Monthly Archives: November 2017

5 Smoldering Questions on the Pittsburgh Steelers, Week 12

NFL: DEC 04 Giants at SteelersThe Green Bay Packers arrived in Pittsburgh as two-touchdown underdogs and, in keeping with the tone and tenor of everything thus far this season, the game would of course go down to the wire as the Steelers pulled out a 31-28 win over the Packers thanks to Chris Boswell’s record-tying field goal.

Next week brings the Patrio… er um, sees the Steelers take the road to Cincinnati to face off against their AFC North rivals, the Bengals. But before Steelers Nation can cross its fingers and clutch its rosary beads ahead of their next encounter with Vontaze Burfict we must first resolve these 5 Smoldering Questions on the Steelers.

1. Ok, let’s begin by addressing Mike Tomlin’s decision to acknowledge the elephant in the room, namely that the Steelers and Patriots are the class of the AFC and that their match up with the at Heinz Field month will likely determine the playoff pecking order.

First, do you think Tomlin’s departure from “coach speak” either indicates a lack of focus or a lack of respect towards the Bengals and Ravens?

Second, regardless of your feelings on the first part of this question, do you worry that Tomlin might be tempting fate by engaging in a little of what Art Rooney Sr. might have termed “Putting on the dog?”

Defend your answer.

2. Martavis Bryant saw his first duty as a kick returner on Sunday night and provided the Steelers longest kick return of the season. Mike Tomlin has indicated he might get more chances there. Do you think it is wise for the Steelers to risk their defacto number 2 receiver on return duties?

3. A week ago I invited readers elsewhere to vote on game ball winners for the Steelers win over the Titans. Given that the Steelers offense had exploded for 40 points, Todd Haley’s name was on the ballot, and multiple votes were allowed. You can see the results here:

While this sample is in no way representative of the rest of Steelers Nation, do you agree with the decision of the voters to give Todd Haley a gigantic collective cold shoulder?

4. Since Joe Haden left the game against the Colts the Steelers defense has given up touchdown passes of 61 yards, 60 yards, 75 yards, 39 yards, 54 yards and 55 yards. Or, in slightly more sophisticated mathematical terms, the Keith Butler’s boys have allowed one 57 yard touchdown pass in ever 27 and half minutes of play. (In truth, the average is worse for the Steelers, since the first bomb came at the tail end of the 2nd quarter against the Colts.)

What’s going on and is this a problem that can be fixed if and when Joe Haden returns to the lineup?

5. A commonly held assumption is that the Steelers draft outside linebackers to pressure the quarterback, yet neither Bud Dupree nor T.J. Watt is close to leading the Steelers in sacks.

However, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s Ray Fittipaldo argues that the Keith Butler is using the duo as much in coverage as he is as pass rushers.

While this makes a certain sense, and Fittipaldo’s article is extremely well reported, we must also keep in mind that in 2015 and 2016 Steelers Nation was treated to continual leaks from the coaching staff about how Jarvis Jones was doing extremely well in run defense and coverage despite his low sack totals.

Do you think something similar might be at work here, particularly with Bud Dupree who is now in his third season?

You know the drill from here on out. Use only No. 2 dark pencils but do not use Faber Castells. You must show work to get full credit and looking at your neighbor’s paper is not only allowed, its encouraged.

Have at it.

Packers @ Steelers—Something for Everyone

Photo via Steelers.com

By Ivan Cole…in which Ivan gives the best description of being a Steeler fan I’ve ever read.

Rebecca raises the question ‘Are you entertained?’, and the definitive answer is yes. But let’s delve deeper.

Obviously, for all but the most masochistic of Steelers fans, you don’t need this kind of entertainment. If you were wondering what it might be like to devoured by a tiger while the incident was being taped on YouTube, this was pretty close. You know that the video will certainly go viral, but the next few moments are really going to suck. There was a happy ending, but like some of the best amusement park rides (thrills and chills) there was a lot screaming, cursing, vomiting and petitions to God along the way. Read more

Packers @ Steelers: Homer J’s Patented Game Recap and Report Card

Photo via Steelers.com. I think a lot of us felt the way Shazier’s face looks…

As usual my comments will be in italics… Ed.

UPSIDE DOWN DEFENSE RIGHTS ITSELF JUST IN TIME, STEELERS LOSE TURNOVER BATTLE, BUT AVOID GETTING LIT UP ON LIGHT UP NIGHT IN THE ‘BURGH.

It’s a beautiful night for football in the City of Champions. All of downtown is lit up for Christmas. The Hall of Famers are there. It’s the nationally televised Sunday Night Football Super-Extravaganza. What could possibly go wrong?  Well, all of us, including the Yinzer Cult of Doom, know all too well. So buckle up your seatbelt and let’s see where this ride will take us…….

No Juju. No Gilbert. No VanceMac. You forgot “No Haden.” No problem??? We’ll see.

No Aaron Rodgers. No Clay Matthews. Hmm. Welcome to “The Replacements.” This is the time of the year when the bottom half of the roster becomes all-important.

Read more

Packers @ Steelers: Are You Not Entertained?

Photo via Steelers.com

The answer to the question posed in the title depends, I suppose, upon how strong your heart is. I’m guessing this was a highly entertaining game to watch for anyone who didn’t have a dog in the fight. (Actually, I’m guessing most unaffiliated viewers were rooting for Green Bay because, you know, underdog, backup QB, Aaron Rodgers blue eyes and friendly insurance commercials and so on.) For us Steeler fans it was the usual coronary-in-waiting. Although I’m guessing that Steeler fans actually have stronger-than-average hearts, because if they don’t they don’t survive.

And let’s just get this out of the way before the Yinzer Cult of Doom, as Homer would have it, gets started—how often do you win a game with a minus 3 turnover ratio? I would have to look that up, and I’m not sure how. But my guess is, not very often. I know for sure that’s the case with the Steelers, for quite a while. If they win the turnover battle, they usually win the game. And vice versa. Read more

Steelers Opponent Preview: The Green Bay Packers

 

048918C9-ABC7-424F-93B0-A06743B7D929My granddaughter is fighting a tiger, and the tiger is losing. This seems like a good omen…

This matchup just goes to show the foolishness of predicting games prior to the season. Green Bay with Aaron Rodgers will always be competitive, no matter how bad the offensive line or the defense, because he is the straw that stirs the drink. You might compare this to Tom Brady in New England, and you would be wrong. For whatever reason(s)—many of us have our theories*—Bill Belichick would apparently be able to win games with a not-particularly-competent high school quarterback under center if he had to. There is no reason to denigrate Mike McCarthy, native Pittsburgher and head coach of the Green Bay Packers, but he doesn’t appear to have this gift. Let’s hope not, anyhow.

So undoubtedly many prognosticators had put this down as one of the more difficult games this season. Given that the Ravens just shut them out last week, in Green Bay, one would think the Steelers would take care of business at Heinz Field, even though there are really no easy games in the NFL.

So let’s have a look at the Packers as currently constituted and how they appear to match up with the Steelers. As usual I will derive my numbers from Football Outsiders (hereafter FO) and Pro Football Focus(PFF):

Defense:

  • Team Defense (for the FO metric of DVOA, lower is better for defenses:) Green Bay: -0.6%—No 18. Pittsburgh: -16.8%—No. 3
  • Passing Defense: Green Bay—No. 23; Pittsburgh—No. 5
  • Rushing Defense: Green Bay—No. 8; Pittsburgh—No. 4

Defensive Lines:

  • Run Blocking: Green Bay—No. 7; Pittsburgh—No. 4
  • Pass Protection: Green Bay—No. 16; Pittsburgh—No. 3
  • Sacks: GB 21, PIT 34

Offense:

  • Team Offense (higher DVOA is better): Green Bay: 3.6%—No. 13; Pittsburgh: 14.8%—No. 6
  • Passing Offense: Green Bay: 7.1%—No. 20; Pittsburgh: 35.6%—No. 7
  • Rushing Offense: Green Bay: 8.2%—No. 4; Pittsburgh: -2.7%—No. 12

Offensive Lines:

  • Run Blocking: Green Bay: No. 3; Pittsburgh: No. 7
  • Pass Protection: Green Bay: No. 29; Pittsburgh No. 2

Well, all of this explains why the Ravens were able to shut the Packers out. The Packers’ offensive line gives up a sack on more than 10% of dropbacks, and the strength of their team at the moment is their running game. Baltimore is back as FO’s No. 1 defense (although oddly they are only No. 10 against the run.) They held the Packers to 76 yards rushing, and 19 of those, on three carries, were by the quarterback. The Packers were forced to take to the air. The Ravens picked them off three times, and so the 239 passing yards were all for naught. We can only hope the Steelers’ D will also be able to shut down the run and take advantage of the poor pass protection. Another four interceptions (hopefully without a 75 yard touchdown pass given up) would be welcome this week as well.

Now to compare the matchups according to PFF:

Looking at the Green Bay offense, they only have a few players that PFF even considers to be average. The best player on offense, by a long way, is left tackle David Bakhtiari. (They rate him at 88.1.) The next best player is WR Jordy Nelson (at 80.2), and WR Davante Adams, RB Jamaal Williams, and right guard Jahri Evans rate in the Average range (77.8, 72.6, and 74.0 respectively.) Most of the other offensive players rate at below (many well below) replacement level.

They are opposed by one of the best D-lines in the league, with Tuitt, Heyward, and Hargrave all rating as “Above Average” (Hargrave) to “High Quality” (Tuitt and Heyward.) The only poorly-rated defensive players at this point are Bud Dupree and Sean Davis.

When the Steelers have the ball, they are opposed by a very spotty defense—several players are in the “High Quality” category (mostly on the defensive line), the inside linebackers are good, and their cornerbacks and strong safety are quite poor, as far as PFF is concerned. The best player on the offense according to PFF is AB, of course, who is their highest-rated receiver at an “Elite” 91.1. Next best is the also elite David DeCastro (90.8.) Ben’s rating has gone up each week and is now 83.5, but Bell looks more ordinary at 77.2. It’s hard to imagine this is going to improve much this week.

Well, that’s all I have to say about this. On paper this is hardly a slam-dunk, but it looks like a match where the Steelers’ strengths should play reasonably well to the weaknesses of the Packers. But only time will tell. I don’t expect the Steelers’ D to pitch a shutout, but I wouldn’t mind if they did…

*I believe it was Homer who pointed out that Satan and Belichick had never been seen in the same room…

Homer J. Thanksgiving Wishes

img_2200Photo via The Player’s Tribune. Cameron Heyward wrote a beautiful piece about his daddy. You can read it here.

Well, I lied. We have a plethora of posts this week, thanks to my fabulous co-authors. Which makes me also note how thankful I am for coolest thing about Steeler Nation: I’ve met people I never would have encountered in my regular life, and they have greatly enriched it.

This goes for all of you out there as well, even though I haven’t met most of you in person. So—start planning for next training camp. Meet-up time!!

HOMER WISHES YOU A HAPPY AND WONDER-FUL THANKSGIVING

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

It’s Homer’s favorite holiday, highlighting the Four F’s: family, food, faith, and football, though not always in that order. The Steelers are off today, and we are thankful for their performance last Thursday. They are sitting comfortably atop the division, so this year’s NFL Thanksgiving games are pretty much just background noise for Steeler Nation.

It is the quintessential American holiday, open to people of all faiths, races, economic class, and football team affiliation. Yes, they even celebrate it in Cleveland and Baltimore. And even that Beelichick guy celebrates, thankful that he didn’t get caught cheating this year. At least not yet. Hell, even that crying lady in Cincinnati can wipe away her tears and join in the festivities.  Read more

5 Smoldering Questions on the Pittsburgh Steelers: Remembering the Titans

I have yet another person to be thankful for—Hombre de Acero, whose Smoldering Questions have been a regular feature. Before you start thinking about frying your turkey or dosing your eggnog, give some thought to these questions:

Pittsburgh welcomed Tennessee to Heinz Field last Thursday night and the Steelers thumping of the Titans offered Steelers Nation a sight for sore eyes, as the offense exploded for 40 points while the defense delivered no fewer than 9 splash plays. This week brings Green Bay back to two, but before we can focus on stuffing our Thanksgiving Turkeys, this corner of Steelers Nation must first resolve these 5 Smoldering Questions on the Steelers.

1. While many areas on the depth chart have performed well throughout this season, one position area that has excelled without any need to tack on any qualifiers what so ever is the Steelers 2017 defensive line. It’s hard to find a game where Cameron Heyward, Stephon Tuitt, Javon Hargrave and/or Tyson Alualu haven’t stepped up and made a play.

Do you think it is appropriate to start comparing this line to the trio of Aaron Smith, Casey Hampton and Brett Keisel? If not, defend your decision to decline. If so, expound upon your reasoning and offer and assessment of which line merits a higher rating. Read more

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