5 Smoldering Questions on the Pittsburgh Steelers, Week 2

via Pittsburgh Sporting News

by Hombre de Acero

The Pittsburgh Steelers rebounded from a disappointing opener on the road with a resounding victory at Heinz Field, where they defeated the San Francisco 49ers 43-18. The Steelers win over San Francisco soothed a lot of nerves in Steelers Nation. Nonetheless, they’ve still left the community here with 5 Smoldering Questions on as the Steelers head to another road game vs. the Los Angeles er um St. Louis Rams.

1. Sans Le’Veon Bell and Martavis Bryant, the Steelers offense scored 43 points on the 49ers, despite badly “losing” the battle of time of possession. The Steelers offensive fireworks generated a lot of highlight reel material, but the Steelers defense was just as dominant. Which unit’s performance is more important in your view?

2. All was not positive in the Steelers victory, as Josh Scobee missed an extra point attempt, making that three misses in two weeks. As the Steelers luck with place kickers this year does not seem to be good, are you worried yet?

3. DeAngelo Williams showed himself to be more than a capable replacement in Le’Veon Bell’s absence. What role should Williams play in the offense now that Bell is back?

4. Just before the regular season began, the Pittsburgh Post Gazette’s Ray Fittipaldo suggested that the Steelers difficulties in staffing the secondary suggested a lack of alignment between the front office and the coaching staff.

While Fittipaldo marshals strong evidence to support his argument, the Steelers history in drafting defensive lineman during the 1980s until the mid 1990s shows that “luck” is an undeniable element in drafting success.

Which do you think explains the Steelers current challenges in stocking the secondary with quality players?

5. Jeff Fisher has been a head coach in the NFL since 1995. The Steelers have been pretty successful since then, yet their record vs. Jeff Fisher is only 8-13, far below their average vs. the rest of the league during that same time span. What’s going on here?

There you go—have at it, folks.


Clink the links to read the assigned articles. Questions must be turned in by midnight Saturday for full credit at Rooney U. For those requiring extra help with the assignment, please contact Mrs. Rollett for an appointment, as Professor Acero’s office hours are filling up fast… 

23 comments

  • I’ll start.

    1. I’m going to cop out and say both. Or, really, that it depends on the opponent. If the opponent has put up a lot of offense, like the Bengals so far, and has a stifling defense, like the Bengals so far, both Steelers units are going to have to have a very good game to come away with a win. Not to disrespect Sunday’s opponent, but if the Steelers offense can overcome the Rams defense, I would guess it isn’t critical that the Steelers defense have a fabulous game. But perhaps I should do some actual research on the Rams before I make such pronouncements…

    2. As noted elsewhere, creating an extra sense of urgency about coming away with a TD in the red zone isn’t such a bad thing. Hopefully Scobee will recover his pre-2014 form soon, though.

    3. It’s probably less important what I think than what Tomlin thinks, and all the indications from what he’s said are, Williams is going to be a back-up now, doing little more than giving Bell a blow from time to time. Ed Bouchette pointed out in his weekly call to The Fan that the Steelers haven’t run a two-back offense for years. And they didn’t do it last year when they had Blount, either…

    4. Personally I think luck explains it better than some mysterious discord on the subject of the secondary only.

    5. He has damaging information on the Rooneys? Or maybe his teams usually just matched up well with the Steelers. Sunday should provide some clarity as to whether there is devil magic involved… After all, his overall record of 142/120 with the Oilers/Titans would have been a lot better if a couple of his players who shall not be named hadn’t disrespected a Terrible Towel…

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  • cold_old_steelers_fan

    1) Ying or Yang, which is more important? I think The offense needed to score a lot of point and the defence needed to have that breakout game. Until the offence is healthy and whole enough to be able to both control the clock AND score at will the defence will need the ability to combine bend don’t break with splash plays and takeovers. It is possible that by the end of the season that these two phases of the game will be complete in which case we could be looking at seven.

    2) The third phase of the game, with the exception of Kicker, seems to be vastly improved. Maybe Scobee thinks he is the team’s equivalent of the drummer for Spinal Tap or the keyboard player for the Grateful Dead. Whatever the reason, while it would be nice if Scobee can get his act together before the end of the season but the way the rest of the team is shaping up, this may not be necessary.

    3) There are two options I will dismiss with regards to D-Will, he will not replace Bell nor will he sit the bench all season. DeAngelo has proven himself to still be a very solid RB and the Steelers would be foolish not to use him. Although it would be fun to see a formation with him and Bell in the backfield at the same time, I expect his role will be in relief of LeVeon, maybe taking every third series or going in after Bell has had a long run to give him a breather.

    I like DeAngelo and what he has brought to the table. This may be his best chance to earn a ring. I hope he gets it.

    4) Neal was talking, in his column, about this very topic. If I understood him correctly, the Steelers have just decided that it is more important to put top picks into the front seven than the secondary as there was more value for the pick.

    5) Could it be he builds his team with the focus of being able to defeat the Steelers? I don’t have a clue about this one to be honest. I don’t believe in magic (except in rock and roll) but you have to wonder some days.

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    • 4) About time Coolong wised up. I do miss messing with Neal, may have to pay the money for the site just so I can give him the occasional hard time. How bout that hoss : )

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    • My thoughts.

      1. Without a doubt the defense. Just about every credible observer knew the offense was going to be very good, though I count myself among those who have been pleasantly shocked to discover what has actually meant on the field. But I don’t know of many who felt that the Steelers were capable of championship level play with just a one or two legged stool. It was understood that the defense was likely to struggle early, but would have to reach a certain level of competency, not necessarily as great as in seasons past or at the level that the offense is now, in order to successfully contend. Not only are they trending in the right direction and may, in fact, be ahead of where I assumed they’d be at this time, They are also showing signs of potentially being not just functionally competent, but in the foreseeable future, great in their own right. PaVaSteelers wrote the obituary for the Steel Curtain last week. Whether he’s right or not depends on your views concerning reincarnation.

      2. Speaking of PaVa, being DC based we remember when Suisham was part of the Redskins and his play was reminiscent at that time of what Scobee has put on display these first two games. We sat watching games in terror, fearing that Shaun would relapse at any time, but it never happened. My way of saying it can happen to the best of them. Whether Josh’s future looks more like Suisham or Sweed remains to be seen. The good news is that the general competence of special teams (something we haven’t given nearly enough attention to so far), a very good punting game and a ridiculously potent offense, it just so happens as COS points out that we’ve never needed consistent placekicking less. We can afford to play wait and see.

      3. I agree with the general consensus that you don’t take away carries from Bell in order to feed Williams (or anyone else), thought it seems wrong and even wasteful to allow DeAngelo to gather dust sitting on the bench. A possible solution put forth by Bob Labriola and Craig Wolfley moving forward would be to dramatically increase (along the order of an additional 20 carries) in some circumstances the number of running plays with the excess going to Williams. And there you would have your time of possession offense. But honestly, if they could pull that off while maintaining the potency of the passing game there would have to be rule changes just like they did in the seventies to break up our defense.

      4. Luck, with a little impatience thrown in for good measure. Our defensive back failures have included players who were written off early and turned out to not be nearly so bad; Ike Taylor, Keenan Lewis and William Gay. DeShea Townsend was underappreciated throughout his entire career. Given the history it is a bit too early for any final verdicts on players ranging from Cortez Allen to Golson, Grant, etc, etc. But some of will of course, that’s just how some Steelers fans are.

      5. We have forgotten that for many of those years we and the Titans were in the same division with a rivalry that was just as hot as with the Ravens, Browns, etc. Teams are built and focused to win their divisions. When you have to play the Steelers at least twice a year you better figure out something.

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  • 5 fiery answers

    1. The defense. Specifically the front seven getting pressure on the QB and stopping the run. The days of our defense being a dominate unit are alive and well. All hail the birth of the new Steel Curtain.

    2. I am freaked about our Kicker, ATM I feel he is sure to let us down at a crucial moment and I have none of the confidence in him that I did with Mr. Reliable, Shaun Shuisham. On the plus side Josh is three for three when I yell Scooby Doob It at the tv when he is kicking, maybe we are onto something.

    3. 4 or 5 runs a game just to give LeVeon a breather, Bell is that much better than Williams.

    4. I don’t believe the FO believes that the secondary being stocked with top talent is that important to the overall success of the defense and they prefer to invest in the front seven. As most of us should know, a superior front seven masks defects in the secondary. Just look where our early round picks have been going lately…to the front seven. Fans can yell for the team to draft a CB in the first round all they want, IMO, it isn’t happening anytime soon. Aren’t we all glad the team drafted Ryan Shazier in 2014, the player the Steelers wanted versus Justin Gilbert, the player the fans wanted.

    5. I don’t have a clue. But whatever the unknown reason was, well my friends, that ended when he crossed the Mississippi because he left his winning ways against the Steelers in the East. Lord willing, the Steelers get the victory with no major injuries to either team.

    This is my favorite weekly article anywhere, thank you Hombre. Note to Rebecca; the other site is publishing a weekly PFF review for Steelers players even on a Wednesday which should help me out quite a bit but thanks for considering the idea.

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    • In re 2) obviously the issue is that you’ve let Steeler Nation down, Fever. Where were those “Scooby Doob”s when we needed them?

      and in re your note, guess what, it’s too late. I already decided to do it, and the (massive) article is written and will post tomorrow. Unlike the slackers at the other site (j/k : ) I’m running the numbers for the entire AFC North. It will probably take until Sunday’s game to get through it all…

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      • I have excuses.

        In the first game I had to figure out the winning phrase, Scooby Do It doesn’t work, Scooby Doob It on the other hand works wonders. The fault in the second game rests on the shoulders of the local Fox affiliate who at the last minute decided to change from the Steelers game to the Saints game forcing us to watch an illegal but necessary stream on my laptop. In other words, it was their fault Josh and I were off our game. Plus, the other Rebecca could do a better job of reminding me : ) Now I have to hope she doesn’t read the comments on this article. As you can imagine I won’t be linking it on Facebook ; )

        As always, I will be reading your articles with rapt attention, thank you, I am sure they will be very interesting and improve my knowledge heading into the game.

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        • Do you need me to edit this comment for you? I would hate to feel your marriage was in jeopardy…

          Glad to know there were reasons, although we don’t accept excuses here at Rooney U : )

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          • Thankfully she usually enjoys my “puckish” sense of humor. Besides I am making our favorite meal for supper; fried squash and pinto beans with jalapeno cornbread. That should make up for any mistake I make today.

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            • You forgot to invite me over. I LOVE fried squash, pinto beans, and jalapeno cornbread. She and I must share more than a first name : )

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              • Too bad the tomato and cucumber plants have quit producing, those go very well on the side. If y’all are ever in NW Arkansas you better stop by for dinner. The invitation is always open.

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                • This takes me back to meals at my grandma’s house in North Carolina as a child. There was always a big plate of my grandpa’s sliced beefsteak tomatoes and a bowl of sliced cucumbers dressed with vinegar, salt, and a pinch of sugar. Oh man that was eating! You’ve forgotten the fresh green beans, slow-cooked with salt pork, though.

                  And trust me, if we ever go through Arkansas we’ll be stopping…

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                • cold_old_steelers_fan

                  After listening to you two go on, I decided to pick up a spaghetti squash to cook up for supper tonight. I haven’t tried one for 35 years (I messed it up badly and was disappointed it didn’t taste like spaghetti). This time I will use a friend’s recipe so it will probably be much better.

                  Like

                  • As long as you don’t expect a spaghetti squash to taste like spaghetti you’re halfway there. Try it baked or microwaved and then coated with garlic butter. In fact you could cover almost anything with garlic butter and it would improve it : )

                    Like

  • 1) I, too, have to say defense. The offense already has the confidence in their play because all of the starters (except Williams) were part of the team where Ben threw 6 TDs in consecutive weeks. They will also be getting a large confidence boost with Bell returning as well as in 2 weeks. The defense needed a game like this to have confidence in themselves. The individual players have the ego to believe in their abilities, but while they may say all of the right things I really doubt that they had (here’s that word again) confidence in the rest of the defense. That should change now.

    2) Nope, not worried. They will get it straightened out. I don’t know if it’s mental or whether it’s the holder or what, but I am sure they are working on it.

    3) I went back and watched some Bell highlights and spot checked some of the games from last year. Tomlin is absolutely right, if 26 is available, he needs to play. I think DeAngelo Williams is a great back. He did a fantastic job of filling in. I love watching him play, and he is running better that he has for several years. But there is no comparison. Bell is the best running back in the NFL, in my opinion. Taking him off the field other than when he needs a rest would be foolish. I also think DeWill is probably the best #2 running back in the league or is at least in the conversation. I am thankful we have him.

    4) Personally, I think the “lack of alignment” theory is ridiculous. Every sign is that Colbert and Tomlin work exceptionally well together. I think it has more to do with (as I said last week) building a team to win in your division. In the AFCN pass rush and a strong defensive front is far more important. This is what will beat the Ravens, the Bengals and the Browns. Why would the Steelers build to beat for example, the Patriots? They play that division once every four years, and IF they finish in the same place in their division standings they will play the next year, and If they both make the playoffs there is a chance that they will play each other. There are a lot more teams where a strong front 7 and pass rush will benefit a team more than elite corners. How many teams have that elite passing attack?

    5) They were in the same division and Fisher built his teams to play in that division. Fisher also had some pretty good teams, and the most dangerous teams are always the ones in the division.

    A side note: My wife worked with a woman who was a fan of another team. Whenever they kicked the ball, she would get on the floor and roll which way she wanted the ball to go. Maybe we should try that with Scobee.

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  • 1 – Defense is more important to me. We knew the offense would rock and roll. It’s nice to see the D doing some rockin’ of their own. Also, is it really ‘losing’ the time of possession battle if you didn’t need the possession at all?

    2 – Not worried yet. I think this will be a transition year for kickers, especially with the PATs. Not because of distance, but because they now have to think and worry about a play that was previously as automatic as breathing.

    3 – His role should be that of a backup to spell Bell every 3rd or 4th series. That’s all Bell needs.

    4 – There’s been a shift in the kinds of players that can be successful in the secondary. There’s more finesse and technique to it now since you can’t steamroll a WR in any way. So that narrows the pool down. (btw, how much money would Deion Sanders – a cover guy who controlled half the field without being physical – how much would he make now?! Possibly one of the rare instances when a player from an earlier era would do even better in the present). And, in truth, the team hasn’t focused on the highest caliber players either. Golson was a reach this year. The team waits to long in other years.
    However, that may just be something Steelers fans have to live with. If the FO focuses on the front 7 instead… and it works…I can’t complain.

    5 – I don’t have a break down of his W/L record by years…but were his best games in the early 2000s? The Titans were pretty solid for a while. Not title contenders, but tough to play. Sometimes a team just has your number.

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  • 1. DEEEE-fence. We knew the offense was lethal. The defense hadn’t gelled and Shazier hadn’t dominated. We hadn’t seen Heyward and Tuitt dominate the line of scrimmage yet, to allow the LB’s to unleash havoc. Now we have. This was the week the D learned how to dominate and kick butt.

    2. Not worried. New snapper, new holder, new town….but a kicker with a proven track record and a huge leg. Scobee has a much stronger leg than Sweet Cheeks, and that means more touchbacks. He’ll straighten out his place kicks for now. My worry is what happens when the skies of November turn gloomy. (Gordon Lightfoot nod for our Canadian fans)

    3. He can spell Bell. He can be a second back in certain formations, since both are solid blockers. It’s a long season, and you don’t want to run Bell till the wheels fall off. DeeWill gets at least five touches a game, hopefully in the waning minutes.

    4. They’ve needed a shutdown corner for years, but all the shutdown corners are gone before you draft at 15 or higher. So they’ve decided to draft BPA’s to fill other needs. You end up with bums like Heyward, Shazier, Tuitt, and Bell – and before that DeCastro, rather than gambling on the fourth best CB. They’ve messed up with their DB picks for years, but it seems more like luck and their position in the draft than anything else. Starting with Reavis, there have been a number of good ones who were drafted right before the Steelers had their pick.

    5. He’s a good coach, with some very good teams. And for a while he had a pretty fair QB who seemed to have the Steelers’ number.

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  • 1. I too will vote for defense. A chain is only as strong as it’s weakest link.
    2. I will start to worry when we miss our first two point conversion. I wonder if there is some type of algorithm or some other math stuff that says you need to go for 2 pts X number of times in a game in case your kicker misses an extra point or two?
    3. To spell Bell
    4. Success/draft position/building a strong team foundation by going D-line first
    5. Always liked JF as a coach.

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  • My 5

    1) By far the more important performance was that of the defense. They did a total 180 degree turn from the previous week and showed that my lamenting the demise of a “Steeler” defense may have been expressed too soon. HOWEVER, remember last year? Remember the inability of the team to stack wins until mid-season? Let’s hold off on heralding in a new dynastic defense until they prove they can show the same results against a playoff contending team, which the Niners certainly can’t be called at this point.

    2) Yes I’m worried, because there WILL be those games where the offense is flat (ain’t that the truth) and the defense will need all the cushion it can get. This goes for ALL teams BTW. On the flip side, we FINALLY HAVE A PUNTER!

    3) Haley needs to find a way to get BOTH Bell and Williams in the backfield. Having that tandem, plus Heath, Brown and the rotation of Bryant, Wheaton or Coates will keep opposing defensive coordinators guessing. Bell can run, receive or pass protect, Williams can run or pass protect, Heath can receive or pass protect, and Brown, is well Brown. Add Wheaton’s abilities EITHER deep or in the slot, and Bryan’ts burgeoning abilities, and as long as the offensive line can protect Ben, NOBODY except the 11 offensive players wearing B & G will have ANY idea where the ball is going.

    4) Building from the front to the back. Simple as that. A proven formula tested time and time again; if your front 7 are good, it will buy time to tinker with the back 4. And Colbert & Tomlin know how to tinker.

    5) No idea. Some people/teams are just kryptonite to others.

    Liked by 1 person

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