Stillers-Falcs Post Game Analysis & Grades:
Just another slackly, sloppy effort, which is what we all have come to expect from the '99 Stillers. Facing a weak defense further depleted by injuries that kept out both Tuggle and Brooking, we nonetheless managed to turn what should have been laugher into a nailbiter.
QB: The Western Union Man lived up to Ray Buchanan's criticism, continually staring at the intended receiver from the snap of the ball. Ironically enough, his longest pass play --- 26 yards on a flag to Will Jackwell --- beat Buchanan while Stewart was staring at Blackwell as intently as an escaped prisoner staring at a stripper. Stewart was his usual mediocre self, throwing loads of poor floaters, 2 of which could have easily been picked off. Worse, coming out of a TV timeout after a change of possession, Stewart inexplicably called TO as he approached the line of scrimmage. The epitome of Stewart's ineptitude and lack of confidence came on the final possession, on 3rd down and 3. Stew rolled right and had Jon Witman WIDE OPEN (few NFL teams, of course, even bother to assign ANYONE to cover Witman), with only a semi-harassing LB in his way. Rather than easily lobbing the simple completion for 6 yards, Stewart refused to throw and ran for 1 yard, setting up a punt rather than salting the game away. People keep claiming that "any week now, Stewart will turn the corner", but from my perspective the only corners this man has turned recently have been the ones at his local bank vault. C.
RB: Bus had a sterling 1st half, gaining 58 yards on 13 rushes. He got only 10 carries in the 2d half, for a smallish 22 yards. The Falcs began pressing up more and more to support the run. Bus ran hard and spun many short plays into good gainers. Hunt had a super TD, in which he caught a short screen and bounced off 2 would-be tacklers for a 13-yard TD, one of the best Steeler TDs in years. The 1 sour note was the Bettis fumble of a handoff late in the game, which appeared to be the case of Bettis failing to ensure the ball was adequately tucked in upon insertion. A-.
FB: Witman had some ok blocks, but on the whole, he shouldn't be too pompous over his performance tonite. He got blasted backwards & onto the ground by LB Sauer on a line plunge just after the interview with Mario in the 2d quarter, and made a few other feeble attempts at blocking. It's funny -- thousands of women pay good money to plastic surgeons to get stacked. Witman gets paid good money to get stacked up by opposing defenders whom he's assigned to block, which usually clogs Bettis' path (if & when Bettis chooses to even follow Witman, which is increasingly rare). I'm just about fed up with Witman's gross incompetence. C.
WR: The WR corps was pure regurgitation tonite. There's not a man who shouldn't be ashamed. You know it's a SAD nite when your #4 WR --- Will Jackwell --- emerges as your best receiver of the nite. Troy (1) and Hawk (2) both dropped passes, and Troy finished with zero catches. To boot, Troy aimlessly wandered backwards into Stewart on the 3d down designed end run by Stewart, sending Stewart crashing to the ground short of the sticks. Ward, in a similar manner as the ill-fated flea flicker, did a poor job of fighting hard for the 1 bomb we threw all nite, instead mustering all the effort & gusto of a drunken wino on the play. These men rarely got open, and piddled around all nite. I've seen better efforts from welfare recipients. D.
TE: Bruener, the indispensable 19-catch per year wonderboy, had 1 reception for about 4 yards, but it was nullified when we chose to accept a Falcon offsides penalty. Lyons committed a false start. Tuman got injured in the 2d quarter and didn't return. The blocking was ok. B-.
OL: The OL, playing w/o Dawson, was ok at times, and spotty at times. Brown had a great block on the Huntley TD, but otherwise barely approached Div. 3 caliber of play. Gandy got bullrushed for a sack, although Stewart's exaggerated drop didn't help. Stai didn't blunder as much as he often does, though he did commit a boneheaded holding penalty in the 4th quarter. Faneca gutted out his ankle injury and blocked fairly well. The line's drive and push in the 2d half against a woeful run defense, which was missing 2 starters (Tuggle and Brooking), was disappointing. C.
DL: This undoubtedly was the best overall effort from this crew this year. Steed, Roye, and Henry all created havoc. Henry blasted Chandler as he released 1 throw. Roye was constantly pressuring the RBs and the QB. Steed easily had his best game of the season. He got credited with 2 sacks, 1 on a nice bull rush, and 1 on a play in which he got 2 fingers on Chandler, but the gimpy, hobbled Chandler simply stumbled & tripped. The fat Steed even helped chase down a reverse! Vrabel was fairly quiet, but did record a coverage sack. A.
LB: This was perhaps the best game for this crew all year, as well. Kirkland finally stopped resembling a ballerina, stuffing the run well and vaulting himself at Chandler for a sack. Holmes played like a man possessed, stuffing several plays for negative yardage, and finishing with a team-high 10 total tackles. Gildon was fairly serviceable, making some ok stops & getting 1.5 sacks -- 1/2 a Dong Sack on a jump-in of Roye's hard work, and 1 on a wide loop rush in which Salaam got a poor start off the snap. Emmons whiffed miserably on a play that should have sent Chandler straight to Allegheny Hospital, but did record a 1-yard slop sack of a scrambling, hobbling, decimated Chandler. A.
DB: This was a solid nite for the DBs --- for the most part. But there were occasional gaffes that were really a bit irritating. DeWayne got away with a hideous PI on the FB Christian on the deepish throw to our 1-yard line in the 2d quarter. He was also flagged, as was Chad, for holding/PI. DeWayne also dropped a catchable INT in the long throw to Mathis; was overly soft on the Mathis TD catch; & was abused on the long Mathis post in the 4th qtr. Townsend was beaten often. Shields and Flowers had some good hard hits. Oldham was a bit slow and soft on the game's final play, giving Dwight far too much room and respect in an area where a WR cannot run deep anyway. B.
Spec Teams: Thankfully, the coverage teams contained Dwight. Porter had a spectacular stop of Dwight on 1 KO, in which he swooped in as fast and smooth as a wild eagle. Troy stopped Dwight in the free kick near game's end. Josh had some ok punting, except for the poor punt that gave Atlanta golden field position for their TD drive. Brown cranked a 51-yard FG, and also a 25 yarder. A few of his KOs were overly short and weak. Hawk and Troy did little in the return game. B.
Off Coord: Kevin Gilbride again ran the 15-Cent -- Nickel & Dime -- Offense to perfection. Only once did we go deep the entire game, despite facing a team that began to chomp more and more UP on Bettis. Blackwell's flag pattern of about 24 yard, and Ward's bomb, were the only plays past 20 yards the entire nite. That's totally unacceptable for an NFL offense. I also didn't like Gaypride's semi-abandonment of the quick hitting dive plays that Bettis was running so successfully in the 1st half. Our lone TD drive was all of 11 yards. The 2d half offense, in which we had the ball 5 times but punted on 4 of those (the other being the Bus fumble) was a pure stinkfest. C-.
Def Coord: I'm still trying to clean up all the gack I spewed in my living room, having to listen to Boomer trumpet Jim Haslet time and time again. It was downright sickening. Haslet once again had a job more enviable than being the taste tester at the Heineken Brewery. He was facing a battered, injured QB, and a pitiful running attack "featuring" Byron Hanspard and Ken Oxendine. The 3-man rush he used on the deep post to Dwight with about 20 secs left, and then on the game's final play, was despicable. Here we are, harassing Chandler all nite, and Haslet gets soft and vanilla in a situation where you should die with your boots on. And then, Aslet assigns a plethora of stumblebums to cover the red-hot Mathis -- Simmons, Townsend, even Kirkland. Why??? Haslet should have assigned either Scott or DeWayne to cover the one and only all-around Falcon WR threat. Very poor. B-.
Head Coach: Field Goal Bill got exactly what he apparently wanted tonite --- a tight, close to the vest game. Never mind that Atlanta, playing on the road, in hostile territory, with some key injuries, was RIPE for a whipping. Field Goal Bill would have none of that. He basically turtled the offense in both our FG drives, and in the 2d half, was content to just play fiddle-faddle and "not make any mistakes", rather than sticking the dagger deep into the heart of the soft Falcons. The mentality of the head coach pervades each NFL team, and that was quite evident tonite. C.
Just another sloppy, saggy win over a junior varsity team. We're now 4-3. We've beaten 4 JV teams, and lost to all 3 of the competent teams we've played. That's as blatant a vindication of mediocrity as there ever will be. Unless the QB play, WR play, OL play, and defensive play (versus real competition, of course) improves, this team is bound to dwell in the bowels of mediocrity. Only a mediocre team could possibly take an easy home win --- with a 13-0 halftime lead --- against an injury-depleted team, and turn it into a frightening nailbiter. Thank the heavens for the bye week, because this team surely needs it. The key, of course, will be whether they squander this time off, or if they energetically try to rectify some of the glaring ills that ail this team.
The Still Mill