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Old 12-20-2010, 07:05 AM   #1
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Default Allmann: Injuries really showed in loss

Allmann: Injuries really showed in loss
By: Bill Allmann
Beaver County Times

Sunday December 19, 2010 11:22 PM

PITTSBURGH — There had to be an uneasy sense of déjà vu when the Steelers’ inactive players list was released for Sunday’s game with the New York Jets.

Last year, with both safety Troy Polamalu and defensive end Aaron Smith on that injured list, the Steelers missed the playoffs at 9-7 — a record that Browns and Bengals fans fantasize about, but one that leaves locals feeling empty.

Sunday, not only were Smith and Polamalu inactive, so was tight end Heath Miller and, with that much talent in street clothes, the Steelers fell just short of the Jets, 22-17.

While hope remains that all could be back relatively soon and they did play long enough for the Steelers to have already clinched a playoff spot, the numbers show their importance.
Without Smith applying pressure, the Jets gained more than 100 yards rushing. Quarterback Mark Sanchez was only hurried twice and sacked once, but the sack was for no loss of yardage, so it is only technically a sack.

Sanchez completed 19 of 29 passes without Polamalu at safety and, most importantly, the Steelers didn’t force a turnover.
None of the statistics individually is cause for concern, but combined with the injuries on the offensive side of the ball, a call for the red hypocycloids on the sides of the helmet to be changed to a red cross could have some merit.

The offensive line did a credible job early; the Steelers rushed for almost 6 yards a carry and quarterback Ben Roethlisberger went relatively untouched despite starting tackles Max Starks and Willie Colon having already been lost for the season.

However, tackle Jonathan Scott left the game in the second half with what was termed a “stinger” and the patchwork line failed in the key play of the game: When Mewelde Moore was tackled for a safety with less than three minutes left.

Miller’s blocking has been a major part of the line’s success as well, so his loss hurts there, too. His absence as a pass receiver was most evident Sunday, though. Tight ends Matt Spaeth and David Johnson were targeted nine times with only three completed.
Running backs were targets twice with one completed and wide receivers targeted 32 times with 19 completions. Had tight ends been as successful in catching passes as either of the other two positions, it’s easy to believe the Steelers would now be 11-3, not 10-4.

The final area where the absence of the injured players has been felt has been the special teams. New York’s Brad Smith returned the opening kickoff 97 yards for a touchdown with barely a hand laid on him. The Steelers did come back from that, but it certainly contributed to the loss.

It’s only logical, though, that when reserves are asked to step up and fill starting roles, something could be hurt: either their continued roles on the special teams stretches them too far or the play of their replacements shows why they’re replacements.

All in all, the Steelers training staff could yet be the most valuable performers for the team down the stretch.

The advantage of this year over last is that a playoff spot is already clinched and the road to a bye week is blocked by only Carolina and Cleveland. In the end, that may be just enough of an advantage.
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Old 12-20-2010, 09:43 AM   #2
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Default Re: Allmann: Injuries really showed in loss

I'll agree with that almost 100% with one exception, that being that the handoff to Moore in the end zone was a play that could have been recognized as likely by almost any Pop Warner team. Put another way, if you looked at 20 plays from inside our own 5, I'd bet that at least a dozen or more would be that exact handoff.

We usually get away with it and often gain 3 or 4 yards. But with the O-line as it is along with Miller being out, that play was doomed from the beginning because it was expected and without Miller, not very likely to succeed.

I think Tomlin had a sort of "Sophie's Choice" last night because he knows he's in the playoffs and he knew that of the three games remaining, the one against the Jets was the only one that really meant anything to the other team and thus would be a hard-hitting affair. That being the case, I think he chose not to risk any further injury to any more key players even at the risk of a loss.

It was tough choice but it definitely falls into the "win the battle / win the war" scenario and I think he chose not to put everything into one battle.

If Baltimore had lost, this would all be academic (since beating the Pats in the playoff seeding was never a real possibility) but they squeaked by N.O. and that means he has to win out for the division.

On the other hand, compared to last year, it's a problem I don't think he minds having especially since we're in the playoffs regardless of what happens with only a 1st round bye in the balance. But at this point, I think Tomlin would even risk THAT if it meant being closer to full strength in the post season overall.

I just hope it doesn't come to that.
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