On Second Thought: Steelers at Seahawks Throwback Sunday?

AP Photo/Ted S. Warren

by Ivan Cole, with interpolations by Homer J. and his famous report card

Today’s theme comes from a remark from Homer J as the game ended. He said that at the beginning of the year this would be how we would have expected to lose.

It is no way near as simple or clear cut as that, but there were enough of a resurfacing of some past concerns that it brings into question a lot of the revisionist thinking that surrounds this team’s strengths and weaknesses.

Landry Jones

Low hanging fruit here. But I think I am on pretty solid ground in saying that whatever honeymoon was associated with Jones is over and the relationship, with the fans at least, is on the rocks. Now, granted, the wisdom of the fake field goal will be called into question, and rightfully so, though I wasn’t that opposed to the thought. If the ball had been properly thrown, Villaneuva would have likely scored, and we would have been talking about that one years from now.

Like so many decisions and play calls it’s genius if it works and utter stupidity if it doesn’t. Personally, my 20/20 hindsight thought is that given the weakness of the pass I would have taken my chances with Jordan Berry or even Chris Boswell throwing that duck. Right after the Seahawks scored I asked Homer (in jest) how many people could be fired for this one. I came up with five. Landry, of course, for being born. The Steelers brain trust; Mike Tomlin, Danny Smith and Todd Haley for good measure. Alejandro for not breaking up the pass. But I digress, I was discussing Landry.

Jones, unfortunately, wasn’t finished. I believe he ended the day completing three passes, two to Seahawks. I am not mad at Landry. My expectations were never that high. However, I think this might slow down the ‘Landry’s alright’ talk for the time being, and somebody should give some thought to getting beyond your resentments and coaching up that Vick kid.

Here’s what Homer had to say about that play:

What was that????? Landry Jones 4th down intercepted on fake field goal…almost returned for TD…returned to PIT 24. Fire Tomlin, Fire Haley, Fire Jones, Fire Villanueva for not catching the pass. 

Actually it was a solid play call – and I’ve been waiting for them to us Villanueva as an eligible receiver, because he caught a ton of passes as a tight end at West Point, but why did they not call off this play when the quarter ran out?? They lost the element of surprise on a surprise play when play stopped at the end of the quarter. Seattle was able to recognize who was in there and adjust. Jeez.

Homer also commented at the end of the game:

Landry Jones is coming in. Haven’t we suffered enough?

Martavis Bryant

When I saw Bryant for the first time at training camp in 2014 I saw moments of athletic brilliance in tandem with something, well, less. I saw it again today. I thought we were beyond that, but apparently not. Dropped passes and poor route running tarnished some really great stuff. The mistakes probably cost two scores, almost certainly touchdowns. On the other hand, difficult to fault him given the positives. But at least for one afternoon Bryant regressed.

Here was one of the good ones:

Double reverse to Bryant, great blocking… Bryant turns the corner as he turns on the afterburners… Ben gives up his body to throw a block to help spring Bryant. 

The defense

Tomlin rolled the dice and put the team’s fate in the hands of the defense in the end. For two downs it looked like it was going to work. That combined with the 39 points put up by the Seahawks would indicate to some that all our early beliefs concerning this defense were, in fact, true. But let us not forget about half of that total were the results of turnovers by the offense and special teams. I am not at all sure that Seattle could have won without that level of generosity.

However, as Homer notes:

Wilson just completed three third down and long passes on that drive.

And later:

Third and nine – Baldwin goes for 80 yards, beating Mitchell and Blake. Ouch. Mitchell and Blake with terrible tackling. It’s been a very tough afternoon for the secondary, especially Blake.

It wasn’t all bad, though:

PAT Blocked!!! PAT Blocked!!! McLendon and/or Heyward got a hand on it, and it fluttered harmlessly just short of the goal posts!!!! As Chuck Noll famously said, “Good things happen to people who hustle.” They didn’t mail it in on the PAT, they hustled.

If I recall correctly, that’s Heyward’s second blocked kick this year.

Officiating

Normally, I would say it’s just sour grapes to gripe about the refs, it is simply becoming undeniable that in all too many instances they have become too much a part of the story. The seemingly inscrutable rulings surrounding what is and is not a catch as well as a non-call on what I thought was an illegal contact on Antonio Brown by Richard Sherman (leading to an interception) and the alleged unsportsmanlike conduct on Lawrence Timmons for pushing Russell Wilson out of bounds makes it difficult for me to watch the proceedings without courting rage or disgust. I don’t come away feeling that justice has been served.

Over the course of his game notes Homer comments on several uncalled PIs, an uncalled face mask by Graham, the bogus penalty on Timmons, and a couple of blatant holding non-calls. Adrian and I were talking about this after the game and noted that there were no PI calls at all. I pointed out that there couldn’t possibly have been any PI calls on PIT, because there was never a DB within a mile of the receiver. He had to concede…

Here’s Homer’s actual comment on a couple of them, as you wouldn’t want to miss the flavor:

Brown knocked down by Richard Sherman. How could that not be illegal contact????? Intercepted and returned by Sherman.

Total nonsense call on Timmons, who was in bounds and hit Wilson, who was in bounds… You don’t even call that in flag football, for heaven’s sake. Maybe the call was because they damaged Wilson’s karma, and his karma appears to be very delicate today.

He added later:

The Steelers have had three plays screwed up by replay.

Injuries

Though things on this front weren’t catastrophic, at least nowhere near as bad as Seattle losing Graham, the fact that for the third time this season Ben Roethlisberger did not finish a game he started causes one to feel fragile.

Coaching

Homer comments:

Big hole up the middle [near the end of the first half] for D-Will for the TD. They went 80 yards in 1:14…but that leaves :56 for Seattle. Yinzers are going to complain about Tomlin’s clock management. They’re gonna say that D-Will should have stopped at the one yard line, picked up some beer, and then crossed into the end zone.

Good news

The offensive numbers were astronomical. The offense stopped itself on occasion, but Seattle seemed incapable of doing so on a regular basis itself.

Markus Wheaton had a career receiving day. As Homer said:

Wheaton is having the game of his life, just up the road from Corvallis, where he played in college.

Heath Miller had a great first half. Jessie James had some moments.

DeAngelo Williams quietly had a very productive ‘clutch’ day. The offensive line kept one of the best pass rushing fronts mostly at bay.

Cam Heyward was the top headliner on the defensive side of the ball, adding a blocked extra point attempt to his all-around excellent play.

Boswell was perfect with his field goal attempts. Jacoby Jones didn’t fumble.

Summary

In theory at least this is a loss that is not supposed to be so bothersome. The smart thinking put this game in the loss column from the time the schedule was announced. Playing against the defending conference champion on the road, on the West coast no less. But it was clear to me that Pittsburgh was, in fact, the better team. A winnable game and a lost opportunity. Too bad.

Homer J.’s Report Card:

Quarterback: B+ Ben was terrific. Of the two picks, one was a pass where the receiver was knocked down. Landry Jones was disastrous.

Running Back: A  DeAngelo Williams was all that, and more. Just terrific.

Wide Receivers: B+  Marcus Wheaton had the best game of his life. Bryant was Bryant, with flashes of brilliance and some big drops. AB was hounded, held, and still made some big plays.

Tight Ends: A  Heath Miller was targeted and delivered until he got hurt. Jesse James filled in well. Blocking by TEs was solid.

 Offensive Line: B  Run blocking as pass pro were exemplary in the first half. Pass pro broke down in the second half.

Special Teams: D  The Landry Jones fake field goal proved fatal. Terrible coverage on a Lockett kickoff return. They did manage to black a Seattle PAT, and get a two point conversion, which raised their grade from an F.

Defense: D+  They gave up 39 points. Some players were better than others, and some made big plays. But, in general, they were half a step too slow in the third and fourth quarters, and this team looked for all the world like what we feared at the beginning of the season they would be. The tackling in the secondary was especially bad. Rather than give grades for DL, LB, and CB, let’s say they failed as a unit.

Coaching: D  The refusal to call off the fake field goal after the element of surprise was lost is still a complete head-scratcher. That play was a ten point swing and cost them the game. Also, not sure about going for the field goal to make it 32-30. Had they failed, the Seahawks would have gained possession at their own four yard line. Granted, the D wasn’t stopping anyone at the end of the game, but still…

A tough loss. I hope Ben and Heath are okay.

THE DIVISION RACE IS OVER, BUT THE SEASON STILL HAS A LONG WAY TO GO. 

21 comments

  • When you two guys analyze the game, there’s not much left to cover. I agree with most of your comments. I give Coach T a pass on the fake/interception. Granted, Seat.le has it figured out, but not defended. For me, it was a failure to execute by LJ (he’ll have to deal with initials, because Momma wouldn’t like the alternatives), pure and simple. It’s not a tough throw and he’s a QB, for mercy sakes! As you said, ten point swing plus, if executed, we go up by 14.

    All in all, not a bad effort. I didn’t expect a win and in the end, we played well enough to win, even tho’ the secondary was grotesque. If we stay healthy, we could run the table from here.

    Parting note: Tuitt does not seem to be playing any where near his pre-injury level. Same with Shazier, tho’ he keeps getting hurt , and the fine play of Vince and Spence mitigate this some. The defense looked much better a few games back. I don’t pretend to know what’s wrong with the D other than the obvious fact that they couldn’t cover anyone yesterday, but going forward, there needs to be some improvement so the offense has a chance to win it. We had insufficient pressure on Wilson (mobility?) but I believe all these issues result in the porous DB that needs, once again, to be shored up.

    Alas, this was the pretty one that got away.

    Liked by 1 person

  • Good title. Alternative . ..”Throwup Sunday.”

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  • The yinzers are all saying Shazier is a draft bust. It’s too early for that, but he certainly seems to get busted just about every time he plays. Maybe they should replace “SHAZIER” on the back of his uniform with “FRAGILE.”

    It’s Italian, you know. “Frah-gee-lay!”

    And we could have Frah-gee-lay’s Italian Army. Good times!

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    • I have a hard time differentiating between Yinzers and Buckeye fans these days. I think they see one play, then take the rest of the game off to type their anti-everything manifestos.

      Liked by 1 person

  • I counted 5 plays where Sherman should have been flagged, and he only got 1 all game. Even the announcers were talking about it.

    Shazier injured again? I know it isn’t his fault, but I am close to putting this in the same column as death and taxes.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Unbelievable what Sherman got away with on the PI non-calls. I know we did more than enough to shoot ourselves in the foot, but that was ridiculous. He got to do pretty much anything he wanted, and he just kept getting bolder, once it became clear that he could get away with it. A hard game gets harder if you’re playing against the opponent, yourself, AND the refs.

      And the injuries! It is almost laughable at this point, and it no longer seems to be a question of whether a first stringer gets hurt…, merely which one(s). It seemed pretty clear that Ben was woozy after that hit, and I was concerned that he wasn’t pulled. Even if it brought in Jones, I’m really glad that he reported his symptoms, unlike last year in the playoff game against Baltimore. Maybe he’s getting older and wiser about concussions, and that’s a good thing.

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      • My son and I talked after the game and it’s his theory that they aren’t called because he’s Richard Sherman. But that’s kind of disgusting. It’s all of a piece as to how seldom Ben gets roughing calls – because he’s so big I guess the refs figure it doesn’t bother him. He probably would never have gotten the call yesterday if Bennett hadn’t actually hit him in the head.

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        • Legion of Boom was a well earned nickname, after all. They played physical, but clean…and now get the benefit of the doubt when they play physical, but not so clean.

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  • Tomlin is taking major heat for the fake punt debacle. I just can’t understand why Jones isn’t expected to make that throw. AV was wide open with nobody behind him and plenty of time to make it. Lack of execution.

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    • I saw a comment somewhere that condemned the play because Jones was throwing to his left tackle. No mention that his left tackle played wide receiver and tight end in college.

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    • But the Steelers didn’t need a big play at that point, they needed to kick the FG and retain momentum in a hostile environment.

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      • In retrospect, we did need a big play. We were up 3-0 and 6-0 would have been nice, but 10-0 makes a big statement. Jones throws a decent pass, and it’s a punch in the moth from the offense.

        Of course, it’s debatable, but I’m a fan of playing to win being a little aggressive. One Burgh pundit said that the attempts was absolutely, positively wrong, no question about it. I think we had a weird play called, but as it unfolded, it should have worked. Jones messed up a pretty easy pass, one I’m sure he made easily in practice. He blew it and the you can criticize the coach for being aggressive, but I like a coach who does not anticipate failure. If you fear failure, you will fail. Just my oh so humble opinion.

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    • Because the Steeler fan tradition after any loss is to heap any and all blame on Tomlin.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I just didn’t agree with the call, not bashing Coach Tomlin. Maybe if they had tried it before the quarter ended, but trying it with your backup QB when Seattle knew exactly what was coming after they had the timeout period to make adjustments….that just doesn’t make any sense.

        Why not at least put Ben out there, no one, even me sitting on my couch, was fooled.

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    • cold_old_steelers_fan

      This. It is on LJ as far as I am concerned.

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    • Jones seemed to be throwing that ball like his receiver was an offensive tackle. Did he forget that the guy played tight end at one time?

      Liked by 1 person

  • I am really disappointed today. I felt the Steelers were the better team yet they came away with a loss because of the reasons mentioned in the article. Sigh…oh well, the season is far from over and I can still see this team making a splash in the playoffs, providing they make the playoffs. Sigh…Tomlin needs to play Gay and Cockrell on the outside with Boykin playing the slot, this change needs to come this week and they can use Blake’s broken thumb as an excuse to save face.

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  • cold_old_steelers_fan

    I missed (read refused to watch) the last two minutes of the game. I had wondered about Ben after he took that hit but I didn’t realize he was that bad. I wonder if that was a factor in Tomlin’s decision to go for a field goal at the end. With the beating he has been taking, I don’t know that he will last through the end of next season. QB is has gotten very thin on the depth chart. The team needs a seasoned vet back up and a developmental player already. It is time to scout Ben’s backup.

    There were several plays where the Seattle players were playing on the wrong side of over aggressive but there seemed to be little done to curb it till it was too late. It will be interesting to see if there are any fines or suspensions after the fact. Somehow I doubt it.

    The officiating in yesterday’s game may well have been the most biased I have seen in the last 5 years… maybe longer. I was fuming much of the game (even when we were leading and seemed to be in control). I don’t know the track record if for the crew that worked yesterday’s game but I will not be surprised to be told it is poor. It is sad when the CFL, which has to check under the cushions for pocket change to keep afloat, has better officiating. Is the NFL or WWF? If it is the later then I wish they would post the scripts in advance so I could avoid the games where we get screwed.

    In spite of all the issues with crap officiating and cheap shots by the Seattle players, this is a game Pittsburgh should have won. We only have one more loss left in the bag before the season is over. I hope they don’t blow it.

    It is sad that outstanding games by Wheaton, D-Will and Heath Miller (before his injury) among others, are over shadowed by a very poor result.

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  • I can’t blame Bryant for beating the defense only to have to turn around and have to fight through the defense to get to the ball.
    If Ben can lead Bryant deep he has a great shot at 3 maybe 4 TDs? Ben had a great game overall, he’s an incredible QB, but he wasn’t getting those balls to Bryant deep. That’s the trouble with an older QB with all those hits on him.

    Honestly I don’t think Landry should have had the ball snapped, they weren’t fooled, the defense covered well. Look at Ben on the 1 yard line, the play wasn’t there so he took the delay and they kicked the field goal. Landry could have taken the delay and we could have punted. The throw he tried was across his body against his motion, you aren’t hitting that pass unless he’s wide open. Never should have tried it.

    Anyone else notice that we had 3 weeks without glaring miscommunication while Will Allen was out?
    Arizona, KC and Cincy we gave up 46 points, 2 passing TDs to 4 Int.
    Raiders, Browns, Seahawks we gave up 83 points, 10 passing TDs to 2 Int.
    But even bigger than that we keep seeing Blake on 2 receivers, switches that make no sense, and Will Allen getting late to his receiver.

    Like

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