After a long hiatus, Steelerheaven is back for the rest of the 2016 season. NFL is a pretty bad product right now, but in the end we are Steelers fans so let’s get down to it.
State of the Steelers – Let’s see, this team has a few great players, a handful of good players, a few promising rookies and…that’s about it. What we are watching this season is the result of years of poor drafting, namely on the defensive side from Colbert and Tomlin. They have managed to take the Steeler’s defensive identity of the past 40 years and wipe it all away in the last few years. Let’s take a look at the recent drafts real quick. Let’s forget about the 2016 draft for now.
Round 1 – Bud Dupree – Dupree hasn’t done much so far although he did snag 4 sacks in his rookie year. Dupree has been out this season so far after undergoing surgery.
Round 2 – Senquez Golson – Is this guy even still on the team.
Round 3 – Sammie Coates – Seems like another good WR pick, although jury is still out.
Round 4 – Doran Grant – ??????
Round 1 – Ryan Shazier – Since being drafted Shazier has dealt with some injury issues, he’s played in 27 games and amassed 4 sacks and 2 INT’s. Not bad bust still a lot of question marks going forward.
Round 2 – Stephon Tuitt – Decent player so far, decent pick.
Round 3 – Dri Archer – Bad pick in 3rd round, bad pick regardless really.
Round 4 – Martavis Bryant – Great pick especially if Bryant can get back on the field!
Round 1 – Jarvis Jones – Bust? Looking like it so far, Harrison will now start for Jones this weekend.
Round 2 – Le’Veon Bell – I was so wrong having doubts about this pick, best RB in the NFL.
Round 3 – Markus Wheaton – Wheaton showed potential but has disappeared this season which isn’t a good sign, probably on his way out which is disappointing for sure.
Going back further we have guys like LB Jason Worilds, former 1st round pick Ziggy Hood, Sean Spence (remember him? Didn’t think so), Stevenson Sylvester, defensive backs Keenan Lewis, Cortez Allen and Curtis Brown. None of these players are still on the team. There is a serious problem under the Tomlin regime in regards to successfully drafting and developing defensive players. Even talented players like Ryan Shazier and Bud Dupree have legitimate injury and durability concerns. Tomlin and Colbert’s idea of a good NFL defensive player is not panning out, we have 5+ years and running to show all that.
It’s time to face reality, this is just a poorly run team and there are no signs things are improving. If not for great drafting at the receiver and RB positions along with the play of HOF QB Big Ben, this team would be royally screwed, likely a perennial sub .500 team. As Illustrated above, there’s been poor drafting on the defensive side for years now, which is a good reason for the Steelers current 4-5 record, but that’s not all, not even close, the team is undisciplined, sloppy and all around poorly prepared. The special teams continue to make at least a couple of boner plays per game. All of these issues have remained the status quo for most of Tomlin’s regime.
I’ve ranted about Tomlin for years now, it’s good to see some criticism coming out in the media finally. Tomlin seems to be an all right guy, but as head coach he remains a lame duck. I’ve asked on here, what exactly does he bring to the table as head coach? I’ve never gotten a legitimate answer. And now we have the team’s best player, Big Ben, basically calling his ability to coach out in public to the media. It’s not just Tomlin of course, there are numerous issues with the team. Colbert and the scouts for sure share blame, along with other coaches on the team. But in the end, the buck stops at head coach in the NFL.
I’ve come across some seriously flawed arguments in defense of Tomlin such as “What head coaches in the NFL would you take over Tomin”? Ok, let’s get something clear – The NFL is so mediocre today and filled with so many mediocre head coaches that add virtually nothing of value to their teams that this question is flawed from the start, not to mention irrelevant regardless. How has Belichick and the Patriots remained so dominant for so long? I believe their success is more of an indictment of how poorly coached other teams are along with the overall sad state of the NFL than anything else. Belichick is obviously a great coach, and it shows how important coaching is in today’s NFL, you look at his teams and it’s not like they are supremely more talented than a lot of other teams. Because Tomlin may be marginally better than an assortment of other mediocre coaches (because that is what that argument really comes down to) is hardly a ringing endorsement.
Another similar argument is “Look at the teams success under Tomlin, no losing seasons!” That would be great and all if the team were the Browns I guess. The fact is the Steelers have now gone 5 seasons with just one playoff win, a playoff game that the team was very lucky to win after pissing away a 15 point lead. If people’s expectations are so low that not having a losing season is the sign of true success then Tomlin is golden, but last I checked I thought the point of the game was to win the Super Bowl. And if a team isn’t doing that then there should be a clear sign of the team trending towards that goal. Is that happening with the Steelers? Sure doesn’t look like it. And last I checked the Steelers have a generational talent at the QB position, a future HOF’er, who’s time is running out. How many teams with a HOF QB go 5 years and win just one playoff game in today’s modern NFL? Underachieving would be an understatement.
I’ve even seen some fans try to jump through mental hoops arguing “Well mathematically each year only a small percentage of teams can actually win a playoff game” Uh, ok? Looking at the AFC in recent years there are like two to three teams tops that are legitimately good (Not even necessarily great) each year. There is absolutely no reason the Steelers shouldn’t be more successful in recent seasons, even with the misses on the defensive side of the ball in recent drafts.
Obviously my position is it’s clear it’s time the team move on from Tomlin. But not just Tomlin I believe the team needs a quick reboot while Ben is still playing, trim the fat and plug in some new players on defense. In today’s NFL that can be done if all the right moves are made. A strong argument could be made that Colbert needs to be replaced as well. The team just isn’t fun to watch in recent years as a fan outside of some no huddle drives and watching Bell run the ball. Year after year the team is just frustrating and painfully predictable. I don’t see this team getting anywhere close to the Super Bowl with the way it’s currently constructed and with Tomlin as head coach. I was pretty surprised to see the Steelers as Super Bowl favorites at the beginning of the way. What exactly was that based on outside of some talented players on offense?
In the end, some teams in the NFL are just trying to scrap out from the bottom, some are trying to just achieve a winning season and sell tickets and some are actually trying to legitimately win a championship which is supposed to be the reason the game is ultimately played. Every team will tell you they are trying to win a Super Bowl but that’s not really true and the longer the Steelers employ Tomlin and some of the other coaches on the team the more it appears like the Rooneys are just content with finishing with competitive records and selling tickets. When a team has a generational talent at QB who’s time is winding down and plays in ultimately a weak conference this is almost like being in purgatory as a fan, it’s the ultimate blue balls as a sports fan. I’ve been correct in my prediction regarding this team’s fate under Tomlin for years now and unfortunately I don’t see any signs that is changing. Let’s see what happens the rest of the season, don’t forget to give Groundhog Day another watch sometime in January.
Steelers lose on the road to one of the worst teams in the NFL, the NY Jets, 20-13. Hey, I’ve seen this show before!
The Good – Not much, in fact, I can’t think of anything other than rookie WR Martavis Bryant getting another TD catch on an 80 yard bomb at the very end of the game. There you go Fantasy Football nerds, yeah!
The Bad – Pretty much everything. Poor play across the board. Another game under Tomlin where the Steelers show up against a poor team completely flat, devoid of any emotion, making continual mistakes. Antonio Brown had two huge fumbles, Ben had arguably his worst game of the season. The offensive gameplan assured there wouldn’t be much success in the air, neither did the play of the O-line which got shredded time and again in pass protection.
To play devil’s advocate, I can see where Haley was going with the conservative gameplan to open the game. Run the ball and pepper in short passes against a Jets defense that would be, in theory, expecting the pass and blitz. The problem is, like in just about every game outside of the last 2, Haley stubbornly stuck to this gameplan until it was too late. By the 2nd quarter Ben was 8/10 for 24 yards. That is not going to cut it unless the running game is dominating which it certainly did not today. Too many plays had poor personnel on the field like in the 4th quarter when the Steelers were inside the Jets 5 yard line and Will Johnson, Heath Miller and James Harrison (??) were the targets on a pass play. After the game Ben remarked that the play hadn’t been practiced with Harrison. Tomlin said they had practiced it for weeks. Just what the hell is going on here? Furthermore, what the hell is the point of running it?
The defense reverted back to it’s mediocre soft form after a couple weeks of playing aggressive ball. Jets tore chunks of yards on the ground. The defense struggled to stop Vick from scrambling at times. And the Steelers D gave up a long TD play early on, which is another staple of a Tomlin led Steelers team when it doesn’t show up to play. Willie Gay dropped an easy INT which sort of summed up the game for the Steelers.
Special teams had numerous mistakes. Suisham somehow missed a 23 yard FG after Tomlin elected to not go for it down 20-3 with about 13 minutes left in the game.
Summary – What can you say at this point other than this is typical Steelers loser ball under Tomlin. Not surprising to see after a couple of quality wins. This happens like clockwork at this point. Team shows up flat, gameplans are meek and devoid of any aggressiveness. Basically the opposite of the last weeks when the Steelers have looked the best all season. Tomlin’s Steelers are apparently 1-8 vs. .200 and under teams. How is that even possible? Simply amazing. I find it pretty much impossible to remain optimistic and I can’t see how anyone else can be at this point. Even if the Steelers go back to being aggressive, rest assured the team will eventually revert to loser ball under Tomlin. There is absolutely zero evidence that this won’t be the case. If we are being objectively honest the last two weeks were basically Ben being given the keys to run an aggressive offense and James Harrison, the warrior that he is, leading an all out aggressive defense. These two things helped to cover up the consistent issues at coaching. We’ll see what happens next week in Tennessee. Win, lose, it’s impossible to predict at this point.
Steelers win a third straight game with a huge divisional win over hated Baltimore, 43-23.
The Good – What can you say about Ben at this point? He is in legendary status after these past two games as he now holds the record for most TD passes thrown in consecutive weeks (12 total) in NFL history with his 6 TD passes in tonight’s game. Which goes along nicely with his record of being the only QB in NFL history to have two 500 yard passing games. Simply astounding and a nice F you to all the talking heads who continually neglect his status as an elite QB in this league. Watching the sports networks after the game and the coverage seemed rather subdued in regards to Ben’s recent accomplishments. I guess the media doesn’t like to be proven wrong. If this had been Peyton Manning one can only imagine the 24/7 coverage it would receive. But whatever, Ben is creating a legacy that when all is said and done will be impossible to ignore, try as the media would like to pretend otherwise this man is HOF bound. Well done, Big Ben.
– Antonio Brown continues his amazingly consistent play, 11 grabs, 144 yards, 1 awesome catch and run TD. Along with Brown, Markus Wheaton and rookie Bryant continue to contribute combining for 3 more TD grabs. Bryant has 5 TD grabs in just 3 starts, very impressive.
– Speaking of legendary status, James Harrison. That is all. Harrison snagged 2 sacks and harassed Flacco all game, on one play forcing Flacco to throw an errant pass resulting in an easy INT by Worilds. Simply incredible. Harrison said it would take him about a month to get back into game playing shape and he wasn’t kidding. He now has 4 sacks in the last 2 games. What happened to Lamar Woodley by the way? Harrison is one of the all time greats and he may be the most underrated player to have played in the NFL.
– Overall, the Steelers defensive pressure, like last week, was consistent and aggressive. Hats off to Lebeau for finally be more aggressive on defense. It was also nice to see that when Flacco is pressured he shows once again what a mediocre NFL QB he really is. He’s probably having nightmares about Harrison tonight.
– Harrison, Kiesel and Heyward might be the best players on defense right now. That’s good and bad at the same time. Maybe throw in Timmons as well.
– 2 Baltimore Turnovers resulting in short fields for the Steelers offense, eventually ending in 2 Steeler TD’s and the Steelers front 7 creating constant pressure on Flacco was the story for most of the 1st half.
– Bell didn’t get much on the ground but still contributed with a TD pass and clutch 3rd down catch in the 2nd half.
– The O-line played better in the 2nd half as the Raven defense continually blitzed with stunts and overloads.
– The secondary had a really good game with consistently good coverage.
The Bad – Things started off rough. After a 3 and out for the Steelers on the first offensive series of the game and punting from deep within the 20, the Ravens returned the punt 25 yards to the Steelers 35. First play TD pass to Torey Smith. Brice McCain was burned on the TD pass, tough play though.
– All the defensive injures. Harrison at least returned. Troy returned briefly but left after that. Shazier is really concerning as he was injured earlier in the year, hopefully this doesn’t become a recurring theme with him.
– O-line’s horrible pass protection in the 1st quarter. Beachum and Foster once again struggled with stunt plays. Ben was beat up a good bit, including a completely cheap shot from Upshaw. Should’ve probably had been ejected.
– Still some mental lapses and dumb plays like giving up the TD return to the Ravens after taking a commanding lead in the 2nd half and the horrible short kick off after another Steelers TD earlier in the game resulting in the Ravens starting at their own 38. Might as well just kick the ball out of bounds.
– Steelers offense didn’t get a first down until there was about 2 minutes left in the 1st quarter. It was typical and predictable start for this offense against the Ravens under Tomlin – devoid of any attack or vision, just feeling out the Ravens and “easing into the game”. In other words, complete horseshit. On 1st down on the Steelers 2nd possession Ben bought time and looked downfield and there was literally no one downfield except for Antonio Brown who was covered. Spaeth and FB Will Johnson were both on the field and I believe they stayed back in pass protection. To also be fair, Ben was off on some early throws, but the way the initial gameplan was looking to start the game I doubt it would’ve mattered.
Ref Watch – Refs had their hands full with these two teams getting into numerous heated altercations with each other. Regardless, it was another shit show of calls, big surprise.
– Bullshit roughing the passer call on NT Steve McLendon. What the hell is a defender supposed to do here exactly? Use psychic powers to deduce that the QB has thrown the ball as he is in the process of tackling the QB? It’s a complete joke and makes ZERO sense. Of course Collinsworth was just slurping it up, loving the nonsensical flag.
– Refs missing a blatant block in the back on a Ravens punt return. This was about as clear as it gets. Another blown call.
– To be fair, the refs actually started calling some bullshit the Ravens way as well, especially in the 2nd half. Ravens challenged a Ben sneak on a 3rd and 1. It sure didn’t look like he got it but it was ruled a 1st down.
Summary – Steelers have now put together two impressive showings back to back against quality opponents. Has this ever happened under Tomlin? In recent years? It’s hard to really say what is going on here. Being more aggressive is one of the big keys and needs to be the approach going forward. Next week against the Jets, no letdowns please.
Steelers win a wild one at home, 51-34, over the Andrew Luck-led Colts. Big Ben has a historic day.
The Good – As mentioned, Big Ben had a historic day, 522 yards, 6 TD’s and a 80%+ completion percentage. He is the only QB to have 2 500 yard plus games and is only the 4th QB to have 100 wins in the first 150 games started. Wow. Congrats, Big Ben. His actual performance was fantastic, almost every pass perfect.
– The WR corps had their coming out party in a way. Antonio Brown was his reliable self, snagging 2 TD’s, including one fantastic one handed grab in the endzone and another 100+ yard receiving game but Wheaton and rookie Martavius Bryant also contributed in big ways. Bryant had 2 TD’s and a couple huge catches, Wheaton had 1 TD and 5 grabs. A complete performance all around. Even Lance Moore chipped in with 2 grabs. We could also add Heyward-Bey but he fumbled after making his lone reception.
– The O-line simply dominated the Colts defense all game long, which was key in helping Ben make history. Ben had ample time on most of his throws and the run blocking was solid. Just image if Ben had this kind of protection for most of his career. The much criticized Mike Adams had a great game at right tackle.
– The defense was playing like it was 2006. Aggressive throughout with blitzes which generated relentless pressure on Andrew Luck. In a weird way it reminded me of the 2006 divisional playoff game against the Manning-led Colts where Manning’s pocket collapsed play after play. It was beautiful to watch but it makes one wonder where this was in the previous 7 games this year.
– 3rd down efficiency was fantastic with the team finishing 8/13 but at one point it was actually 8/10.
– Ryan Shazier, returning from injury, looked good early on with a nice open field tackle resulting in no gain on a short dump off pass. Could’ve easily gone for 5 or 10 yards. It looked like Shazier may have been injured later in the game, not a good sign.
– Special teams coverage was once again great with a number of Colts drives starting inside their own 20 yard line.
– Big play Willie Gay really opened up the lead for the Steelers in the 1st half with his pick 6.
– The playcalling overall was simply superb, mixing run and pass plays beautifully. Passes were all over the field, deep, middle, short. The Colts defense had no idea how to defend what they were seeing. At first they tried blitzing, didn’t work and were forced to back off and they still struggled for most of the game.
The Bad – The game didn’t start very well with the Colts marching down the field with relative ease on the opening drive before settling for a FG.
– Maybe the most troubling thing about the win was even with the constant pressure on Luck that the Steelers defense created the team still struggled to contain Luck and the Colts offense as they rang up 34 points. The secondary, and Cortez Allen in particular, struggled to cover receivers effectively at times. To be fair, there were some horrendous flags that helped to keep Colts drives alive. More about that later. Also, Andrew Luck is pretty damn good.
– Too many penalties again at bad times, although some were bullshit. Some boneheaded turnovers as well and some sloppy play in the 2nd half like the delay of game penalty in the 4th quarter. I don’t understand how something like that happens but it’s an all too common occurrence with this team unfortunately.
– The Big Ben quick kick/punt was just dumb. Kick ended up being blocked and recovered around the Colts 40. Led to points for the Colts.
– The feeling that even with big leads at times in the game that the Steelers were never really in complete control until the final score late in the 4th quarter sealed the deal. That goes back to coaching and the overall mental makeup of the team which is a reflection of the coaching. No lead is ever safe with this team. Consider that the Steelers lead was cut at one point in the 2nd half to just 8 points, 34-42 and stayed that way until Luck luckily (for the Steelers) fell on his ass at his own goal line and the Steelers got a safety out of it.
The Real Bad – Once again NFL officiating is a giant steaming pile of shit. A ton of bad or at the very least very borderline calls went against the Steelers defense for a good bit of the game and to be fair there were a couple of really bad calls on the Colts defense late in the game as well. I think this game might’ve broken the record for the most illegal contact penalties in one game. It was ridiculous and I’m baffled that the NFL doesn’t realize that this is not good for the game, throwing a stream of flags onto the field just slows down what is an entertaining game and gives an unfair advantage to the offense when the rules already favor that side of the ball. Just stop please, it’s ruining the game.
Summary – It was great to see Ben and the offense kick some serious ass and the team get a win over a quality opponent. Next week is a huge divisional game against the Ravens. Every team in the AFC North is amazingly above .500 right now. There isn’t much room for error going forward. I’ve asked this for years now after the Steelers put up a good performance – can it continue? Or will the Steelers revert back to loser ball like so many other times in recent years under Tomlin after a big win? Until proven otherwise it’s best to remain skeptical, or at best cautiously optimistic going forward. We shall see.
Steelers benefit from tons of Texan mistakes, capitalize and win at home, 30-23.
The Good – Bell and Antonio Brown continue to carry the offense. Bell accounted for most of the offense in the 1st half, including a number of short catches and running for a ton of yards after the catches, he had 43 yards on one of those catch and runs in the 1st half. Brown made a terrific sideline grab in the 2nd half as he held onto the ball while being physically challenged by a Texan CB. Brown was also robbed of a TD grab in the second half as the officials ruled he was out of bounds, he was not.
– D-Lineman youngster Daniel McCullers looked great on the D-line. Kiesel was active, Heyward was decent.
– Martavius Bryant making his first NFL grab and it’s a 30 yard TD snag to make the game 13-10 at the end of the 1st half. Great grab and play.
– Steelers defense stopping Houston on 2nd and 3rd and less than a yard on their first possession of the 2nd half. Great stand. The defense played better in the 2nd half.
– Brice McCain looked pretty good at CB.
– The last 3 minutes of the 2nd half which resulted in 24 points for the Steelers, completely crazy sequence of events. After the Steelers pull within 3, Houston fumbles the kickoff return resulting in starting at their own 4. Arian Foster would then fumble on 3rd down, Steelers recover, resulting in an Antonio Brown TD pass to Lance Moore on a trick play. Houston QB Fitzpatrick would then throw an INT (Kiesel with the snag) on the ensuing drive with a minute left resulting in a TD pass to Bell.
– No penalties in the 1st half. The refs actually didn’t call hardly any penalties at all which is how it should be. I’m sure Goodell is very pissed off about that.
– Special teams coverage was really good, definitely best it’s been this season.
The Bad – The entire 1st half, outside of the last 3 minutes, was mostly another shitshow for the Steelers. Here is a list of what happened.
– Ben missing rookie Martavius Bryant deep on the sideline on the 1st drive of the game. Ben started off with some misfires and had an overall OK game, not one of his better games that is for sure.
– Houston converting a 1st down on 3rd and long deep in their own end on their 1st drive of the game. The next play, Foster would run for 10 yards and another 1st down, big momentum switch, that’s a killer especially for a defense needing an early stop. The drive would eventually end in a Houston TD with Foster running for a ton of yards. Way too easy.
– The run defense was really bad in the 1st half. Huge holes, this LB corps might be the biggest weakness unit on the team, they can’t attack and they get blocked easily and swallowed up on way too many run plays. Tackling continues to be a big issue. Steelers have to be one of the worst tackling teams in the NFL. Good job, coaching staff. It’s one thing if it’s one or two guys but when it’s almost everyone on defense then that’s a coaching issue. Things improved in the 2nd half, but still inexcusable.
– After trailing 10-0 the Steelers offense responds with two vanilla run plays for 2 yards resulting in a 3rd and 8 which would then lead to another bad pass by Ben along the sideline to Wheaton, punt, barf, puke. This might be the worst coached team in the NFL. It’s a pure shitshow watching these guys play, this probably the most disinterested I’ve been as a fan in my lifetime. I don’t even know why I’m still writing up recaps of games at this point. *Note* The last few sentences was how I was feeling in the 1st half, like most Steeler fans I’m guessing these days.
– Foster/Beachum bum combo missing stunts by the Texan defense in the 1st half resulting in sacks, forced throws, etc. including a sack on Ben on a 3rd down resulting in just 3 points after trailing 13-0. There was one play where Beachum was almost bullrushed right into Ben. That would’ve been ugly.
– Some play design and of course playcalling was very questionable at times. On a 2nd and 5 inside Texans territory the Steelers run a nifty play action play with a two TE set, but guess what? There was literally no one downfield except for Heath Miller on the play (who is covered). How is a play like that supposed to succeed? Ben flings it out to Will Johnson the FB in the flat and misfires, wouldn’t have mattered as it would’ve gone for about 1 yard if caught.
– Dri Archer taking a kickoff return and running about 40 yards laterally to the other side of the field and out of bounds at about the Steeler 16 yard line. Great return. Later in the game he would be stopped at about the 18 yard line. Why is this guy returning kickoffs?
The Questionable – The trick play with Antonio Brown getting a pitch and reversing field ending in a TD pass to Lance Moore. The play was unnecessarily risky given it was called inside the 5 yard line. Easily could’ve been intercepted. It worked which is great but definitely would not want to see that again.
The Stupid – Steelers electing to try to draw the Texans defense offside on a 4th and 6 inches at the Texan 40 yard line in the 3rd quarter instead of simply calling a QB sneak and having Ben diving forward. Simply stupid and classic Tomlin “playing not to lose” mentality.
– Texans defense offside on a 3rd down play and Ben elects not to throw it downfield. What the hell. It’s a free play. Dumb.
Summary – Houston’s implosion at the end of the 1st half and some key drops were huge in swinging the game completely towards the Steelers. 2 turnovers inside their redzone in the matter of minutes and on the road will lose you most games and tonight was no different. Before those turnovers happened the Steelers looked to be in serious trouble. Overall, it’s a win which ultimately is what matters but it’s hard to be too excited going forward. Still lots of dumb mistakes and decisions from this team. Next week should be interesting.