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Dissecting the 2012 season to recognize 2013 offseason needs

The thing that really fueled me to make this post is all the talk about Steelers taking an OLB in the first round. I would absolutely loathe spending such a high pick on an OLB when they can easily be found in the later rounds. To really see what the Steelers need to do, I went through the play by play for each Steeler game to see what went wrong. WARNING, this is a bit of a read, so just skip to bottom if you wanna get my final thoughts.

Game 1- Steelers 19, Broncos 31

This game was actually pretty even. Both teams started out slow, and then eventually found their rhythm on offense. The big difference was right after the Steelers took a long 9 minute drive that resulted in a field goal, Manning threw a short screen to Demaryius Thomas who took it to the house for a long TD. Deflating to say the least, but the Steelers still had a shot with around 2 minutes left, down by less than a score and Roethlisberger had the ball. Ben threw a pick six though, and that was that. Hard to pin the blame on Ben for this one, but the absense of Ryan Clark was really apparent.

Game 2- Steelers 27, Jets 10

This game started out pretty scary as the Jets drove 90 freaking yards with Mark freaking Sanchez to go up 7-3, and after they exchanged field goals the score was 10-7. You can figure out the rest from the final score. The Steelers remembered they were playing Mark freaking Sanchez and shut him down for the rest of the game for an easy win.

Game 3- Steelers 31, Raiders 34

This game was the wackiest game of the season, and one that the Steelers really needed to win. Steelers started out strong with a touchdown, 7-0. Darren McFadden, who struggled most of the season, found a hole in the defense and jogged 64 yards for a TD to tie it at 7. Steelers would then go up 14-7. After a Raider punt, Colon would commit a false start AND a holding penalty in back to back plays to ruin a good field position provided by a good Brown punt return. Another punt by the Raiders, this time Brown takes it to the house, but some penalties nulifies it. A fumble by Dwyer in Steelers territory would give the Raiders a very short field and would tie it up, 14-14. This is a good time remind everyone the Raiders are picking 3rd in the 2013 draft.

The Steelers would add a field goal and open the 2nd half with a TD, going up 24-14. However they gave up a long kickoff return to give the Raiders another short field, which they took advantage of to make it 24-21. The Steelers AGAIN scored a TD to make the gap 10 once more, and at this point you reeeeeeally got the feeling that the Steelers should have no problem closing it out from here. The next drive though Palmer picked on Cortez Allen(one of his few bad games of the season) to AGAIN make the gap 3 points at 31-28. It looked like the Steelers would score again but Antonio Brown FUMBLED. Raiders would take advantage with a field goal to tie it at 31. The next drive Ben would take a bad sack AND miss a wide open Mike Wallace, so the Steelers punted. By this point the Steelers were trying to play for overtime, but the prevent simply preventing them from winning, and they lost a wacky one 34-31. The main culprits? Big Plays Given Up, Fumbles(2 huge ones) and just a horrible game for the Steelers DBs(Polamulu sure would have helped this game). They would regret this one bad.

Game 4- Steelers 16, Eagles 14

This game was way closer than it should have been. The Eagles almost scored early but Vick would end up fumbling on the 1 yard line and the Steelers recovered. The Steelers were able to patch together 10 points in the 2nd quarter to go up 10-0. The Eagles would score a TD with the assist going to the safeties Mundy and Clark, each of which gave the Eagles 15 yards a piece on unnecessary roughness penalties. A few punts later the Steelers added a field goal to go up 13-7. Eagles then led a ballsy drive in which they converted 2 fourth down conversions and eventually dinked and dunked their way into the endzone to make it 14-13 Eagles. Ben led a long 6 minute drive of his own that resulted in a field goal for a tight win. FYI, The Eagles pick 4th in the 2013 draft.

Game 5- Steelers 23, Titans 26

Another wacky one. After trading field goals Ben found Wallace deep to go up 10-3. Another Titans field goal made it 10-6, and after a 3 and out the Titans BLOCKED THE PUNT, recovered on the one and punched it in to make it 13-10. Wow, big, huge, stupid mistakes are killing the Steelers so far this season. Nothing else happened until the Titans turned short passes into long gains to get another field goal, 16-10.

Stillers would match that field goal on opening the 2nd half to make it 16-13. After a Titans punt they'd go on another long drive, this time able to punch it in to go up 20-16. A Timmons INT would lead to another field goal to make it 23-16 Steelers. Feeling pretty good about this game at this point. A long pass to Britt(Will Allen is getting abused) and defensive holding by Ike would be what led to the freaking TITANS tying it up at 23-23. The Steelers led a short drive and would attempted a 54 yard field goal, mainly because Suisham nailed a 52 yarder earlier. Well, I guess 52 yards was his max because he was short about 2 yards. Now with a short field the Titans did not have to go very far, and with 2 timeouts in their pocket they had plenty of time to give another gut wrenching loss to the Steelers. The main culprits? Stupid big plays again, questionable coaching, and Steelers missing Polamalu.

Game 6- Steelers 24, Bengals 17

Steelers start things off with a field goal, but Bengals run the ball down the Steelers throats, even going for it on 4 and 1, and punch it in the end zone to go up 7-3. Ben drives the length of the field, but gets intercepted in the red zone. Steelers force a punt, but Ben then gets sacked and fumbles inside their own 10, which leads to an AJ Green TD to make it 14-3. At this point, the season seems lost. Maybe the Steelers just aren't that good this year. It happens sometimes.

Not so fast. After a Steelers field goal, guess who steps up to make a huge play? That's right, out-of-shape Lamarr Woodley makes a BIG pick(pun totally intended), and Ben makes them pay by not only scoring a TD, but Tomlin goes for 2 and gets it! Risky move pays off and it's 14-14 going into half.

The second half teams trade field goals and punts until a late drive in the 3rd led by the Steelers air game gets another TD to make it 24-17 Steelers. A few more punts and the Steelers get the ball back with about 4 minutes left. This is the first time all season when the Steelers finally run the ball effectively, and they straight up just run the rest of the clock out to secure the victory. Great comeback win that probably saved their season at this point.

Game 7- Steelers 27, Redskins 12

Probably the best game the Steelers played all season. Steelers jumped to a quick 10 point lead in the first. In the late first Will Allen got beat on a long pass, and then early in the 2nd the Redskins would end up going for it on 4th and 2(what was up with so many teams going for it on 4th down against the steelers?) and converting it for a TD, but Ziggy would block the extra point to make it 10-6 Steelers. Big Ben went no huddle and answered the very next drive to make it 17-6. They would add a field goal to increase their lead to 20-6 at half, the defense really looked good at this point shutting down RGIII.

RGIII led a decent drive to open up the 3rd for a field goal, but Ben answered that with a touchdown to make it 27-9. Antonio Brown almost made that lead even greater but they would AGAIN nullify his punt return TD with a penalty. With the beginning of the 4th the Redskins added on a field goal, but after that the Steelers could just sit on the clock and force Redskins to try to score TDs instead of field goals, which they were unable to do obviously. Impressive victory for the Steelers.

Game 8- Steelers 24, Giants 20

Now above .500 at 4-3, the Giants looked like a hard team to beat. After a scoreless first quarter, the Steelers got a TD by a combination of effective running by Redman and clutch catches from the WRs to go up 7-0. The Giants would answer to make it 7-7, gaining most of their yardage from a sketchy Pass Interference call on Keenan Lewis. The next drive Ben would ruin a good return from Rainey by getting sack fumbled, and the Giants returned said fumble for a touchdown to make it 14-7. The Giants would miss a long field goal and Suisham would make an easy one to make it 14-10 at half.

After a 3 and out to open the 2nd half by the Steelers, the Giants this time would convert on a long field goal to make it 17-10. Ben would turn it over AGAIN with a pick that the Giants would convert into a field goal to make it 20-10. The start of the 4th began with a short toss to Mike Wallace, but he would flip on turbo boosters and run past everyone to make it 20-17. After the Giants punt, Sanders almost took the punt return to the house but was stopped about 10 yards short. The Steelers couldn't punch it in, and even tried a fake field goal, but it didn't work. The D held their ground, and when the Steelers got it back they had a good drive with again a good combo of running and passing.

With 4 minutes left, the Giants had their drive thwarted when, guess who? Out-of-shape Lamarr Woodley got a HUGE sack. The Steelers closed it out with a clutch grab by Sanders on 3rd and long(he's looking pretty sweet this game) and clinched it with a long run by Redman. This was the kind of game the Steelers were losing earlier in the year with the turnovers, now they're winning them.

Game 9- Steelers 16, Chiefs 13

The Steelers had peaked with their win against the Giants. The season would be decided on a wet, windy and wild Monday night in Pittsburgh. The Chiefs struck first, getting a long pass on Keenan Lewis then running it in to make it 7-0. After a holding AND unsportsmanlike conduct by Colon(can we get rid of him already?), the Steelers faced 1st and 29 on their own 9. Redman would fumble, and KC turns it into 3 points to make it 10-0. Keep in mind, these guys would end up with the number 1 draft pick.

Ben would answer with a long drive that results in 3 to make it 10-3. After a Chief punt, Ben and Dwyer ran over the Chiefs, and would cap it off with a pass to Wallace to tie it 10-10. The first drive in the second is when the injury that ruined their season happened. Ben got sacked and broke his rib that nearly punctured his freaking aorta, and messed up his shoulder. How many of his 9 lives does Ben have left? It's gotta be down to around 2 at this point.

Leftwich comes in and it's punt punt punt until the end of the 3rd quarter when Byron got a pass to Sanders for 30 yards and a couple of penalties to go their way which led to their only 3 points of the half. Punt punt punt until the end of the 4th when the Chiefs took advantage of a depleted safety crew (Clark got injured earlier in the drive) to convert a 4th and 15 to make this game tied at 13. In overtime Chiefs got the ball, but thank God for Timmons as he intercepted it already in field goal range for Suisham, and the Steelers escape with a win, but their season in peril with Ben injured.

Game 10- Steelers 10, Ravens 13

Byron opened the game with a long pass that got a pass interference call for a big gain, which seems to be his only effective method of moving the ball. That is until he scrambles and tricks the D into thinking he's running out of bounds, stays in bounds and scores on a 30 yard run, 7-0 Steelers! When he scored though it looked like he got hurt. No one touched him, he just kind of fell, but he couldn't do a darn thing the rest of the game.

After a Ravens punt, Wallace would fumble in Steelers territory which would lead to an easy 3 points for the Ravens. Some punts ensued, although Jacoby Jones would run back one of those punts for a TD to make it 10-7 Ravens. The Steelers would punt a bunch, Ravens would miss a field goal, 10-7 Ravens at half. In the 3rd Keenan Lewis would give up a long pass to set up the Ravens final points of the game, 13-7. A long grab by Sanders and an unnecessary roughness call on Ed Reed for put the Steelers in field goal range to make it 13-10 heading into the 4th quarter.

The next two Steeler drives would result in Byron getting them into Baltimore territory, but he would be sacked both drives to end any threat of getting points. The highest paid player in the NFL needed a punt return TD to generate enough offense to beat an injured Byron Leftwich.

Game 11- Steelers 14, Browns 20

Ugh. Here we go. It actually started out with a pick-six for Timmons! 7-0 Steelers! Then, yeah, fumble by Mendenhall in Steelers territory = 3 gimmie points for the Browns. A couple punts later from Check-down Charlie Batch until the beginning of the 2nd quarter. Fumble by Redman on the Steelers 10 results in 7 gimmie points for the Browns, 10-7 Browns. Another punt, then the Browns have an actual, real drive that results in a field goal to make it 13-7 Browns. I'll remind you now, the Browns pick 6th in the 2013 draft. Good thing the Jags weren't on the schedule this year.

Dwyer fumbles in Steelers territory, but this time the Steelers get a big sack from Worilds to push them out of field goal range. Sanders makes a couple of long catches, and Burress draws a pass-interference call in the end zone to set up a touchdown to make it 14-13 Steelers to close out the first half. In the 3rd, a couple of punts before Charlie is intercepted in Steelers territory which results in a Trent Richardson 15 yard TD run, 20-14 Browns. The teams trade punts some more.

In the 4th, Charlie gets to the CLE 30 but throws another interception. Punt punt punt, and then another interception by Charlie. Some more punts, and the Steelers get the ball back with 2:36 left. Hmm, who hasn't fumbled yet? Rainey? Okay let's get him in there. Awh crap, he fumbled. Good grief Charlie Batch, what a terrible game by the offense.

Game 12- Steelers 23, Ravens 20

Charlie leads a decent drive for 3 points. Punts until Ravens tie it up by dinking and dunking their way to a field in the early second quarter, 3-3. More punts until Ravens get a pass interference call on a bomb to set up their second field goal, 6-3 Ravens. Flacco and Antonio Brown trade interceptions(Steelers were terrible with trick plays this year apparently) until Flacco starts to JUST throw to Boldin. It works, he draws a defensive holding call then catches two 30 yard bombs in a row to make it 13-3 Ravens. Charlie takes advantage of a short field thanks to a good Rainey return and some nice catches by Heath to make it 13-6 to end the first half.

To open the 3rd, Charlie makes a long completion to Heath then makes a BALLER block to propel Dwyer to score, 13-13 now. Get some, Charlie. After a punt, Sanders makes a wide open grab but fumbles the ball untouched while switching hands to give it back to the Ravens. Flacco abuses Curtis Brown on a 3rd and long, and Ray Rice makes a pretty run to make it 20-13 Ravens. A few punts later Charlie starts driving but gets picked off deep by Ed Reed. Harrison strip sacks Flacco though and it's recovered by the Steelers. Charlie takes advantage and Heath walks the tightrope along the sideline to make it 20-20.

The Steelers force a punt, then Charlie Batch has the best drive of his career. He takes 6 minutes to go 51 yards, and Suisham knocks home the field goal for a crucial Steelers victory. Charlie is emotional, and hopefully this is the last start of his career, CAUSE IT AIN'T GETTIN ANY BETTER THAN THAT CHARLIE. Joe Flacco, the highest paid player in the NFL, couldn't score a touchdown against an injured Byron Leftwich and lost to 39 year old Charlie Batch. Let that one sink in for a while.

Game 13- Steelers 24, Chargers 34

3 punts until a dink and dunk drive by Rivers which would have resulted in a 4th punt, but Polamalu and Harrison were offsides in back to back plays on 3rd down which led to a long field goal by Novak, Chargers up 3-0. 7 punts later(Hey Big Ben, you sure you're okay to play? Not STILL INJURED OR ANYTHING?) Rivers realized Curtis Brown was playing Danario Alexander and hits him on a bomb to make it 10-0. The Steelers would then for it on 4th and 1 but get stuffed. They reeeally strugged to run the ball short yardage this year. That turnover on downs led to a field goal to make 13-0 Chargers. Ben is finally able to orchastrate a late drive to end the first half with a field goal, 13-3 Chargers.

The Chargers open the 3rd with a 10 minute drive as they dink, dunk, and run their way down the field. The Steelers must have been keeping players back to help out the depleted secondary. They score to make it 20-3, yuh oh. The Steelers get the ball and try to throw a screen pass to Brown, who, after not catching it, lets the Chargers recover it in the endzone for a touchdown instead of kicking the ball out of the end zone for a safety, 27-3, and the route is on.

Roethlisberger decides to actually play football and finds Wallace for a bomb, 27-10. Chargers run 6 minutes off the clock before they punt it, then Ben throws a pick deep in Steelers territory, and Rivers throws it to Alexander again to make it 34-10 and to put the game out of reach. A couple of garbage time scores occur, but the Steelers really got hurt on some long drops by Wallace and Brown that could have changed the course of this game. The main thing though is that Curtis Brown stinks and I think Rivers knew he could take advantage of him whenever he wanted.

Game 14- Steelers 24, Cowboys 27

Believe it or not, the Steelers still controlled their own destiny at this point, and this was one of the closest games of the season. After a punt, the Cowboys kicked a long field goal, 3-0. Another Steelers punt, and Cowboys worked it all the way down to the Steelers 7, but Harrison forced a fumble and Steelers recovered. 3 runs later, another punt. Romo abuses the secondary some more and this time scores to make it 10-0 Cowboys. Ben answers with a long drive that yields a field goal, 10-3. Some cowboy penalties force them to punt, and Ben leads a nice drive and makes a Ben-esque play to Heath to score to tie it at 10 going into the half.

Teams trade punts, but then Romo passes his way down the field and hits Dez Bryant for a TD, 17-10. Ben answers by hitting Wallace on a bomb down to the 1, then they punch it in to tie it at 17. Anyone's game. Harrison gets a clutch sack to force a punt, big game for him. Ben wastes no time marching down field to get another TD, 24-17 Steelers. Steelers force a punt, but Brown FUMBLES and Cowboys recover(effing turnovers, man). Cowboys take advantage of the short field and tie it at 24-24.

Now would be a good time for one of those 6 minute drives. It's looking good so far and it's 3rd and 4 on the Cowboys 37 when Ben takes a very untimely sack. Steelers punt, but force a 3 and out and get the ball back with 1:37 left. They move the ball quick and get a roughing the passer penalty to take it to midfield with plenty of time left. Ben would then get sacked twice in a row, they punt the ball away, and we're going to OVERTIME.

Steelers get the ball, but Ben gets picked and Dallas kicks a gimmie field goal to win. Ouch. The DBs are really struggling without Ike Taylor for the 2nd week in a row. Kind of a shame Ike gets hurt right when Troy gets healthy otherwise the Steelers could've prevented the Ravens from winning the whole shin-dig. On the bright side though, it's pretty hilarious to include "Joe Flacco" and "Highest paid player in the NFL" in the same sentence. In fact, I'm gonna do it again right now- Joe Flacco is the highest paid player in the NFL. I can't say it out loud with a straight face.

Game 15- Steelers 10, Bengals 13

Believe it or not, the Steelers STILL controlled their own destiny at this point. There were not many good teams in the AFC in 2012. 4 punts until Ben throws a pick 6 that will end up being the Bengals only touchdown in a must-win game for the Steelers, 7-0 Bungals. Steelers march back down field, but stall in the red zone and Suisham misses a 24 yard GIMMIE that will obviously come back to haunt them. Oh Suisham, you were doing so good! They trade punts, but Bengals were able to drive a little bit further on their possession, so they get it back with good enough field position to only have move it a little bit to get in field goal range, 10-0 Bengals. Ben hits Brown on a BOMB though to make it 10-7 to close out the 1st half.

Cortez Allen gets a huge INT to start the 3rd, but Ben has one of his patented sack-that-takes-Steelers-out-of-field-goal-range sacks, and they punt. Bengals turn it over on 4th and 19 instead of trying a 50 yard field goal(lol), and Ben leads a drive down the field before another sack stalls the drive. They get the field goal this time to tie it at 10. Bengals march down the field but Cortez Allen forces a fumble and Steelers recover. Steelers punt, then Cortez Allen gets ANOTHER interception(can you say 'break out game'?)

Steelers can't do anything with it again, and punt. Bengals march it down the field, but miss a 56 yard field goal try. Steelers get it in Bengals territory but get stopped at the 36. As we all know from the Titans game, Suisham's range is 52 yards, not 53, and he comes up short. Steelers force a 3 and out though, and get the ball back! Ben, however, throws another untimely interception. AJ Green beats Keenan Lewis for 21 yard grab, and the Bengals kick a field goal to win and eliminate the Steelers from the playoff. Yeeeeeouch. It's easy to pin this one on Big Ben, so that's exactly what I'll do- it was all Big Ben's fault.

Game 16- Steelers 24, Browns 10

Steelers beat some guy named Thaddeus Lewis, but I'll count that as a loss because they should've just thrown the game to get a higher draft pick. They do it all the time in other sports, why can't we do it? Oh, "it's not the Steeler Way." Psssh. I guess it'd be pretty hard to throw a game when you're going against Thaddeus Lewis anyway.

------------------------FINAL THOUGHTS---------------------------

So looking back at their season, what do the Steelers need to get better at? Well, first and foremost, turnovers completely ruined this season for the Steelers. They did force a couple clutch turnovers, but they had way more untimely giveaways than they did timely takeaways. That starts with Big Ben. It's hard to place the blame solely on Ben for the first lost in Denver, or the loss in Dallas(it's easy, however, to blame the one in Cincinati on him), but it's hard not to notice how he's trying to force the ball into places he shouldn't with the game on the line. He also took a ton of horrible sacks, but what else is new. Him getting hurt cost the Steelers the game against the Ravens and Browns, but Ben getting injured is even older news than him taking bad sacks.

The turnovers weren't just Ben though, the running backs and receivers also need to hold onto the ball more. Hopefully the new WR coach stresses that and whoever the Steelers draft at RB can hang on to the freaking ball.

Secondary injuries cost the Steelers a lot of games. If either Troy or Ryan Clark is out the secondary is SIGNIFICANTLY worse, and they played one of those two missing for most of the season. Polamulu's injury cost the Steelers a few games at the beginning of the season(Titans and Raiders for sure); Polamulu and Clark didn't play a full game together until their 12th game against the Ravens- The same game Ike Taylor got injured, making Curtis Brown ripe for the picking for the rest of the season.

So here's my to-do list- Get an ACTUAL backup quarterback, get some better safety depth(Will Allen was NOT average people. BELOW AVERAGE. Mundy was bad too), and obviously some cornerback depth. They signed Willie Gay which helps with that already. Fantastic sign.

I'm pretty okay with letting Keenan Lewis walk, because he's not gonna be worth what some team is going to pay him and he gave up too many big plays. I think people just think he was so good because Curtis Brown was so bad filling in for him. Cortez Allen is ready to start, although I'd still like to see someone else as a #4 cornerback rather than Curtis Brown unless he really turns things around.

The O-Line just needs to stay healthy obviously and I think the Steelers will be fine at WR without Wallace, although they'll probably draft a WR with one of their first 4 picks anyway though.

I'd love the Steelers to take the safety from Texas in the first round if he's there, if not I'd want the Steelers to draft Warmack or Cooper to really shore up the O-Line as you need to keep Belcher as a backup OT for if(and let's be real here, WHEN) one of the tackles gets injured.

I mentioned this in another thread, but picking up a RB who excels in a zone blocking scheme would be wonderful as well, certainly not in the first round though.

I really hope Steelers don't take an OLB as it's really not as pressing a need as people tend to think it is. Even if Harrison is cut Worilds is fine and I'm sure they'll draft one in the middle rounds anyway.

Oh yeah, and Ben not sucking and staying healthy would be greaaaaat. Mkay?

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