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Week 8 Steelers-Patriots Recap

The Steelers play one of their most impressive games in YEARS, beating the Patriots 25-17 at Heinz Field. The score was closer than it had any business being, but a great and impressive win, nonetheless.

QB – Ben was great most of the game, finishing 36/50 for 365 yards, 2 TD’s and 1 INT . In the first half Ben deftly dumped it off short a number of times to Heath Miller and other WR’s. Ben did have a real bad INT in the 2nd quarter as he failed to put enough arc on a pass down the middle to Miller. As the game progressed Ben did regress to waiting too long in the pocket while staring downfield, instead of just dumping it off. The tentativeness led to a couple sacks and a fumble, which was luckily recovered by the Steelers. At the same time, there were a number of plays where Ben smartly sidestepped pass rushers to find targets downfield. Overall, Ben was on the money a good portion of the game.

RB – Rashard “Mr. Softee” Mendenhall had a really good game, finishing with 13 carries for 70 yards. He had a number of runs where he quickly hit a seam en route to a nice pickup. Maybe Mendy has been watching film of Moore? That’s how you do it, Mendy! No hesistation = good things. Mendy also had 3 catches. Redman was largely ineffective, finishing with just 11 yards on 7 carries, but he did have a HUGE run at the end of the game on 3rd down and short that sealed the win for the Steelers. Redman also had a bad drop in the 2nd half. Moore had just 1 carry but it was for 16 yards. Moore also had the Steelers first TD on a 5 yard reception. When he’s called upon, he is usually money.

WR/TE – Miller had his biggest game of the year as receiving target, with 7 grabs for 85 yards. In particular in the 1st quarter. He was huge. Wallace, Sanders and Brown were all terrific, showing off just what they are capable of as they combined for 21 grabs and 207 yards, 1 TD. Sanders and Brown both showed off some terrific route running and TOUGH runs after the catch. These youngsters are fearless, which is a great attribute to have in a WR. Maybe Ward has something to do with that? They also showed off some great blocking as well. Cotchery had his first grab of the year for 10 yards.

OL – I don’t think the O-line played as great as some seem to think. Starks was beaten a good bit of the time in pass protection, luckily Ben often sidestepped the pressure to buy some extra time. The run blocking was solid most of the game. Pass protection was iffy at times, it helped that Ben was unloading the ball fairly quickly most of the game, but too many times I witnessed the Pats applying pressure with just 3 pass rushers. Overall, a decent game, luckily the gameplan wasn’t typical Arians.

DL – These guys were active, Kiesel had a nice batted ball in the 2nd half. Hood got some pressure at times on Brady, normally after Brady couldn’t find anyone open, but good hustle nonetheless. The Pats only ran the ball 12 times so not much was asked of these guys but they delivered for the most part.

LB – It was great to see Woodley give another solid effort. 2 sacks on Brady? I’ll take it. He didn’t do too much else the rest of the game and left in 2nd half with a hamstring injury, but good game just based on the 2 sacks alone and a few other pressures. Timmons was fairly quiet, once again playing at OLB for Harrison. He only had 1 solo but did show some good hustle on some run plays. Not much in the way of pressure on Brady, though. Foote played with a ton of effort but his age and lack of talent was on display on some plays. Foote was fairly effective against the run and was actually so-so in pass coverage outside of a few plays where his lack of speed was very apparent, he was called for holding on one pass play. Stevenson Sylvester was given the starting job over an injured James Farrior but didn’t seem to do too much. I’m not sure how much he was even on the field. Chris Carter filled in for Woodley and gave 100%.

CB/S – What a game by this group of guys. Tight coverage throughout. Gay, Taylor, Lewis and rookie Cortez Allen repeatedly showed great technique and tight coverage. Maybe Carnell Lake is having an effect this year as DB coach? Gay had a nice open field tackle and good coverage on Hernandez. Lewis showed tight coverage on Ochostinko on a deep pass play. Taylor on another deep play. Repeatedly Brady had to sit in the pocket looking for someone to get open. Allen showed some great promise. Troy was disruptive on a few pass plays and had a couple really nice tackles. Clark had a few big hits, but did stupidly hit a player out of bounds in the 2nd half.

ST – Brown was held in check for most of the game as a returner, came close to breaking a couple. Suisham continues to suck with any kicks past 40 yards at Heinz Field. Steelers should probably look for another kicker. This guy could potentially cost the Steelers a game or two at this rate.

Arians – Arians had one of his best games as an OC as the Steelers went up and down the field en route to a total of 427 yards. The Steelers offense continued to go for the short stuff with great results. See how easy that is, Arians? Arians threw in a good dose of no-huddle and allowed Ben to throw it 50 times with good results. The bad news is this offense only scored 23 points and red zone problems still have not been corrected. Arians needs to be more creative in this area of the field, obviously. His boneheaded and predictable playcalling in this area simply sucks. And I’m definitely not a fan of the quick throws over the middle inside the 10 yard line. That has disaster written all over it. The Steelers offense simply does not seem to be comfortable when getting inside the 20. That needs to improve. Overall, good job except for the end result which is actually scoring points. Scoring just two TD’s for the entire game and 6 points at home in the 2nd half against one of the worst defenses in the NFL ain’t going to cut it.

Lebeau – Apparently Lebeau had an epiphany – play tight coverage on the other team’s WR’s! And it worked! It was a true thing of beauty to watch today. This defense played it’s heart out and isn’t it strange how a difference in gameplan can magically make player execution better? Yeah, strange how that works. GREAT job Lebeau, you showed me, the Pats offense and Steeler fans everywhere something. Easily one of the best defensive gameplans put together by Lebeau in a long time, especially considering all the defensive injuries Lebeau had to contend with.

Tomlin – Tomlin had his coordinators adjust their gameplans (or maybe he just approved of them?) and it worked out beautifully for the most part. The game still turned into a nail biter as the Steelers offense only scored 6 points in the 2nd half of the game. But Tomlin showed something today. Could he actually be progressing into a better head coach? Could be! Good job today.

Overall, I feel vindicated today as a fan that has been very critical of this coaching staff and the stale and predictable gameplans they typically put together. What have I consistently bitched about? Soft coverage and predictable offensive gameplans predicated on 1st down runs and Ben sitting in the pocket waiting for the homerun ball. What have I wanted to see? Tighter coverage, shorter passing. Sometimes the fan is right! It’s great to see the coaching staff adjusting and showing the ability to change up the gameplan. Isn’t it funny how player execution suddenly gets better with a better gameplan? This kind of game makes me feel much better going forward. Next week is probably the biggest game of the year for the Steelers as they play the Ravens at home. Win that game and the Steelers control their own destiny in the AFC, lose and a Wildcard berth becomes more probable.

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