Thoughts and Ramblings After A Brutal Steelers Week 15 Loss at San Francisco

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - DECEMBER 19: Ben Roethlisberger #7 of the Pittsburgh Steelers fumbles the ball after being sacked by Aldon Smith #99 and Justin Smith #94 of the San Francisco 49ers at Candlestick Park on December 19, 2011 in San Francisco, California. Smith recovered the fumble for the 49ers. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

We're a bit behind, thanks to a certain rewind function of NFL games not providing the Steelers game until today. We'll have stuff on the upcoming Rams game soon enough.

-neal

It was definitely a tough one to watch once, let alone twice. So many chances...so many miscues. The positive to take away from this is the score doesn't reflect the game play-by-play. San Francisco's a good team, and they deserved the win, but Pittsburgh wasn't far off many times from flipping the result the other way.

Let's dig into this:

  • Fine, so the power goes out. It could be worse. Remember when ceiling tiles at the Kingdome in Seattle were falling? Then again, Trent Dilfer wasn't on hand during that incident, showing the public his vast medical knowledge.
  • I wonder if I should take the fact ESPN showed 12 players as San Francisco's defensive starters to mean anything. Is there a reason they want to highlight rookie OLB Aldon Smith? Probably not, right?
  • This 49ers defense reminds of the Saints in 2009. Go for the takeaway first, hit second, tackle third. It's kind of dangerous, but then again, it's how to get four takeaways in a game. They miss tackles on Mendenhall and Wallace that both led to big gains, but they stripped Mendenhall a split second after his knee was down and pick Roethlisberger off in the end zone.
  • On that interception, it appears there's confusion between David Johnson and Wallace as far as the depth of their routes is concerned. It's the kind of throw you hope is made in practice so you can clear those kinds of misunderstandings up. But you also hope your quarterback practices during the week.
  • It appears Johnson should be shallower, Wallace should be deeper and Ben never should have thrown the ball. Judging by the delay Wallace had in releasing off the line, I wonder if Johnson was supposed to cut underneath Wallace.
  • Monday Night Football brings it back to even by only showing 10 of their offensive starters. Clear-cut proof for 49ers fans the Worldwide Leader doesn't consider Alex Smith to be a viable starting quarterback.
  • John Harbaugh's contribution to this game? Cut blocking. If the Ravens brought in outside consultants to teach the coaches how to teach their offensive line to do that, I hope they didn't spend more than $49.95 on them. "You see 98? I want you to get a running start and dive at his legs." Boom. Done. Bill is in the mail.
  • It took Jason Worilds all of seven plays to get hooked. And it was by a tight end, no less. On two running plays toward Worilds, LT Joe Staley dropped into a pass blocking technique, suckering Worilds well into the backfield, and TE Vernon Davis simply got himself between Worilds and the ball carrier.
  • In fact, as the game goes on, Worilds is becoming less and less of a factor. They're blocking him with Davis or Delanie Walker, but it may as well be Anthony Munoz. Worilds ain't movin'.
  • Give some credit to Smith, he may not be firing bullets all over the field and racking up 330+ yards in passing a game, but he's hitting some well-timed precision targets. The throw to Crabtree near the end zone was a great read by him, and thrown with enough zip it arrives in time before Troy Polamalu can take it back for six.
  • I'll bet Michael Crabtree looks at the Packers style of offense and drools. He's way too talented to be playing in one of the only run-first offenses in football. Ike Taylor is a big and physical cornerback. Crabtree is one of the few receivers I've ever seen Ike hit and not knock down hard.
  • What a great game from Ryan Clark. Maybe he ate his Wheaties that morning, but he recognized so many plays in run support, he was largely the reason the 49ers did not rush for as many yards as they typically do.
  • It's really too bad this loss likely puts the Steelers at Denver in the first round of the playoffs - a place where Clark isn't likely to play. Clark has a blood condition that is adversely affected by high altitude. He had his spleen and gall bladder removed after the condition flared up during a game in Denver in 2007. He did not play there in 2009.
  • The Steelers second offensive drive of the game is one that will give coach Mike Tomlin and offensive coordinator Bruce Arians indigestion. The playcalling was perfect, and San Francisco gets bailed out of several probable touchdown plays by Steelers miscues.
  • Look at the sequence of plays: 1st-and-10: Mendenhall four yard run. 2nd-and-6: Roethlisberger overthrows a wide open Mike Wallace (should have been a TD). 3rd-and-6: Roethlisberger fails to lead Brown on a drag route that would have netted big yards. Brown turns back to make a great catch, uses his balance and speed and is able to pick up the first down. 1st-and-10: Mendenhall four yard run, shows great patience and vision against a dominant run defense. 2nd-and-6: Mendenhall seven yard run, Miller lead-blocks for him and does an excellent job picking up the pursuing linebacker. If he fails to get him, it's third down. 1st-and-10: Roethlisberger threads the needle on what was easily his best throw of the night. It splits the converging defenders, and is right on Brown's hands. With only the slow-footed Donte Whitner between he and the end zone, there's little doubt Brown scores on that play. Except, he fails to catch the ball (should have been a TD). 2nd-and-10: Ben has as clean a pocket as he'll ever have, and more than enough time to make a good read and throw. Instead, he misses Miller badly 15 yards down the field, and gets picked off for the second time in two drives.
  • For anyone saying San Francisco's defense dominated that game, watch that drive. It's not often you see two blown chances for 60+ yard touchdowns in seven plays. I'm slamming my head on the keyboard as I type this.
  • Davis is a big boy, I get that, but you gotta take him down, don't you, Cortez? I mean, you almost pants-ed him for cripessake.
  • If San Francisco ends up playing Green Bay in the playoffs, you will see that play-fake double-move throw to Crabtree. Guaranteed. It burned Ike Taylor, it can burn either Tramon Williams or Charles Woodson, with as aggressive as all three of those cornerbacks are. San Francisco set that up beautifully. Poor pass by Smith.
  • Something that's been lost in all of this is how effective Mendenhall has been as both a runner and a receiver the last few games. You can tell he's fresh and rested. I'll bet he gets 20+ carries Saturday, especially if Pouncey returns to the lineup. I'll bet he fumbles too. He's carrying the ball way too high when he's in space. It's as if he feels his knee or hip will pop the ball out of his arm if he makes a move. Don't think for a second St. Louis isn't watching that right now.
  • I hate to break it to Jon Gruden, but rules for chop blocks are different in run situations and pass situations. If it was a running play, what Gore did was legal. Since it was a pass, and Hood was engaged with an offensive player, he cannot chop him. Valid penalty.
  • Without an end zone camera replay, it's harder to see, but Hood stunts to Hampton's outside on a delayed blitz. Goodwin, the center, initially blocks Hampton, but when Hood stunts, he passes Hampton off and picks up Hood. Pretty much at the same time, Gore lunges at Hood's legs. The rule states in a passing situation, when a defensive player is engaged with an offensive player above the waist, a second offensive player cannot block him from the thigh down. Goodwin probably should have known Gore was in protection on that play.
  • As for the one on Redman...It's close, my guess would be they're calling it a "lure." Smith broke off Starks' block, and Redman stepped up to engage him. He blocks him low, and, only going off what could have been the official's interpretation of the play, since Starks is still pursuing Smith, Redman is "luring" him, making it illegal. My issue is Smith isn't anywhere near Starks when Redman first dives at him. The rule is Starks has to still be in a "pass blocking stance." Not sure how you pass block when a guy is behind you.
  • What's interesting - outside the fact two chop block penalties were called in the same game - it doesn't seem either of them were the fault of the player on which the penalty was called.
  • Andy Lee...6th round pick. You see what I'm gettin' at?
  • I hope the Steelers got the full use out of that timeout in the locker room at halftime. Maybe they plugged it into Candlestick's power supply or something. Definitely didn't need it at the end of the half though.
  • Week 15 edition of Why I Love Antonio Brown: He's a second-year receiver, and most receivers that age need to be taught body control, footwork and route-running. Antonio Brown needs to be taught why, after making a sensational catch, he needs to hold onto the ball with both hands in order to give him time to get his second foot down. It may have been a rightly called incomplete pass, but the fact he even made that play reviewable is amazing in and of itself.
  • Really wish he didn't drop that pass in the first half though.
  • On the 49ers play-action throwback to Davis on the backside, Williams smashes into Polamalu about 13 yards off the line of scrimmage in the middle of the field. Polamalu was starting to break over toward the ball, which was in the air. I'd call that pass interference, but only if Polamalu, or maybe two other players in the game, had been the ones hit.
  • Before we start getting after Timmons for that play, let's keep that in mind. Polamalu was prevented from making a play, and somehow, it was missed by the back judge.
  • Since that topic came up...I'm sorry, I'm not trying to make an issue with the officiating, but I really hope Tomlin calls the league up and asks for an explanation as to how THIS was missed:
Week_15_hold_medium
  • I'm sure there are others, too, 49ers fans. I don't care. You won the game, leave us alone.
  • I mentioned Andy Lee, right? Yeah...6th round. From Pitt. Was 34-year-old Chris Gardocki solid enough to make us not look Lee's way in 2004? Is that what happened?
  • If Whitner has any pass coverage instincts, you could have added two more interceptions onto the pile of turnovers. Two errant passes fell at his feet, and he looked like he didn't even notice. Just sayin'...
  • Aldon Smith pushed Max Starks back into Roethlisberger as if he was a blocking sled on that fumble. Max got in his way, which was about it. A healthy Roethlisberger, though, easily escapes that situation, and doesn't stand a foot away from a defender.
  • By the way, for all you Tuck Rule enthusiasts, Roethlisberger did pump the ball, and as he was struggling to stay up, he brought the ball back into his body. It was there the ball was knocked out of his hand. Valid fumble.
  • As for Timmons shameful act of "leaping," as I understand it, if he jumps at the kick, he must start no more than a yard off the line of scrimmage. This rule just seems stupid. It seems to be the right call, but one in which everyone who heard and witnessed it lost something.
  • No more about the officiating. It doesn't matter. The Steelers had multiple opportunities to win this game, and despite outplaying San Francisco in many areas of the game, they got beat 20-3.
  • That's how you define one team making big plays and one team missing out on them.
  • On to St. Louis...
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