Category Archives: Game Analysis

Some More Random Thoughts on Steelers v. Bengals

Photo via Steelers.com/Karl Rosen

By Ivan Cole

Unlike Rebecca I saw the game in real time. These are the things that impressed me about this performance:

Meanness.

Rebecca and some others might have not have understood my comments in a previous post about Pittsburgh lacking a certain quality of meanness. I think this is because we often conflate ‘mean’ with ‘dirty’. This is, I believe, the Bengal’s fatal flaw. Cincinnati, as usual, was the dirtier team. Pittsburgh was the meaner team. What the highlights did not adequately convey was, despite the closeness of the score, how thoroughly the Steelers beat the Bengals up. The difference could be most clearly seen when comparing the play and effectiveness of Vance McDonald, who connects with Ben Roethlisberger through Bible studies and cancer survivor James Connor with that of Vontaze Burfict. Burfict played dirty. McDonald and Connor played mean. The result was a parade of Bengal players forced to the sideline, the locker room, and concussion protocol without roughness or unsportsmanlike penalties, while, despite threats and Cincinnati’s best efforts, the Steelers came through relatively unscathed. Read more

A Few Random Thoughts on Steelers v. Bengals

Photo via Steelers.com/Karl Rosen

These thoughts are not deep. That would be difficult, being as I couldn’t actually watch the game. They were garnered as I watched the highlight reel a couple of times.

There is one small factor which makes them slightly more valuable than my thoughts for many weeks previous—I can now actually see reasonably well out of both my eyes. It seems to me this ups the validity of my musings at least a little. (In case you’re wondering, I had cataract surgery on Tuesday. I have what they call “young person’s cataracts,” which is a nice way of saying “you’re old but not quite ancient.”)

So here they are, in no particular order:

  • Vance MacDonald has a lot of competition, but he may be my new favorite Steeler. How fitting it was that the first guy he took out on his little 29-yard scamper would be Vontaze Burfict. Another contender for my favorite, James Conner, put some hurt on Burfict himself, or he perhaps would have lost his place in line this week.
  • Why would any defensive coach in his right mind leave AB uncovered? Not that I’m complaining.
  • In his post-game conference, Ben said “What a great game!” about James Conner, and went on to say “I know it’s his last game, with Le’Veon coming back and all,” and that it was nice for James to have a game like this as his last one. The assembled media got a good laugh out of that. But it made me think how lucky the Steelers are that such statements are jokes—that the team isn’t hanging on desperately to hope that Le’Veon really will return this week. (No one, as far as I know, really knows when or if he will come back, perhaps even including Le’Veon.)
  • A bull in a china shop is a scary image. A bull in a china closet is just weird. Sometimes the broadcasters should think before they speak…
  • I didn’t know that volleyball was approved by the NFL, but there it was, two Bengals defenders batting the ball right to Ben, who said “Thank you very much” and took it across the line of scrimmage. Very entertaining.
  • What was with the Dr. Jeckell/Mr. Hyde special teams? Last week they were awesome; this week they sucked. A “foolish consistency” may be the “hobgoblin of small minds,” (an appropriate thought as Hallowe’en approaches) but I happily agree to be considered small-minded if special teams will agree to be consistent. Preferably consistently good.
  • Another Steelers/Bengals game, another cheap shot by Vontaze Burfict. As one of the local writers put it, if T.J. Watt was fined $20,000 for his “hit” on Matt Ryan’s “knee,” (emphasis mine), Burfict should be fined approximately $7,000,000,000 for his after-the-whistle elbow-to-the-head on AB. Personally, I think Burfict needs to be protected from himself. A nice long suspension—say 15 years—ought to do it.
  • I did follow the last three minutes or so of the game on the NFL site, and was tempted to repine when the Bengals scored. However, several things gave me hope: 1) the Steelers had all of their time outs, 2) there was still more than a minute, and 3) Cato, the fair-weather Steelers fan who leaves the room when the Steelers are losing too badly, came and sat on my lap for the final minute of the game. Phew!

Well, folks, I’m getting the other eye done in a week and a half, so for the first game after the bye I should be seeing on all cylinders, to coin a not-very-useful phrase. Hopefully I can actually watch the whole thing. That would be a treat. In the meantime, do check out the video on Steelers.com of Ryan Shazier visiting the hospital he was taken to last December. It is very touching. And it is way more important than football.

Back in the Saddle Again

Photo via Steelers.com

That would be the Steelers, not me, who are back in the saddle. I’m just approaching the stable, at best. But I did manage to carve out enough time to watch the game today, by dint of recording it, beginning to watch when it was half over, and jumping through all of the commercials and even eventually the time between plays. I must say I picked a good game to watch. Today’s game, at least if I believe what I have read in fits and starts about the other games this season, is surely the closest thing to a complete game in all phases the Steelers have played in 2018. (That would definitely be counting The Playoff Game Which Shall Not Be Named.)

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It’s Official—Pittsburgh Steelers’ 2018 Season Over

I have a confession to make before we go any further here—I haven’t actually watched the game. And my son Adrian, who did, suggests that I might want to keep it that way. But not having actually watched the game certainly doesn’t prevent me from panicking. After all, the Steelers lost to the Browns!

Technically speaking, they didn’t exactly lose. A tie is what you make of it—half a win or half a loss. It’s one of those personality tests. But given all of the local pre-game commentary about how despite the depth and talent of the roster the Browns have managed to accumulate, they will find ways to lose, it surely counts as even more than half a loss.

And to once again speak technically, given that the Steelers were leading 21-7 in the fourth quarter, despite Ben being apparently determined to get all of his picks over with for the entire season in this game, perhaps this is more than half a loss. But even a cursory look at what actually happened in the game makes it pretty clear that the Browns’ defense, led by about 24 top-of-the-first-round picks, made life pretty miserable for the Steelers’ offense, or at least any member of the Steelers’ offense not named James Conner. At least up until a member of the Browns’ defense made Conner cough up the ball for the lone takeaway of the six not involving Ben. (To be fair, at least one of the five is definitely on Jesse James. Or so I gather.)

I will briefly pause to explain why I haven’t actually watched the game. I am in New Mexico visiting my aged mother. We were sitting in church when the game started, and I was shopping to stock her refrigerator, which was filled mainly with condiments when I arrived late Saturday night, while it was winding down to its painful conclusion. Thus virtue was its own reward, because I was spared yet another traumatic experience.

Will I ever watch the game? Let us draw a veil over this question, and return to our regularly scheduled program. After all, just because I don’t know what I’m talking about shouldn’t stop me from having firm, even hysterical, opinions on the matter.

So what have we learned? Here are some things:

    Chris Boswell is human after all.
    The Steeler defense looks better when they haven’t been on the field the entire game.
    And perhaps the Steeler defense looks better than anyone thought they would, even if, like Chris Boswell, they are human, and eventually get tired.
    Maybe Ben should play more in the preseason.
    Maybe part of Le’Veon Bell’s greatness can be attributed to Mike Munchak and his Merry Men.
    Sometimes stuff happens.

Now that I’ve tried to make a silk purse, perhaps we should stare the sow’s ear right in the face. A lot of people laughed when CBS Sports picked the Ravens to win the division this year. And maybe they shouldn’t have. It’s only one game, but 47-3 (Ravens/Bills) is a trifle alarming. Especially with Joe Flacco apparently looking like he’s remembered how to quarterback again. And it’s annoying that the Bengals won as well, thus having the Steelers begin the season in a hole. But from all accounts it is a hole they deserve to be in.

The thing about adversity is, it can get you down or it can provide a much-needed reality check (or kick in the pants, according to taste.) Let’s hope that reality check is the start of 15-0 from here on out. I’m scarcely counting on it, mind you. Even before today that would have been rather delusional. After today it’s delusional, period.

More to the point, as far as I’m concerned, perhaps it will cause the team to focus on the actual matter at hand and drop all the dramatics. As fascinating as the past few seasons have been, perhaps some plain old blue collar workmanlike attitude emanating from more of the locker room than Cameron Heyward would be welcome. Give it a try, guys. It surely has to work out better than the current plan.

If you’re wondering why there’s no picture, I think it’s better that way. Let’s push the reset button, and Go, Steelers.

The Pittsburgh Steelers Play Real Football—Sort Of

Photo via Steelers.com

I suppose my title is not quite accurate. The players were playing real football, but a good many of them were very likely (hopefully?) not the guys that will be suiting up for the regular season. This is, presumably, part of why so many people hate the preseason. Me? I love it. The games are almost worry-free (other than the injury issues) as the end result doesn’t actually matter very much. And it is exciting to see how the youngsters perform in game action.

As for the players, as David DeCastro said, they enjoy the chance to hit other people. I laughed when Tunch Ilkin said the same thing the other day in a post-practice report, but I can see that especially for the veterans it would be a relief. When you’re hitting your own guys you don’t want to be the one that injures someone. While presumably you don’t want to injure other people’s players either—after all, the guy you obliterate could end up being a teammate later on—it surely doesn’t have the same impact as possibly taking out someone you know and whom your team might need down the road.

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On Second Thought: Browns @ Steelers

FE0B3163-EFDD-43D9-BDBE-EE3524C2E306Photo via Steelers.com

By Homer J

I would like to respectfully suggest to Homer that the computer lose his homework more often. This is some of his finest work. Enjoy. You have quite a treat in store…Ed.

Homer watched the Steelers “B” Team (NOT to be confused with the Killer B’s) defeat the Washington Generals, AKA the Cleveland Browns, and took copious game notes. Unfortunately, it was New Year’s Eve, and somehow they were deleted instead of copied. Seriously, the computer ate his homework. Apple, why dost thou mock me??? Read more

Browns @ Steelers: The Factory of Sadness Outdoes Itself

Just suppose that a few weeks ago I had told you that the Browns’ defense will have given up the fewest points per game in the NFL this season. And then I told you the Steelers’ offense would play those same Browns without Ben, Le’Veon Bell, Antonio Brown, Maurkice Pouncey, and David DeCastro. And then I had told you that center B.J. Finney would be injured partway through the game and would be replaced by Chris Hubbard, who would give clear and frequent demonstrations as to why he isn’t the backup center. And then I told you that the Browns’ defense would force a fumble and recover it, and that they would pick off Landry Jones early in the game. And then I told you the Browns’ offense would manage to score 24 points. How confident would you feel that the Steelers had pulled out a win?

Probably not very confident. And with excellent cause. But in fact that’s what happened. To do so they got a little help from the refs, who overturned a fumble call on Ridley (and rightly so, as his arm was clearly down before the ball moved) and called a rather ticky-tacky roughing the passer call on Myles Garrett. They also got help from a couple of receivers—JuJu Smith-Schuster not only had a heck of a game on offense but took a kickoff 98 yards for the Steelers’ first kick return touchdown since Antonio Brown did it in 2010. They also received help from a player who has been more than generous in that way throughout this season—Browns’ receiver Cory Coleman, who dropped what would have been a huge fourth-down conversion in the last few minutes of the fourth quarter, thus more or less giving the game to the Steelers, who hung on to a tenuous 4-point lead for the last 25 minutes of the game or so.

Given that the only starter on the defense to not play was Cameron Heyward, it’s hard to feel very good about a Steelers’ defense who gave up 24 points to the worst offense in the league. Or so I assume, and checking with the NFL offensive stats,

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