Where to begin. Let's start with the title. Neal Coolong hit on this in the comments of a previous thread. Cowher, in 14 years as Head Coach of the Steelers, lost one game and tied another, when leading by 11 points; while the wins were well over a hundred. Cowher never threw the ball 50 times intentionally. Does anyone remember Ben's rookie season, when he went undefeated in the regular season? He rarely threw more than 25 times. We know Roller, but Ben was a rookie, and we didn't have Wallace or Brown. WRONG Granted, you don't want a rookie having to be the focus of your offensive success, with no professional experience; but there's more to it than that. Ben's pass count increased slightly through the rest of Cowher's career, but not that much.
This is not a rant. This is not making excuses for my team. This is not a portrayal of doubt in my coaches. This is an article of evidence. Proof that you cannot even beat the Raiders throwing the ball 50 times. Proof that the replacement refs need replaced. Proof that sometimes we out smart ourselves. Proof that stats don't equal points. Proof that I can write a piece without expletives, being as furious as I am.
Why didn't Cowher believe in slinging it out, arena style? Let me count the ways.
- Exactly how many route combinations do we have on hand in the playbook? The more you put on film for opposing coaches to study, the less likely you are going to catch them off guard. No, this doesn't apply to running plays, because the run comes down to imposition of will, through physical strength. There is no reason to study every single carry of Bettis' career, because a gut dive looks the same every time. Just because a back is supposed to run between a guard and the center, doesn't mean he has to, if there is no hole. A receiver however, must run his routes according to the design of the play, to ensure proper timing with the QB. If you run your route wrong, the probability of success diminishes significantly, even if Roethlisberger is your QB. Even Ben's play extensions, have patterns about them. Receivers have to know where to go when the pocket breaks down, and Ben is on the move. Guys running deep, have to come back. Guys coming back, have to turn it upfield. The league has been watching this for the past 8 years, and are catching on. Receivers running option routes, exhibit tendencies against coverage. All of these things are watched over and over and over; especially when you're giving teams 50 examples a game.
- Time Of Possession - I made this point in an earlier post's comments, but I will repeat it here. A QB having 7 seconds from the snap of the ball, would be considered well protected; which Ben was for most of the game. 3 incomplete passes in this optimistic scenario, runs 21 seconds off the clock, gaining zero yards before punting. 3 one yard runs burn approximately 1:20 off the clock, considering our propensity for snapping the ball with 1 second left on the play clock; plus you gained 3 yards. May not mean much at midfield, but it does when your in your own end. Wanna know what else your 3 one yard runs did? They wore down the opposing defensive line. Against the Raiders, we never tested the Defensive line. They got their best pressure of the game, at the end; when we needed none. When you own TOP, your defense has time on the sidelines to rest and make adjustments. Rested defenses don't have to give 10 yard cushions. I literally watched our zones get softer than the Snuggle Bear, considering we started the game tight and physical. There were physical breakdowns, but the fatigue forces mental breakdowns, which yield big yards and big points. These mental breakdowns are what you're trying to inflict on opposing defenses through the run, because they are too tired after getting hit over and over. Every second you keep them on the field, is one more second they don't get to rest up. Contrary to the mindset behind the gameplan against the Raiders, trying to own TOP through the air, does not produce the same effects. It must be the physical grueling nature of the run.
- Cowher didn't knee jerk - How many carries did Dwyer have after his fumble? How many targets did Brown receive after his second? Cowher, like a dad teaching his kids to ride a bike, made them get right back in the saddle, and do it again. Pardon my (mis)quoting a fictional character, but like Mr. Wayne said to little Brucie; "Why do we fall down? So we learn how to pick ourselves back up" Cowher put guys back into the same situations that previously resulted in failure, to prove to his players that success was not impossible. Dwyer has still been the best back so far, yet if he so much as thinks about making a mistake, he's yanked. I'm saying all this because I heard no mention of a Dwyer injury. He simply disappeared. Not that it really mattered, because nobody was getting to run. With that being said, why on earth did we have 5 backs (6 including FB Johnson) active for this game, if we were only going to run 1/3 of the time? Even Mendenhall was active, yet never even thought about seeing the field.
Ok, let's get away from Cowher for a second, and delve into what actually took place on the field, and let's see if you can connect the dots.
- What was our most used running play versus the Raiders? Delay/Draws out of the shotgun. Why then do we even have a fullback?
- I'll ask this question again. If we were going to pass 50 times in the game, why did we have 6 active backs.
- At the beginning I mentioned the refs. Unfortunately, I have to be careful about the claims I make, as I do not own a DVR, and will not obtain a copy of the game until one is made available. I can tell you calls were missed all over the field. I was most infuriated by the ratio of penalties in the first half. 100% us/0% them. We were called for an illegal formation because Gilbert was a half-step too far back. Through all the replays, and even the play as it happened; I didn't feel he was any further back than he was on any other play. I'm not bringing up this play because of my acute case of homerism; but because twice I saw the Raiders line up with multiple receivers capping the line on a single side (the rule dictates only one player may be up on the line on either side of the offensive line. One play they had 3 if you counted the TE. No call. This is just a snippet of the inconsistency I've grown tired of. In a post earlier this week, Duchess made an extremely valid point. If not for the replacements, we'd have no football. I agree with that 100%, but it's time to put the real refs back to work. They don't miss these types of blatant calls. Holding happens on every play, but they are rarely called. Colon got called for a hold once, but was only called because he was isolated with his defender. It was easy to see. When the Raiders had the ball, at times it looked like their O-line was playing some form of Red Rover; arms outstretched, engaging multiple defenders. This is why we were getting no pressure on Palmer. You can't stunt through an armbar. You can't bullrush through 2 men at the same time, at least not consistently. When I have obtained a copy of this game, I will add some screenshots to this post, to prove that I'm not simply imagining things.
- This point also pertains to the officiating, but also to the integrity of the game. Did anyone see the play where Ben took a shot, and came up limping for a few plays. Watch the replay. The Raider player was multiple seconds late getting there, long after the ball was thrown; and went directly for Ben's lower leg/ankle area...from behind. Sometimes guys make mistakes, I think the Raiders were out to take us out. I saw 2 other instances where Raider players came after a guy, long after the end of the play. Again, I will post screenshots of these as well. Because of these aggressive attacks, I feel no remorse for Heyward-Bay; even though no one intentionally went after him. Mundy looked affected by the ordeal, though he did nothing wrong (but he should've been flagged for defenseless receiver, because there was helmet to helmet during the defenseless act of a catch) How about the catch by Heath Miller that, even after review, was ruled incomplete. Let's focus on this one. If Tamme's TD catch in week one was a good catch, because he got two feet down, and made a "football move" by turning over; then why wasn't Heath's? Seriously, I want an answer. He made two steps, then was tackled. A second Raider comes in, and lays a late lick on Miller as he was rolling because of the initial tackle. The ball does not come loose, until the second tackler's knee comes through the ball. By the rulebook, this is a completed catch, plus a personal foul against the defense, for a late hit. Instead it was ruled an incompletion because he was "going to the ground". He was being tackled, which is a "tackle football move" He was down the second he hit the ground, and he maintained possession even after hitting the ground. Yet, because of a late hit; somehow this is an incompletion. Just because the whistle didn't blow, doesn't mean the play isn't over; at least in these types of instances. Again, I recognize that both teams were the benefactors of non- or miscalls by the officials; but it's unteaching all the rules the league has been engraving into the minds of the players. The player playing by the rules will almost always lose to the one who doesn't, especially when they aren't penalized for bypassing the rules.
- Turnovers, sometimes they just happen. I'm not going to blame Dwyer for his fumble. When you wait until your backfield is full of Raiders to hand off the ball, you barely give your guy time to get the ball cradled. This is why handoffs happens so deep in the backfield, because you want your back to have time to secure the ball, before he starts fighting for yardage. The fumble I take to task is Brown's. The first down was secured, he was simply trying to more than what was there. Cowher preached ball control. He would have instructed players like Brown to recognize when it is time to end the play, and line back up. At that point in the game, the Raiders were beginning to pick our defense apart. Our D needed our O to take a long drive through Raider country. This leads me to my final beef.
- What the Haley? - I've been patting this guy on the back all offseason, and even through the first 2 games; because he was unwavering in his method of attack. I could've sworn Bruce Arians was calling that game. 50 passes to 20 runs. Bubble screen, after bubble screen, after bubble screen. The Raiders weren't biting on play action, because they had no reason to. Haley was running, when we were supposed to run, because it forces a defense to defend both the run, and the pass. The Raiders only had to defend the pass, and they knew it. I think too much was made about the Raiders' depth concerns at CB. But, Roller, Ben had 4 TDs, no INTs, and like a gazillions yards Who cares? We lost. Normally, QB's with those types of stat lines, are playing from behind. The only Oakland lead was the one secured by Janikowski's game ending field goal. If you build a roster to the system, then take away the system; why expect the system, or the roster, to succeed? We're not playing fantasy football here, this is NFL football. Stats don't mean diddly. Only scores. But, Roller, we scored 31 points. It was obviously the defenses fault...or the fumbles...or the refs....or..... Save it. We wanted Arians out of town, because his offensive gameplans were always sink or swim. Yes, we moved the ball through the air well all game. We did not do it well, when we needed to, when the game was on the line. Too late to run at that point.
Seriously still pissed, and I could keep rambling; but I digress. It's just a game, and now we have the bye week to get things back in order. I just don't want to see anymore games like that one. We didn't lose to Manning because our clock control offense was failing, we lost because we underestimated Manning's ability to read a pre-snap defense and make proper adjustments. The man's brain is not located in his neck. They didn't accidentally perform a lobotomy during his 4 neck procedures. That game could have gone either way.
Then we dominated the Jets last week. Again, through clock control and balanced offensive attack. The team that lost to the Raiders tonight, was not the same that took the field in the first 2 weeks. This is why I miss Cowher Power. You always knew what was coming, so did the defenses. Cowher didn't end up with fists full of rings because of his lack of a true franchise QB. Stewart, as much as I respected him for the weapon he was, was not an elite QB. Neither was O'Donnell, he was simply the best we had at the time; because we were busy addressing other areas through the draft. Yet, despite not having a QB like Roethlisberger for most of his tenure; he still had a winning percentage like few others. Because he had a system, and he stuck to his guns. I know Tomlin wants this to be his team, but he needs to copy this page out of Cowher's book. If it ain't broke, don't fix it. I'll take 2.6 ypc per win, instead of 50 pass attempts per loss...every single day of the week.