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Wildcard Steelers-Broncos Recap

Steelers lose to the Tebow-led (BARF) Broncos, 29-23 in OT. The game was, in a lot of ways, a microcosm of the 2011 season for the Steelers.

Offensive Thoughts

Ben had an uneven game to say the least. I’ve been a long-time supporter of Ben as an elite QB but after watching him this season, I just don’t know anymore. Is he a great QB? Yes. Great talent? Yes. But the mental side of Ben may be holding him back from being a truly elite QB. A number of times in tonight’s game Ben missed open targets, made some bad decisions (and throws, like another underthrown deep pass to Wallace) and continually mismanaged the gameclock. He did have some great throws (like the tying 32 yard TD pass at the end of the game) and he also had some bad drops but overall he should be playing better at this point in his career but isn’t which is concerning.

Isaac Redman stepped up and had a great game, rushing for over 100 yards, including a couple nice long gainers. His lack of speed was apparent on his long runs but showed off some nifty moves. Time to move on from the Mendenhall era. Draft another RB this year.

The WR’s played like shit a good part of the 1st half, with Wallace dropping a long ball and running like a complete pussy on a 3rd down catch where he had room for the 1st down but instead slide down to the turf to avoid contact. Cotchery dropped a HUGE pass on a 3rd down that would’ve gone for at least 20 yards which would’ve been deep inside Bronco territory. The pass was obscured by another WR but still gotta catch that.

Wallace actually played like shit a good part of the game, which goes along with his play for most of the 2nd half of the season. Maybe he’s being misused, maybe defenses know what he is going to do on most routes now, who knows, but he’s been disappointing to say the least.

Antonio Brown continues to be the best WR on the team. He had a number of clutch 3rd down grabs but was criminally underused in the 1st half.

Manny Sanders quietly led all WR’s with 6 grabs. Cotchery made up for his bad drop with a huge TD grab  in the 4th quarter.

Heath Miller made some real nice grabs. For some reason DJ Johnson continues to run passing routes.

The O-line played like dogshit for most of the game in pass protection. People actually think Max Starks is a decent OT? Seriously? There was one play where he was literally pancaked by the Broncos pass rusher. Completely embarrassing to witness. Gilbert didn’t have a much better game on the other side of the line. Legursky and Kemo both had uneven games in pass protection. The O-line did have a good game in the run department, though.

Bruce Fuckin’ Arians – Another shit gameplan by the truly inept Bruce Arians. Was Arians the only one on the offensive side of the ball that fucked up today? Of course not, Ben and the WR’s and the O-line all share some of the blame. But once again, this offense struggles to put up points until they are up against the wall and desperate. The first half was another perfect example of this, 6 points – that’s it. What’s amazing is the offense scored 17 points in the 2nd half, but of course they did in heart attack inducing fashion. This offense continues to make mistakes, dropped passes, bad gameclock management by Ben, misuse of personnel, predictable formations (like the deep ball to Wallace in the 4th quarter that was almost intercepted), etc. That ALL goes back to the OC when it becomes a regular occurrence and all those things do (and all were in display in tonight’s game).

The entire sequence at the end of regulation was just another in a long line of clusterfucks for this offense in those kinds of situations. Part of the blame is obviously with Ben but man it was ugly.

For this offense to honestly progress and get better it is CLEAR as day that a new OC is sorely needed. Let’s hope it happens in the offseason. I honestly don’t know if I can take another year of watching an offense like this continually underachieve. It is beyond frustrating.

Special Teams – Suisham made all his FG’s! Maybe the Broncos can sign him in the offseason.

Defensive Thoughts 

The defense should be a little embarrassed with itself after tonight’s showing. Allowing a Tebow-led offense that just came off a 3 point game against the Chiefs to score 23 in regulation isn’t going to cut it.

Kiesel and Hampton both went out early with injuries, which should’ve been a red flag for how this game was going to unfold. With Heyward and McLendon in the game the Broncos run game improved somewhat. Heyward looks like the real deal, though, he had a great one handed tackles as he was being blocked in the 2nd half of the game.  Hood continues to underwhelm.

The LB corps, outside of Timmons, were fairly ineffective for most of the game. Even Timmons wasn’t particularly that great outside  of some nice run stoppin tackles.

I was probably most disappointed with James Harrison’s performance. Hardly any pressure on Tebow and then he gets called for a (totally bullshit) roughing the passer penalty. Yes, he was getting held for most of the game but that’s not much different than most games with Harrison. At least he knocked out a Broncos WR with a vicious hit.

Woodley was once again Mr. Invisible, allowing a Tebow TD run as he stunted around the O-line and effectively took himself out of the play. Later, he had a sack on Tebow but couldn’t make the tackle. He did recover the lone Broncos fumble, but aside from that didn’t do much at all.

Same goes for Farrior (and maybe Foote but I don’t even know if he played). Farrior was a non-factor in pass coverage and very weak against the run. Great career, but it’s time to retire, Farrior.

Willie Gay was probably the best secondary player for the Steelers tonight. He did give up a TD catch but was solid in tackling and coverage the rest of the game (including breaking up another would be TD pass).

Ike Taylor had arguably the worst game of his career as he was tooled all night long. He gave up the first big play to the Broncos offense (which was sputtering up to that point) and also gave up the OT 80 yard TD pass. Just bad.

Ryan Mundy helped to cause the lone Broncos fumble which was HUGE. The rest of the game (outside of a couple tackles in run support) I wasn’t even sure he was playing.

Troy had some great plays near the LOS but also was totally tooled, like Taylor, on some deep Tebow balls.

Dick Lebeau – I gotta ask – Did Lebeau think the Steelers were playing the Browns again this week? I just don’t understand the gameplan that Lebeau put into place in this game. It’s as if the defensive gameplan was to help Tebow get comfortable in the pocket so he could start delivering miracle balls downfield. Hardly any pressure the entire game. When 4 rushers aren’t getting to Tebow it’s time to mix it up! The few times Lebeau blitzed it worked, but that was like 3 or 4 plays the entire game. Simply inexcusable.

Another thing that was bizarre was how off guard the Steelers were when Tebow ran the ball after fake handoffs to McGahee. The outside contain man (Harrison and Worilds) were both caught time and again looking inside while Tebow easily ran around them.  That’s a case of a team being simply unprepared.

The defensive playcall in OT was a real head scratcher. Almost hard to believe what happened on that play.

Mike Tomlin – Tomlin was outcoached for about the 56th time as head coach of the Steelers. And that isn’t up for debate. The team played sloppy and stupid most of the game, but that is just a reflection of Tomlin and how the team has played this year. Not surprising, even though disappointing to see. Time clock management sucked at the end of each half (once again). Same story just a different game. The fact that the team seemed so flat and emotionless for a good bit of the game was pretty concerning to see.

Overall, a disappointing end to the season. As I stated earlier this week, I didn’t like the Steelers chances this year and the reasons for that were in full display in tonight’s loss. The core of this team is quickly changing and soon we will have a clearer picture on just how good a coach Mike Tomlin is. If tonight’s loss is any indication we may be in for a bumpy ride. Smart decisions (both coaching and personnel-wise) will be key in the offseason.

On a side note, I guess offensive holding isn’t called anymore in the NFL. Not one offensive holding penalty on either team even though there were blatant examples of it a good bit of the game. I guess the NFL really doesn’t want defenses interfering with the scoring anymore! Officiating was simply horrible in this game, which doesn’t make it any different than pretty much any other game these days in the NFL. Again, Fuck you Goodell (and the owners!). And on that note, have a good one Steeler fans! Maybe I’ll see you next year (or maybe at the draft!).

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