View Full Version : One month into 2009 season, Steelers and Cardinals not so super

09-30-2009, 06:06 AM
The Pittsburgh Steelers are on a two-game skid. They even found a way to lose to the Cincinnati Bengals, a team they'd bullied since 2001, and now face a daunting challenge trying to catch the 3-0 Baltimore Ravens in the AFC North....

...An NFL scout and a former team executive have some ideas, based on what they've studied on videotape.

The biggest problem they see with the Steelers is an offense that, despite running back Willie Parker's season-best 93 rushing yards against Cincinnati on Sunday, relies far too much on quarterback Ben Roethlisberger to make plays with his arm and improvisation. The approach, they say, is putting more stress on the team than it can handle, especially without the defensive dominance of a year ago.

"They did better Sunday, but I think it's an offense that has lost its balance," the scout said. "And I think, no matter how good your quarterback is at improvising and making plays outside the scheme, it's very difficult to live like that and be consistent. Now their defense has traditionally, and in recent years, been so strong that Roethlisberger's inconsistencies as a precision player could always be camouflaged and compensated for. And, therefore, when he made his three or four 'Roethlisberger plays' a game, it would often be enough. But for the most part, it's not an offense that has any real flow or precision to it, and the defense isn't always there to bail it out.

"If you watch the Colts' offense, you will see (it function like) a computer chip. There's precision, there's structure. Everything happens within the rhythm of the down and the rhythm of the offense. When you watch the Steelers' offense, you get very little of that. They live off of improvisation and randomness, and it's very hard to succeed in the NFL week in and week out playing that way, on either side of the ball."

The former club executive, whose team faced Roethlisberger on multiple occasions, believes the Steelers' coaches find his playmaking skills "so intoxicating," they tend to go with a spread offense more than they should. What they're overlooking, he said, is that the vast majority of Roethlisberger's success in hitting big throws has come late in games.

"I always kind of breathed a bit of a sigh of relief in the first half when they would want to spread out and throw, because I didn't think we could match their physical toughness," the executive said. "They would throw it and keep us in the game because of a tipped ball here or a sack or whatever."

The Steelers' defense isn't generating anywhere near the level of pressure it did on a consistent basis last year. Outside linebacker James Harrison, the NFL's 2008 Defensive Player of the Year, didn't get his first sack of the season until Sunday. The Steelers generally have not produced much heat from the outside, which made things far too comfortable for Chicago's Jay Cutler and Cincinnati's Carson Palmer to make enough plays to beat them in consecutive weeks.

They've also been guilty of coverage breakdowns and other assignment errors against the run. Although Cincinnati's running back Cedric Benson finished with only 76 rushing yards, 58 of them came in the second half, including a 23-yard touchdown.

"I don't have a brilliant tactical reason (for the defensive problems); my guess is that (defensive coordinator Dick) LeBeau's not doing anything differently than he's done before," the scout said. "But Harrison and (fellow outside linebacker LaMarr) Woodley have not made the individual plays that they made last year. It seemed that there were three or four plays a game last year, whether it was Woodley and/or Harrison, where they made a tremendous individual play, and you're not seeing that."

One obvious shortcoming is the absence of safety Troy Polamalu, who has been sidelined since suffering a knee injury in the season-opening victory against the Tennessee Titans. There is a substantial drop off in talent between him and his replacement, Tyrone Carter. The Steelers also aren't utilizing Carter the way they did Polamalu.

"The first thing you (notice) when you pop on a Steeler tape without Polamalu is you don't see movement before the snap," the scout said. "Carter is in the same place, whereas Polamalu was moving around. Sometimes he's on the line of scrimmage, other times he's back, sometimes he's in the deep middle. He was distorting the offense's view of what the Steeler defense was going to do on a given play. Now they don't have that distortion. They're easier to figure out before the snap of the ball."

I took out the Cardinals stuff.:coffee:

The whole story:

09-30-2009, 07:01 AM
Thanks for posting the article. Just so you know, thread titles are automatically bolded, you don't need to use the code.:wink02:

10-01-2009, 02:42 AM
Arghh....OK. Good to know.