Grading the Game Week 1 AT Pittsburgh Steelers
In past seasons, I’ve used the statistics from the game as a base point and then explaining the numbers with the game review. This method, while informative, didn’t do what I really wanted it to do. This new format should accomplish what was missing previous with more analysis and less hard data. If nothing else, it should provide for some interesting discussion!
AT Pittsburgh Steelers 6-9 (OT)
This was a very hard fought game and definitely a tough loss to swallow. We had some opportunities to win the game but just didn’t get it done. That’s stating the obvious so here’s the why and how as I see it.
Passing : Matt Ryan is taking a lot of heat this week and I really think it’s unjust after reviewing this game. In the first quarter, it appeared that his timing might have been off. During the rest of the game, he hit his spots for the most part. Yes, he through an interception that could have very easily cost us the game but other than that and a few throws that made me wonder what in the world he was thinking, he was very good. I question why he was put in that situation. (more on that later) Grade: B
Running : Michael Turner struggled to find daylight and at times, seemed to hesitate on the rare occasion that there was daylight. My question here is again on the coaching staff and that’s why didn’t Norwood get more than 2 carries? If your north/south game isn’t getting it done then why not use your speed element to throw something different at them? That made no sense to me. Grade: C
Receiving: With the limited camera angles, it’s impossible to evaluate route running (unless it’s the player getting the pass or they happen to spot something and show it) but from what I could tell, the receivers did their jobs. I do think we miss Jenkins more than we realize but it was great to see Douglas back out there. Grade: B
Offensive line: In my opinion, this was where the game was lost and if not, it’s second to coaching. There was very little push in the running game and Ryan was forced to move around and get rid of the ball far more than what I consider to be acceptable. One thing I noticed is that our linemen were blocking north/south instead of turning their man away from the hole the running back is supposed to go through. That either indicates that the linemen aren’t strong enough to turn their men away or that they are coached to block north/south. Either way, that’s a huge concern to me and something I’ll keep an eye on going forward. The other thing is that Baker and the entire right side of the line struggled mightily. Baker had a tough assignment with Harrison but if you are going to be the left tackle, you’re supposed to be able to handle the tough assignments. Dahl and Clabo were pushed backwards and beaten all day long. The best two blockers in this game were Blalock and McClure. While not perfect, their performance was solid, if not good. Grade: D
Defensive line: Very good job by our defensive front. There was pressure throughout the game and the run was bottled up until the OT play where not only was Grimes apparently out of position but Biermann was clearly held as you see Heath Miller’s hands grabbing jersey on the outside and turning Biermann away and then as Mendenhall breaks through the line and Biermann turns to pursue, Miller still has jersey at arm’s length. While the non-call wasn’t what really lost us the game, it was something that should have been called in my opinion.
Linebackers: Lofton picked up where he left off and might be even better. Peterson had a very good game as well. For his first start Weatherspoon didn’t play bad at all but the review did show several times were he was out of position or broke late on coverage and other rookie mistakes. Grade: B
Secondary: When watching the game live, I couldn’t understand how Hines Ward ended up so wide open on two plays in the second half. Two words: Erik Coleman. He missed several tackles, was out of position several times and just flat beaten on others. Grade: C (If I could play the take away the Coleman plays game it would be an B, maybe even a low A)
Special teams: A couple of the punts were fair caught that probably shouldn’t have been and Koenen had the horrible punt in OT. One thing I’ve noticed about Matt Bryant is that if he’s lined up on the left hash, he’s darn near perfect but put him on the right hash and you’d better cross your fingers. Kickoffs were fine, coverage was fine. Grade: B-/C+
Coaching: I’d really love to ask Paul Boudreau about blocking techniques and see what’s being taught. While I don’t necessarily buy into the hang Mularkey sentiment, I do question why Norwood wasn’t used more, why screen passes weren’t used more and when they were used it looked like we hadn’t practiced them at all (which may be why we didn’t use more) and where were all the slants that we saw in preseason. Slants and screens would have helped back off some of that pressure that the Steelers were constantly bringing. Finally, I wish Smitty would have stuck to his guns and gone for it on the late 4th down. The defense had played so well that if we didn’t get that first down, you had to like your chances of getting the ball back with good field position to try again but with almost 4 minutes to go, I don’t agree with playing for a tie on the road. Grade: C-
Overall, while it’s definitely a bitter pill to swallow I think there’s a lot to look forward to this season and I’m sure some of the questions we all have will get answered during the season. On to the first home game and the Arizona Cardinals!