´ Steel Curtain Rising: Steelers Self Destruct in Oakland vs. the Raiders

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Monday, September 24, 2012

Steelers Self Destruct in Oakland vs. the Raiders

So you put Ben Roethlisberger on the same field as Carson Palmer and:
  • Roethlisberger nearly doubles Palmer in passing yardage
  • The Steelers gain nearly a 13 minute advantage in time of possession
  • Mike Wallace, Antonio Brown, and Health Miller combined for 4 touchdowns
  • Steelers go 2-2 on fourth down attempts
Sounds like the recipe for another Steelers win, right?

Those very well should be the ingredients for victory, but unfortunately the Steelers latest fiasco on the road drives home a time-honored lesson:
  • You can’t take plays off.
(Oh, yeah, and it also helps when your secondary actually covers guys.)

Steelers Give Raiders Second Chances in the First Half

By all rights, the Steelers should have established firm control of the game by the half.  In Steelers Report Card on the Jets game, Steel Curtain Rising noted that to defeat the Steelers, you’ve got to score quickly.
  • Dennis Allen certainly didn’t read my evaluation, but he absolutely took the advice to heart. 
After the Steelers drew first blood in converting Ryan Clark's interception with a Ben Roethlisberger to Health Miller Red Zone touchdown connection, the Raiders responded in 3 plays, as Darren McFadden streaked 64 yards to a touchdown through a gaping hole to touchdown.
Allowing quick scores is disturbing, but this Pittsburgh Steelers team has the firepower to go touchdown-for-touchdown with any team in this league

Case in point the Steelers immediately answered, as Ben Roethlisberger led the team on another time consuming 81 yard drive the culminated in another Roethlisberger-Miller patented touchdown hook up.

The Steelers seemed to be on a roll. The defense forced consecutive three and outs and Antonio Brown took the second punt 72 yards to the house!
  • …which was called back because of a penalty on the Steelers – special teams took a play off
Instead of defending a 14 point lead, Pittsburgh had to slog forward from their 18 yard line making their way to their own 31 where things stalled.

Drew Butler shanked the punt badly, giving Oakland the ball at their own 40.
  • Special teams took another play off
Unlike the incarnation that presented itself in the second half, the Steelers defense did its job, and forced another 3 and out with Antonio Brown signaling fair catch at the 15.

Unfortunately, Jason Worilds got flagged for a face mask, pushing the Steelers back to their own 8
  • Make that three consecutive plays taken off by the special teams.
But the special teams were far from the only unit of the Pittsburgh Steelers guilty of clocking out at the wrong time, as Jonathan Dwyer put the ball on the ground, and the Raiders quickly recovered.
  • Dwyer picked the wrong time to literally let something slip.
The Raiders immediately advanced into the Red Zone, but the Steelers defense responded with a strong goal line stand, until they got flagged on 4th and 2 for a neutral zone infraction…
  • The defensive line took a play off and one play later the Raiders tied the game.
Credit Ben Roethlisberger and the offense for moving the Steelers into position to kick a field goal before the half. At the time, three points seemed like a reasonable consolation prize after such a disappointing turn of events.

Unfortunately, those extra three weren’t enough.

Second Half Shoot Out

Those content to see the NFL transformed into a Madden-style game, the second half of the Steelers-Raiders game was a thing of beauty.
  • For those of us who believe defense and physical football are important to the game… “It is what it is” is about all I can offer.
The Steelers opened the second half with a 9 play, 80 yard scoring drive that ended with a Mike Wallace touchdown. With a ten point lead, the Steelers again had a chance to settle into control of the game.

Oakland’s Mark Goodson responded with a 51 yard kick return, giving the Raiders perfect field position at the Steelers 48.
  • Make the four plays taken off by the special teams.
The kick return gave new life to the Raiders, and 10 plays later the cut the Steelers lead to 3 again.

Pittsburgh responded with a touchdown drive of its own, but Antonio Brown's end zone fumble and recovery foreshadowed things to come.

The Steelers special teams finally managed to do their jobs right, but unfortunately by this time the secondary had checked out. Carson Palmer no longer needed short fields, taking the Raiders on an 80 yard touchdown drive, again, cutting the Steelers margin to 3.

Pittsburgh seemed up to the “touchdown for touchdown” game, until Antonio Brown transformed a midfield crossing 20 yard pass into disaster by fumbling the ball away. (He made a nice tackle on the return, however.)

This time, the defense held Oakland to a field goal, but that was all it needed to tie the game.

The Steelers had moved the ball on the Raiders with ease, and so with 6:31 left, plenty of time remained. The Steelers offense just needed to execute as it had done all afternoon. Sounds simple, right? Guess again:
  • On first and 10 at the Steelers 20 Willie Colon got flagged for holding
  • Mike Wallace responds with a 14 yard pass, but then fumbles and recovers. Slip ups like that with the game on the line are unacceptable.
  • The Steelers fail to convert a 2nd and 3 then and fail to convert a 3rd and 1.
From their own 29 yard line, Mike Tomlin risks its all on 4th and 1, and Isaac Redman barrels through for 6 yards. Statement has been made, momentum established, right? Don’t count on it.

The offensive line, which had pass protected so well all day, took their turn to take a play off, and Roethlisberger suffered sacked on the next play. He completed his next pass to Heath Miller, but misfired on third down, forcing the Steelers to punt.
  • The only time the Steelers needed to score in the second half, they couldn’t.
The Raiders got the ball back and kicked a field goal with time expiring. End of game.

And so goes the Steelers 1-2 start to the 2012 season. When the schedule came out the Steelers week 4 bye seemed way too early for comfort. Now it seems like a Godsend.

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3 comments:

Vincenzo said...

great breakdown of the game. There are too many higher level mistakes being made. Under coaching the veterans is leading to under coaching the younger guys that are supposed to provide depth. The team lacks a cover corner. Ike Taylor and Keenan Lewis are not the answer; same to be said for Curtis Brown and Cortez Allen.

As for the linebackers, somebody please remind me why Timmons was a first round pick? He is NOT a 3-4 MLB.

LeBeau needs to go, it is clear now (if it hasn't been for years now) that his scheme is antiquated and not up to par in this 2012 Roger Goodell NFL.

KT said...

Vincenzo,

Thanks for the comment. Your point about Timmons is so head on its painful.

I thought he got a free ride last year over him having to play part of the time at OLB. This year he has no such excuse but hasn't done anything.

I its a little too early to give up on Curtis Brown and Cortez Allen. Keenan Lewis might not be a starter, but showed himself to be a good number 3 DB last year.

As for Dick LeBeau, any defensive coordinator is going to have a difficult time in today's NFL. Personally I am far from read to call for him to go.

Thanks for contributing to the conversation.

Tony Defeo said...

Great stuff, as always, Keith. My real problem with this team is the defense. And I don't blame Dick Lebeau, because two years ago, it was status quo--a very dynamic defense with 48 sacks and 28 take-aways. You'll take that any season, and that season proved to be close to Super. But this season's defense is starting out like last season's. It's not dynamic, and nobody seems to be able to get their hands on a football to either strip it or intercept it. It almost looks like a vanilla, base defense. But I know it's not, because Lebeau is always scheming and stunting. It's just that these guys aren't getting any kind of push up front and hardly anything from the outside. Any 3-4 defense is going to be predicated on what your linebackers do, and right now, this group is very underwhelming, and that's why the defense looks so vanilla. I realize that there were some long returns and a couple of turnovers on Sunday, but it's not a crime to limit a team to a 3 and out, even from midfield.

As far as the offense at the end, someone indicated that the Steelers started milking the clock on their last drive, instead of continuing with the up-tempo, no-huddle offense they were using in the second half. If that's the case, no wonder things bogged down. They shouldn't have been worried about milking the clock, because you have to score any way you can that late in the game.

Oh well, 1-2. I guess the Packers and Patriots can join in on the pain. And it's a little better than the Saints right now. Gotta love parity.