5 Smoldering Questions On the Pittsburgh Steelers, Week 4

  Week 5 finds the Pittsburgh Steelers exactly where they were a year ago at 2-2 after a heartbreaking overtime loss the Baltimore Ravens. The Steelers have had ample time for catharsis and commiseration as they prepare to play the San Diego Chargers, but before focusing on the impending Monday Night Football matchup, Steelers Nation must first struggled with these 5 Smoldering Questions on the Steelers.

1. In the aftermath of the Steelers loss to the Ravens, the Pittsburgh Tribune Review’s Rob Rossi pointed the finger at Josh Scobee, while on Behind the Steel Curtain  PaVa Steelers Fan laid the blame squarely on Mike Tomlin’s 4th down decision making. Which of them is right? Defend your choice.

2. Before the Steelers signed Chris Boswell, Argentine Steelers fan and scribe El Dr. de Acero made this suggestion to Dan Rooney:

For those of you not familiar with Nicolas Sanchez you can sample his kicking prowess here:

For those unaware, rugby players routinely make the equivalent of 50 yard field goals, often from difficult angles. Here’s another sampling of a historic kick:

We all certainly wish Boswell well (pun intended), and Chris Boswell’s NCAA kicking stats show promise. But if he should falter, do you think Kevin Colbert would be wise to scout rugby kickers, given that they’re well versed in punting, place kicking and are terrific textbook tacklers?

3. By any measure, Keith Butler’s defense is performing above expectations. However, the Ravens racked up 191 yards rushing and Justin Forsett had a Jim Brown like performance. Mike Tomlin said the lapse was due to scheming against play action. However, Dale Lolley observed that in many instances, blockers reached the second level, which was a no-no in Dick LeBeau’s defense….

Are you worried that more aggressive use of Cameron Heyward and Stephon Tuitt exposes a weakness in the Steelers run defense?

4. Sean Spence had a monster game vs. the Ravens and also played very very, well against the Rams in replacement of Ryan Shazier.

Knowing what you know now about the development of Ryan Shazier and Sean Spence, imagine that someone gives you a Harry Potter Time Tumbler that takes you back to the Steelers draft room on May 8, 2014. The Steelers are on the clock, and Dan Rooney, Art Rooney II, Mike Tomlin and Kevin Colbert are deadlocked over whether to take Ryan Shazier in part because they’re unsure of Spence’s prognosis for a recovery.

They look to you to break the impasse. What do you tell them and why?

5. Finally, let’s shift focus to Chargers game with some Steelers historical serendipity.

In 2012 a Ben Roethlisbergerless Steelers team beat the Ravens with a last minute field goal in a game where the backup quarterback paved the way for a touchdown with a crucial block…. The win seemed to galvanize a previously inconsistent team, but the following week they fell flat on their faces against… San Diego Chargers!

Given all that this group of Pittsburgh Steelers has been through since then, how do you expect the Steelers to respond to last week’s loss?


  • 1. Rossi. It’s all on That Kicker. He must do his job, he failed. He’s gone. What would the Friday morning Qbs have said if we trotted him out there again and he missed again? The 4th and one was a bad play call, but the decision to go for it was okay with me. The 4th and two was perfect, Vick overthrew AB who was wide open. Vick HAS to make that throw.

    2. Let’s hope we don’t need a fifth kicker. If we do, I’d go for a NFL vet who is waiting for a call. Nevertheless, I’ll take anyone who can make a 41 yarder under pressure. I don’t care if he plays rugby or she’s a Korean kick boxer.

    3. Not overly. Butler will adjust, if necessary. I think the return of Shazier will help the run defense.

    4. You have to take Shazier here. Spence is a very good player. Shazier is much better. Got to take a talent like that. BPA.

    5. I have no idea. We historically don’t play well on the west coast. I’m hoping that the eleven day break will leave them rested. I’m hoping for another great game by the defense and improvement from Vick and the new kicker. With Thursday’s loss and Arizona coming up, this is now a critical game.


  • 5 Flickering Answers

    1. None of the above, I place the blame on Todd Haley for putting the fourth and shorts in the hands of Michael Vick versus having Vick hand the ball off to LeVeon Bell.

    2. This country already has an immigration problem, I say we should buy American.

    3. Either McClendon or Dan McCullers need to be on the field on first and second down or obvious running situations. Steelers tried to use Cam Thomas at the nose and that experiment failed miserably. At least that is what I am blaming before watching BTSC’s promised GIF analysis of what failed in the Steelers run defense. Yes, that was a plug..

    4. I tell them to draft CJ Mosley, same thing I said back then.

    5. I can’t stand Phillip Rivers but he seems to have the Steelers number, I hope they punch him right in his smart mouth time after time after time. Did I mention I can’t stand that guy? What was the question again?


  • 1. I place 95% of the blame on Scobee. He missed 1 field goal with 2:26 left in the 4th and another with 1:06 left. Making either one of those would have required the ravens to need a touchdown to win. Making both would have put the game away. The other 5% goes to the 2nd half play calling by Haley. Ultra-conservative playcalling kept our offense off the field and limited our ability to score more points. He only gets a tiny bit of the blame though since this was only days after Roethlisberger got injured and Vick wasn’t anywhere close to comfortable. Basically, overtime should never have happened and the playcalling during that time would be a moot point.

    2. If Boswell doesn’t work out, I am intrigued in a rugby kicker, especially for the tackling ability as a last line of defense. Though the big question is how he kicks an NFL football vs rugby ball.

    3. I think the D just started to tire out late into the 2nd half. Forsett had 105 of his 150 yards rushing in the 2nd half and OT (34, 47, 24) and the ravens had 124 of their 191 in the 2nd half. I have not problems with Tuitt and Heyward rushing up the middle the way they do. We have finally gotten to quarterbacks and forced turnovers.

    4. Pick up Shazier. Spence is good, very good. Shazier is outstanding. I am happy we have so much quality depth.

    5. I expect to destroy san diego. The team should be going into that game ticked off with the loss last week. Also should go into the game much more prepared offensively.


  • 1. Live as a team, die as a team. But okay, it was Scobee. And all the three-and-outs by the offense.
    2. Awesome videos! But under the (in-season) circumstances I would prefer to go with someone who was used to the NFL version of kicking…
    3. I love the aggressive use of Cam Heyward and Stephon Tuitt. I’m going to echo mtsnot here and say that if the defense hadn’t been worn out by being on the field so much (see answer to 1.) I don’t think Forsett would have done so well in the 2nd half. That said, Tunch Ilkin’s edition of Chalk Talk this week is “Live by the blitz, die by the blitz.”
    4. I love Sean Spence. I’m so happy the Steelers were patient with him, and that he had the character to persist through enormous discouragement. I think he may turn out to be one of the great stories this year. But I still would have taken Shazier. (And boo to fever. CJ Mosley is dead to us now : )
    5. Check out Saturday’s opponent preview for my thoughts…


  • 1. Scobee job was to make field goals, he didn’t do it. If he made at least one, they would have most likely won. I don’t get blaming Tomlin. Scobee had no confidence in himself, the team had no confidence in him. I don’t blame Tomlin for going for it. Tomlin is not and has never been a play caller, he has an assistant for that, one who has made the Steelers into the best offense in the league when all of it’s parts are there. Why would Tomlin decide to override him? The 4th and 2 was a good play call, it would have worked if Vick made the throw. Players still have to execute.

    2. Interesting idea, but no. You need a football kicker to finish out the season. But I’d love it for training camp competition.

    3. Not concerned at all. They allowed the rushing to take away Flacco’s favorite weapons, play action and the deep PI call. I was actually impressed that the secondary stayed where they were supposed to be and did their jobs. No miscommunication this time. Although the 3 and outs didn’t help. Those guys were tired.

    4. I’m torn. I would like to tell them to take Shazier, He has a tremendous upside but that talent doesn’t do any good if he isn’t on the field.

    5. I expect the Steelers to come to play. I expect the Steelers to win. The long break will allow Haley to build a game plan around Vick (or as my wife refers to him, that other QB). The OQB should be more comfortable, and more familiar with the talent around him, the the receivers will be more comfortable with the OQB (and that left handed spiral.) I expect Wheaton to play, I expect Bryant to play, I expect another interception by the secondary. Fever said the Chargers have the Steelers number, but Butlers defense isn’t what they are used to, so that may change.


  • 1. I don’t agree with either. My culprit is our run D. Stop the run and we win. the Ravens were limited with their wideouts and we had 5 sacks despite them running all over us. If we stop the run and force them into throwing the ball in order to get back i the game we might have had an 8-10 sack night and totally dominated this game just with our D.

    2. I’m not sure since rugby kickers have never kicked on football fields under football conditions, were the kickers we did try out at least have experience kicking on football fields under the pressures football kickers face, even if that experience is only college kicking.

    3. I’ll be worried if they continue to be inconsistent and don’t put games together of playing solidly when stopping the run and getting pressure. IMO its too early to get worried that it won’t get corrected or to be too confident that they will get it together.

    4. Sean Spence is an excellent player and what he’s overcome is inspirational, but Shazier has the potential to be a very, very special player. If he can stay healthy, I think we’re talking about a true difference maker. Hell, Timmons isn’t getting any younger. Its plausible we see both of them manning the middle at some point in the near future.

    5. I expect the offense to operate a little smoother and be more efficient, especially on 3rd down. I expect the D to get after Rivers and make life tough for him and I’m looking for us to shore up the run D. I think the O will put up enough points to get the win because the D will dominate and set the tone for the game. (Fingers Crossed)


    • in re 4. very good point. It’s funny to think of it that way, since Timmons was the young one on the defense for so long, but like Troy his is perhaps not a game that ages particularly well, beyond a certain point.


  • 1 – Rossi was right. The issue laid on the kicker. A coach’s 4th down decision making is made easier when one of the options remains ‘using the kicker’. That option was gone because the kicker couldn’t make the makeable FGs.

    2 – I dunno. The last time the Steelers had a kicker who could lay out an opposing player, his ACLs kept blowing out.

    3 – Risk vs Reward. If the line is going to be more active, the LBs have to do more traditional run defense. This entire season will be a transitionary one for the defense. A balance will be found. I am not ready to judge just yet.

    4 – I tell them to take Shazier because he will be able to do things that no one else on the roster can.

    5 – I think they’ll come out mentally ready…but that won’t mean squat if the QB can’t throw a pass beyond 9 yards.


  • -Here’s the kicker; It’s the KICKER. Say it fast as many times as you can until you pull your own hair out;) Actually I would seriously have to wonder about the true intent of someone who says its all coach T’s fault. I’ll stick with Rossi on this.
    -Rugby? Let’s stick to our guys who routinely kick it off of solid ground while under attack. Actually I heard there is a rule next year by Roger G that mandates all kickers wear pink jerseys with a sign that says “kick me” on their back. The Rugby “tough guys” obviously will never go for that.
    -Don’t have enough information to even be worried. Who knows what the next game will bring. They may have lost the battle on stopping the run game but apparently the strategy worked because they should have won the war. We lost though because of our one BIG critical vulnerability(CV) and it ain’t Tomlin.
    -I would take that wand the kid carries around and go visit Roger G back stage.
    -They will win


  • 2. Readers must not take too seriously the rugby kickers suggestion. It´s a joke. I was enthusistic and excited because the great performance of the Argentinian National Rugby Team on the Rugby World cup. (By the way we are playing semi finals next sunday…) Since one have to admit that they have very strong legs, the situation of kicking are quite different in rugby and football. But this difference is not about pressure but time. Rugby kickers have lot of time to concentrate before hitting the ball.
    But…I have another (more serious) idea or suggestion. And it is related to tackling.
    Steelers suffered last year and the other with tackling since they missed a lot.
    And that is, as I see, because the football players go for hitting instead of tackling. Sometimes you stop the ball carrier but many others you don´t, and it allows carriers to complete some extra yards (yards that counts, of course) and often they get 1st downs.
    If you see a rugby match, you can note the difference. My idea is that, and I wrote about it on Steel Curtain Rising en español, the Organization Steelers may pay for the services of professional rugby players in offseason, for teaching tackling technique and doing so, be better than the others on deffense.


    • I like both ideas. Rugby is fun to watch, and those guys are nuts.

      I don’t know if a rugby kicker would make it in the NFL, but I’ll bet that a rugby trainer could help some of these kickers improve their distance.

      The first time I watched a rugby match, the first thing that stood out was their tackling. Without the padding and safety equipment they don’t have any room to do it wrong. I saw some of the best open field tackling that I had ever seen.


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