken to task particularly for his calls for runs on 1st down. Steelers had 19 rushing attempts, 12 of them on first down. Mewelde Moore ran 21 yards on 1st down on the final drive of the 1st half, which ended as a debacle. A pair of 1st down runs produced 11 yards each. A 6-yard run was whistled back for holding on the left guard, a penalty that’s an automatic on this team at least once a game, and three more 1st down runs gained at least 3 yards.
Now, for the warts:
*Pre-game, word was one consequence of Ben’s injury was that his balls could sail on him, could be high. We certainly saw that on Ben’s 2nd pick of the night when he overshot an open Heath Miller.
*My eyes tell me that Mike Wallace could do a better job of fighting for the ball. Not that he would have been in that spot at this juncture in his career, but isn’t the endzone toss to Wallace in the 2nd quarter, a ball that Hines Ward comes up with? Speaking of Hines, I don’t think he’s getting his thousand. So what.
*The defense is taking some heat for once again allowing a long drive during their first appearance of the night. My bigger problem with the D is allowing San Francisco to answer with a touchdown drive right after the Steelers had narrowed the margin to 6-3.
*Speaking of that margin, I’m not going to kill our kicker as he did make a 51-yarder, but he really needed to make the 48-yarder as well, which makes it a one-score game.
Most importantly, going forward, we return to scoreboard-watching, as early as this Thursday night.
*I watched the entire Carolina-Houston game on Sunday afternoon, and the Texans rookie QB, T.J. Yates, played…well…like a rookie. The other rookie, Cam Newton, was impressive, but Houston, in my estimation, can be had, even by Indy in their Dome. Should the Texans drop this one, or their finale against a descending Tennessee club, and…
*Baltimore drops their finale in Paul Brown Stadium, and let’s not forget that regardless of this weekend’s results, the Bengals will still have playoff life on the first weekend of the New Year….
The Steelers can still win the AFC North and cop a first-round bye.