Monthly Archives: January 2018

Steelers Opponent Preview: The Jacksonville Jaguars, Take Two

I decided to go back and take a long hard look at what I wrote back in Week 5 about the Jaguars. I was wondering a few things—was I guilty of overlooking them? Did I not sufficiently prepare my Opponent Preview? Was it, in short, one of the dreaded “trap posts?”

Here’s how I began the article:

The Jaguars are somewhat of a sensation this year, even with a 2-2 record. Nobody (except perhaps their fans) really gave them much of a chance. Don’t believe me? Well, in an informal survey of six early September sets of “power rankings,” the highest anyone thought Jacksonville would finish is No. 26. (One writer even pegged them at No. 30.) This, despite the fact that they have had top-of-the-draft picks for years now.

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Pittsburgh Steelers 2017 Fourth Quarter Report: Part Four

675C85CD-837D-430D-8714-83337356E10CPhoto via Steelers.com

By Ivan Cole

Defense

Spent some time in the last segment reminiscing about the good old days when Steelers fans thought of the offensive line as the problem children. That mantle has been passed on to the defensive secondary. So, there has been some disorientation with how things have been playing out throughout this season. How is it possible that the problem child could be among the league leaders through much of the season in the virtual blink of an eye? Conversely, why are they giving up so many big plays?

Taking that second question first: I thought there was so much distain for the bend-but- don’t-break zone driven philosophy. We wanted more man principles. Well, as they say, be careful what you ask for. They’re getting off the field quickly now. Just kidding, sort of.

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5 Smoldering Questions on the Pittsburgh Steelers: Divisional Round Edition

BA639515-8ED8-47B6-B863-059E31BA4F1F.jpegPhoto via Steelers.com

The long, long bye week is over. Things are getting real. And that’s just for us, the faithful of Steeler Nation. I can’t imagine how real they’re getting down at the Southside, at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex. And just like the Steelers, we have to keep our noses to the grindstone and our eyes on the prize, which at the moment is the prize of winning the Divisional Round. So buckle down, folks, and answer these 5 Smoldering Questions. Remember, how much work you put into it determines what you get out of it : )

1. Leonard Fournette, he whose running total back in Week 5 shall Not Be Named, has been said to have hit the rookie wall. Does this encourage you at all? Why or why not?

2. The Steelers also have a couple of rookies who are pretty important—notably T.J. Watt and JuJu Smith-Schuster. Do you see any signs of flagging in them, and if they aren’t (and Fournette is) what do you think is the difference?

3. The Ben Roethlisberger who threw five interceptions in the previous match looked nothing like the Ben Roethlisberger we saw the remainder of the season. To what do you attribute the difference?

4. And related to the previous question, by Week 5 Jacksonville had the No. 1 rated defense by any number of metrics, including the DVOA of Football Outsiders. They still do. How confident are you that the previous result was as much about the failings of the Pittsburgh offense as it was about the awesomeness of the Jacksonville defense?

5. If you were able to watch last week’s game between the Bills and the Jaguars (I, alas, was not*) what was the difference between the way the Bills’ defense and the Pittsburgh defense handled Jacksonville? Is the Buffalo defense’s approach something you think the Steelers’ defense can, to some extent, reproduce? Or do you think it doesn’t matter?

Bonus: If you’re a total masochist head on over to Steelers.com and watch Tunch Ilkin’s “Chalk Talk” episode in which he draws up all five interceptions and the 80-yard touchdown run (or perhaps it was 90—my doctor wouldn’t allow me to check). Not recommended if you have a weak heart, but interesting nonetheless.

*Although from what I hear I was spared…

Rookie Matters (or, Rookies Matter)

0C6372A2-A8DE-4656-835A-062556A3EA3EI realize that about a million words have already been written about the last few rookie classes. But I have never shied away from adding a few thousand more to any subject, and it won’t stop me this time either.

Those of you who have been reading my musings know that I’ve only been a Steelers fan since the end of 2009, which was a curious time to start taking an interest, right smack dab in the middle of the worst losing streak of Mike Tomlin’s career. At that time I wasn’t knowledgeable enough to know about things like rookies, although I quickly figured out the draft, since it gave me an opportunity to look over a great many handsome promising young players. Read more

Pittsburgh Steelers 2017 Fourth Quarter Report: Part Three

A658B5B2-FB0F-41DF-B4A6-05CE4892A8A7By Ivan Cole

Offense

Earlier in the season it all seemed upside down and wrong. Predicted to be the strength of the team, the offense was sputtering. They and the team were being carried by a defense which appeared to be as much of a surprise in the opposite direction. Folks were fully engaged in one of the favorite pastimes of Steelers Nation—hating on offensive coordinator Todd Haley. A few individuals were grumbling within the unit. There were suggestions that some players were losing one or more steps, while others had reached the ceiling of their capabilities. Had that juggernaut Steeler offense, led by the Killer B’s, been just a mirage, a tease?

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Pittsburgh Steelers Fourth Quarter Report, Part 1

E07A5A20-E908-4AEC-BE40-8DADA9353D3BPhoto via Steelers.com

By Ivan Cole

A different approach

Of course, the great news is that though the regular season is concluded, this is not the end. This is the key objective and measure of success for every professional football franchise. The team met, indeed, exceeded comfortably the standard that allows for participation in overtime—the fifth quarter playoffs–the penultimate goal for the Pittsburgh organization.

Nonetheless, I believe this to be the proper time to assess this team’s journey. I feel this approach is merited for three reasons:

While the ultimate goal is to win the Super Bowl, realistically, success in the regular season is the variable over which you can exercise the most control in preparation and performance. Failure in this area renders playoff concerns irrelevant. Plus, there are factors in the playoff equation that often defy common assumptions from the beginning of the team building process. For example, who would have asserted six months ago that it would be Jacksonville, as opposed to Houston, who would be breathing down the Steelers’ neck in the playoff chase?

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