5 Smoldering Questions On the Pittsburgh Steelers, Week 5

Post-Gazette/Peter Diana photo

The Pittsburgh Steelers defeated the San Diego Chargers 24-17 and in the process not only improved their record to 3-2, but also bagged their 1st West Coast Win in a decade. But Mike Tomlin refused to allow anyone to cool the champagne as this week brings Pittsburgh West, aka the Arizona Cardinals and Bruce Arians to town.

But before Arians can make his hopefully not so triumphant return to Pittsburgh, Steelers Nation must first solve the riddle behind these 5 Smoldering Questions on the Steelers.

1. When a 50 year old Argentine who has never set foot in the United States declares a Steelers victory worthy of being chronicled by NFL Films legendary John Facenda, you know a game is iconic. After a similar titanic struggle in mid-1995 Bill Cowher declared “Games like this don’t build character, they display it.”

Do you think the Steelers’ ability to pull out the win vs. San Diego built or displayed character?

2. As everyone knows, the NFL time keeper goofed at the end of the Steelers-Chargers game, costing the Steelers precious seconds. One fan reacted this way:

However, for Mike Tomlin it was a complete non-issue. The victory not withstanding, do you think someone on the Steelers staff should have been more attentive to the game clock?

3. Mike Vick has taken his time acclimating to the Steelers offense. Yet even when he’s played well, he doesn’t seem to be able to connect with Antonio Brown, although hooking up with Darrius Heyward-Bey doesn’t appear to be a problem. What’s going in here folks?

4. Mike Tomlin once derided the Wildcat as “the flavor of the week,” yet the Steelers ran 5 plays in the Wildcat vs. the Chargers. Are you wild about the Wildcat’s appearance in Pittsburgh?

5. The question must be asked. After the 2011 season Art Rooney II shocked Steelers Nation by overruling Mike Tomlin in essentially firing Bruce Arians. Since then, Arians has done extremely well, first as interim head coach of the Colts and now as coach at Pittsburgh West.

With the  benefit of perfect 20/20 hindsight, do you think that Art Rooney II made the right decision?

19 comments

  • 1 – I think it displayed character as the key players were all veterans. However, it also raises questions as to why that production couldn’t occur throughout the game.

    2 – I suppose someone should have been more attentive…and perhaps they would have been had there been real worry on the sidelines. You only watch the clock when you think you don’t have enough time. Perhaps, at 2:52, no one was really worried.

    3 – I don’t think Vick can see AB across the middle of the field. That simple. He sees DHB on the outside. Or Wheaton. Or even AB when he does connect with him. But not across the middle in the intermediate space. If you watch replays, you see that the only passes he makes over the middle is when there’s a clear viewing lane. But defenses know to clog the middle on Vick. Vick also isn’t good on anticipation routes — something Big Ben and AB have built up over the last few years.

    4 – Not really. It’s a predictable play. Bell always ran left.

    5 – Yes. Big Ben hasn’t been knocked out of the NFL permanently, which I think would have happened with Arians.

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  • 1. Both. Cowher may be right if you are referring to a veteran team, but with a young team, tight games show where you are AND build confidence and character. The San Diego game showed both.

    2. Yes, but we had enough time. You can’t blame the mistake if you lose. You play with the clock as see it and manage accordingly. Once it’s done, it’s a non issue.

    3. AB is a precise route runner and he and Ben have great timing. Vick does not have that, at least not now and probably not ever. Ben is a HOF QB. Hopefully, we won’t see that rapport build because Ben will be back.

    4. I’m wild about anything that works. That aid, it goes back in the bag of tricks when Benny gets back – we don’t need it withBB.

    5. Absolutely. If fact, he made the best choice for the Steelers and Bruce. Ben has never been more productive. The offense is more explosive ((with Ben, not Vick). While the improvement is due somewhat to upgraded personnel, Haley’s scheme is just plain better. Ariens has found new life and my hat is off to him. He is winning with Palmer who I thought was washed up. He won when Palmer was hurt. I was never an Ariens hater, but I do like Haley. Right now, everybody ought to be happy.

    Liked by 1 person

  • 1. I think it did both. I’ll reserve judgment as to what the actual long term results will be, but I believe the potentials are enormous for the following reasons. Tomlin. I think all of us have things that we claim to believe in that we agree with the underlying philosophy, but in practice never rise above slogans that we display prominently on the walls of our lives, but never practice. Tomlin has said time and again that he does not live in his fears, and on Monday night he demonstrated that. As an act of leadership this is off the charts. We all know exactly what would be happening right now if they had not executed that play. Ugly wouldn’t have begun to describe it. A few cranks would of complained if he had kicked a field goal, and maybe more if they had gone on to lose from there, but most would have signed off on such a decision as good pragmatic coaching.

    As Hombre has noted in his Steel Curtain Rising blog, Tomlin took a leap of faith and put his trust in his team to deliver with one play. Nobody can remember actually witnessing something like that before which shows how uncommon this kind of thing is. And he did it in such a way that the lions share of the blame would fall on him if it fails. So all of you reading this, you tell me. If you played for the Steelers how are you feeling about things today? Young guys like Dupree, Tuitt, Cockrell and Shazier. Do you believe? Do you see the possibilities? When that man talks are you going to listen? Free agents like Vick, Blake, Mitchell, DeAngelo Williams and Moats. Feeling fortunate to be here? Not the same old, same old as in Philly, Carolina, Buffalo or Jacksonville. Think Ben, Heath, Deebo, Gay and Spaeth don’t see it? None of this guarantees a championship this year, or even a win this week, but I do believe that the potential of this being the next great Steelers team is real and if it manifests they may very well point to this moment as to when it began in earnest.

    2. The short answer is no. The interesting difference between this and the first question is that one addresses a leadership issue and the other a management issue. And while some management issues are essential to success on the field, many others aren’t and may reflect the bureaucratic mindsets and obsessions of the observers. So now are we supposed to have an assistant coach in charge of making sure that those charged with administering the game are doing their jobs? I thought Tomlin’s response was pitch perfect. I prefer to evaluate Tomlin on his leadership, not his micromanagement skills. Those questions should be more properly directed at Art Rooney II in any case.

    3. Rebecca and I watched Ben and AB work at training camp the past two summers and came to the same conclusion each time. They had a special relationship that made them virtually unstoppable. Think Montana and Rice and the relationship that Dan Marino had with some of his receivers. Along with the physical/technical issues that have also been pointed out, a relationship like that is not built overnight, and Brown’s productivity has suffered as a consequence as the steps teams have taken to neutralize him are more effective.

    4. A useful gimmick that gets the ball directly in the hands of your best player, plus creates a scenario where Bell and Williams can be on the field at the same time with an equal level of threat. It will be interesting to see if it survives the return of Ben.

    5. A necessary move that doesn’t reflects on the abilities of any of the players involved, but on ‘fit’. The move provided the best chance for Ben to extend his career and amplify his effectiveness.

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    • Great comment, Ivan. You amaze me with your insights and your ability to communicate them to us.

      Kudos to Hombre for a interesting set of smolders.

      Liked by 1 person

      • 1. Do your deeds match your creeds. If you read Ivan’s response you will hear the hammer hitting the nail squarely on the head.
        2. I would say no. The officials should have been more attentive to the game clock.
        3. They say repetition is the mother of skill. I would assume that chemistry is the father. Ben and A/B have both.
        4. Yea why not. Try it this week too. If it works I bet we will see more than 5 wildcat plays being called. You can bet AZ is preparing for it.
        5. Yes. The second and third order effects have(so far) proven that this was a good decision for everyone involved.

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  • 2. I think not. Unless I see proof that it happens more often than we notice it, I think the Steelers should just assume other people are doing their jobs too. Having to always double.check everything and everyone else takes away valuable resources. Basically that’s what Tomlin was also alluding to.
    3. Maybe it’s just not that easy to replicate what Ben has going on with Brown. Ben has the confidence in Brown and himself to throw to 84 even if he is covered – because he knows where Brown will be and will be open by then. I hope Vick can build such a rapport with Brown as we go through one more week of practice. Or not – Bryant will be back anyway and with him I see no issue Vick connecting (see a 3 catch / 100 yards + 15 yards PI call in preseason, against the Bills I think, in their first game together). I don’t care how the work gets done and who gets the yards. Sorry for Brown’s potential record breaking season, but that is not what they are here for.
    4. No. I think it worked only because the Chargers weren’t expecting it. I don’t think we’ll see it again this week.
    5. I think it is a typical situation that turned out win-win for all involved. BA got a HC job he would no way to be considered as OC with the Steelers, and we got a better than ever offense and +4 years at least for Ben.

    (Also, great site, happy that I found where everybody from BTSC went 😉

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  • 5 combusting answers

    1. It was a display of character by our defense, I don’t know how to describe our offense without Ben but on the final drive it was a display of character by Vick to lead the winning drive.

    2. I place the blame on the officials, it is their job to keep the time.

    3. I think Vick is terrible with the mid to short range throws which is where AB mostly plies his trade.

    4. I hated the Steelers display of the Wildcat it was obviously done out of desperation.

    5. Yes. And the decision to let BA go had benefitted everyone. The Steelers offense is much better with Todd Haley and BA has gone on to be wildly successful as a head coach.

    Liked by 1 person

  • Toronto Steeler Fan

    1. Both. I think for a younger team it builds character and for a veteran team it displays it.

    2. Agree with fever – the blame is on the officials.

    3. AB’s game depends so much on timing and accurate throws, and Vick is neither accurate (in the short/medium range) nor has he played long enough yet in this offense to make those timing throws to any of these receivers. That means he’s basically going to stick to hitting open targets or guys who have the big catch radius and can go up and fight for a contested throw (the Tall Receivers).

    4. It was definitely the flavor of the week – last week. I doubt we’ll see much of it this week, if at all. I’m guessing that there will be some new wrinkle, like jet sweeps, flea flickers, AB throwing the ball to Vick, etc.

    5. His offenses piled up a lot of yards and didn’t score a lot of points (relative to the yards gained). His QBs (here, Indianapolis and Arizona) all get beaten to a pulp, which dramatically reduces his teams’ prospects in the post-season. I don’t think he was highly regarded around the NFL as an OC while with the Steelers since there never were reports of any teams interviewing him for open head coaching opportunities. However, his track record as a head coach is excellent (with a small sample size). I think he’s one of those guys who is a good head coach and a mediocre coordinator, and it was good for both BA and the Steelers for him to “retire”.

    Liked by 1 person

  • 1. Both.

    2. Since it was a touchback the clock never should have been started in the first place. As Ben said, nobody was watching the clock on the sidelines because there shouldn’t have been anything to watch. I noticed the side judge whose job it was to notice was suspended. I further noticed it was for one week, with pay. Anybody else interested in a job where you get paid for not going to work after you’ve completely bombed on the one thing you’re supposed to do? I would sign up. And is anyone asking any questions of the San Diego resident hired by the NFL to actually run the clock? Just sayin’

    3. What Toronto Steeler Fan said, in addition to dropping a touchdown pass in the Ravens game. That was not a bad pass at all, and AB should have had it. Instead of asking Mike to trust him, maybe he should be asking himself if Mike doesn’t have reason not to.

    4. See tomorrow’s opponent preview for my suggested tweak of the Wildcat… And I don’t think we’ll see the Wildcat much this week, if at all, unless it is desperate times. (That said, to line up like that once or twice might give the defense something else to worry about…)

    5. I thought the original decision was handled very poorly, leaving Mike Tomlin looking foolish, although I don’t think that was Art II’s intention. But all’s well that ends well, as someone once said. Mike Ditka, maybe? ; )

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  • 1. Both looks to be the correct answer. As a whole, it establishes what we know, “The Standard is the Standard”. For some on the individuals, it’s a definite character builder.

    2. Someone has to watch the clock…. period.

    3. AB is seeing tighter coverage as a #1 should. DHB and WheatThins and others are picking up the slack. Vick and timing routes are not his forte, which is what Ben and AB are tops ar.

    4. Put the ball in the hands of your best playmakers… I expect a Bell sweep into a reverse to AB into a pass to DHB for a TD soon.

    5. I think it’s a push. The offense needed a change. Arians was the soldier to fall on the sword. If Haley wasn’t given 3 years, I think he’d fall on the sword as well…

    Liked by 2 people

  • 1. Yes. You display character when you have character. Hopefully the trait we saw wasn’t just a long week of rest.
    2. I actually ran clock in college, wasn’t very good at the start. I had refs reset the clock a lot. The only time I didn’t know I messed up was if I honestly didn’t know the rules. Someone got away with it, and someone failed to catch it. The Steelers don’t need to be watching the clock, the NFL is responsible for the game being fair.
    3. Wrong type of receiver for Vick. It’s that simple. Vick needs the height/speed guys. Ben Doesn’t.
    4. Ben spreads the defense out just by being on the field, he can attack you anywhere, Vick can’t, so why not get creative?
    5. Arians had the benefit of working under Tomlin and then moved on. He’s a good coach, but hasn’t had a healthy QB for the playoffs yet. I hope we can pull that off soon.

    Liked by 1 person

  • 1. Can’t agree more with Ivan

    2. I think you can blame both but ultimately the officials. Even on defemse, the clock is something coaches need to be aware of especially when they need another possession to win. As a fan, knowing that our offense isn’t very time friendly with Vick at the helm, knowing we had 2:56 was reassuring since we likely won’t be very effective in no huddle (later I think they did Alright given circumstances). I expected somebody to notice that 18 seconds were missing by the time we got ready to snap the ball but no one did. The clock was a huge part of managing the game at that point.

    That being said, I get Coach’s comment bc if they looked and saw 2:38 was what they had to work with, then so be it, get the job done. It was enough time not to complain about.

    3. I think vick has taken upon himself to not make mistakes. Brown is incredibly quick but is covered by the most dangerous corners and gets most of the attention. Vick just feels safer going away from those dangers. Also maybe it’s a lack of confidence in himself, he is well aware of his accuracy for those timing routes.

    4. Not wild, but I can dig it when we win. I would have loved it if he pulled out the wildcat once at the end for the finale. Maybe one other time in the game but yeah no more than twice a game for me. At least show more variety in the set besides the fake end around and run to the left.

    5. He made the right call. Cardinals have had multiple qb injuries just as any BA system does. Can’t argue with the production ben has enjoyed since streamlining haleys system either. Plus he’s been hit less.

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  • 1. I’m that 50 year old Argentine guy. I think it build character AS A TEAM. With young and old players. As I write these words my Steelers won another unbelievable game against Cardinals showing that what we hear from the leaps of Tomlin again and again: Next Man Up.
    During the chargers game the one who struggled against himself and the playbook was Vick and he finally could fire the spark on that offensive unit for the victory. (Display he’s own character) And we were very grateful with Vick for that, for the struggle, for the effort, for not give up.
    On the other game the hero was a rookie (in fact a rookie) who “couldn’t believe he was in the game” Who was in the Ben’s shadow for 3 years waiting for the call…
    And he did well! Very well. Almost perfect.
    Next man up and the Standard is The Standard…
    Another great story for NFL Films and Facenda’s voice…

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    • Welcome, Dr. de Acero. We like Argentinian guys around here : ) And I agree completely. The really interesting and exciting thing about this season is, you never really know who the next week’s hero will be. It’s a scary but fascinating ride.

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