PDA

View Full Version : Maginot Line: Steelers '09 Fourth-Quarter Defense


mesaSteeler
01-25-2010, 07:04 AM
Maginot Line: Steelers '09 Fourth-Quarter Defense
http://www.behindthesteelcurtain.com/2010/1/23/1266144/maginot-line-steelers-09-fourth
Tiny by swissvale72 on Jan 23, 2010 4:12 AM EST Comment 12 comments

The Maginot Line: Steelers ’09 Fourth-Quarter Defense Impressively constructed, but all-too-easily penetrated, the Maginot Line, designed to protect France from Nazi Germany, is synonymous with failed, sieve-like defensive schemes. Thus also was the Pittsburgh Steelers Fourth-Quarter Defense of the ’09 season. The Steelers’ secondary proved to be their Ardennes. Whereby the Wehrmacht traversed the seemingly impenetrable forest and France fell quickly in 1940, the back end of the Steelers defense regularly proved to be the Black & Gold’s undoing in 2009.

It remains popular among the denizens of Steeler Nation, with the ’09 season now three weeks in the rear-view mirror, to wring one’s hands and gnash one’s teeth over the Bruce Arians’ offense. But, it was the Steelers’ defense that ceded fourth-quarter leads on a half-dozen occasions in the most recent campaign, losing five of those games, and losing yet another in which they had battled back to knot the score. "Not so fast," say the Defenders of the Defense, noting that the ’08 Super Bowl Champion Pittsburgh Steelers had also, yes, fallen behind six times (Baltimore, at Jacksonville, Giants, Indianapolis, San Diego, Arizona) during the fourth quarter after leading at the final frame’s onset.

Is this a fair comparison? Actually, it’s arguing apples and oranges, chipped ham and fried jumbo, pierogies and raviolis. The ’08 Steelers did, in fact, cede six fourth-quarter leads. The ’09 Steelers though, in comparison to the ’08 Super Bowl Champion edition, betrayed a marked inability in getting off of the field in the fourth quarter. The comparisons of the six fourth-quarter struggles in each season tell the tale, and it’s far more extensive than the Steelers not having the ball last, not being in position to execute their "winning final drive" recipe for ’08 success:

• Excluding those occasions where there were scant seconds remaining (such as the final Cardinals’ possession in Super Bowl XLIII) and kneeldowns from Victory formation, opponents scored on less than half of fourth-quarter possessions (eight of seventeen) in the targeted six games of the ’08 season, registering six touchdowns and a pair of field goals. In ’09 (with the same exclusion on final seconds possessions), the opposing forces cashed in two-thirds of the time in the fourth quarter in games where the Steelers ceded the lead (14 of 21), putting up ten touchdowns and four field goals.

• Opponents gained 44% of their total yardage in the final quarter of the ’09 sample (902 of 2055) while gaining 33% in fourth-quarters of the ’08 six-pack (545 of 1653).

• Opponents scored 53% of their offensive points (83 of 157) in the fourth-quarter of the ’09 games, only 36% (41 of 114) in the ’08 fourth-quarters.

• And perhaps the bottom line, the Steelers lost five of the six games in ’09 where they ceded a fourth-quarter lead. They won four of these six games in ’08.

More highlights (or lowlights) from the respective telltale half-dozens:

• In four of the six ’09 games (at Chicago, at Cincinnati, Oakland, Green Bay), the Steelers’ defense failed to execute a single fourth-quarter stop, surrendering nine touchdowns and one field goal in those fourth-quarters. By comparison, there was only one game in the ’08 sample where the defense couldn’t get off of the field, but the San Diego Chargers’ 17-play, 78-yard drive was the their sole 4th quarter possession (save for the final 11 seconds) and the drive resulted in only three points for the Lightning Bolts. Note as well that in a seventh ’09 game (Cincinnati), lost in the fourth-quarter after the Steelers had tied the score, the defense took the field for a pair of Bengals’ fourth-quarter possessions, promptly permitting substantial drives for a pair of field goals, the final margin of defeat.

• In three consecutive ’09 games (Kansas City, Baltimore, Oakland), the Steelers defense was staked to a lead with less than nine, seven and two minutes respectively remaining, and benefited from penalties on each ensuing kickoff which backed up their opponents to their nine, ten, and twelve-yard lines. They allowed their foe, on these consecutive Sundays, to drive the length of the field for the tying or winning score.

• Conversely, both season’s defensive units were victimized by the Steelers offense setting up the opposition with short fields following turnovers. The Colts and Peyton Manning were required to drive only 32 yards for the winning score after a Roethlisberger interception during the ’08 campaign, and a Dennis Dixon pick in overtime set up the Ravens on this past Thanksgiving Sunday. Additionally, the Packers drove only 39 yards for their go-ahead score this past December following the now-infamous "onside kick." The Giants drove 53 yards to their winning score following the disastrous James Harrison long-snap for a safety in the Steelers’ 08 contest against the defending Super Bowl Champions.

The conclusion one must reach in this instance is that the ’09 Steelers defense failed much more consistently, and flamboyantly, than did their ’08 counterparts. They failed to exit the field, sometimes at all, in the fourth quarter of the sample games, and gave up a higher percentage of the game’s total yardage and total points in the fourth quarter. There were two games in which they surrendered three fourth-quarter touchdowns, one of these onslaughts led by the journeyman Bruce Gradkowski. There were a plethora of instances where one play would have sealed victory for this ’09 unit. The failure, however, to make a tackle on 4th & 10, the inability to exit the field on 3rd & 22, the dropping of an interception placed perfectly between the two and the seven of a defensive back’s jersey number with less than a minute remaining, all eventually spelled defeat.

As stated by the legendary football seer, Bill Parcells, "You are what your record says you are," and the record for the ’09 Steelers is that they managed to win one of only six games where they ceded the lead in the fourth-quarter. The ’08 squad won four of six in that circumstance. Thus the ’08 team was headed for Florida, and the Super Bowl, at this time of year. The ’09 team sits at home and contemplates what might have been.

supa_fly_steeler
01-25-2010, 07:26 AM
nice article

lamberts-lost-tooth
01-25-2010, 07:38 AM
nice article

Exactly...I mentioned halfway through the season that I was noticing some of our older players playing poorly in the last half of games.

The obvious fix for this is to get younger...either at starting positions, or with young guns who can effectively back up our seasoned vets.

You can survive with good older vets...but ONLY if they have good depth behind them that can fill in without a drop in production.

MasterOfPuppets
01-25-2010, 07:43 AM
scoring by quarters....
........................1st................2nd.... .........3rd............4th
steelers..........81................126........... ..61..............97
opponents.....54.................75..............5 8..............135

the offense takes the 3rd quarter off...the D takes the 4th off.

lamberts-lost-tooth
01-25-2010, 08:22 AM
scoring by quarters....
........................1st................2nd.... .........3rd............4th
steelers..........81................126........... ..61..............97
opponents.....54.................75..............5 8.............135

the offense takes the 3rd quarter off...the D takes the 4th off.

Except that we outscored our opponants by 3 points in the third...and were outscored by 38 points in the fourth.

MasterOfPuppets
01-25-2010, 08:29 AM
Except that we outscored our opponants by 3 points in the third...and were outscored by 38 points in the fourth.

its still odd how the D was so consistent thru out the first 3 quarters then has a total meltdown. could it be fatigue sets in ? i'd like to see a break down on time of possession for each quarter.

lamberts-lost-tooth
01-25-2010, 09:18 AM
its still odd how the D was so consistent thru out the first 3 quarters then has a total meltdown. could it be fatigue sets in ? i'd like to see a break down on time of possession for each quarter.

I think that you are correct. Even when in fantastic shape, older players are going to be fatigued by the end of the season. We have been blessed with talented Vets, but I think we waited a year to long to add depth to key positions. It would have been nice to have backup players at Safety and DE with 2-3 years experience

I think generally you have two different types of backups: Young up and comers...and wave players.

Wave players by definition can step in for a play or two and relieve the starters. They usually have some specific skill that a coordinator will utilize sporadically. But you NEVER want to be in a situation in which you have to start a wave player for an extended amount of time.

Carter is a perfect example of this...we dont have a legit young stud to back up our safeties...just an untried 7th rounder and wave players.

We are so weak in our depth at DE...Safety ...and OLB...that we were forced to play the older players more than we should have or forced to start those wave players like the ones that I was talking about.

I think we can place some the blame on our missteps in draftng in the second and third rounds...how nice would it have been for Safety Anthony Smith and OLB Bruce Davis to have panned out?

steeltheone
01-25-2010, 09:32 AM
-- Smith (33), Casey Hampton (32) and Keisel (31) -- are in their 30s, as are Farrior (34), Harrison (31) and safety Tyrone Carter (33). Safety Ryan Clark will be 30 on Oct. 12.

This is a serious problem. One that has to be fixed soon. This is why Hood should start this year.

steelreserve
01-25-2010, 12:35 PM
It was pretty simple this year: We weren't aggressive on defense. On third down, we either got a sack, or we gave up a 15-yard catch and run to the opponent's crappiest receiver. And since we mostly just lined up and played vanilla defense with a four-man rush, we got mostly the second outcome. If we play flat, people take advantage of it. This defense wasn't built to sit back on its heels and try to play you straight-up.

MasterOfPuppets
01-25-2010, 04:40 PM
I think that you are correct. Even when in fantastic shape, older players are going to be fatigued by the end of the season. We have been blessed with talented Vets, but I think we waited a year to long to add depth to key positions. It would have been nice to have backup players at Safety and DE with 2-3 years experience

I think generally you have two different types of backups: Young up and comers...and wave players.

Wave players by definition can step in for a play or two and relieve the starters. They usually have some specific skill that a coordinator will utilize sporadically. But you NEVER want to be in a situation in which you have to start a wave player for an extended amount of time.

Carter is a perfect example of this...we dont have a legit young stud to back up our safeties...just an untried 7th rounder and wave players.

We are so weak in our depth at DE...Safety ...and OLB...that we were forced to play the older players more than we should have or forced to start those wave players like the ones that I was talking about.

I think we can place some the blame on our missteps in draftng in the second and third rounds...how nice would it have been for Safety Anthony Smith and OLB Bruce Davis to have panned out?
but the steelers don't have "backups"...."they have starters in waiting"....:wink02:

rich4eagle
01-25-2010, 09:31 PM
I blame the defensive meltdown on two things.....................TOMLIN for calliing it conservative

and Tomlin for allowing the special teams travesty for the whole year