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Old 12-13-2009, 12:14 AM   #1
mesaSteeler
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Default Should Tomlin Blow Offense Up?

Should Tomlin Blow Offense Up?
Story URL: http://pit.scout.com/2/928416.html
Jim Wexell
SteelCityInsider.com Dec 12, 2009

The Steelers gave the required effort Thursday, but couldn't keep defenders off their quarterback. Once again, the direction of the offense must be questioned.

The Browns wanted it more.

They were superior in terms of urgency and emotion.

The Steelers’ heart was lacking.

Came out flat and stayed that way.

They didn’t care.

They quit on themselves.

The above sentences were written by Pittsburgh-area sportswriters after the Steelers’ shocking loss to the Cleveland Browns. And you’ll note that each was given its own paragraph to emphasize how profound I think they are.

Of course, like the myths above, that is a lie.

Fact is, and as hard as it is to believe, the Steelers gave all they had. I don’t say that because Mike Tomlin said so after the game. I say it because I’ve watched the game three times. I didn’t get sick at any point, nor was it a form of self-torture, because I thought the effort was there from start to finish.

Let’s take a quick run through it.

Browns’ first series: six yards and punt.

Steelers’ first series: Guards fire to blow up linebackers on first play; tight end drives a linebacker back five yards on second play; third-and-one shotgun and sack when Corey Williams – a reserve the Steelers targeted in free agency two years ago, a guy they think is a pretty good player – whipped Justin Hartwig.

Browns’ second series: one first down on a 3rd-and-10 completion over a head-spinning Lawrence Timmons and in front of reserve safety Ty Carter.

Steelers’ second series: third-and-3 sack by unblocked Hank Poteat, the lone blitzer.

Browns’ third series: Josh Cribbs’s big punt return was caused by a muff and seven overaggressive Steelers skidding past him after he picked it up, looped around and made one cut. Dan Sepulveda gave great effort in getting Cribbs to the ground, and the Browns lost four yards before kicking a field goal.

Steelers’ third series: Blocking TE, a rookie, dropped the first-down pass, but a hobbled Hines Ward managed to get his feet down before the sideline for a 9-yard gain. After a bad spot, urgency was displayed with a 4th-and-1 conversion from their own 32. On the next play, Santonio Holmes dove but couldn’t catch an errant pass in the middle of triple coverage. And on the next play, Ben Roethlisberger scrambled and dove concussed-melon-first for a first down. The drive stalled when a screen was thrown to Ward with Mike Wallace in front of him as the blocker. Mike Wallace couldn’t block James Harrison’s mom and he never touched Eric Wright. Roethlisberger was then sacked by a linebacker who came untouched on a 4-man rush.

There were errors of overaggressiveness, of trying to do too much, at key moments in the second quarter, like Timmons overpursuing on Cribbs’ 18-yard run and Farrior doing the same on the touchdown run. There was also Heath Miller diving for the sticks while being tackled. There was LaMarr Woodley running nearly 50 yards to the opposite sideline to tackle Cribbs, who’d broken a weak tackle attempt by Carter as Ike Taylor was being rag-dolled by a rookie receiver.

So errors of aggression coincided with poor play from the usual suspects, but in the second half the Browns didn’t score a point and had only four first downs.

Lack of effort had nothing to do with this loss, nor did the Steelers turn the ball over. They committed only four penalties.

The actual problems were consistent: poor play by Carter and the slump-ridden Taylor; a quarterback who, in not getting rid of the ball, showed he was too worried about making a mistake (and perhaps rightfully so); a team that was too tight; a line that couldn’t protect its quarterback.

The last problem was the biggest problem, the protection, and it reflects on the coaching staff. We know the players. We know their problems. Does the staff?

None of the eight sacks resulted from a rush of more than five Browns, so the Steelers were beaten mentally as much, if not more, than they were beaten physically.

Once, Hartwig ran wide to block a cornerback who dropped back into coverage, leaving the middle of the line to pour over Rashard Mendenhall. At two other critical junctures, Browns blitzers came untouched because fake blitzers forced miscommunications. Should that be happening to a group that’s been together for two seasons? A group that faces this stuff in practice all the time?

And it wasn’t just the mental errors, it was the alignments and the playcalling and the poor timing of each. A third-and-one shotgun snap to start the game, deep in your own territory, on the road in gale-force December winds, is not what Art Rooney II wanted to see in THE game of his very first season alone at the helm.

Do you think he missed the stark contrast that in those conditions, in his division, his Steelers played finesse ball and the Browns came right at them with a beastly wildcat quarterback and a couple of young, mobile, strong and highly-drafted linemen?

Tomlin will have to get it fixed with the most sweeping of measures.

Does he replace OC Bruce Arians? I have no clue. Maybe it’s the line coach. Maybe it’s the players, the quarterback, the new third-down running back. Only Tomlin knows for sure.

At least this loss reminded him that more than the secondary needs fixed. And it’s not so much the playcalling on offense, or even the style of play, as it is the regression the $102 million investment displayed at the most critical point of the season.

Roethlisberger’s best moments have almost always come on the run, but he’s losing that elusiveness. The Browns touched him eight times Thursday and he went down every time. Maybe he’s at the point where he can’t beat you on athleticism alone. It’s clear he didn’t play as well in the pocket as he should have. Even if he puts a monstrous conditioning spree together, there’ll come the time when he’ll need more brains than brawn.

Is the coaching up to the task of motivating Roethlisberger in the proper direction? On Thursday night, the answer was no.

So Tomlin either needs to figure out why it was an anomaly, or change the coordinator. Because he saw the tape. He knows the effort was there.
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Old 12-13-2009, 01:10 AM   #2
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Default Re: Should Tomlin Blow Offense Up?

I guess only time is gonna tell what changes are a coming.
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Old 12-13-2009, 08:06 AM   #3
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Default Re: Should Tomlin Blow Offense Up?

If the coordinator is not willing to change, and by his own words and actions he is not, then common sense tells one that the coordinator must change.

Ok, maybe BA can change. But how long will it last? I'm betting not more than the last 3 games of the 2009 season. And next year, it will back to the same 'ole BA ballgame.

The Steelers MUST CHANGE something to adapt to the changes happening in an always challenging AFC division.

The Bengals are getting stronger on defense and it's only a matter of time before the offense catches up. Did you ever think they would win the division the year after we swept AFCN and won a superbowl? By using our formula....running the freaking ball down some throats and exerting your will. The Bengals playing Steelers football??? That's as absurd as being beaten by the Cleveland Browns! The Brown's have no where to go but up, and by the looks of things, they are going the route of the Dolphins, by hiring a Parcells type guru to run the show. The 'Fins went from duds to playoff contenders in one year. The Ravens will always be a challenge, they are getting old on defense, but they have young, hotshot QB to build their future with.

We could very well end up being the AFCN bottom dwellers for years if we don't make the right changes, right now. The 3 other teams in this division would love to see it happen. We can longer get by on our reputation alone, because they are taking it anymore. We have owned this division for along time, and the rest of the AFCN is no longer willing to sit back and let us manhandle them anymore.

The rest of the division is changing. What are we going to do about it, Coach Tomlin?
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Old 12-13-2009, 08:18 AM   #4
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Default Re: Should Tomlin Blow Offense Up?

Bruce Arians does not care. He has a record of throw first and often. He did it with the Browns until, unable to hold leads and win games, they fired him. Throwing first and often and on 3rd and 1 will not get your team more wins. Period.

Someone posted a stat that showed that Brady and Manning had losing records when they threw it way more than they ran it. That tells a lot.

Sure, maybe some tape watching showed effort. Sure. When your strategy is to throw on a freezing, windy night in Cleveland against the worst run D in the NFL...you will not win.

AND

...you have to question the employment of such a genius.
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Old 12-13-2009, 08:59 AM   #5
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Default Re: Should Tomlin Blow Offense Up?

No. The offense should blow Tomlin up.
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Old 12-13-2009, 10:36 AM   #6
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Default Re: Should Tomlin Blow Offense Up?

I find this article interesting in that it should be geared to exploiting the poor game plan but he ends up ripping Big Ben. The reality is, Ben needs coached too and although Ben may like BA, BA is not putting Ben in a position to suceed. WE RUN PLAY ACTION LESS THAN 4 TIMES A GAME! That is awful. You can have a great QB and have a strong run game to compliment. Mendenhall can be an awesome back. The line is built more towards run blocking. The third and shorts were atrocious!
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Old 12-13-2009, 10:47 AM   #7
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Default Re: Should Tomlin Blow Offense Up?

Play Action on works if you have Run Action early in games to make the defense commit to stopping it. That is what kills me about this offense. we have very good talent at the skill positions on the offense, and could only get 6 points against the freaking Browns....really?

has nothing to do with talent. Has to do with flow of the offensive playcalling. Sorry, but that's the truth.
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Old 12-13-2009, 10:59 AM   #8
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Default Re: Should Tomlin Blow Offense Up?

We must get a secondary and a O-line. We cant depend on polamalu to win every game defensively.
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Old 12-13-2009, 11:58 AM   #9
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Default Re: Should Tomlin Blow Offense Up?

Great stuff Mesa, thanks for posting it. Wexall consistently brings it like no other Steelers beat writer. His weekly column along with the inclusion of the media guide are the main reasons I maintain my subscription to Steelers Digest.

I really hope Tomlin realizes the status quo on his coaching staff just wont do. If Arains comes back I'm afraid we're doomed to another season of mediocrity or worse.

Talent wise the offense is much more fixable over the short term than the defense is imo. That's not to say I expect the defense to be second rate next season. But with some minor tweaking I think the talent is there that this offense can set the tone for the team next year.

Here's my laundry list of some things to do that will make this team better right away .

Replace Hartwig ( good guy, inadequete player) and Essex ( good to have around for depth) through free agency and or the draft.

Scrap the 3 tight end sets that Arains is in love with.( as well as our opposition) I think the 3 tight end set makes us much too predicatable in our play calling and also puts Matt Spaeth and David Johnson on the field usually at the expense of Santonio Holmes.

Demand that Ben come into camp in better shape. Accountability starts with personal disipline. When you allow a star player to stray over the line it sets in motion further break downs throughout the team. Contrast the way they handled Ben's lack of conditioning with how they dealt with Hampton the year before and you can see where an early message resounds loudly throughout a season, both good ( last year) or bad (this year).

No more "Camp Cupcake" at Latrobe this summer. Never have i seen a talented team that makes as many mental errors as this team does. I think it all started at "Camp Cupcake." There's a glaring lack of focus and disipline on this team. It all starts at the beggining and at the top. Hold players accountable for mental and physical errors right from the start of camp and stay consistent and on message throughout. It's not the coaches job to coddle or be chums with the veterans. In fact you should hold the veterans to a higher standard of performance than anyone else and it trickles down to every player on the roster and fosters team unity rather than a caste system of made men vs. roster fillers.

Preach balance and live it, even when it isn't coming easy.. The run to pass ratio on this team is way out of whack. Early on in the season they actually had it close to right, but unfortunately a banged up Willie Parker wasn't able to hold up the running games end and since then they abandon the run the first time a back is tackled for a loss. Running is about commitment as much as anything else. And Ben is almost without peer on play action passes. So you have to convince Ben that it's no insult to him that you want to keep you passing attempts under 30 more games than not.

No more empty back sets on first and goal ( Chiefs red zone int) or on 3rd and short ( Browns game 1st quarter) when time isn't a factor. I'm not saying you have to run on these downs, but why on earth are you making the opponents job so easy by telegraphing your intentions? Again Ben is one of the best quarterbacks in the league when he can sell play action, put a back behind him, keep a linebacker and safety honest by at least making them think you might run.

OK that's enough of me playing expert for today. .

I really hope they fix this thing. I can't take much more of losing to teams like the Raiders and Browns.
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Old 12-13-2009, 02:20 PM   #10
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Default Re: Should Tomlin Blow Offense Up?

The shoe is on the other foot. Now the Steelers have to answer to the Bengals. Cincy is now the dominant team in the North. It will stay that way if we continue in this direction.

The always difficult AFC North just got even more tougher with the Bengals adopting a physical mentality. Their D doesn't suck anymore, their Offense is potent, and they have a running game. The Pass Happy Steelers will not cut it in this division. We have to go back to being the Steelers.

Time will tell if Tomlin improves this team, or see a repeat of the 1980's.
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