5 Smoldering Questions On the Pittsburgh Steelers, Week 7

This week Hombre de Acero is unfortunately not among us. Not in the corporal sense, of course—he was never that. But he is on an extended business trip, which means, according to him, that something huge is about to happen in the Steelers universe. Because something huge ALWAYS happens in the Steelers universe while he’s gone. Let’s hope it is something good!

In Hombre’s absence I called upon the resources at my disposal for help in compiling this week’s Smoldering Questions. Ivan, Adrian, and Homer J. submitted queries. Your assignment, should you choose to accept it, is to grapple with them. After all, it isn’t only the players who have to prepare for Cincinnati:

(1) Ivan asks: Thirty nine years ago, the Steelers made the playoffs with a backup quarterback playing for much of the season. That year the formula for success was to rely on the defense and the running game which resulted in Franco Harris and Rocky Bleier each gained a 1,000 yards. Even though Le’Veon Bell had a solid game on Sunday in Kansas City, would the Steelers have been better off leaning on him even more, depending upon him and DeAngelo Williams to carry the offense and bypassing Landry Jones?

(2) Michael Vick and Landry Jones have both shown us how vitally important timing has been to the success of Antonio Brown. As one color guy said during one game as Jones was looking for Brown, “if you have to look for him, you’re already too late.”

Ben has been out for a month, and Brown’s production has dropped sharply. Do you expect their timing to be as sharp as it was when Ben got hurt, or do expect it to take a week or two to get back to that point? (Thanks to Homer J. for that one.)

(3) Last week many people believed the Kansas City game was a so-called “trap game.” Perhaps it was, but I felt it was just a poor matchup they couldn’t sufficiently overcome with the available personnel.

That said, Adrian wonders whether the Steelers are going to feel relieved with Ben back and let off the gas. I suppose this could be another version of a trap game. What say all of you?

(4) DeAngelo Williams was used several times on short yardage—two times on 3rd-and-1 and twice on 4th-and-1. The results were, in this order: 6 yards, no gain, three yards, no gain. Craig Wolfley says that despite Bell being the better back, when you just need a yard or two Williams’ straight-into-the middle approach on a play designed to hit immediately can be better. Do you agree? Do you think the two cases of no gain (one on a 4th-and-1 which turned the ball over on downs) would have been converted with Bell as the ball-carrier?

(5) Was the inability to get defensive turnovers simply bad luck or the product of something else? What do you expect this week in that department? (Thanks, Adrian!)

 

Please hand your assignment to the monitor at the end of your row. Don’t forget to show your work!

18 comments

  • 1. It may have helped, and whittled the clock down a lot, but if we had run it as much more as you are describing, the defense would have compressed, putting 8, 9, or 10 in the box. I don’t think it would have won us the game.

    2. Brown had god production against Kansas City. I think he may start off a bit slow, but will pick up as the game goes on and there won’t be any issues.

    3. This would be a trap game if cinci weren’t 6-0 and 2 1/2 games ahead of us. Getting Ben back is a relief, but it is by no means a gaurantee of a win, especially with how the bengals are playing right now. The team should be focused and ready to go.

    4. I think we need some plays for short yardage where both backs are in the backfield. The defense would have to guard the outside and between the tackles.

    5. The product of not being able to get to Alex Smith and the dink & dunk style of KC’s game. Hard to pressure the quarterback when the ball is in and out of his hands within 2 seconds per play. Also, having Tuitt out didn’t help. Correct me if I am wrong, but cinci is not a dink & dunk style offense. I think we can get pressure on Dalton and hopefully force some turnovers.

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  • 1 – Well, it certainly seems so. On the one hand, if you can run close to your normal offense with a backup, I see why the coaches may want to do so…but leaving your workhorse in the stable is only a good plan if the rest of your scheme works.

    2 – I think their timing will return quickly. They certainly didn’t need much to get cookin’ during pre-season.

    3 – I don’t believe the defense will be affected by the return of Ben. The offense will only feel relief. There may not be the talent and experience on the defensive side of the ball that we’re used to…but there’s still plenty of pride. I don’t think Big Ben will be their safety blanket.

    4 – Unless there’s proof that Bell’s patient ways are detrimental… I don’t buy it. However, it could be that with the loss of Beachum, there wasn’t as much confidence that AV could hold his blocks as long, so the coaches went with the quick hitter. Still, I’d rather gamble with my best RB.

    5 – Defensive turnovers can’t be ordered at the drive-thru window. Fumbles are difficult to get and INTs usually happen when an offense messes up — inaccurate pass, poor route running. So no, I don’t think there’s some major issue when the D doesn’t get a turnover. In one game. If it stretches to 3-4 games..then it is an issue.

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  • 1) If they didn’t throw as much as they did, it would have been long afternoon for Bell. Jones passing wasn’t great but it was good enough that the Chiefs had to respect it. Using Bell or Williams more would have been making the offense one dimensional. On the other hand, they probably wouldn’t have had three turnovers which is, in my opinion, the reason that KC won the game. So yes I believe that more Bell and Williams would have helped. I am not criticizing Jones’ play, I thought he did OK for a 3rd string QB in his first start.

    2) It won’t take long. Even if they need time to get the timing down it will still be better that it has been for the last four weeks.

    3) IMO, it is only a trap game if a team is looking past their current opponent to the following weeks opponent, and I don’t think that happens very often. The players know that the other teams are paid to win also. People call so many things “trap games” because they must have a reason/explanation for a loss. KC wasn’t a trap game because of the injuries and 3rd string QB, and Cincy won’t be a trap game either. Do you think that none of the players are aware that Ben hasn’t played his best coming back from injury? I prefer that John Madden explanation, that there isn’t always a reason, sometimes the team that scores the most points wins.

    4) I see where Wolfley’s coming from with the quick hit into the line, if there is a yard to get Williams should get it. But how many times have we seen Bell, for all appearances, stopped at the line of scrimmage and then somehow surging ahead for three yards? I could see it if you had a small guy as your main RB, but Bell is somewhere between 210 and 220 lbs, and is a strong runner who keeps his feet moving. I too, have to believe that it wasn’t a lack of faith in Bell, but was more because of Villanueava’s first start.

    5) It’s hard to get pressure with a two second release, and without pressure, it’s hard to get turnovers. When they did get pressure on Smith he was erratic, but it didn’t happen often enough. This week, I am sure Cincy will try getting the ball out quickly, but I feel confident that they will rattle Dalton’s cage a bit. I am a little concerned about the CB situation though. If Gay can’t play, will we find out that there really is a reason why Blake is playing ahead of Boykin?

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  • 1. Agree with mtsnot

    2. I wouldn’t expect perfect timing, but it will be 80% or better. Back to in synch during game next week.

    3. This is in no way a trap game. Trap game = overconfidence against a lesser opponent. If any player isn’t jacked sky high for this game, it’s time to move on.

    4. I don’t think there is any way to know whether Bell makes it or not. With 20/20 hindsight, Williams was a bad play call. If he makes it, good call. The life of an OC.

    5. It’s tough to make a play on a team that drinks and dunks. There’s some luck and some skill. I would love to see a turnover or two come our way this week.

    I have a good feeling this week. It’s based more on emotion than reason, but this is a great offense when it is healthy. Except for the OL, we are healthy. If Al V. holds his own it could be fun. If not, ouch!

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    • I like this set of answers, especially No. 5. A team that drinks and dunks probably is tough to make a play on! All that slurring and stumbling around completely confused our sober defense.

      Sorry to laugh at your typo, Roxanna but it was a great one.

      Earthling

      Liked by 1 person

  • 5 Feelings Are Hurt Answers

    1. Yes, Bell should have gotten the ball more. Bell wouldn’t have dropped a crucial pass in a goal line situation as did Williams.

    2. We really need for their timing to be sharp. I am going to go with a bicycle analogy, once you learn to ride you never forget how. Let us hope I am right.

    3. No way. These Bengals are 6-0 and leading the division.

    4. Definitely give the ball to Bell in those situations, his patience is the key, he almost never loses yardage and will usually gain at least a couple of yards on the worst blocked running play.

    5. Steelers simply didn’t get enough pressure on Alex Smith.

    Bonus answers since nobody, ahem, bothered to ask me to submit a question: Pittsburgh Steelers!

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  • You know I was kidding, but I would be happy to help out if needed. The KC game was an awesome experience even in a loss. You can imagine the look on the other Rebecca’s face as she was taking my picture with a couple of the KC cheerleaders.

    The bonus question was what team is the best team to ever be a team 🙂

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  • Homer sends greetings from 32,000 feet over Paducah, KY, en route to Vancouver by of Phoenix. Thanks to the miracle of go-go inflight, he is able to provide this feeble attempt to answer this week’s smoldering questions:

    1) Yep. You go with your best, so long as the matchups aren’t awful. Bell had enough of an OL in front of him. He also wouldn’t have dropped that pass on the four yard line. Opening up with Jones passing on the first series wasn’t bad to cross up the D, but they should have relied more on Bell after that.

    2) They will click from the first pass. Like they haven’t been apart at all. Trust me.

    3) Totally relieved and ready to put the pedal to the metal. This team has been missing their leader and he’s baaack! They are going to kick the stuffings out of Cincy’s D.

    4) Williams is only marginally stronger than Bell when running into a wall – he just doesn’t dance as much. And he sure as hell can’t catch a pass in the flat like Bell. You are best off with both those guys in the backfield and Ben as QB, with the QB checking off at the line of scrimmage – reading the defense – and deciding then whether to go up the middle, outside, or passing.

    5) The lack of turnovers against KC wasn’t bad luck at all. I don’t recall any dropped INTs or near-INTs, nor do I remember KC putting the ball on the ground. KC played a highly-disciplined dink-and-dunk offense that can be kryptonite to the Steeler D. The absence of Tuitt was a serious loss, as they really didn’t get to Smith enough to force mistakes. If you can’t create havoc in the backfield, you expose the weakness of your defensive backs. We saw that. Dink and dunk DID turn Homer to drink and dunk.

    The pilot says we’ve just crossed the Mississippi and St Louis is 75 miles off to our right side. Homer will be unable to watch this Sunday’s game, because he will be on a train crossing the Canadian Rockies at that time, so he asks you to overeat a little bit and cheer a little louder to make up for his absence.

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    • You know, as many things as there are that are annoying about the internet, it really is a miracle of modern society.

      Love the answers, although in regards to No. 4, I thought part of the reason they haven’t been using much in the way of a two-back formation is that neither Williams nor Bell are really reliable blockers. Does anyone else have more on this? I’m afraid I haven’t paid attention to that aspect of their games.

      Agreed on No. 5 – and this worries me about the Bengals. They have made very few mistakes with the ball. I’m really hoping you are correct, Homer, the offense clicking right away.

      Enjoy the trip. My husband is totally jealous—he’s a train freak…

      Like

      • Everything I’ve seen of Bell is that he’s an outstanding blocker in pass protection – absolutely terrific. But pass pro and run blocking are two different animals, and I haven’t seen enough of the two back offense to have an opinion on how he’d do in a short yardage blocking situation. I have seen him throw a couple of excellent downfield blocks, and there have been other plays where he has effectively screened a defender from a receiver. I’d be comfortable with Bell blocking for Williams, or for Ben.

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    • cold_old_steelers_fan

      Vancouver, at least in the 1970s, was one of the most beautiful cities in the world (when it was sunny) with the amazing Stanley Park and 5 beaches within walking distance of the downtown (several other beaches existed as well). I haven’t been back since then but I imagine it is still pretty spectacular (although Stanley Park did lose many of its majestic trees).

      I traveled through the Canadian Rockies by train back then as well but for reasons unknown (perhaps safety) the trains went through the mountains at night then which kinda defeated the viewing the mountains from the train thing.

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      • It seems like it might be a beautiful city. I’ll let you know when it stops raining. Also, it’s 8 o’clock in the morning and it’s still almost pitch black outside.

        Vancouver is sort of like Seattle, only rainy.

        Homer will update this story as more information becomes available.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Homer can report a sun sighting…..briefly….and confirm COSF’s recollection that Vancouver is a drop dead gorgeous city with lots of hills and rivers and creeks and a False Creek (whatever the hell that is), and big bridges everywhere. There are 2 1/2 million people in the GVA (figure it out) and the city has some beautiful architecture, virtually no freeways in town, but lots of great public transit. In the last 24 hours, we’ve taken the subway, a ferry boat, a water taxi, and a bus. And we didn’t have to wait more than five minutes for any of them. Wow!

          Homie also had some pulled pork poutine (french fries drenched in gravy with cheese curds, and topped with pulled pork, bacon bits, onions and spices). It may sound awful, and it has to be a heart attack in a Chinese takeout container, but it’s really, really good. Poutine can be addictive, which is why people in Quebec look great until they hit the age of 30, and then look like they fell off a cliff and into a fat farm. That damn stuff WILL kill you, and Homer, as you know, can resist everything but temptation.

          Train leaves for Toronto at 830pm tonight on Track 2. Root hard for the Steelers in my absence. All aboard!

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  • Finally, my almost smothered answers (smothered in non-football work, that is…)

    1) I’d love to think so, but I think what we saw was that if you don’t demonstrate you can move the ball in the passing game, you can totally shut down the running game. And when you’re well behind near the end of the game you don’t have the luxury of running it.

    2) Yes.

    3) No. You can tell I’m really busy this week (first rehearsal for Christmas concerts coming next Monday, still have about a half dozen arrangements to do…)

    4) I asked because I really wanted to know : )

    5) Homer nailed it.

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  • 1) I think running it a little more may have helped. However, KC’s defense is pretty mentally strong, so you really can’t fool them for long.

    2) It’s just like riding a bike. There *might* be a few rusty plays, but I’d say by the second half things will be back to normal.

    3) They’ll definitely feel relieved to have their leader back in the lineup. However, never put your foot off the gas.

    4) I really like DeAngelo. I don’t think one is better than the other when it comes to short yardage situations because they both have different strengths but compliment each other. Bell is fast, and an ankle breaker, whereas Williams is more of a bruiser.

    5) I missed the game, so I can’t answer this one. 😦

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