5 Smoldering Questions on the Pittsburgh Steelers: Week 9

3D14C177-CE7C-401A-B4CD-86349D69F54C.jpegPhoto via Steelers.com

By Hombre de Acero

The Steelers entered Detroit looking to keep their winning streak alive and looking to take a victory into the bye week. The men in Black and Gold accomplished both, which leaves them at 6-2 as Tomlin’s team heals bumps and bruises before resuming action against the Indianapolis Colts in two weeks. But before we can turn out attention to that, this segment of Steelers Nation must resolve these 5 Smoldering Questions on the Steelers.

1. In reviewing the Steelers win against the Bengals, Steel City Insider’s Jon Ledyard made this observation:

Two incompletions kept a ton of time on the clock for Cincinnati before the fake punt, which is one of the worst decisions I’ve seen in a while. Running a fake punt in your own territory with a 12-point lead, with your backup safety throwing the second pass of his life to a wide receiver with a lengthy history of ugly drops? What could go wrong? You guys know I’m all about being aggressive, but discretion is the better part of valor in this situation, and the Steelers were lucky to get away with a good result despite an ugly process.

Agree or disagree? Defend your decision.

2. Sticking with the Bengals game, it was clear that while Antonio Brown made his catches and did his damage, William Jackson is a cornerback capable of challenging Brown. The Steelers were rumored to favor William Jackson in the 2016 NFL Draft, but Cincinnati got him first.

Do you think the Steelers would have been better off with Jackson, or are you satisfied with Artie Burns?

3. When the Lions were blanketing Antonio Brown, JuJu Smith-Schuster made them pay on several occasions. Do you think he did enough to take away Martavis Bryant’s starting slot?

4. When looking at the performance of the Steelers defense in Detroit, what do you see? A defense that was utterly unable to stop an opponent from advancing down the field into the Red Zone? Or a defense that weathered 17 shots at the end zone from inside its 20 and didn’t give up a single touchdown?

5. Take a look at this replay of Javon Hargrave eating Dwyane Washington alive at the goal line (before Vince Williams and Sean Davis pile on.)

What leaves a bigger impression on you? Javon Hargrave’s play or the look of utter disbelief on Jim Cadwell’s face?

Bye week bonus

6. Robert Golden now has a passer rating of 118.7% and is averaging 34.5 YPA. Does that qualify him to occupy the role of “Disaster Man” much the way that Antwaan Randle-El did?


  • cold_old_steelers_fan

    1) The punt throw was Golden’s call as special teams captain. It is a play that, being made, affected not just this game but every game after this as ST co-ordinator’s will think twice before they try to go all in to block a Steelers punt. It was a great call.

    I seem to remember thinking, the Steelers need at least one first down if they are going to get out of this without giving up more
    points. I no longer remember the yardage involved so I can’t remember if passing seemed like a good idea to me or not at the time.

    2) I am satisfied with Burns. You can’t get every good player but we got one of them.

    3) I think JJSS did enough to take snaps from MB. I think at this point they are 2a and 2b. It is up to MB as to whether he ends the season as 2a or 3.

    4) 17/20. I don’t know why there was so little pass rush success, though quick passes and a lack of Tuitt were both factors.

    5) Hargrave’s play. I don’t know Caldwell enough to appreciate the way he is looking at any given time.

    6) No. there is a lot more to being a QB than tossing a pass though passing skills are important.

    7) My bonus question in honour of the Steelers quest for seven. Do the Patriots really think Brady will not get injured again this season or are they beginning the rebuild for next year? If the latter then does this mean they don’t think they can win it this year?

    Liked by 1 person

    • It was 4th and 9. And I totally agree. Sometimes the safe call is the wrong one, even if the call you do make doesn’t work. Remember when Tomlin decided to go for it on 4th and 1 in San Diego? That call won the game. If Bell doesn’t get in it loses the game. But the “safe” call was going to force your exhausted players to go to overtime, which is quite the crap shoot, so even had the call not worked, I think it still would have been the right one. But Tomlin would have been crucified for it…


  • 1) Years ago, when Gregg Easterbrook was writing Tuesday Morning QB for ESPN, he changed my entire thinking about these types of plays. He talked a lot about “Hidden Indicators” of success. I think this play is a “hidden indicator” of sorts – because it allowed the Steelers to take a calculated risk. Dangerous. Absolutely. Back breaking if successful. Absolutely. I think this is what Tomlin means by “not living in your fears.” Football games are rarely blowouts – so it comes down to a handful of plays that make the difference. After this pass was completed you could have simply ended the game, because it was over at that point. I don’t think fans appreciate these types of decisions, because we see them as binary: success or failure. When I think they are more than that.

    4) I think the real question is – why was the pass rush ineffective? You can’t give good QB’s the time or the lanes that Stafford had and not get carved up.

    5) This 4 and 1 as Caldwell’s “go for it on a punt” from Q1. The Lions failed, and that’s what the look on his face signaled. My guess is, he knew the game was over right then. Hidden indicators and all that.


  • 1) This is kind of a “Great call if they made it, horrible call if they didn’t” type of play. Golden called it on the line too so he saw what he needed to see to do it. Glad it worked out, that is all I can say to that.

    2) I too am happy with Burns. Our entire secondary is playing much, much better than they have the past few years. Hopefully this trend continues for years to come.

    3) From how MB has looked while on the field, I don’t think the #2 spot should be his until he improves. JJSS has shown he can be in that position and thrive.

    4) I see the latter, 17/20. The defensive zone we played was perfect for Stafford to exploit, being a hard throwing, accurate QB. You could tell once there was less field to work with it was much tougher going.

    5) JH’s play. That was an awesome defensive stop.

    6) No, see COSF comment above

    7) It boggles the mind that they traded away both back up QB’s. More to the point, who will back brady up if/when he gets injured. What if he retires after this year?

    8) Since this is looking to be a thing, another bonus question: I read an article today on BTSC about how the offense’s woes may not be Ben’s fault, but more the youth at wide receiver and lack of familiarity between Ben and said wide receivers (AB aside). What are your thoughts on this? Does the defense (of Ben’s play) hold water? Article is



    • cold_old_steelers_fan

      8) I think youth and unfamiliarity play a role but it is all part of a larger and more complex issue. At the heart of that issue is Ben, his age and how much of a physical beating he has taken over the years. The offence evolves around him, partly to protect him, partly due to the changes in personnel, but also to take into account his reduced mobility (which it has been speculated, is affecting his ability to get the ball down the field in quite the same manner). Like with many things, there is seldom one simple answer to this question.


    • Ben didn’t play much in pre-season and not playing in game like environment with his receivers could have been a factor into that equation.


  • 1. Completely disagree. A call made based on CIncy leaving a wide receiver playing the gunner completely uncovered. Should be automatic, even if high risk.

    2. Burns

    3. Yes, although I hope Martavis can get his act together.

    4. I much prefer to look at the outstanding goal line stands. And give credit to Stafford’s ability as QB.

    5. Jim Caldwell’s look.

    6. Antwaan Randle-El’s lifetime QB rating is 156.1, 22 completions out of 26 attempts, 12 yards per attempt and 6 touchdowns- so, no. He finished 6th in the Heisman trophy voting his senior year as a quarterback – so, still no.

    7. I won’t attempt to read Belichick’s mind.


    • I. I agree with Geoffrey’s disagreement.

      And the play came with a whole bunch of extras I think are team building: two bit players were trusted, two bit players got to be stars and that’s good for the morale of special teams and all the other bit players; it excited the whole team and the coach and that’s always a good thing: and, like Juju’s celebrations, it was fun to see such joy on the field as I saw on some of those faces.

      7. Probably anyone who attempts to read Coach B’s mind has to go into the concussion protocol. I really hate to admit to wishing for an injury but I was really really hoping against all hope that the Pats went a week without a backup QB and then Brady got bruised–just to see what would happen. Darn.



  • 1. It worked better than that Landry Jones fake field goal a couple of years ago. It was Golden’s option to call the play when he saw DHB uncovered, and it was the right call.

    2. Jackson seems better in man-to-man, and word back then was the Steelers preferred him ever so slightly over Burns. Either one is perfectly fine.

    3. He certainly did enough to take away anyone’s starting slot, even AB. But what he did against Detroit should not determine the Steelers’ path going forward. Juju will get more snaps, but Bryant will certainly get his share. The guess here is that Bryant will get more snaps against Indy that Juju.

    4. Both. And I see a Steeler team that scored one more touchdown from the Lions’ red zone than the Lions did. Detroit couldn’t score from the Steeler one. So the Steelers took the ball and scored from the Steeler three. As Pittsburgh Dad put it, the Steeler end zone was like Chik-Fil-A on Sunday: CLOSED!

    5. Hargrave’s play was a thing of beauty. It was part of the great Steeler tradition. The only opposition reaction that has ever really moved Homer was that crying Cincinnati Bengals lady.

    6. Randle-El was a great quarterback at Indiana, capable of putting up a 40 spot on any Saturday. He had all the skills to make it as an NFL Quarterback. Golden is a fine special teams player – who should not even be in the same conversation with Randle-El, who could throw a football 50 yards with accuracy.

    7. Belicheat is gambling that Brady doesn’t get hurt, in exchange for another sorta first round draft pick, actually one at the top of the second round. He seems to collect additional second round draft picks, and has made a career out of doing well with those picks. He knew he wouldn’t be able to afford Garappolo in free agency next year, so the calculus here was whether it’s best to hold on to his backup QB now and lose him after the season, or trade him now and get a high draft pick to patch up a leaky defense. Life is a crap shoot, but nobody even made a living better against that SOB in New England.


    • This is a classic line, and should be engraved on a large steel football-sized plaque and put in the tunnel at Heinz Field:
      “I see a Steeler team that scored one more touchdown from the Lion’s red zone than the Lions did.”

      In less than 20 words Homer has shown what this team is capable of…


  • cold_old_steelers_fan

    Addendum to Question 7: Pats have signed Hoyer.


  • 1- The group involved was questionable but if we switched players that could have sent warnings to the opposition. In honesty I think the timing of the play was spot on.

    2- Jackson played solid football other than playing for those degenerates I’m glad he is healthy. I’ll ride with the guy we drafted. The could/should haves get’s very argumentative, maybe not here on Going Deep.

    3- I’m not willing to just write Bryant off. His play and attitude will eventually be the deciding factor. With that said I think JuJu stepped up when his number was called he has played well as a rookie. I think his play against Detroit earned him the right as being called a starter opposite Brown for the game against the Colts. I will say everything from interviews to hearing about him from teammates doing interviews, the guy has the greatest attitude and approach to the game.

    4- May not be the answer that was expected but I would say both. Unfortunately the zone scheme was once again beaten badly. I’m a little tired of that concept. The flip side I was pleased with how the goal line defense played. Where and when is this man principle concept going to take shape.

    5- I’m not dismissing what Hargrave did but what stands out in my mind is what LT Walton did. The guy blew the play up from the start by pushing his guy into the backfield. Hargrave as well as Heyward disengaged from their assignment and was a nice fill by VW. Excellent play all around with excellent results.


    • I don’t really think it was the zone scheme that was beaten. It was the Steelers, not executing the zone scheme in the way it was designed. Butler was trying to get pressure with four or even three guys (which seemed like it ought to work against such a bad left side of the line) and sometimes they did, but not often enough. There is some disagreement on the part of the players themselves, but most of them say there was a distinct lack of execution behind the front lines. (The disagreement comes as to whether it was because of communication issues or not. But the stadium was closed, and loud, and the crowd was in it right up to the end, as you would expect from the score, so communication problems would not be surprising.) And this season the Steelers have, mostly successfully, tightened up the zone scheme. Any scheme is going to leave some soft areas of the defense, because you only have so many guys to work with. And any scheme is going to be less successful against some teams than others. The big test will be whether a properly executed, tightened-up zone scheme can keep Tom Brady (or Brian Hoyer, if we’re lucky) out of the end zone. However, as Brady has been stealthily having bits of his body replaced with titanium, I’m sure that’s who we are going to see…


      • I agree with what you are saying but it doesn’t change the fact that either it wasn’t executed properly or it isn’t being communicated by staff on how it’s supposed to be run. I don’t want us to fall back into the pattern of that crappy style of play, it doesn’t work or we can make it work for what ever reason. If we play that way against Brady and Co we will get eaten alive. It’s been proven time and time again.

        We can be beat by anybody and I honestly feel that we can beat anyone. Anyone except the Patriots and maybe the Eagles.


  • I’m late to the party, and most of the questtions have been very well covered. I will just comment on No. 3:

    I think this question reveals a perception problem which is haunting Martavis Bryant. I’m not sure the concept of a particular No. 2 behind AB is meaningful. The person who is going to end up getting the most reps is the one who, in that particular game, against that particular opponent and defense and scheme, is getting it done. So if Martavis can suddently remember how to break a tackle or two—something he hasn’t consistently done this season—and can end up where he is expected to, especially on go routes—he is going to get plenty of “mines.” If he drops simple passes or consistently gets taken down after a 2 yard gain, the Steelers aren’t going to be that excited about throwing to him. That said, he’s been a decent run blocker when in, and if he can manage a couple of catches way down the field in the next game or two, opponents will respect his speed again, and he will get more and more touches. But JuJu is definitely going to get “his” between the hashes, and furthermore has shown that he may not have elite speed, but he’s got field awareness and enough speed to get the job done. So I think the clock is definitely ticking for Martavis. I really hope he figures it out, because the Steelers need what he brings, and none of the guys behind him and JuJu have consistently displayed it. And if in the meantime Vance McDonald gets it going, Martavis is going to be pushed even more for playing time. There’s only one ball. And at Ben Roethlisberger’s point in his career, it appears you need to both be right on top of your assignment and also aware enough to make adjustments if the ball doesn’t go quite where Ben intended it to. This is what makes AB (and Heath before him) Ben’s security blanket. So he needs to watch a LOT of film instead of talking to his agent or his girlfriend or whoever is giving him the seriously bad advice, and figure out how to be his quarterback’s best friend. If he can swallow his pride and make the most of his opportunities, he will get what he wants in the end.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s