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.

2. Our own Homer J. began his postgame assessment by asserting, “Yinzer Cult of Doom’s weekly post-game Bitchfest and Kvetching Bee has been postponed for lack of material.” Nice as that would be, the morning after the game found no shortage of naysayers who used the game as “proof” of Todd Haley’s incompetence, given the success of the no huddle.

We’ll side step that debate here, to a point. While the Steelers did score 40 points, they did so employing an offensive attack that more resembled the West Coast offense than the NFL equivalent of Daenerys Targaryen and her Dragons as much of Steelers Nation expected to see.

Do you think that Chinking and Dinking is the way for this offense to go, given how effective Ben looked Thursday night?

3. The Steelers Secondary had four interceptions against the Titans, yet it has now given up 3 touchdown passes for over 60 yards in the last 6 quarters of play. Which tendency do you think will prove to be more relevant going forward?

4. As you know, the glow of the Steelers’ five straight wins was mitigated slightly by the news of Marcus Gilbert’s four game suspension for performance enhancers. Gilbert wasted little time in apologizing for his “inadvertent use” of the said enhancers.

Do you believe his use was “inadvertent” and if you do and his use was in fact inadvertent, do you think he was right not to appeal the suspension?

5. The upside to the suspension of Marcus Gilbert means that the Steelers did not have to send out the Turk to free a roster spot to activate Cam Sutton. Cam Sutton’s IR activation is perhaps the most highly anticipated IR activation since that of David DeCastro in 2013. Bob Labriola reminded fans just last week that Sutton has only played a handful of quarters in in preseason.

Nontheless, fans remain enthusiastic about his arrival to the active roster.

Will this kid make a contribution down the stretch or not? You Make The Call!

10 comments

  • cold_old_steelers_fan

    1) I think the Steelers current d-line is an outstanding unit. They are not quite as smoothering as the Smith, Hampton and Keisel group in run defence but they generate much more pass rush. Enough pass rush that I think it could be considered something close to a draw.

    2) Imo what this offence has shown, is the ability to play a variety of offensives, depending on the defence they are facing. I think this is what Mike Tomlin was looking for in a balanced offence. Take away the short pass? We will run. Take away the run? We will pass. This offence has the personnel to adjust and adapt.

    3) Besides the picks, this defence is getting sacks and fumbles. The occasional deep pass is more than compensated for by the big plays that were made. That said, it would be nice if the defence can quit giving up quite so many deep passes.

    4) It is impossible to know if his use was inadvertent or not. A lot of athlete’s have been burned by using protein powders they thought were safe only to find out they were not. It is also possible he was being given something for his back problem that was problematic. I don’t see the point in appealing unless he had 100% proof he was not using a PED. The silver lining is it will give him time to heal his back.

    5) I wasn’t anticipating Cam Sutton to any great extent. I was worried that he might come and go before we had a chance to see what he was capable of doing in a game setting. We still might not see that as he will likely play special teams if he gets a shirt on game days.

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  • 1. Tough to compare, because it’s 3-4 apples and 3-4 oranges. Smitty’s gang stonewalled the run and crushed the blockers. Wreck-its’ guys do much more sacking the QB. Different skills, different roles. But it IS time to START comparing them. 91-98-99 were there on an extended tour, and that alone puts them in a class by themselves.

    2. Naaah. You go in ready to do anything, knowing the D can’t concentrate on everything. Then you take what they give you. If they sell out to stop the run, you pass. If they sell out to stop the pass, you run Bell down their throats all day. And you factor into that how much time you want to run off the clock….and how to keep your defense fresh.

    3. Giving up the bomb is always more relevant. The guess here is that the picks will be more plentiful against the lesser quarterbacks, but, then again, there’s Brady, and he’s thrown like 647 TD’s against the Steelers since he last threw a pick.

    4.We don’t know, but we do know that by appealing, he would have been able to play against Green Bay, but that would have pushed the suspension back, and they need him back for the last game of the year and the playoffs.

    5. Reports are he’s been impressive in his early practices, as he was in his limited training camp action. Certainly, if somebody gets hurt or could use a rest, he gets a hat. He might also get a hat against the Browns, just to see what he can do. If he gets a hat, the guess here is he’s back on punts and maybe gets some snaps on D.

    Happy Thanksgiving.

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  • 1. I agree with everyone else. Greatness is defined (in part) by tenure. It’s also a totally different role than Smith-Hampton- Keisel. The other part of greatness is defined by beards. And none of them have as awesome of a beard as Keisel.

    2. If I’ve had one complaint about Tomlin it has been his (or the Steelers) inability to adjust during a game. Whether by a change of heart or good fortune, that seems to be the hallmark of the Steelers this year. I think the offense should be whatever works. Clearly teams are trying to take away Bell. After Ben’s performance, and the emergence of JuJu, that becomes a much more dangerous strategy.

    As a side note: it seems to me linebackers are playing the waiting game with Bell. They are letting him make a move and then react, as opposed to trying to crash the line of scrimmage. If that’s the strategy, it SHOULD open up HUGE opportunities for those mid range throws that Ben hit so well in last week’s game. Hesitation is the enemy in a game as fast as football. That’s why Bell’s running style is so unique. But the hesitation should cause some windows for Ben to hit.

    3. I worry about the long TD pass. Tim Tebow has scarred me for life!

    4. I want to believe that it was an accident. But if sports has taught me anything – if it’s too good to be true, it is too good to be true. Too many scandals have rocked the sporting world to assume innocence over stuff like this. Plus there is SO much pressure to get “healthy” and “back on the field”. I think he probably took something intentionally with the hope he would get healthy. I doubt it’s systematic cheating for years. Take the 4 games, get ready for the playoffs. There’s no point in dragging it out and possibly missing important games at the end of the season.

    5. The backup is always the most popular guy on a team, because there’s hope he’s going to be a star. I hope Sutton’s the real deal.

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  • 1. It is difficult to compare the 2 lines as they are different defensive sets, 4:3 vs 3:4. I would still put the Keisel/Hampton/Smith line as better though. With that line, we were the top defense in the league for a large portion of their careers together. The gap is getting smaller and smaller between the 2 though as time goes by.

    2. I don’t really care how they do it, just that they do it. Part of the success was the approach to the game. We played to their weakness. Tennessee is a good run defense, with their pass defense not as good. That approach was not all Ben.

    3. I really hope it is the INT’s. The long td’s/pass plays has been troubling the last couple of games. Hopefully adjustments are made to stop that from happening. 3 of the INT’s also were great plays by the defense, not just gifts from a bad throw, like the first INT.

    4. I think Gilbert made the right decision. Whether or not it was a conscious decision to take a PED, it happened. Unfortunately (for him) it will cost him A LOT of money. I think it shows maturity on his part in owning up to his own mistake, which was either taking the PED in the first place, or not checking with the League on what he wanted/was instructed to take prior to taking the meds. There is a lot to be said about CYA. This could very well be an example of that.

    5. I hope so. If I remember correctly, he was doing well in the preseason.

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  • 1. As others have said, the disclaimers are that it is in a sense apples and oranges as to what each group has been asked to do, for the current group it is still early. But the comparison is wholly appropriate. They have suffered a bit of inattention because of the deserved accolades being given the offensive line, and our bias in focusing upon linebacker play. This is a great, deep unit that if they continue on this trajectory will achieve its own exalted position in Steelers’ lore, which given the fact that this is a franchise whose only two retired numbers are that of defensive linemen is no small thing.

    2. The beauty of the potential of this offense is that it can dominate in a variety of ways. Most teams are capable of shutting down at least one dimension of an offense. It has been clear in recent weeks that the dimension that must be stopped is Bell, with the hope that they can cope with Ben, AB and the passing attack. To be successful, this offense must be nimble enough to take what is given to them, and then when to opponent adjusts, take something else. They can win, and do so spectacularly in a variety of ways.

    3. The cheap touchdowns are particularly annoying because few teams have proven that they can simply steamroll this defense. That being said, the ability to generate interceptions will, as demonstrated on Thursday, more than offset the occasional negative splash play, and is a huge winning difference.

    4. I cannot credibly comment on whether Gilbert did it on purpose or not. But not appealing the suspension was the smartest response. The team needs him later, not so much now. The only important thing now is to secure a playoff position, and hopefully a bye. The New England game will be great entertainment and will have some psychological value, but at the end of the day is not necessarily determinant of anything since both the Steelers and the Pats are capable of getting big wins on the road. I want Gilbert available for that potential January meeting regardless of where it is played.

    5. I am hoping that Sutton will be the next Sean Davis as it relates to his manifest potential. But Davis and Burns weren’t made in a day. And, amazingly, things have flipped so dramatically with the fortunes of the secondary personnel that with both seasoned veterans like Haden, Sensabaugh and Gay, as well as emerging players like Davis, Burns and Hilton playing at such a high level, any contributions from Sutton can be viewed as a luxury at this point.

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    • Great answers Ivan to great questions 🙂

      Seriously. The Steelers need to take care of business. No more Chicagos no more Jacksonvilles — and don’t over look the Ravens.

      With that said, I do think the matchup at Heinz against the Patriots is critical, because I think that getting home field advantage during the playoffs will be critical.

      New England is going to be tough no matter where or what. They’ll be favorites in the game and rightly so.

      But they’re a different team in New England, whether its because of Head Set Shenanigans or anything else. To that end, the Steelers need any advantage they can get. Sure, the New England Patriots are 2-0 in AFC Championships at Heinz Field, but they’re undefeated in conference championships at home. (When they blew the 2 point conversion in Denver, I couldn’t help but think “Ah, its a little harder when you can’t short your your opponents headsets at critical moments, isn’t it….?)

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  • 1. In their prime Hampton and Smith were considered the best 3-4 nose tackle and defensive end in the game. In fact Smith was arguably the best 3-4 DE to have ever played. Granted, at that time, there were far fewer 3-4 defensive linemen, and their responsibilities were different. Hampton, Smith and Kimo/Keisel were supposed to tie up blockers to allow the outside linebackers to get to the QB. They didn’t get many opportunities for splash plays. They could collapse the pocket and bring pressure but that wasn’t their primary responsibility. These guys were very very good at their jobs.

    It’s hard to compare them to Heyward, Tuitt and Hargrave who have completely different responsibilities. In Todays NFL, there are far too many QBs who get the ball out in 2 seconds or less. I believe Brady averages 1.8. The outside linebackers just can’t get there fast enough, unless there is inside pressure. So these guys have different responsibilities, their job is to get after the QB, And they are also very good at their jobs. Heyward was really good in either scheme.

    I can’t really see that it is possible to really compare them, they have the same titles, but different jobs.

    2. Whatever works. Right now, teams don’t really know what to expect.

    3. I think the the deep ball problem will go away once Hayden comes back. Hopefully sooner. If you don’t know the out come of the game and see that one team had 4 takeaways and the other team had 0, you have a pretty good chance of picking the winner. I hope the interceptions is the trend.

    4.No way of knowing if it was inadvertent, but I am not so cynical that I believe that everyone is always lying. I own up to my mistakes and I have no reason to think that he does not. He was absolutely correct in not appealing the suspension. No one wins the PED appeals, and it would just delay his suspension and make him miss playoff games.

    5. Sutton will most likely be inactive unless someone else gets hurt. He has practiced very little and right now each game counts in playoff seeding. Maybe he will see the field on special teams, but I really doubt if he will on defense.

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    • You get a (black &) gold star for #1.
      No idea why so many people are hanging on to the old way, in their minds.

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      • Thanks. I’ve been a fan since the mid 70s so I have seen a lot of changes in the way the game is played. As the game evolves, the teams have to adapt. The front of Hampton, Smith and Keisel (the way they played then) would get picked apart by the short passing game, aka the dink and dunk offense. Heck, Brady did it to them several times and now there are a bunch more teams that can and will play that game.

        I never understood the mindset that keeps people living in the past. The game changes and teams change with it. I think some of it is fueled by national media, who are always a couple of years behind when they talk about the teams strengths or weaknesses. If I recall correctly, I heard the commentators in a game this year talking about the D line was supposed to tie up the blockers for the O backers. Hasn’t been the MO for years, In LeBeau’s last year, he turned Heyward loose, and Butler continued it.

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  • 1- I will start with this, Aaron Smith will always be a favorite player of mine so I may lean toward that group. It’s hard to compare one unit versus the other. The group of Aaron,The Snack and The Beard, as we all know made their living as less heralded lineman, eating up blocks making life better for everyone else. They were certainly better at STOPPING the run.

    My my my times have changed. While not like the other group, they have been stingy in run defense but not near as dominant. They are making their way in other parts of the game and that is getting after the QB. Cam is having an awesome season and has been unstoppable at times. Tuitt, who is currently my favorite player, is a beast in his own right. This isn’t a knock on Alualu but we need him healthy for the stretch run. Hargrave has one of the quickest steps for a man that big is only going to get better. I love this group but they are still writing their legacy.

    2- I loved the up tempo but every game and game plan is different. If we hit a bump in the road and things get stagnant it’s nice knowing Ben still can command the No Huddle to jump start things.

    3- I honestly believe it’s our time so I expect more play making from our guys.

    4- I don’t know for certain but the track record for this sort of thing isn’t a favorable one for the person suspended. I do believe it was taken for the right reason and that is to get back on the field.

    5- This shouldn’t be taken as knock on his talent but you gotta hope he isn’t seen. That means we have remained injury free and that is always a great thing. I fully expect this guy to be prepared and work his tail off while waiting.

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