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Reality of Billy Ball & Playing Not to Lose

November 06, 2001 by Still Mill


Reality: Field Goal Bill and Billy Ball Played "Not to lose", Rather than "To Win"

I wanted to take the time to elaborate on the offensive playcalling that without question helped cause the loss to the Ravens.

The first and foremost point is the SPIKE at the end of the game. Some folk have claimed that "To run a play, a QB must run up to the line of scrimmage, and call out the play to the members of his offense." Here is where that theory is wrong. No, a QB does not, in all cases, have to call out play numbers to his offense. BEFORE the pass play to Shaw, the Steelers called a TIMEOUT. And this, for anyone who has ever played the game of football and who has ever studied it for just a little while, is where you can call TWO PLAYS during that timeout. Not one, but TWO. Way back in 1982, my high school team routinely did this. We practiced it, and we did it in scrimmages, and we did it in games. That was 19 years ago on a HIGH SCHOOL TEAM. Ergo, it takes not a single second longer to snap the ball for a "spike play", than it does for a PRE-PLANNED play that is announced to everybody during the timeout. This is where the Steelers, EXACTLY like they did last year in Cleveland after a timeout, SCREWED UP royally. They could have, and should have, DURING the timeout, called BOTH the seam route to Shaw, and ANOTHER follow-on pass play to Plex or whomever.

There was a host of other rationalization that did absolutely nothing to justify the REFUSAL to:

a. get the ball downfield while in or near the red zone, and

b. at least ATTEMPT one pass to Plexico Burress, who has been on fire, in the 2nd half.

Stewart runs a feeble shotgun keeper against THE fastest defense in the NFL, and some folk claim, "Still, on 3rd and 3, I still like the call in the sense it is designed to pick up a first down." Sure, isn't EVERY play "designed" to get a first down? A FB plunge is designed, at least on the chalkboard, to get 3 yards. So much for that babble about "design". Against the Ravens, a designed QB keeper when the entire stadium is expecting Stewart to run with the ball, is designed for futility. The clumsily-executed reverse with Troy, NINE yards behind the LOS??? Pure futility against the fastest defense in the NFL, especially when the game was so young and the Ravens hadn't been shown any wide running to pull them wide & away from the reverse.

Furthermore, this settling for "just enough yardage for the first down" is the exact field-goal mentality that causes this team to be LAST in the NFL, as we speak, in red-zone scoring percentage. DEAD LAST. While other teams are taking shots at the end zone, Field Goal Bill is hoping to get "just enough" for a first down at the 17 yard line (or where ever), rather than taking a stab at the end zone. That's exactly what Billy Ball is ALL about, and that's exactly why this team is last in red zone %. In fact, in the long run, it's good that Kris Brown had the bad day. For too long, Kris and Norm and Gary have been crutches for Field Goal Bill, who has built a collective mentality and mindset that "it's ok to settle for the FG".

Says Faith, " The play is designed for Ward to run a corner route to the end zone. The Ravens cover Ward, and Stewart is forced to dump it off to Witman. On 3rd down, no one is open; Stewart attempts to scramble, and is stopped for a 1-yard loss. On 2nd and 3rd down the Stillers are passing to either get a TD or a first down." This is exactly the absurd rationalization I'm referring to. "Stewart was FORCED to throw to Witman." How about this --- why not call a pass where Stewart is FORCED to lob one to Plex in the end zone??? Any pass to a stontefooted clod like Jon Shitman is not -- repeat, is not -- an attempt to get a first down nor a TD. And on 3rd down, Stewart had plenty of time, and since all the WRs were running dink routes, no one was open. That lob for the TD occurred on a play where it's virtually impossible for a QB to get sacked, but it simply could not be run at this juncture of the game, because .... well, nobody has yet to present even a single good reason why it couldn't have been run. Just like The Fiasco In Cleveland last year, where there were cries of "Cleveland was shading toward Burress" and other similar horseshit, there's not a single reason -- other than dumbassed stupidity -- to freeze out Burress in the 2nd half of that ballgame. Absolutely none.

The play where Edwards fumbled? Although not absolving him of the fumble, this play had BILLY BALL written all over it. 3rd and 17, and we complete an 8-9 yard curl. Not a seam route or post where a WR is running IN STRIDE for more yardage, but a curl route where the WR has to stop, turn around, and then attempt to beat 5 (FIVE) defenders in order to get a first down. What play had a better chance of succeeding -- Troy trying to beat five defenders to gain the 8 yards he needed after the catch, or a deep lob to Plex, who might have caught it for a big gainer near the EZ, or a TD, or a pass interference flag on the defender, or an illegal contact flag on the defender ?? I'll take my chances with the latter.

As far as Cowher's babbling about the fact that they did not throw into the end zone because the Ravens stationed "everybody" back there�. "They were in a single-high situation where they had everybody back with some help over the top. We took some shots and tried to move the ball as close as possible�" Here's the pictures of the last 2 pass plays. The pass to Shaw, as you can see, was a whopping 4 yards downfield. Furthermore, you can clearly see 2 Raven pass defenders very close to Shaw as the ball arrives. Yeah, it sure looks like the Ravens had EVERYBODY "back there" -- way back underneath the goal post. The Ward pass was a real go-getter of a play, totaling all of 5 yards downfield. Again, a Raven defender is right on Ward, so the theory that the Ravens were playing "everybody back there" and "way off" is utter absurdity. And hey -- how 'bout those 4 and 5 yard plays -- sure sounds like a team that was taking "some shots", as Cowher claims, eh ? The world hasn't seen this much audacity and gusto since the D-Day invasion of Normandy.


This is not to say that I want an old-time Raider "vertical passing game" where ya throw the ball deep 16 times per game. Nor is this to say that the team is locked into playing Billy Ball the remainder of the season. A head coach, if willing to go for the gusto, can overcome the wanton desire to play Billy Ball. The Titan game was mostly a case of Cowher abandoning Billy Ball. But this lasted all of 6 days, and then Cowher's sphincter got as tight as a Dan Rooney budget, and the result was a team with an ultra-struggling kicker, knocking on the door of a TD yet turtling and settling for a FG try. And please -- let's not forget that this is the same coaching staff that, for the 2nd week in a row, had a FULL TV timeout after a punt, yet still had its offense call a last-second timeout to prevent being flagged for Delay of Game prior to the first-down snap. In many circles, this would be labeled "incompetent". Or "unbelievably asinine". But in Pittsburgh, it's waved off and rationalized with a "Well, coming out of the punt, it can take awhile to organize the offense and try to figure out what play to run. And then you have to worry about the defense and the wind direction�..blah blah blah"

In closing, remember this --- LAST in the NFL in red zone percentage. And the Steelers had 10 third downs of 5 yards or less against the Ravens and only converted four of them into first downs. And freezing out their red-hot WR who had a EIGHT-inch height advantage over his defender and who had already torched his defender for a brilliant TD. And after the Burress TD, attempting exactly ZERO passes further than 12 yards downfield the ENTIRE 2nd half. This is gutless, chickenshit, Billy Ball football, and while it's good enough to beat hapless teams like the Chefs, Titans, et al, it will not produce the big wins in the playoffs.

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