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Why Did the Steelers Lose to Tampa

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

When Steelers Record Breaking Sparks No Celebration

Records are made to be broken.John Stallworth, during the Steelers 75 Anniversary Game

John Stallworth’s was responding to a question about whether he felt jealous about Hines Ward  breaking all of his receiving records with the Steelers. Stallworth admitted he’d sent Hines a letter. “What did you say?” the reporter inquired,
Antonio Brown, Record, 1st 5 catch yards 20 games

“Stop breaking my records young man!” Stallworth joked, and then went on to talk about how great it was to have is record broken by Hines.

The Steelers 75th Anniversary Game gave cause for celebration in Steelers Nation as did the night less than two years earlier when a pass from Antwaan Randle El pushed Ward beyond Stallworth in the total receptions category. Aside from the record, the Steelers defeated the Browns 34-21 and improved to 7-2.

How times change.

Individual Pittsburgh Steelers are still breaking records, but the stars can’t seem to line up to make it cause for celebration. In 2011 Ward crossed another threshold when he reached the elusive 1,000 receptions mark. Ron Cook of the Post-Gazette said 1,000 catches should cement Ward’s status as a great.
  • Yet, the catch actually lost three yards and the play itself had been designed to simply get the ball to Ward for the sake of him getting it.
While it was a triumphant moment, the milestone also marked how far Ward had fallen. Browns fans have even taken to mocking it on YouTube.

Last year Ben Roethlisberger did some record breaking of his own, breaking Terry Bradshaw’s career touchdown passing record. Unfortunately, the event happened as the Steelers were getting embarrassed by a Miami Dolphins team quarterbacked by a player who’d never seen snow.
But he did break an NFL record last week by becoming the NFL's first player to have at least 5 receptions for 50 yards in 20 straight games.
  • He was not the only Pittsburgh player to pass a milestone. 
Heath Miller passed Lynn Swann as the Steelers 4th all time receiver. The Pittsburgh Steelers even went as far as to tweet the infographic above. Which is fine, but its also safe to say that no one in Steelers Nation feels like celebrating after a loss as bad as the Tampa loss.

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Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Steelers Report Card for Loss to Tampa @ Heniz Field

Taken from the grade book of a teacher who wonders if the manic-depressive performance of his star pupil doesn’t simply indicate that the said student is destined to be mired in mediocrity for yet another year, here is the Pittsburgh Steelers Report for the embarrassing loss at Heinz to Tampa Bay.
steelers report card, tampa bay, buccaneers

Quarterback
Ben Roethlisberger threw 3 touchdown passes and for 314 yards, without an interception. Yes he was sacked 5 times, but all of those came in the first half. The one that really hurt was the one where he put the ball on the ground. Combine that with a couple of other missed receivers and his grade comes down. Grade:  B+

Running Backs
Le'Veon Bell only managed 63 yards on the ground, but it was not all his fault. LeGarrette Blount had a better average with limited carries. Will Johnson got nothing on his single attempt. Bell did his damage as a pass catcher, converting several “should have been” short gains into long ones. Dri Archer had 1 catch for 1 yard. Grade:  B

Tight Ends
Heath Miller started slow and suffered a drop early on. But he fought back with a vengeance, and arguably had his best game since injuring his ACL. Heath made ever catch count, and in the process he passed Lynn Swann on the team’s overall receivers list. Matt Spaeth did not get a catch but did some in on blocking downs. Grade:  B+

Wide Receivers
Antonio Brown and another record breaking performance, and added two touchdowns to his total. He even completed a pass for 17 yards. But he had a drop on a sure touchdown which hurt. Markus Wheaton helped spark the Steelers by making an incredible catch, but was quiet the rest of the day. He also got stuffed on a reverse. Justin Brown dropped a touchdown. Lance Moore got his first catch as a Steeler. A strong showing by the receivers, but the drops hurt.  Grade:  B-

Offensive Line
After the Panthers game, BTSC editor Neal Coolong quibbed that Cody Wallace might have Wally Pipped Ramon Foster out of a job. That’s not happening, as Wallace was completely dominated. Kelvin Beachum also struggled. Marcus Gilbert also had a strong game. The line did a better job in pass protection than 5 sacks indicate, but the Steelers still failed to control the line of scrimmage. Grade:  C-

Defensive Line
Cameron Heyward started the game like a house of fire, tackling people in the backfield, sacking Mike Glennon but then disappeared. He also drew a penalty for arguing a non-holding call with an official. Cam Thomas got a QB hit in but his facemask penalty essentially gave Tampa its first field goal. Brett Keisel recorded no stats. The line held Tampa’s rushing attack in check, but overall the unit was too uneven. Grade: C

Linebackers
Arthur Moats and James Harrison alternated series and both drew holding calls but did little else. Lawrence Timmons led the team in tackles and was solid, but he did get beaten on a couple of key throws. Jason Worilds has yet to show anyone why he’s worth what he’s making. Sean Spence got his first start was fairly non-descript. The linebackers failed to generate sufficient pressure in the second half, and had too many errors in the second half. Grade:  D

Secondary
Troy Polamalu played closer to the line of scrimmage and made some plays. He also got hit with some penalties. Cortez Allen got his first interception, but then almost looked like he didn’t know what to do with it. William Gay made some good plays, but was out of position on the final touchdown catch. Mike Mitchell made a lot of tackles, but has yet to really show much. The Steelers secondary probably did better than the stat sheet indicates, given the absence of a pass rush. But they were still below the line. Grade: D

Special Teams
This group must share in the blame as well. Too many penalties. Miscommunication between the kick return team. A 29 yard punt in a situation that calls for the punter to boom one off. Don’t look now, but Tampa had a decent day returning punts. Shaun Sushiam missed a 50 yarder which proved to be costly. Grade:  D

Coaching
it’s now a simple fact. Mike Tomlin teams get tripped up by trap games. The opening drive is a perfect example of the types of lapses that have hit his team in these games, lapses with leave Pittsburgh in a hole which it then cannot come out of.
  • Tomlin has proven himself to be an excellent coach, but trap games remain his Achilles heel until proven otherwise.
While the fire “Dick LeBeau” brimstone will not be found here, the truth is that Tampa Bay, like Cleveland, found a way to effectively adjust to his defense in the second half. Perhaps this is simply a case of LeBeau using smoke and mirrors to milk all he can out of his talent, but it does not bode particularly well here.

Todd Haley earned a firestorm of his own for his play calling on the Steelers final drive. Honestly, if there is no penalty and the Steelers rush their way to a first down, Haley’s play calling quickly becomes the work of a genius. Haley’s play calling was sound throughout, although RedZone efficiency could have been better.

The other outstanding issue is of course penalties. The Steelers have a legit shot at the NFL record, having suffered 125 yards of them. You can’t spot a team 75 extra yards in the NFL, just as you can’t spot them 10 extra points, which the Steelers essentially did.

Ultimately, it comes down to discipline, as Mike Tomlin has admitted. It needs to improve as foolish mistakes cost Pittsburgh a game. Grade:  D

Unsung Hero Award
For obvious reasons, this moment will quickly be forgotten, but when the Steelers defense walked off the field with 1:44 left and Tampa turning over on downs at Pittsburgh’s 14, the game looked to be sealed. The player who helped defend the final pass was someone whose name was seldom heard during the first 3 weeks, and he was one of the Steelers basement bargain hunts. The player who defended that pass didn’t just do it then, but had played a solid if imperfect game, and certainly couldn’t have been pin-pointed as Pittsburgh’s weak link, and for that Brice McCain win the Unsung Hero Award for the loss to Tampa.

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Monday, September 29, 2014

Steelers Systematically Self Destruct, Lose to Tampa 27-24

At its most basic level, winning and losing in football comes down to who runs, catches, throws, blocks and tackles better. Go a level higher and winning and losing comes down to opportunity – taking advantage of them, creating them and avoiding creating them for your opponents.
  • And that’s what makes the Pittsburgh Steelers loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers so disheartening.
The Pittsburgh Steelers created plenty of opportunities for themselves to win; unfortunately, the created more opportunities for Tampa to do the same, and the Buccaneers took full advantage.

First Half – Steelers React Instead of Dictating

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers almost underachieved their way to the 0-3 record they brought to Heinz Field. They also benefited from 10 full days to prepare, and arrived as a team with something to prove.



The last thing you can do against a team like that is to give them a quick confidence builder and the consecutive sacks which led to Tampa’s quick touchdown did just that. 6 plays later the Steelers did it again when a Cam Thomas face mask gave Tampa all but 3 of the yards it needed to knock in a field goal.
  • With only 5 minutes elapsed, the Steelers found themselves down 10-0 at home vs. an 0-3 team.
Instead of setting the tempo of the game, Pittsburgh was forced to react to it. For the record, the Steelers responded well, first with a field goal, and then taking the lead on two Antonio Brown touchdowns while the defense forced 3 straight Tampa punts.

Yet the late in the second half a sack of Ben Roethlisberger forced Shaun Suisham to kick it from 50 into Heinz Field’s open end; he missed it, and the Steelers lost the chance to firmly establish control at the half.

Don’t Blame this One on Dick….

The “Fire Dick LeBeau” lynch mobs will find no voice here.
  • Yes, his defense was below the line in the second half
  • Yes, offensive coordinators are making the famed “second half adjustments” with a little too much ease
  • Yes, his pass rushers disappeared in the second half
However, the blunt truth is that the Steelers made enough plays in the second half to overcome all of that, where it not for a few “buts.”

To those of you rolling your eyes consider some of the individual performances of the Steelers in the second half:
  • Heath Miller had 5 catches for 56 yards, including a touchdown and a 19 yard catch on 2nd and 17
  • Le'Veon Bell delivered in the clutch, ripping off a 10 yard gain on 3rd and 2, and a 14 yard catch in 3rd and 13
  • The Steelers defense did managed to stop Tampa on 4 straight attempts to convert on from Pittsburgh’s 14
While none of above qualifies as “heroic” they were performances of a team that has players who were both willing and able to make the plays necessary to win. And those feats would have been enough, if not for the “Buts….” Such as:
  • Cortez Allen (gasp) made an interception late in the third quarter, yet the Steelers failed to convert
  • Troy Polamalu’s facemask penalty aided the Buccaneers field goal drive
  • Antonio Brown, who had an otherwise excellent game, dropped a bomb if not sure touchdown
  • When trying to burn out the clock Maurkice Pouncey committed a false start penalty, costing Pittsburgh precious real-estate
  • Brad Wing, who has average 44.8 yards punting, chose to make his first piss poor punt of the season with :50 remaining while standing at Pittsburgh’s 17
Yes, Dick LeBeau’s secondary stumbled badly on Tampa’s game winning drive, but the fault from the loss is far from theirs alone. The Steelers defense was expected to struggle early in the season, and playing without 3 starters certainly did not help.

No, borrow the words of Behind the Steel Curtain’s Jack Finn, this loss was a total team failure and a failure that could have been avoided, were it not for a few “but’s.”

And that’s what makes this one hurt so badly.

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Sunday, September 28, 2014

Watch Tower: James Harrison's Return, "Steelers Way," Goodell, and More

The NFL’s season is 3 weeks old and finds the Pittsburgh Steelers 1-2 and down three starters all on defense. There’s a lot of news, but the Watch Tower’s focus begins with the unretirement of James Harrison.

Dumping Cold Water on Debo’s Return?

The Pittsburgh Steelers responded to the loss of Jarvis Jones by bringing back former AFC Defensive player of the year, James Harrison. Yes, the same James Harrison who only returned to retire in Pittsburgh 18 days before.
Mike Tomlin, James Harrison, Selfie, Debo, Silverback, return, retire
Tomlin & Silverback Share Selfie

Judging by reaction on social media the move was met by near euphoria within Steelers Nation.

PaVa Steelers Fan of Behind the Steel Curtain (full disclosure, I am also an occasional contributor at BTSC) went so far as to paint a mystical connection between James Harrison’s return and the numeral 7. Fair enough, his piece was somewhat tongue and cheek, but it did capture the sense of destiny that accompanied Harrison’s return.

The Harrison story dominated Steelers press coverage throughout the week, from Tomlin’s press conference to his first practice to locker room interviews with the rest of the team.
  • After the feel good buzz, reality began to set it.
John Philips, of 93.7 The Fan, proclaimed his love for Silverback, but pointed to the obvious questions about his age and his time in Cincinnati and finished a piece on BTSC saying “Nostalgia is fun, but not when you want to win in the NFL.”

Dale Lolley drew a contrast between Harrison and Brett Keisel, indicating that Keisel actively wanted back, but that Harrison had to be coaxed back by conversations with Ike Taylor and Troy Polamalu. Lolley even went as far as to quote Chuck Noll’s old adage, “If you’re thinking about retiring, you probably should.”

On ESPN, Scott Brown reached out to former Tampa Bay general manager Mark Dominik, who predicted that “I think at the end of the day you’ll be lucky if James Harrison become a 20- to 25-snap guy.”
  • Not everyone in the professional press was down on the move however.
Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette was one of the first to suggest the move, and downplayed some of the age issues, pointing out that former Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker Kevin Greene excelled as a pass rushing linebacker into his late 30’s. Alan Robinson of the Tribune-Review quoted Pro Football Focus figures rating Harrison as 8th among 4-3 linebackers last year, despite his limited time, and his ranking of third vs. the run.

Steelers, Goodell Link Explored

Steelers Nation has no love lost for Roger Goodell and has been vocal in criticizing him over the Ray Rice fiasco.

But little has been said or written about Art Rooney II’s role in leading the investigation, with the exception of Dejan Kovaevic. After taking Goodell to task an raising questions about his “investigation” Kovaevic takes the bold step of questioning Rooney’s role in supervising the investigation.

That’s somewhat of a gutsy move, as the Steelers have bent their strict rule on no press credentials for internet journalists for Kovaevic, who launched his own site during August.
Steel honed in on the Steelers role as the lone dissenters in approving the 2011 CBA, and made the rather astute observation that since making that vote, the Steelers have played all of their Thursday Night games on the road. (The rest of Steel’s column deals with Goodell’s hypocrisy and is well worth the read.)

Speaking of Domestic Violence…

The Ray Rice scandal might only involve Goodell and the Ravens, but the story is touching the entire NFL. William Gay’s life experience and charity efforts have drawn wide attention. And Harrison’s return brought up his history with the subject. The Steelers and Harrison took the issue head on, and it essentially became a non-story.

With the exception of Steeler Dad on Steel City Blitz, who used the occasion to argue that there is no such thing as “The Steelers Way.” In a nutshell, he recalls the “inconsistent” (to put it charitably) manner in which the Steelers dealt with James Harrison’s incident and that of Cedrick Wilson and concludes:
So what exactly is the “Steeler Way” when it comes to domestic violence? Apparently it’s no different than any other team in the NFL. It’s about winning and for players that help achieve that goal better than others it’s a chance to keep playing while the Cedrick Wilson’s of the world are released.
That’s pretty harsh, but the facts are pretty clear. (Although from a jurisprudence perspective, this was not Wilson’s first offense, the second one appeared pre-meditated, nor did he admit his mistake.)

The editorial position of this site with respect to the existence of a “Steelers Way” is more nuanced than that of Steeler Dad’s, but the Watch Tower salutes him for taking an unpopular position, much the way it saluted Joe Starkey for have the guts to point out the stories of Ben Roethlisberger’s post-Midgeville character change were almost solely based on Ben’s (then) newly found desire to collaborate with the media.

What IF…

The Watch Tower concludes with a shout out for friend and fellow scribe Ivan Cole, who took out time on BTSC to muse about how the experience of the Steelers of the 70’s would have been different had there been social media. His story is a hoot! Click here to read now.

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Friday, September 26, 2014

Steelers Prove Murphy's Law with Injury Luck

Its only week 3, and the Pittsburgh Steelers record is only 2-1. In 12 quarter the men in Black and Gold have looked strong in the first pair and last pair of quarters they’ve played, OK in their second to last quarter, and downright terrible in between.

Steelers Nation is rightly wondering whether the Steelers, coming off back-to-back 8-8 season, are going to up, down stay the same.
steelers tomlin ike taylor injury carolina

Already however, it is clear that the Steelers are showing some signs of continuity from 2013 – they’re proving Murphy’s Law, at least when it comes to injuries. To refresh everyone’s memory here’s how the old adage goes:

Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong, and at the worst possible moment.

Opening day 2013 might be old news, but the trend started there. You remember. The Steelers went into the season rolling the dice with paper thin depth at offensive line, inside linebacker and running back. Before the first 60 minutes expired, they’d lost Maurkice Pouncey, Larry Foote, and LaRod Stephens-Howling.
  • Against Cleveland and then Baltimore, the Steelers dodged the injury bullet. But their ability to defy gravity escaped them vs. Carolina.  
The Panthers victory was exhilarating to fans, but the Steelers lost Ryan Shazier and Jarvis Jones, two starters and two first round picks, and of course Ike Taylor.

While the Steelers have “depth” at cornerback, with Antwon Blake, Brice McCain and B.W. Webb, Blake and Webb are inexperienced and McCain has been a journeyman since breaking into the league in 2009 as a sixth round draft pick with the Houston Texans. In 5 years he’s made 10 starts.
  • That’s far from an ideal situation in an NFL where you need 3 corners to succeed. 
But that’s a veritable feast compared to the Steelers situation at outside linebacker, where only Arthur Moats stands behind Jones and Jason Worilds. James Harrison is of course back after and 18 day retirement.

Harrison’s return was met by near euphoria in Steelers Nation and has a story book character to it. Yet reality has begun setting in, as Harrison admitted to feeling “horrible” after his first practice. This isn’t to say bringing back Harrison is a mistake.
  • However, it does clarify that Silverback should not be consider a “savior” as Dale Lolley and others have indicated.
The realities of the NFL’s salary cap mean that almost no team can be deep everywhere it needs to be. Every team makes calculated risks that the injury bug will not strike at an inopportune spot on the depth chart, the Steelers are no different.

They simply keep rolling snake eyes.

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Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Steelers Report Card for Victory Over Panthers

Taken from the grade book of a teacher who prays that his student has learned that processes he followed to succeed is far more important that its most immediate result, here is the Steelers Report Card for the victory over Carolina. As a caveat, no other Steelers report cards were consulted prior to this posting.

Quarterback
The Pittsburgh Steelers offense had a huge night and Ben Roethlisberger wasn't at the focal point of it. When was the last time you could say that? But don't be fooled. Ben may have lacked glittery fantasy stats, but his no turnover, 2 scramble around and buy some time touchdowns were fantastic, although the Steelers 3-11 third down conversion percentage nudges his grade down. Grade: A-

Running Backs
Le'Veon Bell rushed for 174 and LeGarrette Blount rushed for 118, giving their first century mark cracking rushing tandem since 1986. The performance of both backs is every bit as relevant as the numbers suggest. Bell ran well between the tackles and patiently waited for his holes and that paid off. Take away Blount 50 yard sprint and he still averages 7.5 yards per carry, and the man bludgeoned the defensive back on his way into the end zone.  Will Johnson did an excellent job blocking. Blount's hurdling must stop, even that can't lower the group's mark. Grade:  A

Tight Ends
Heath Miller only made 4 catches for 51 yards, but two of those resulted in first downs. Matt Spaeth had no catches and had one pass interference penalty called against him. Michael Palmer was penalized for pushing off in the end zone. To see the real contribution of the Steelers tight ends on the stat sheet look above – they had a solid night. Grade: B

Wide Receivers
Antonio Brown continues to make things happen when has the ball in his hands catching two touchdowns and 10 catches for 90 yards. He also drew a long pass interference penalty as did Darrius Heyward-Bey. Markus Wheaton only had 4 catches for 35 yards, but was robbed of a touchdown catch plain and simple. Justin Brown caught two pases for 10 yards and most importantly held on to the ball.  A solid night for the wide outs. Grade:  B+

Offensive Line
If this is the Munchak effect we’ve been waiting on, I want more. The offensive line picked up its game, and did so in a big way. With Cody Wallace getting an injury start, the offensive line put in a performance the likes of which have not been seen in Pittsburgh his the heyday of Cowher Power. Marcus Gilbert dominated. David DeCastro dominated. Kelvin Beachum dominated. While this improvement must be sustained, playing against one of the NFL’s best front sevens, the Steelers offensive line was scary good. Grade:  A+

Defensive Line
Another unit which entered the game under fire picked up its performance, and did so noticeably. Steve McLendon set the tone with an early tackle for a loss and an early sack of Cam Newton. Cameron Heyward harassed the other Cam all night. Cam Thomas and Brett Kesiel kept the Panthers running game in check. Grade:  B+

Linebackers
Another group whose performance had been iffy today also rebounded, in spite of injuries to two of its starters. Lawrence Timmons led the group and was all over the field. Ryan Shazier looked good until getting hurt. Jarvis Jones was having a good night and forced a stip-sack when he too fell. Arthur Moats added another. Jason Worilds got a QB hit and landed on the fumble Jones created. A good night.  Grade:  B

Secondary
On positive note, the unit’s tackling was far crisper than before, notably from Mike Mitchell. Cortez Allen had another pass defensed but got burned badly on a play that could have gotten Carolina back into the game.  Ike Taylor was playing exceptionally well until Timmons broke his forearm. Troy Polamalu didn’t make any “splash plays” but his name wasn’t called for the wrong reasons. William Gay looked good in relief of Taylor, but the Panthers immediately targeted Antwon Blake and to great effect. A solid night from the secondary, but with some issues. Grade:  B-

Special Teams
The Steelers returned no kicks vs. Carolina and did a fair job at returning punts. Carolina’s return game was a non-factor. But for the second time in 3 weeks, Danny Smith’s special teams delivered a big play when the Steelers needed it. Brad Wing, aside from showing himself to be a solid punter, has excellent hang time, and it looked as if Philly Brown had an extra second too long to think about the incoming punt, as Robert Golden jarred the ball lose, and then recovered it in the end zone for a touchdown. Grade:  A-

Coaching
The Steelers entered the game 1-1, but it was a weak 1-1 as the Steelers had virtually disappeared for 6 quarters. The Steelers players said all the right things about fundamentals, staying in gaps, manning up, and finishing tackles. Teams always say that.

The performance vs. Carolina shows that they meant it. While a number of big plays gave the Steelers a lift, the Steelers won the game on the fundamentals – tackling after the catch, containing to prevent the long run, protecting the ball, and winning the battle at the line of scrimmage.

Carolina’s offense was banged up, but their defense is as stout as any in the NFL, and the Pittsburgh Steelers quite simply dominated them. Mike Tomlin, Todd Haley, Dick LeBeau, and Danny Smith earned their stripes this week.  Grade:  A

Unsung Hero
The Steelers lost not one, but two first round picks from their defense vs. Carolina. And when Shazier went down the Steelers had lost their starter at a position that plagued them when Larry Foote was lost last year and had to be replaced by a nobody. This time the Steelers replaced their starter with someone who’d been in street clothes not only last season, but the season before. And you’d have never have known it based on his play. For stepping in and not missing a beat, Sean Spence wins the Unsung Hero Award for the victory over the Panthers.

Los Pittsburgh Steelers apalearon a Carolina Panthers en el Sunday Night Football

Semana 3
Los Pittsburgh Steelers apalearon a Carolina Panthers en el Sunday Night Football 

En su segunda aparición de la temporada fuera de casa, los Acereros de Pittsburgh se impusieron con gran autoridad a su par de Carolina por un holgado 37 a 19 en el Sunday Night Football.
Los visitantes se enfrentaban a la sexta defensiva contra el acarreo, precisamente el único ítem en positivo con que contaba Pittsburgh.

La comisión de faltas en momentos clave, las fallas en el tacleo, la incapacidad de provocar turnovers y una ofensiva anodina y sin sorpresa explicaban el fracaso en Baltimore y fueron el comentario y el argumento de debate dentro de la Nación Steeler en redes sociales durante los días siguientes.
Con un récord de 1-1 y la sombra de comienzos de temporada tortuosos sobrevolando sus mentes, los Hombres de Acero debían demostrar que esta historia no iba a repetirse.

¿Pero dónde radicaron las diferencias entre este partido y los últimos 6 cuartos jugados?

Creo haber encontrado algunas explicaciones.

El dúo Bell - Blount  

¿Cuál ha sido, históricamente, la marca registrada de la ofensiva acerera?
  • El ataque terrestre. 
Pues bien: “sobró” ataque terrestre. Entre ambos corredores totalizaron la asombrosa marca de 264 yardas, que incluyeron dos corridas de 81 (de Le'Veon Bell) y 50 (de LeGarrette Blount) yardas.  El promedio por acarreo arroja la cifra de 7.8 yardas.

Pero si desagregamos las yardas recorridas en esas dos grandes jugadas veremos que Blount, aparte de anotar un touchdown, promedió las 7.5 yardas en cada intento.

Excelente.

Le’Veon Bell tiene la extraordinaria característica de contar con un asombroso desplazamiento lateral mientras busca el hueco por dónde filtrarse, para atacar la brecha. Es además, como ya he mencionado en otras oportunidades, un muy buen receptor de jugadas de pantalla o de escape en jugadas rotas.
  • Finalmente estos dúo de corredores demostró ser muy confiable a la hora de asegurar el balón y no soltarlo. 
Cuando el veloz y elusivo, Dri Archer esté de nuevo en condiciones físicas, los Steelers contarán con un equipo de tailbacks único.

El equipo de aire 

Coach Todd Haley encontró la forma (no significa que no haya otras) para disminuir la presión sobre Ben Roethlisberger a la vez que se mantiene sana a la línea ofensiva.

  • Apoyar el juego en el ataque terrestre y, además, lanzar el balón corto y rápido, en general hacia las bandas. 

El pase largo fue la excepción. El as en la manga. Hay también un equipo de receptores de excelencia con Antonio Brown como protagonista indiscutido (90 yardas y 2 TD contra Carolina). En palabras del propio QB: “Lanza el balón a AB y deja que él haga su magia”. Markus Wheaton, Justin Brown, el TE Heath Miller. Ah! Y a no olvidar: también está Lance Moore en el banco, recuperándose.
Juventud y experiencia a disposición.

  • El QB Ben Roethlisberger lanzó 30 pases, completó 22 para 196 yardas totales por aire. Nada de otro mundo pero lo importante puede no deslumbrar.

Sin embargo aportó una de las perlas a las que nos acostumbró:

Tercer cuarto. Con el marcador 9 a 3 a su favor, los Acereros recuperaron el balón gracias a un fumble provocado por Jarvis Jones (quien dejaría el juego tras esta jugada con una lesión en su muñeca). 4to y 4 y formación de gol de campo en la yarda 12 de los Panthers.

La defensiva regala 5 yardas y un nuevo primer y 10 gracias a invasión de zona neutral. Ahora Ben estaba en la 7 con 4 nuevos intentos. Recibió el centro en 2do down mientras la línea ofensiva comenzaba a colapsar.

Pump fake a la izquierda. Pump fake al centro mientras empezaba a correr a su derecha. Lanzó un pase flotado a la esquina final de la zona de anotación en donde solo la pirueta de Antonio Brown podía recibirla.

  • TD y oportunidad aprovechada.

Más adelante, en el 4to cuarto comandó una serie de 98 yardas que incluyó pases a Markus Wheaton, a Heath Miller, corrida de Blount de 50 yardas y acarreo de 9 yardas del N° 27 para TD con “siembra” de defensivo incluida (el N° 21, Decoud) que lo acreditó definitivamente como un verdadero RB Steeler.

El QB utilizó en su momento la ofensiva en serie sólo cuando lo necesitó y la verdad es que no fue necesario más que eso.

Fue capturado en una sola oportunidad en el 1er cuarto, se zambulló tras su línea ofensiva para completar un 4to y 1….

La línea ofensiva se mantuvo sana (hecho que remarco siempre, por experiencia), habilitó grandes acarreos y a medida que pasaba el juego se fue afianzando en la protección del pase.

En fin. Una ofensiva bien sólida.

Los juegos lo ganan las defensivas 

Y estaba claro que esta afirmación no incluía a la defensiva Steeler.

Había fallado en los 6 cuartos previos a este partido, en cuanto rubro se considerara. Como mencioné más arriba, fallaban en el tacle, en la defensa de las corridas por fuera de los tackles, lucía lenta, cometían infracciones porque llegaban a destiempo al atacante o al balón, no provocaban recuperación de la posesión.
  • Sin embargo, mucho de esto habría de cambiar. Para mejor (Claro: peor no se podía)
Creo que los hechos más importantes de este cambio fueron dos:
  • Por un lado presionaron efectivamente al Cam Newton con sólo 3 ó a lo sumo 4 jugadores lo cual dejaba mejor cubierto el espacio de los linebackers y la secundaria y 
  • No permitieron muchas yardas luego del primer contacto o luego de la atrapada (YAC)
El QB Cam Newton fue azotado severamente, tanto que tuvo que dejar el campo de juego, a decir del Coach Rivera,  para preservar su integridad física.

Desafortunadamente, no pudo remediarse el item infracciones que siguieron cometiéndose en mayor cantidad que lo esperado, sobretodo, alguna gresca en la que participó David DeCastro y otros contactos ilegales luego de terminadas las jugadas (las tres, perfectamente evitables y más provocadas por desconcentración que por necesidad)

Oportunidades aprovechadas  

Durante el juego comenté con KT que tuve la sensación de que este partido no se iba a escapar porque esta vez las grandes oportunidades las estaban generando los Steelers o las estaban cediendo los Panthers.

En cualquier caso los Acereros las estaban aprovechando para abultar el marcador.
Aprovechamiento integral del recurso, se le dice. Y el recurso eran los errores del adversario, producto de la presión de la defensiva y, en esta oportunidad, de los equipos especiales.
  • Allí estaban los Panthers disparándose a los pies.
Se obtuvo una victoria muy importante para el record pero también para el futuro y el espíritu  de este equipo, que es un equipo en formación. En pleno recambio de generación.

Como contrapartida se debe decir que esta victoria fue, sin dudas, muy costosa. Porque se lesionaron severamente 3 jugadores (Jarvis Jones, Ryan Shazier y Ike Taylor) por tiempo indefinido, hasta donde yo sé en este momento.
  • En el futuro inmediato está Tampa Bay en Heinz Field
En principio, un rival accesible.

Claro, siempre y cuando se juegue como se jugó en Carolina. Pero, uno nunca sabe…

El Dr. de Acero

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