Sunday, September 29, 2013

Big Ben's Clock Stopped As Vikings Beat Steelers 34-27; RIP L.C. Greenwood

Steelers Off To Worst Start Since 1968

One year ago at this time, the Steelers were 2-2. Today, they're 0-4. It's the worst start for the team since 1968 and making the playoffs just got much harder. Steelers need to go 8-4 for any chance of making the playoffs.  In fact, including the pre-season, Steelers are 0-8 and have already matched their losses for the entire 2012 season.

Reviewing the numbers:
  • In play selection, once again, Steelers passing exceeding rushing by a ratio of over 2-1 with 71% of the plays passing and 29% rushing.
  • Steelers finally had impressive numbers in first downs with 29 to the Vikings 16.
  • Steelers also surpassed Vikings in time-of-possession by 36.26 minutes to Vikings 23.33.
  • Ben was 36/51 with 383 yards with one TD and one interception.
  • LeVeon Bell's debut was impressive with two touchdowns.
  • Cotchery had a good performance with 103 yards on five catches including a touchdown.
  • Steelers defense had an impressive series after Bell's touchdown. But that was their only shining moments in the game. With the exception of Troy's continued good play, defense was conspicuous by its absence most of the game.
  • Steelers 3rd-down efficiency was 53% and red-zone efficiency was 50%.
  • Steelers recorded 4 penalties for 50 yards and one fumble by Ben in the closing minutes of the game (his 6th turnover in 2 games).

L.C. Greenwood Passes At 67

Former defensive end and member of the famed "Steel Curtain" of the 1970's died at 67.

L.C. won four Super Bowls with the Steelers as well as a six-time All Pro pick and two-time All Pro during his career (1969-1981).

In 2007,  the Steelers named Greenwood to the franchise's all-time team.


Steelers have a bye next weekend. Their next game will be on Sunday, October 13, 2013, at the NY Jets., ESPN, Fox Sport, NFL

Friday, September 27, 2013

Hail To The Steelers: Steelers vs. Vikings In London Sunday

Steelers To Play Vikings In London

Sunday, Sept. 29, 2013 at 1 p.m. (in London) CBS

"It's definitely a business trip," declared C William Gay.

Gay made it clear there's a sense of urgency. All of the Steelers appear in no mood to take in the sights or meet and greet any Royals. They can do that on their own time during the off season.

Antonio Brown continued with focusing on the mission this weekend. "You have to stay singularly focused on what is important."

It's also clear the Steelers need to improve their offensive game including the running game (Steelers to date have only rushed 32% of the time). Steelers are also averaging the worst in the AFC with 51.7 yards. In addition, the team has to focus on reducing turnovers. While Roethlisberger showed some signs of improvement last week, he has four interceptions in the last three games (with only four TD's). The good news? Antonio Brown is playing well.

The defense has to also perform better especially in forcing turnovers. Having said that, Troy is having a good season. The Steelers have done a decent job in stopping the run.

TE Heath Miller will be playing as well as the debut of RB Le'Veon Bell. These two can certainly give the offense the punch it so dearly needs right now.

It's undeniable the Steelers are in a must-win situation (they haven't started 0-4 since the 1968 season). A loss this weekend will diminish their chances of making the playoffs considerably. Less than 4% of the teams who have started 0-3 have made the playoffs in the last 35 years (since the beginning of a 16 game season). Only San Diego made the playoffs after beginning 0-4. That was in 1992.

The Vikings have yet to hold an opponent to under 30 points.

It's time the Steelers play like the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Bears Roll Over Stumbling Steelers: 40-23; London Next Week

The Steelers Disappoint Yet Again + Turnovers Remain A Major Problem

While the Steelers are now 0-3, the fact is when you count their pre-season losses in addition to the tail end of the 2012 season, the Steelers have only won one game out of the last 11. In other words, the problems we've been witnessing this season should surprise no one,  even the casual Steelers fan.

The Steelers did show some marginal improvement. While Ben has to shoulder some of the blame for the loss last night, he still managed to throw for 406 yards (26/41). We also witnessed more diversity in their offensive formations. But the fact remains, few NFL teams can survive five turnovers in one game. In the case of the Steelers last night, one of Ben's interceptions (2 total) and two fumbles led to the Bears putting 17 points on the scoreboard. In other words, Ben's improved performance was small consolation with five turnovers including three fumbles.

One of the glaring deficiencies in the Steelers defense is the lack of turnover production.

Regarding play selection, Steelers rushed 34% of the time vs. 66% passing. Total rushing yards were a paltry 80, seven of those by Roethlisberger. At least Antonio Brown lent some optimism to the offense with two TD's and 196 receiving yards. Steelers also improved in first down production with 21 to the Bears 15.

The Steelers have not been 0-4 since 1968. Let's hope the team gets its act together before some Steeler fans decide to sit in a closed garage sucking on their vehicle's tailpipe.

Next Game: London

Steelers meet the Vikings at Wembley Stadium in London on Sunday, Sept. 29, 2013. 1 p.m. EDT, Fox Sports, ESPN

Saturday, September 21, 2013

DA Bears @ Pittsburgh: Preview

Chicago Bears (2-0) @ Steelers

Sunday, September 22, 2013
8:30 p.m. ET NBC

Steelers have not experienced an 0-3 start since 2000. Moreover, only three teams who started the season 0-3 have made the playoffs since 1990.

Tony Dungy on the Steelers tomorrow: "Ben Roethlisberger is going to have to win games for the Steelers. They've got to play it differently than they have in the past, get rid of the ball quicker, run the ball, take the pressure off Ben..."

Steelers offense has only rushed for 75 yards (Bears 208). They've only put up 19 points on the scoreboard (Bears 51 points). Those two conspicuous stats alone tells a large part of the story regarding the team's miserable performance and start this season. In addition, Ben's thrown only 2 TD's along with 2 interceptions. He's completed about 58% of his passes. He's thrown for 397 yards (Bears 526).

Defense has yet to record a takeaway.

"There's been a problem with our functioning, " said Coach Tomlin. "There's been a problem with our production."

  • Heath Miller is listed as probable for tomorrow's game.
  • Last week, Bears forced 6 turnovers. Last season, they recorded 44 takeaways
  • Ben is 15-1 at home against NFC teams., ESPN, Fox Sports

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Bengals Best Steelers 20-10: Offense Comes Up Small Yet Again

Steelers Now 0-2 With Loss To Bengals For The First Time Since 2002

If you want to understand what happened in last night's Steelers loss to the Bengals all you have to do is 1-review the stats, and 2-go back to the previous post and re-read the commentary by Ron Cammarata. In short, as Ron summarized last night's game this morning: "16 carries for 45 yards. Put themselves into situations where they must run offense out of the gun...but no juice in that offense...just too predictable. 34 plays out of the gun...19 under center. Moved the ball well under big pass to Paulson that he fumbled. Ben overthrew everyone most of the game." Again, go back to the Ron's commentary. After reading it, last night's outcome should have come as no surprise.

Game Stats:

Steelers passed 70% of the time to 30% rushing (Didn't we hear proclamations about more "balance" in the pre-season?). Bengals time of possession was almost a full 11 minutes longer than the Steelers. Steelers had 14 first downs to the Bengals 22 (almost a factor of 2-1 over the Steelers).

Ben was 20/37 for 251 yards. The rushing performance was anemic (officially ended with 47 yards and that included 6 yards by Ben). Bengals rushed for 127 yards. Redman's performance was not that at the level of an NFL running back (4 total yards. In the last two weeks, Redman's rushed for a pathetic 12 yards on 10 carries ). In fact, this was the eighth straight Steelers game with fewer than 100 rushing yards. 

Again, turnovers hurt the Steelers. They had two turnovers while in scoring range (Paulson that led to a Bengal TD and a Roethlisberger interception). In addition, they failed to get a first down in seven of their 12 possessions. The offensive line continues to have a problem with enabling the run and protecting Roethlisberger. Losing Pouncey is a big factor and will probably continue to be.

What we're left with this season (unless we see improvement quickly) is a team that can't run the ball, a quarterback who does not appear to understand his performance is better when he's under center rather than out of the gun and an O line that still can't protect the quarterback.

That, my friends, is a formula for disaster.

Week 3: Sunday, Sept. 22, 2013.  Bears at Steelers 8:30 p.m. ET

Fox Sports, CBS Sports,, Bleacher Report

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Steelers At Bengals; Ron Cammarata Commentary: "View From The Stands."

Steelers @ Bengals

Monday, September 16, 2013. 8:40 p.m. ET ESPN

Steelers Injury Report: C Maurkice Pouncey out with knee injury (torn ACL + MCL in right knee). Larry Foote has ruptured bicep. LaRod Stephens-Howling also has a torn ACL. CB Cortez Allen (ankle) did not practice yesterday. Heath Miller also ruled out as well as Le'Veon Bell.

Utility lineman Kelvin Beachum will be under center. Jonathan Dwyer was resigned last Wednesday as a result of injuries to Howling. Steelers also added enter/guard Fernando Velasco from the Titans.

The AFC North went 0-4 in week 1 as the Steelers are trying to avoid an 0-2 start since the 2002 season. The Steelers won 11 of their last 12 games in Cincinnati. In that game, Dwyer ran for 122 yards on 17 carries.

Sidebar: After week 1, no Steelers are listing as leaders in rushing and receiving yards of the top 32 listed this week. Let's hope that changes in the coming weeks.

USA Today, Fox Sports, Yardbarker,

View From The Stands
Section 110 Row CC Seat 9

The one NFL truism held above all others regarding a successful season is "how well your team is playing the last portion of the year." Obviously, one's favorite team can't go winless into the last third of the season...but just be around .500, get hot at the end of the year, and often that is a team to reckon with come the playoffs. In recent seasons, we have seen it repeatedly with playoff runs made by the Packers, Giants, Ravens, and yes our beloved Steelers on their way to the Super Bowl. So an early loss or two should not send Steelers Nation to the Clemente Bridge.

Unfortunately, in the Steelers present scenario, they are starting the 2013 campaign the way they ended the 2012 season. One would have to be living under a rock not to realize that this team is Ben-centric...and that is OK, considering he is our best offensive weapon. But the disturbing philosophical choice of abandoning the run game after a fumble or two, or because it is not clicking from the game's onset is shortsighted. Of course, we are told over and over that we could not run the ball. So subsequently we use the short passing game in place of a committed effort to establish a run in all four quarters.

In the season opener, the Steelers were down to the Titans by less than a touchdown going into the second half of an ugly performance, but took the approach that they were down by three touchdowns. As reported earlier in this blog, they attempted five carries in the second half...five, and fifteen for the whole game. The ratio of 69% pass to 31% run is astounding considering the coach-speak we heard in the off-season about how a balanced offensive approach is crucial to wins. Where was Felix Jones, a veteran RB that actually showed some pop in the pre-season? Yes...the offensive line is pitiful. But let's consider some of the contributing factors to the woeful run game:

  • When a team conducts the majority of their plays out of the shotgun formation, and is one dimensional, with a weak offensive line, it is like throwing raw meat to the lions for any NFL defense. The small % of running plays out of a shotgun are negligible, especially in the Steelers defenses simply pin it back and come from the corners. Any wonder that your quarterback is sacked often?
  • Out of the shotgun Ben seems to have "Peyton Envy." His tendency to hold onto the ball is magnified by an average corps of receivers, and their inability to shake open even in simple passing routes.
  • When they run the offense from under center, it is almost always with a single set back, and rarely in a two-back formation. We heard that Haley utilizes a fullback, but didn't see much of that in the opener or rarely last season. When he does use a motion back/TE (like David Johnson), they are often too slow to get to the point of attack, and way too predictable as they scrape to the hole. Perhaps, an old school "I" formation with a fullback lead could bring some life to an interior run game that is all but purged from the Steelers playbook.
  • At 31, Ben is not about to change his mechanics, yet he displays some of the worst footwork of all starting NFL QB's. His step progression can be timed on sundial, and his inability or disinterest in booting the football are painfully obvious as every handoff looks like we are running a stretch play even when it is an inside run.
  • Yet, with all of this criticism, they are a better offense when Ben is "under center" in play action mode. It hides a glaring weakness of the offensive line and at least adds some dimension of deception. The new zone blocking schemes are also a task that this offensive line is going to need time to master.
  • Simply put...our offensive line is not good enough or cohesive enough at this stage of their development to run shotgun a majority of plays.
  • In actuality, this is yesterday's news. This observation has been documented in past seasons, so it doesn't make a difference whether it is Haley's offense or the former Arians. Ben has claimed he prefers running the offense out of the shotgun and so often in empty set formation...unfortunately...the blocking skills of his offensive teammates just don't equate.
To Ben: in stealing a partial line from the "most interesting man in the world" beer commercial..."Stay upright my friend."

Ron Cammarata
Ron is an occasional contributor to The Pittsburgh Steelers Report

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Ouch!!! Steelers Lose Opener At Home To Titans 16-9

Titans Stun Steelers In Opener 16-9

Believe it or not, there was some good news this week. Everyone else in the division lost too.

But right now that's little consolation considering the Steelers ended the 2012 season 8-8, went 0-4 in this pre-season and now dropped the opener to the Titans (Steelers won 10 straight home openers previous to this game). In the pre-season, the Steelers had a 28.8% third down conversation rate, and they ended the pre-season 29th in red-zone efficiency.

So what went wrong?

Losing Maurkice Pouncey and Larry Foote to serious injuries was the beginning of bad news. In fact, the injuries may be season ending. This occurred after a pre-season when the Steelers reminded everyone of how important it was for the offensive line to remain healthy.

That was followed by a pathetic 195 total yards for the Steelers. Rushing yards proved to be embarrassing with a total of 32 yards. In play selection, Steelers passed 69% to 31% rushing while the Titans mirrored the Steelers in the opposite direction passing 32% compared to rushing 68% of the time. In fact, the Steelers only ran 15 times, 10 in the first half and 5 in the second. They ended the day with a "whopping" 2.1 yards per carry. To add to the embarrassment, the run plays never produced a first down (Steelers ended up with 14 first downs compared to 17 for Tennessee). In fact, Steelers time of possession was almost a full ten minutes less than the Titans. If the Steelers running game continues to produce pathetic results, the Steelers will need more production out of the passing game. But that's going to be a problem if Haley's short-yardage passing game fails to produce any first downs. And, as Ron Cammarata, an occasional contributor to this blog, noted it depends on how long Ben "holds the ball" and also noting Roethlisberger does not have the quick releases of Manning, Brady, Brees or Rodgers.

Once again, penalties  and turnovers cost the Steelers field position on two occasions---an illegal block on Jason Worilds and a holding penalty on Shamarko Thomas. Isaac Redman fumbled twice, once deep in Titan territory.

There was some good news even in this distressing loss. Roethlisberger converted 4 of 7 third downs and Woodley recorded his first sack of the season. Jarvis Jones also recorded a tackle in the backfield on Chris Johnson. Antonio Brown had 5 receptions for 71 yards followed by 7 receptions by Sanders for 57 yards.

Coach Tomlin summed it up best: "We got a lot of work to do." This statement follows an earlier statement after the team's second pre-season loss when Tomlin said, "We need to get better in a hurry." Today's game made both of those statements appear conspicuously obvious.

Fox Sports,, Pitt PG

Friday, September 6, 2013

Titans At Steelers

Tennessee Titans @ Pittsburgh

Sunday, September 8, 2013. CBS at 1 p.m.
Titans 2012 Record: 6-10
Steelers 2012 Record: 8-8

Steelers have done well in their home openers. They've won 10 in a row. That impressive start happens to be the longest active streak in the NFL. Also impressive,  Roethlisberger is closing in on 30,000. In addition, Coach Tomlin is 6-0 in home openers.

Rookie RB Le'Veon Bell has been ruled out for Sunday's game. Isaac Redman is expected to start at running back. TE Heath Miller is still listed as doubtful. David Johnson will likely get the start in place of Miller.

While the offensive line remains a mystery, overall it's healthier than last year's line while anchored well by the return of  RG DeCastro and RT Marcus Gilbert.

It's important the Steelers get off to a good start. Their schedule does not get any easier with a trip to Cincinnati for week 2. That game is followed with the Bears at home on  Sunday, September 22 at 8:30 p.m., USA TODAY, Fox Sports, NY Post