Welcome to the 2017 Steelers Season, From Homer and Ivan

photo via Steelers.com

Homer sent me his game notes and grades, and Ivan piled on. As usual I’m editing them, and any comment of mine will be in italics. I’m sure they will let me know if I got something wrong. So here we go with the game comments:

 

The blocked punt: “Too easy, but we’ll take it. Danny Smith’s job is safe for a week, as far as the yinzers are concerned.”

The first Steelers offensive series: “Offense looked totally disorganized.” And later in the first quarter: “Bell stuffed on last play of the quarter. Steelers had six plays for 14 yards and no first down in quarter. That’s just awful.”

Continuing into the second quarter: “Ben’s easy little screen pass to Bell is overthrown. The conseequences of the holdout just became obvious.”

On the next offensive series, Homer says: “On second and one, he goes with an empty backfield????? Gets nothing. What was Haley thinking?” And: “Third and one. Bell stonewalled. Steelers offense is missing in action. Maybe they stayed back home on Water Street.” And this: “Don’t they think they can run on the Browns? Looking that way.”

And for the final series of the half: “Rogers returns punt to 17, flag. Holding on DHB [Darrius Heyward-Bey]. Jeez, this is ugly. Butt ugly.” And later: “Ben hits Brown up the middle, and he breaks it for a very long gain…ball was tipped…this was by far the best play by the offense, and it was pure luck.” [I would argue it was pure brilliance by Brown, but Homer knows more about luck than I do…]

And finally: “Ben threads the needle, hits Outlaw [Jesse James] who hangs on in the end zone. TD. Terrific pass.

End of half thoughts: “Steelers haven’t tried at all to run on the Browns. Ivan points out that the only people Ben was able to connect with were the people he had last year—James, Rogers and Brown.” [Sounds like a law firm.]

“The pass rush hasn’t been as relentless as it was last year. Question is whether it’s not as good, or whether the Browns pass protect is better with Kizer.”

“Offense was pretty desultory. [I] am tired of the empty backfield. Browns defense looked both good and physical. The Steeler line gave Ben good protection, but did not control the line of scrimmage on the run.”

“Gregg Williams is clearly out-coaching Todd Haley.”

The second half commentary didn’t add a lot to this, so I’m skipping to the grades:

 

Report Card:

 

Special Teams: A+

Made no mistakes at all. Blocked punt, recovered for TD. Steelers were [never behind] after that.

 

Defensive Line: A-

Excellent against both pass and run. Hope Tuitt’s okay. Wreck-it and Gravedigger were solid, and Alualu was all over the place when he replaced Tuitt.

 

Linebackers: A

T.J. Watt with spectacular interception, solid rush and good pass coverage. Two sacks, seven tackles, a couple of passes defensed, and a pick that’s gonna end up on “Renegade” is a pretty damned good pro debut. You bet it is. Others were fine, but Watt was super-fine!

 

Secondary: B

Sold performance all day, especially for a group that is still being put together. Duct tape and baling wire can sometimes do the job. Like today.

 

Offensive Line: B

Great pass protection. Didn’t control the line of scrimmage or open many holes for the running game. Several costly holding penalties. [To be fair, let us note that only one of them was actually on the O-line.]

 

Running backs: C-

The consequences of the holdout became evident from minute one. Bell looked much better in the fourth quarter, but they were out of sync much of the game. The running game was non-existent until late in the game, as were the passes out of the backfield. Of course, you can’t have much of a running game with an empty backfield.

 

Tight Ends: A-

Jesse James had two touchdowns and played an absolutely outstanding game. McDonald began his Steeler career the way he played for the Niners, dropping a pass.

 

Wide Receivers: B-

Brown was absolutely all-world, but the rest of them stunk up the joint with dropped passes and two holding penalties. Brown had no help last year, and even less today.

 

Quarterback: B

Ben looked out of sync most of the afternoon, but stepped up when needed, especially in the red zone. Failing to connect on flare passes out of the backfield was especially disappointing. Not his best game. However, it is clear to all that Ben to AB is one of the great pass and catch combos in NFL history. Up there with Unitas to Berry, Montana to Rice, and Manning to Harrison. 11 targets today, and 11 catches. Wow. Just wow. Those two guys could get out of sickbeds on Christmas Day and combine on ten completions for 100 yards and two TDs.

 

Coaching: B-

But let’s break it down: Special Teams coaching gets an A-. Defensive team coaching gets and A. They were especially impressive given the spate of injuries and new arrivals. Offensive Coaching gets a C-. Te empty backfield being overused is an abomination in the eyes of the Lord. Overall, B-. Penalties for 144 yards is totally unacceptable.

 

Note: The Browns are exactly who Homer thought they were. The days of cakewalk are over. That team is being rebuilt the right way, and you have to wonder how this game might have turned out had Garrett been able to play. The Browns are a much better team than most fans believe they are. If their young stars stay reasonably healthy, they are going to surprise a lot of teams this year.

And now for Ivan’s addenda:

1. For me the best news of the day besides the win is that the Steelers weren’t gashed in terms of injuries. Hopefully, Tuitt’s situation isn’t too serious. This is the most important ongoing issue facing the team, and so far we have been fortunate.

2. Words cannot express how much I hate the empty set formation, particularly in short yardage situations. The idea of the bubble screen being the modern day version of the power sweep fills me with revulsion. Somewhere Bill Nunn is rolling in his grave. Vince Lombardi too.

3. The future for this defense is bright. T.J. Watt is not just some training camp wonder. Chickillo is for real as well. We know what Dupree and Deebo can do, no worries at outside linebacker. Led by Joe Haden and William Gay, I believe we have a solid secondary.

4. Special teams have become a strength.

5. I didn’t think it was possible, but Antonio Brown has actually gotten better.

6. The rust factor for Le’Veon Bell and Martavis Bryant is real. They will both get better but it will take time.

7. The biggest disappointment as far as not playing up to potential was JuJu Smith-Shuster, a temporary setback.

8. Cleveland is not as bad as people assume, and if they stay the course will be a very tough out in the future.

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