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Thoughts and Ramblings After a Dominating 27-0 Steelers Win over St. Louis in Week 16

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Merry Christmas to all, and to all, a good morning.

My present to you, a super-long post-game notebook highlighting some great running, some poor run defense and a few things the Steelers need to take away from a 27-0 win over St. Louis.

  • The difference between a good player and a great player is film study. If you don't believe that, just watch Troy Polamalu. On the first play of the game, he shadows WR Denario Alexander as if he's covering him in man. Polamalu simply sees it as an opportunity for a run blitz, and blows Steven Jackson up in the backfield.
  • Don't think Baltimore will prepare for a potential third game without seeing this. They love presnap motion.
  • The NFL loves its wide receivers. This week's proof: Brandon Lloyd shoving CB Ike Taylor down from behind when Taylor was in clear position for an interception. No flag.
  • Bold statement by Coach Tomlin to Marcus Gilbert. His level of "professionalism" isn't acceptable. The rookie apparently missed a meeting, so Tomlin sat his butt down. Good to hear. It's Week 16, Marcus, you aren't preparing for the Orange Bowl in five weeks. It's a short week.
  • Raise your hand if you thought QB Charlie Batch was going to fumble the ball on the first of his two Roethlisbergean escapes from the pocket.
  • Put your hand down, Max Starks.
  • Just an excellent all-around game from Mendenhall. Great balance and patience on his runs, he looked like he really trusted his blockers. He ran behind them and behind his pads all game. Granted, he's not facing the best of run defenses, but he made guys miss, he went through guys and he fell forward. He also protected the ball. What more do you want?
  • By the end of the game, Batch was trying to get the ball to Ward as much as possible in an effort to get him his 1,000th catch. It's too bad he didn't look his way on the first drive. A nice legal pick play on 3rd-and-2 inside the 5-yard line, Ward was wide open. Batch instead goes to the average-strength Wallace, who's gotta be tougher on balls in the air.
  • Was Legursky exploring every tunnel at Heinz Field?
  • DE Ziggy Hood was getting whipped by Harvey Dahl for the bulk of this game. Gotta give some credit to St. Louis, their 100+ yards rushing wasn't a fluke. They often lined up three tight ends, and had them block up front while releasing their guards to reach the linebackers, at which they were successful. Steven Jackson's one of the best in the game, and he found seams all over the field. Doesn't hurt he's the size of all of the Steelers linebackers, either.
  • On the other hand, Rams offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels took a pretty weak offense and turned it into a horrendous offense this season. Is there anyone in the league more toxic than him? He peaked when he all but dumped a Gatorade bucket over himself after beating the Patriots in Week 5 of 2009. Since then, he's been involved in exactly seven wins in 38 games, got busted for filming the practices of the 49ers before their game in London in 2010, traded away all the talent on the Broncos (including a botched trade attempt of Jay Cutler, which led to the actual trade of Jay Cutler, and used draft picks acquired in that trade to move back into the first round to select Tim Tebow, after he threw his full support behind Kyle Orton) and took the reigning Offensive Rookie of the Year, QB Sam Bradford, and turned him into one of the worst passers in the league. You have to intentionally sabotage your career to achieve that level of failure. How could any franchise trust anything this guy does?
  • The Rams would have to try to have a worse season than they have in 2011, but what a great move in picking up Brandon Lloyd. He gave Ike Taylor fits all game. A very even, heady receiver. And for a fifth-round pick? Crazy. The best quarterback he's ever had getting him the ball is Kyle Orton. And I'm talking the Bears version of Kyle Orton.
  • The Rams should involve P Donnie Jones in their offense a bit more. He moved pretty well on the fake punt. Great recognition by Will Allen, who took the primary receiver out of the play immediately, forcing Jones to run 29 yards only to be stuffed by Antonio Brown a yard shy of the first down.
  • Speaking of Brown, the move he put on DE Chris Long on the end-around is worthy of the team's highlight reel. Long could only vainly attempt to trip Brown as he motored past him.
  • Probably doesn't need to be said, but that pick isn't on Batch. Both he and Brown slipped on the play, Batch recovered to throw the ball right before Brown slipped. It happens.
  • It did give Brown a chance to achieve the Fun Stat of the Game: Tackles: Hampton, 2; Brown, 2.
  • With 10:22 left in the second quarter, Denario Alexander cuts FS Ryan Clark's legs out from under him, and Clark goes ballistic. It was one of those legal-but-dirty kinds of blocks, and unfortunately, with the league regulating the game we used to know, we'll see more and more of this.
  • Don't believe me? Ask Adrian Peterson today whether he would have rather been hit in the head. He'll be lucky to be ready to play by training camp in July.
  • The hold on Timmons was bunk, but it looks like it was meant to be called on Taylor, who was grabbing onto Alexander within five yards of the line of scrimmage. Taylor was doing that all game, not the most disciplined game he's ever had.
  • Don't tell me James Harrison is a dirty player. If he was, Kellen Clemens would spend Christmas Day drooling in a hospital bed. He had as clear a shot at a quarterback as he's ever had, but he held up.
  • Mendenhall's 52-yard run was perhaps the Steelers finest play this year, from a technical standpoint. RG Ramon Foster and TE Heath Miller pull from the back side of the play, Foster seals his guy off and Miller makes the seam by blowing up his guy to the outside. Scott cuts off the backside pursuit from two defenders. Kemoeatu and Essex get big blocks up front to get Mendenhall some room at the second level. Starks is four yards down field locking up a linebacker, and Cotchery blasts a defensive back into Starks's guy, creating a cut-back lane for Mendenhall, who's already eight yards down field. Brown may have held CB Rod Hood a little bit, but he took him out of the play at that spot on the field. Wallace gets a big block down field.
  • That's nine big blocks on one run, meaning Mendenhall and Batch are the only two who didn't block anyone. Just phenomenal football.
  • I don't want to crown him or anything yet, but that was an excellent run by Clay. St. Louis did a good job of stalling the Steelers' push to the right side, and Kemoeatu didn't really have a chance to clear room off his lead block (pulling from the left). Clay sees this, bounces it outside, but he doesn't go out too wide. Nice run for the rookie.
  • Not sure Mendenhall was particularly thrilled to see Clay score. Would have been his, but he was still panting on the sideline.
  • Another great example of preparation from Polamalu. He recognizes the formation, and knows exactly where Clemens is throwing. He times it perfectly, and almost makes a sensational play. Then again, considering Clemens threw 24 passes, and 12 of them were to Lloyd, maybe it wasn't exactly rocket surgery to figure it out.
  • If Harrison's throwing of LT Adam Goldberg would have knocked Clemens to the ground, would Harrison get the sack, or Goldberg? Can you get fined for hurling an opposing player at the quarterback? What would have happened if Goldberg hit Clemens helmet-to-helmet. I'll be here all night, please tip your waitress.
  • That play was particularly enjoyable for me. I played against Goldberg in high school. His team upset mine at the Metrodome for the conference championship when we were juniors. I'm still bitter.
  • Anyway...just sheer power from Harrison. Goldberg is listed at 6-foot-7, 305 pounds. Harrison moved him like he wasn't even there.
  • I don't like Rod Hood. That's usually my compliment for an opposing player. He played a solid game against Wallace and Brown. Great read on the bubble screen to Brown, one of only three catches on the day.
  • Who's worried about Batch's arm strength again? If not for a great play by rookie S Darian Stewart, that throw to Miller on 3rd-and-long would have been easily his highlight of the day.
  • Harrison destroys TE Billy Bajema, then destroys Clemens. Timmons is in the backfield again as well. And Hood? Nowhere near the ball. I wasn't aware Harvey Dahl was one of the best pass protectors in football.
  • A bit later, the Steelers put four defenders at the line of scrimmage, and Hood isn't one of them. From left to right, it's Worilds, Heyward, McLendon and Keisel. While it's somewhat frustrating Worilds is the last player on the field to react to the snap, Heyward shows great technique, especially how he uses his hands. RG Bryan Mattison can't lock onto him, and Heyward reads Clemens stepping up in the pocket. Heyward easily moves past Mattison and takes Clemens down for a 1-yard gain. Great play by the rookie.
  • This starts a string of plays that should concern the Steelers heading into the playoffs. The Rams found a way to seal off the backside pursuit of Pittsburgh's defense. They often lined up unbalanced and with multiple tight ends. Those tight ends were able to seal off the backside defending linemen, leaving the play side blocked essentially one-on-one. The Steelers failed to win those battles, and had their linebackers often caught in the sea of bodies in the middle of the field.
  • One play later, Worilds gets hooked again, this time by Bajema, the same guy Harrison lit up earlier. Jackson goes right past him for a 13-yard gain. Also of note, Hood is not in the game. Heyward replaced him at defensive end, and McLendon is in again for Hampton. McLendon gets double-teamed, and pushed inside. Timmons misreads the play and gets caught in the wash in the middle of the field. Nothing more than a footrace between Jackson and Clark, who takes him down after 13 yards.
  • How's the hammy, Woodley? Worilds lack of run support is getting old.
  • Farrior and Timmons now both misread the play and get caught in the wash. Timmons doesn't push ahead as far as Farrior did, and is able to make the play, but these are very simple technical issues that need to be fixed. Come playoff time, when the Steelers are playing better rushing teams, they will get abused.
  • Glad to see Hood dancing after a sack that was the result of the right guard simply not blocking him. There was some confusion before the snap, and the guard went after Hampton, who was to Hood's right. Hood was untouched. Get your dance on, Ziggy. Glad you're happy with your performance.
  • Meanwhile, Harrison steamrolled Bajema again. That McDaniels sure knows what he's doing.
  • Hood is still proud of himself on the next play, gets off the snap late, and is owned by Mattison. Worilds fails to recognize the play at the snap, and helps the offense by taking a step backward when Jackson aims right at him. By the time Worilds recovers, he's being blasted five yards off the ball. Keenan Lewis misses an open field tackle and Jackson goes relatively untouched for a 15-yard gain on 3rd-and-14.
  • Perhaps this play illustrates things better. Rams have the ball 1st-and-10 from their 18-yard line. Not coincidentally, Hood is not in, and the Steelers put Heyward, Hampton and Keisel down, left to right. Worilds and Harrison are pinching in the ends. It's a handoff to Jackson, and he runs into a wall of Steelers defenders for a two yard gain.
  • At the end of the play, Hampton, Timmons and Farrior are lying on Jackson on the ground. Four yards down field, Heyward and Worilds are shoving tight ends post-whistle (Worilds could have picked up a penalty for the quasi-slap he threw at the guy who moved him well out of the play). The vets are making the plays, the younger guys are getting whipped.
  • 2nd-and-9, Worilds beaten again one-on-one by Bajema.
  • Finally, Troy stops the bleeding with a perfectly timed blitz. He's held (not sure how that could possibly have been missed, except that Polamalu moves faster than the human eye can track), but still gets to Jackson and ends the play.
  • You know why Troy makes that play? Because he knows they're running at Worilds again.
  • Josh Brown is still haunted by Super Bowl XL. You know, the guy who missed two field goals? Oh, right, the officials gave the game to the Steelers.
  • All Fantasy players in championship games who had Mike Wallace are probably really ticked this morning. He flat-out burned Josh Gordy, just came a yard short. Second-best play of the game, though, because it unleashed the passion the team lacked until that point. Great run by Mendenhall for the score.
  • I'm at a loss for words on how Polamalu only has one interception this year. I swear he'd have the league record for picks if he caught every one he should have had.
  • Goldberg is faced with an overload blitz from Timmons and Harrison, so he elects to block neither of them. Clemens blown up again.
  • Harrison beats Goldberg again, gets held and nearly forces a strip-sack. A phenomenal all-around game from Harrison. Welcome back, Deebo.
  • Batch doesn't seem to be looking at anyone but Ward. Would have been really nice for him to get 1,000 at home. I'm sure Cleveland will be really excited when he does it next week.
  • Great lead block from Scott, this one's over.