5 Smoldering Questions On the Pittsburgh Steelers, Week 13

AP Photo/Gene Puskar

Hombre de Acero is once again out of pocket, but that doesn’t let Steeler Nation off the hook. Before we look ahead to a very important divisional tilt in Cincinnati we have five questions to resolve.

№ 1: There were some beautiful and impressive catches Sunday night made by numerous members of the offense. One of them, to Antonio Brown, was nullified by a personal foul penalty which was announced as being on #78, Alejandro Villanueva. In fact it was either on Cody Wallace or Ramon Foster, depending on who you believe. The announcers showed some post-whistle activity on Wallace’s part, for sure. The question is, are you disturbed by the penalty or are you a fan of the attitude? Does the fact it was near the end of the first half, when the score was still 14-10 and time was running short make a difference?

№ 2: And in a related question, are you worried about the ‘grudge match’ aspect of next Sunday’s game @ Cincinnati leading to stupid penalties, or do you believe the offensive line (who seemed to take the majority of the umbrage to Vontaze Burfict) will use these emotions to be more focused and more dangerous?

№ 3: All things considered, do you care more about having a kicker who makes the vast majority of field goal attempts or one who almost never allows return yardage? (This is assuming you can’t, like Baltimore, have one who does both.)

№ 4: If William Gay can’t play on Sunday, due to insufficient progress through the concussion protocol, what would you suggest in terms of staffing the secondary, once you stop crying?

№ 5: Speaking of the secondary, do you believe the improvement on Sunday night was due to rotating Brandon Boykin into the game or due to increased pressure by the defensive line? You may also add another option, but in any case please explain your answer.

Bonus question:

Should Antonio Brown be returning punts? He’s awfully exciting, but he’s also awfully critical during the regular portions of the game. Defend your choice.


  • Cliff Harris is Still A Punk!

    1-2. I always believe penalties are on the coaching staff to correct. They are issues of discipline and discipline is a product of coaching. I wasn’t bothered by Wallace’s penalty because I didn’t think it was dirty but if Coach T did he needs to emphasize “the standard” and make sure the mistakes are not repeated on Sunday.

    As for the secondary, I’m sure Boykin provided a spark last week and his insertion put the other DBs on notice that they’d be competing for playing time. But there was a reason Boykin was held out for so long. I’m just hoping with Gay out and Boykin’s snap count likely to increase we don’t find out what that reason was at an in opportune time.

    Bonus: For God’s sake, Coach T, can we please not put AB back on punts in a 38-10 game? Put Wheaton back and have him fair catch. Put McCullers back for the entertainment value. Anything but AB. Let’s save that move for when we really need it (like this Sunday)…


    • excellent point, CHSP : ) Use him if you absolutely have to have the points, but not if you don’t. I’m pretty sure the reason Tomlin put him back there last week was because no one else had any even fairly recent experience on punts, but I’d sure love to see someone else less critical to the offense being put on an intensive training program this week…


  • 1. I want the attitude without the penalties. Bring the hell fire but stay focused.

    2. Can’t worry about Burfict. We need this game. Stay focused on the prize. That said, they better get him off the field if the game is out of reach for either side.

    3. Field position is very important, but you need the points. If I choose one, I’ll take the points, but I’m going to be playing my very best special teams players.

    4. It could get ugly. I think you need to give a hat to Grant. You will need to selectively dial back the rush to drop LBs into short coverage. It could really be rough if Gay cannot play. AJ Green may torch us.

    5. It was due to both. We really need Gay so we can unleash the pass rush.

    Bonus – What Cliff/punk said. Exactly the right answer. AB while the game is at issue. Under no circumstances should Jacoby even dress for this game. I am not sure why he is even on the roster. Inspired by the previous answer, Jones should be behind McCullers on the punt returner depth chart.

    Liked by 1 person

    • McCullers ahead of Jones on the depth chart – sure that is way too much humiliation, even for him? I like it, though…


      • Cliff Harris is Still A Punk!

        Re: McCullers
        One thing we sometimes do at the end of practices to create some excitement is we pin our sprints on the ability of a lineman to field a punt. We get the punter to kick one up high and we put one of our big linemen out there to field it. If he drops it we run; if he catches it we don’t. The kids go crazy if he catches it. I’m not saying McCullers should field punts, of course, but it would make for a heck of a show. Nothing fires people up like a fat guy running with the ball…

        Liked by 1 person

  • 1 – Attitude is fine until it costs you yards and a big play.

    2 – I hope focused and more dangerous, because the Bengals are legit this year and they don’t need any breaks. The Oline should get plenty of satisfaction from keeping Big Ben clean and watching AB/Wheaton/Bryant/James/Nix celebrate receiving touchdowns.

    3 – In this offense? Hm. Could argue that having a great kickoff guy would be best since a poor FG kicker just adds more impetus for the offense to stop sputtering in the red zone.

    4 – Keep the rotation.

    5 – Boykin is a bit of a red herring. The pressure by the line is the driving force, as usually happens. It also helped that Hasselbeck is old and busted. Dalton is neither.


  • 1) Wallace was the only one I saw do anything that could be considered to be worthy of a penalty on that play. We know that he IS and instigator. He has caused a few defensive penalties because he has that innocent expression and looks away from the action very quickly, so that the defender draws the flag for things Wallace did. I’ll give him this one.

    Without knowing the cause (did he just get caught in the moment, was the defender doing something repeatedly to Wallace until he said enough is enough or was it just a cheap shot) how can we really judge?

    2) Now that some time has passed, I doubt that anyone on the team really thinks that Burfict was celebrating ending his friend’s season. However, I also don’t think they need any more of a grudge than it being the Steelers vs. the Bengals.

    3) We once had a kicker who could (at least in warm weather) drive a kickoff through the uprights, His name was Scobee. How did that work out?

    4) Cockrell and Blake on the outside and Boykin as the nickel . Grant active and maybe get Golden some snaps during practice. Get Shamarko some nickel snaps in practice as well. Rotate.

    5) Defensive line. I’m sure that rotating guys to keep them fresh helped, but pressure was the main help to the secondary.

    Bonus: Brown has been returning puts his whole career and has never been hurt because of it. He’s very good about making a fair catch when he sees that he won’t have room and he is also good at getting out of bounds. One of his jerseys is on display at the Hall of Fame for him being the first NFL player to have 1000 yards receiving and 1000 return yard in the same season. His first NFL touch was a kickoff return for a TD (Moore fielded it and lateraled to Brown.) I really don’t have a problem with him returning punts, but I am sure that there are a lot of special teams coaches that do.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I like your description of Cody Wallace’s approach. He does have a very innocent looking face, and beautiful eyes, actually. Has maybe fooled more than one ref.


  • Toronto Steeler Fan

    1. Sometimes you need a guy who colors outside the lines. Sort of like how Willie Colon colored Vontaze Burfict outside the lines back in 2012 (something he needs more of this weekend, btw). I’ll cut Wallace a break – that’s just how he operates.

    2. This is exactly where we expect Tomlin to earn his paycheck.

    3. Take the points.

    4. Blake, Cockrell and Boykin (in the nickel). And pray that the offense scores lots of points.

    5. I think that the improvement was in part due to the rotation. It was also due to the fact that they often rushed only three and dropped eight into coverage. Also, Hasselbeck is not Russell Wilson.

    Bonus: Yes but only if we need the points.


  • 1) We still don’t know what happened at the start of the play. I’m not that concerned with the pancaking penalty, though it seems they may have flagged Wallace for being Wallace.

    2) Homer would like nothing more than to see Dr Wallace do some pro bono work on Burfict. Turning him into a soprano will certainly help his social life when that career criminal’s football career is over and he begins spending large amounts of time indoors.

    3) Scobee-do? Scobee-DON’T. Always take the points. We’ve certainly learned that lesson. And, if your offense continues to hum along, you don’t need a punter until about seven minutes to go in the third quarter, if then.

    4) Gay will play. Gay will play. Gay will play. Keep saying it. And, when he’s not in there, remember, it’s like at Panera, where you get to pick two for a reduced price. In this case, it’s Cockrell and Blake. And, when you have your choice of apple, chips, or baguette, you put Boykin in as your nickel. But Boykin and Blake are so of interchangeable, so there’s that. It’s confusing to Homer, but that’s why they pay Tomlin and Lake big money. Homer likes the Pick Two at Panera with the greek salad and the turkey chili. Mmmm. Turkey chili.

    5) The biggest improvement is that Hasselback is 102 years old and can’t throw deep any more. They knew he would dink and dunk, so they mixed the blitz with a three man rush, and putting eight men into coverage flummoxed him. It was a clear case of elder abuse. Speaking of elder abuse, 84-year-old James Harrison’s three sacks highlighted how bad the Colts’ OL had become by the end of the game. Hell, I’ve seen more fight than that in the Iraqi Army. The big reason for the secondary’s improvement was that Butler and Lake put them in a position to succeed by giving them the help they needed..

    BONUS: You put AB back there only when you need him. Of course, a growing concern is that – while coverage teams often can’t lay a hand on him – he may injure himself in celebration by missing a front flip or going scrotum-first into the goal post. That’s why you have Wheaton on the roster. He’s more low-key, and less injury prone during celebration.

    Liked by 2 people

    • in re Wheaton, he’s also more likely to be able to father children after his football career is over. Maybe Brown’s just too cheap to pay to have the lead taken out of his pencil, although he could have gone to a pretty fancy clinic for the $11,576 he was fined for the celebration…


    • I guess I’m going in reverse order here. In re 5) I fear you are right. Annoyingly, Andy Dalton is more like Russell Wilson than he is like Hasselbeck. Although I’m hoping the lessons learned in Seattle will help. If so, far better to have lost to Seattle first and in the process figured out how to contain Dalton. But I fear it isn’t that simple.

      4) It looks like he actually will play. I just read that he has never missed a game in his 9-year career. Let that sink in for a moment. That’s extraordinary.
      2) In re pro bono work, I’m all in favor, as long as he doesn’t get caught…


  • 1&2 This is a big game for us and I would argue it is just as big for cinci. It is going to get a little chippy out there. Cody and his pretty eyes can do what he do, just do not take a big play away from us in the process. I think the ref’s are gonna watch this aspect of the game closely to keep things from getting out of hand. Maybe Captain America can tell these inconsistent ref’s to get their flash bang together. It used to be raining yellow flags for offensive holding and pass interference, that is until Ben, Brown, Bryant, and Wheaton show up and commence to beat-down the opposition. It really makes you wonder. Can we bring Hines Ward back for one game so he can plant one in burp-fect’s ear hole. Hines smile was contagious:)
    3. Points win games, take the points.
    4.Mix n match em as Homer says. Round two with Cinci will be interesting.
    5. When good Andy is pressured he becomes bad Andy.
    6. Yes. Points and also to flip field position


  • Should say defensive holding…..duh. Actually I am surprised they don’t call offensive holding on our guy’s. After all it is the Steelers. How does that hit on BB last week not draw a fine? I guess I do not understand the rule about hitting a defenseless QB in the face with the crown of your helmet………ugh!


    • Ben is apparently never considered to be defenseless because he’s so big. The fact that he’s been hurt – a lot – over the past few years has apparently escaped the notice of the refs.


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