If you come to this blog often, hell even if you don’t, and read the headline I think you know what this is. This is the recap of the final game of the Steelers 2011 season which consequentially was an early end to the Steelers Super Bowl hopes. While a lot of people might not have had the Steelers in the Super Bowl there was no clear favorite in the AFC and it was pretty much up in the air for what was thought to be the three favorites in New England, Baltimore and the aforementioned Steelers. All good things must come to an end, however, and after a 12-4 regular season it is easy to see why people had high hopes, but only one team can be left standing in the end.
I am going to get into end of the year stuff and personal decisions in the next couple of weeks in a season wrap up but this is just going to be solely focused on the game against the Broncos. Not sure when I will get to the post season stuff but it will come as my work and personal schedule permit. OK, who are we kidding, it just depends on my work schedule.
The game overall wasn’t pretty for the Steelers. Sure, they came back and forced overtime but this went in the same way as all their games did against competition that was below them. They played down to their competition and this time they weren’t able to snatch the victory. Even at the half when the Steelers were down 20-6 I still felt pretty good that they were going to be able to come back and get the win and until I saw Demaryius Thomas sprint past Ike Taylor and Ryan Mundy I really thought the Steelers had it. They didn’t, overconfidence and brashness did them in along with some poor play from one of their top defenders and an offense that couldn’t get going. It leaves you at a loss for words and scratching your head but isn’t that what sports do a lot? Should we be surprised though? Look at Pitt football and basketball and the situation the Penguins are in. It’s bad times in the city right now. Hide Andrew McCutchen.
Here are some thoughts on the game:
-Although it really didn’t seem like it at the time the two field goals the Steelers hit in the first half really came back to haunt them as they scored six points instead of 10 or 14. With the way Denver’s offense was playing coming into the game making it a two touchdown game would have been huge in the first quarter, but it didn’t work out like that. Actually, the Steelers dominated the first quarter of football. They held the Broncos to only eight yards of total offense and I thought the game was going to be a route. The Steelers, however, couldn’t find the end zone either time and it killed them at the end.
-Maybe the biggest play of the game happened in the first Broncos series of the second quarter. Denver was playing on its own 18 yard line and was in a 3rd and 12 after an a catch by Eric Decker was ruled incomplete after a review. On third down Tebow was flushed out of the pocket and hit Thomas downfield for 51 yards and a first down. Ike Taylor got beat, bad and that opened up the floodgates that would never close. Two plays later Tebow hit Eddie Royal for a touchdown. Vomit.
-I guess we can’t go much farther in this recap without talking about how bad Taylor was in this game. He was beat time and time again and the two biggest plays of the game happened on his watch. The first was the Thomas catch I talked about above and the second was the final touchdown where he was matched up with Thomas and gave up an 80 yard touchdown pass on the first play in overtime. As you know I am one of the biggest Taylor supporters around and I still am. What he did during the regular season was Pro Bowl caliber even though he got snubbed. This was his worst game of the season and one of the worst of his career and unfortunately it happened in the playoffs. Ken Laird threw out a stat today that during the first 10 games of the season Taylor gave up 211 yards. Yea, Taylor should probably be cut for one bad game. If you really think Taylor should be cut then stop reading now and get off the internet and reevaluate your life and don’t talk about football for a long time. It was a bad game, but it is a statistical outlier in what was a superb season.
-The other thing we need to touch on is Tim Tebow finally stepped up and took advantage of things in the passing game. He led the Broncos to four scoring drives in the second quarter in four straight drives. It was the first time the Steelers have given up scores in four consecutive drives since the 2007 season and it killed. After he hit Royal for the touchdown he ran one in from eight yards out. He threw for 316 yards on only 10 completions. That is 15 yards per attempt and almost 32 yards per completion. The Steelers dared him to throw the football and for him to beat them and he did. I didn’t give him much of a chance to beat the Steelers but he proved me wrong and I will eat my crow. Do I think that he is a good quarterback? No, I don’t, but he is winning football games and beat the Steelers in the playoffs. That gets my respect.
-There were some good things about the game. Isaac Redman stepped up in a big way and ran for 121 yards on 17 carries and was the horse of the ground game. I thought Redman was going to play well but I didn’t envision him dominating as much as he did. The line was doing a nice job of blocking and he made the them pay with some good, hard, runs. If the Steelers could have got on top more it could have been an even better day for Ike but alas the Steelers were forced to throw a bit more than they probably wanted to which limited his carries. Should be fun to see him next year.
-Ben Roethlisberger actually played a pretty nice game for a guy who was supposed to be too banged up to even walk on Wednesday the week of the game. The first half wasn’t great for Ben, and to be honest it was pretty much the second quarter, but he had a really solid second half and almost was the reason the Steelers came back and won the game. He threw a brutal pick in the second quarter that led to a Broncos field goal which was after the back-to-back touchdowns so that sucked but the 31 yard strike he threw to Jerricho Cotchery to tie the game was vintage Ben. He moved in the pocket well and actually pulled it down and ran a few times. Much more than I thought he could do but it all came up short. When the Steelers got the ball with a little over a minute left and the score tied I thought it was over. All the Steelers needed was three points and Ben is the guy you want under center. There was a brutal delay of game call and then Ben took a sack he shouldn’t have and the Steelers went into overtime. You know how that went. Overall with the way Ben’s ankle was I think he played pretty well but the overall like of 22-fo-40 and 289 yards isn’t typical Ben.
-Heath Miller was the best player on the field last night for the Steelers. His numbers aren’t flashy with five catches for 60 yards but he was a complete tight end last night. On most of the big runs that Ike Redman got you can see Heath Miller out in front throwing a key block to break things open. He was all over the field. Another thing that might get overlooked is the fumble he recovered at the end of the first half. The Steelers were in field goal range but the shotgun snap went over Ben’s head and Miller was able to cover it up. If he doesn’t hustle back and cover the football up and the Broncos get it then they turn that into a field goal. Huge swing on a bad play.
-The injury situation if you are a Pittsburgh sports team is pretty dire. Already without a couple of key players the Steelers lost two defensive lineman in the first quarter when Casey Hampton was forced out with an ACL injury and Brent Keisel was sidelined with a groin injury. That left the Steelers with only three down lineman for the rest of the game and that was Steve McClendon, Cam Hayward and Ziggy Hood. Those three had no rest on defense for a team that was used to rotating d-line guys and that might have forced the Steelers into playing the safeties in the box a little more to stop the run. Later in the game Max Starks busted up his ACL so the Steelers were down three important guys and none of them would have probably been available for the rest of the playoffs so that would have just added to the list of banged up guys.
-I talked about the Steelers losing because of arrogance and I will explain now. Going into the game the mindset was to make Tim Tebow beat you through the air. That was a good game plan because he proved that he wasn’t able to do that in the past and with the experience and skill the Steelers have it shouldn’t have been a problem. It was. Tebow made some great throws through the air but the Steelers did not change. The Steelers went a lot of cover zero, which is man to man with no safety help, and the Steelers were having a really hard time covering that but time and time again Tebow was able to expose it. While Mike Tomlin said that the first play of overtime, and final play of the game, wasn’t cover zero it basically did. The Steelers ran an inverted cover two on that play which is basically a cover zero and Tebow knew that if he stuck the throw it was a touchdown. It was. The Steelers were arrogant in their approach and didn’t change when Tebow proved that he could take advantage of it. The Steelers got zero pressure on him and that can be just as much blamed on Dick LeBeau as the play on the field. You have to set up your players for success and last night the Steelers didn’t really do that. The coaches and decision weren’t all of the problem but it definitely was part of the problem.
I could go on for a lot longer about this but there really isn’t much more to say. The Steelers defense didn’t show up to play last night and gave up 447 yards to an offense that is below average at best. They let Tim Tebow beat them through the deep ball which is something the Steelers never give up. Make no mistake about it though, this was a total team loss by the Steelers. The coaches, offense and defense are all responsible for some portion of this loss and I don’t really think you can point out one player and say they were the reason, as much as you might want to. I know people want to bang on Ike Taylor but let’s not get ridiculous. He should not be cut and should be back. He was great all year and you can’t judge an entire season off of one game. That is silly.
All in all the Steelers had a good year. They didn’t get it done in the playoffs but that stuff happens. The Broncos were the better team on the field and the Steelers didn’t come to play. There is a small margin for error in the NFL and the Steelers found that out the hard way. This team is going to look very different come next year and it should be interesting to see what the Steelers do in the offseason. Just remember that it was a good year. 12-4 wins you the division most years, but it didn’t this year. 12-4 is a great year regardless of getting knocked out by the Broncos. We are spoiled as Steelers fans and isn’t it nice to expect to go to the Super Bowl every year and it be realistic? I wouldn’t trade it for any other team.
One last thing I want to touch on has to deal with the fans. Remember these players that we cheer for every Sunday are real people too. They have lives outside of football and they make mistakes. I saw a lot of people really going after certain players after the game and everyone just needs to cool it. Football at the end of the day is just a game. The sun still came up today and the 2012 season will be here in no time with another chance to bring home that seventh trophy. If you are one of those people that did that then I don’t even want you to be a fan of the Steelers or associate yourself with this great franchise. When you do shit like that you sound like a child and it is embarrassing so just don’t say anything if you want to say stuff like players should be thrown out of the plane or you hope certain players get hurt. Just don’t be that person that gives Steelers fans a bad name across the league. Basically, don’t be an idiot.
I would also like to thank everyone for coming on the blog and following me on twitter this season. I may not have always agreed with everyone but I can always find great discussion and incite and I hope you can do the same by coming here. It was a hell of a ride and I already can’t wait for the 2012 season.