Stillers 20, Chiefs 17Oct. 14th, 2001Game #4
Stillers-Chiefs Postgame Analysis and Grades
The Stillers invaded hostile Arrowhead Stadium, and after taking a seemingly commanding 20-2 3rd quarter lead, frittered it away, with the Chiefs storming back to make the game 20-17.But time was on the side of the Steelers, and they managed to run out the clock with a key 3rd & 4 conversion just after the 2:00 warning.I attended this game, along with throngs of hard-core Stiller fans, and I then reviewed the game-tape afterwards, so I'm pretty lucky to have both perspectives in compiling the post-game report for this game.
1. Poteat fumbles a punt return on his own 5, but fortunately crawls over and recovers, thus negating a huge fiasco.
2.Stewart guns a curl to Burress from the Steeler 2-yard line, gaining 16 yards and getting the team out of hideous field position.Not only did the completion serve as the impetus for a solid drive and 3 points, but it also gave Stewart pretty good confidence the rest of the day.
3.Ricks blocks a Josh Miller punt -- courtesy of Mike Logan -- but the punt rolls out of the EZ for a safety, instead of what easily could have been a Chief TD late in the 2nd quarter.
4.On the first series of the 3rd quarter, Chad Scott steps in front of a Trent green out pass and returns it 61-yards for a Stiller TD.
5.Stewart mini-rolls and hits Hines Ward, who then lunges backwards into the EZ for the team's first passing TD of '01.
6.Early in the 4th quarter, on 4th and 1 at the Stiller 26, Priest Holmes rumbles up LT and dashes for a TD, igniting the KC rally.
QB:Quite obviously, this was Stewart's best performance of the season.Heck, this may have been his best performance in his past dozen regular-season games.Sure, Stew finished with modest numbers of 15 of 25 for 141 yards, but those numbers don't paint a clear picture of today's performance.For one, he was victimized by numerous dropped balls.For another, Stewart contributed enormously with his legs, running for 47 yards while continually bedeviling the KC defense & keeping the Chef defenders off-balance.But even more importantly was the fact that Stewart, a least for this one afternoon, actually resembled an NFL-caliber QB.He conducted play fakes with meaning, purpose, and fluid acting, and he zipped some balls in to his receivers with poise and crispness.This was most evident on the 23-yarder to TE J. Tuman, a play in which Stew conducted a superb play-fake -- perhaps the best I've ever seen from him -- and then followed it with a picture-perfect strike that hit Tuman in-stride on a flag pattern.Stew began the game ominously enough, slipping on the bone-dry grass on his drop and getting sacked, but he responded the very next play with a nice on-the-roll completion to Burress for 12-yards.I thought the 2nd sack was Stew's fault, in that he held on to the ball far too long.But, the good far outweighed the bad.This was the kind of quarterbacking that could actually -- if honed and polished and progressively developed -- lead this team into the playoffs.A-.
RB:The Stiller running game churned for another big day, and that's not counting the enormous amount of yardage that was called back by Ron Blum's ref crew.Bettis ran with good, tough authority, as well as some good moves downfield on his longer runs.The Bus rumbled for 112 yards on only 19 carries, although another probably 40 yards were nullified by ticky-tack holding calls.This really was a sterling performance by the big belly-back.He did drop one high screen pass, but it was a semi-tough play.Amos Zereoue once again provided a superb spark, using his speed, cutting, and shiftiness to give the running game some oomph and sizzle.Amoz gained 42 yards on 6 rushes, and also chipped in 2 grabs for 17.Amoz also iced the game with a clutch 9-yard gain on the late 3rd and 4 at the 2:00 warning, cutting back on a dime on a sweep and bolting for daylight.His only boner was the dropped pass -- without any contact from a defender -- early in the 1st quarter, which was challenged by KC but ruled "inc" and luckily not a fumble.A+
FB:Witman played most of the reps at FB, thoughKreider and Fu also got some of the FB chores as well.The blocking was fairly solid at the point of attack.B+.
TE:Breuner provided some strong blocking in helping to open some gaping holes for Bettis and AZ.He also caught the obligatory 5-yard curl.In a momentous occasion not soon to be forgotten in Steeler lore, 3rd-year TE Jerame Tuman, the team's "pass receiving TE", caught his first-ever NFL pass, snaring a pass on a flag route for 23-yards.However, Tuman was bullied a few times in run blocking, and was also flagged for holing.Breuner himself seemed to blunder badly on one Stewart sack by whiffing & not getting any sort of chip-block on the DE, who then bolted in unmolested for the sack.B+.
WR:This crew had a spotty day today.Hines Ward grabbed 4 balls for smallish 38 yards, though he did have the clutch TD by lunging into the end zone.On the negative side, Wards dropped a low but catchable throw on a reverse boot to the left.He also dropped a deep stop pass late in the 2nd quarter on a play in which the DB hit him just after the ball arrived.My problem on this play is that Ward failed both to come back a bit for the ball, as well as getting his hands out to pluck the ball before it hit his chest.Ward was also flagged for holding on the long Bettis run in the 2nd qtr, but this was an incredibly ticky-tack call by the refs on a block that I would have no problem with Ward making on any downfield run.Burress showed some signs of life, snaring 3 balls for 39 yards.He impressed me with a nice spin move after one short curl.But he, too, showed his warts, once again dropping one pass in which he foolishly allowed the ball to his chest and bounce off.Actually, on 2 of his receptions, he -- as he nearly always does -- allowed the ball to hit his chest.Plex also committed a dumbassed false start penalty, as well as 2 holding calls (one ticky-tack, one fairly blatant) that negated 2 good ground runs.Two deep lobs were thrown to Plex, both incomplete.The seconds one really irritated me, because Burress showed little, if any, willingness to adjust to the ball, instead merely sticking a paw out at the last second.Troy Edwards caught his obligatory WR screen, which was massively anticipated by KC and buried for -2 yards. Troy also ran a shoddily-schemed reverse and was fortuitous to bolt upfield for a 2-yard gain that was in danger of losing 7. To his credit, Edwards threw a tremendous block on tackle Derrick Ransom, decleating the big tackle with a crushing block on a Stewart keeper around end. Shaw re-emerged with a couple of clutch grabs. B-.
OL:This was a pretty solid outing by the O-line. Playing in one of the NFL's loudest venues, the line committed but one penalty all day, that on a false start by Faneca. That, in and of itself, is a pretty good day's work, considering the loud, hostile territory of Arrowhead Stadium. (Trust me -- I sat next to a guy who blew a frigging bugle nearly the entire game, and that place gets extremely loud.In fact, Arrowhead has seat-backs made of hard, hollow plastic, which the Chef fans pound on to make a deafening, drum-like noise.)The line blew open several enormous holes for Bus, AZ, and Stew to run thru unscathed.Only a few times did either of the backs face defenders slipping into the backfield as the ball was being handed off.Stew was sacked 3 times, but only 1 of those sacks was really the fault of the line (along with Breuner).A.
DL:The work of the d-line started out solidly enough, but as the game wore on, the run-stuffing regressed into a near total-collapse.Kimo and Bailey, manning the right end of the line, struggled mightily in the 2nd half, getting punished and blown off the ball on nearly all of Priest's long scampers that went up the KC left tackle.Kimo looked a bit squeamish as the game wore on, and it's entirely likely that he's not nearly fully recovered from his opening-day injury.Aaron Smith continues his progress, making another sterling sack, this time vaulting over Priest Holmes and then hauling down Green.Hamton and Clancy played adequately on the nose.B-.
LB:Rookie Kendrell Bell had a monster game, recording 6 solos while driving Trent Green into the turf with 2 sacks plus a couple other hits just after passes were released.The second sack was a highlight-reel sack, in which Bell delay-blitzed, and literally bowled over LG Marcus Spears and then barreled into Trent Green with his Riddell emblem buried into Green's chest.KenBell also blasted FB Jermaine Williams on one play so hard that Williams helmet came flying off.Fellow ILB Earl Holmes chipped in with 6 solos.In a classic confrontation that was caught with a perfect camera angle, Holmes met Holmes -- Earl vs. Priest -- on a goal-line dive-over-the-stack, which Earl repelled with an outstanding leap and smash of Priest.Unfortunately, Priest landed on top of a blocker, and since he was not "down", he was able to reach the ball across the GL for a TD.Holmes was also flagged for a late hit on a real ticky-tack call in which he barely "chested" a WR after a bobbled, dropped pass.Jason Gildon, who'd been seen less than Osama bin Laden the past month, emerged from hiding, finally showing up for a game and contributing with a decent effort.Gildon actually impressed me with good hustle and effort on one Priest swing pass, which could have gone for bigger yardage has Jason not chased him down.Jason also took advantage of the very first play by backup RT Willie Jones, who was inserted when starting RT Vic Riley busted his fibula.Jason got around the stone-cold Jones, who fell flat on his face, for a sack.Joey Porter sniffed out a reverse and stuffed it for -2.The sour point for this crew was the prolific day by Priest Holmes, who gashed the defense for 150 yards on only 20 carries.Most of this yardage came up, or around, the KC left tackle, although, as I previously noted, the RDEs had an "off" second half. The inability to contain The Priest sours an otherwise good day.B-.
DB:A strong all-around game from this gang.Washington and Chad seemed to be like glue on the KC receivers.DW was beat by Minnis on a deep flag, but recovered in time and thanks to an underthrown ball, managed to get his helmet in the way of the ball.Chad, of course, had the sterling INT return for a TD, which came after he nearly INT'd a similar pass in the 1st quarter.The only small sore spots were:Myron Bell flailing at Priest's legs on the 26-yard 4th & 1 TD run; Lee dropping a fairly easy INT, and Logan missing an easy sack of Green, which Green then turned into a 6-yard gain off the scramble.A-.
Spec teams:Any time you give up a blocked punt, you're looking at a poor grade and oftentimes a loss.The culprit this time was veteran Mike Logan, who, as the wingman on the right-side of the punt formation, inexplicably and lazily shuffled to the outside, and allowed Ricks to come in untouched to Logan's inside, which is a cardinal sin that a veteran like Logan should have enough sense to avoid.Of course, Josh Miller, who prefers to methodically authenticate Paul Tagliabue's signature before each punt is booted, didn't help the cause, instead just nonchalantly going thru his laborious punting routine without a care in the world and with no more of a hurry than an old lady piddling down the produce aisle on a Sunday afternoon.Hank Poteat fumbled the ball -- not from a hit, but from a sloppy "move" of the ball from his left hand to his right -- which would have been a monumental fiasco if KC had recovered the fumble.You take these two plays, and with very minimal luck and fortune, KC could have gotten 14 -- not 2 -- points.Hank had one nice 24-yard punt return, but otherwise was held in check.The kickoff coverage was a bit soft today, giving up nearly 25-yard per return from coverage that was perhaps the worst I've seen thus far this season.Josh, the multi-million dollar punter, punted only average today.Kris Brown booted two clutch FGs, including a booming 55-yarder.But he too was guilty of the malaise that afflicted the spec teams today, booting a kickoff OOB right after the Stillers took a 20-2 lead.KC got the ball at their 40, and then marched 60-yards for the TD that got them back into the game."Directional kicking" be damned -- I won't accept a kicker booting a kickoff OOB on a clear, dry day...ever. F.
OC:Mike Mularkey bought a respite from the doghouse with some nice work today.He used Stewart to his strengths, getting him on the move and not bottling him into a 2-foot diameter in the pocket.He also got Amoz worked in well, although it would be nice to get Fu a few touches a game, too.Mularkey kept the Chefs off balance for the better part of the day, using a host of misdirection plays.One such play was a sweep left by Amoz on a play in which FB Dan Kreider went up right tackle on a feigned block that drew a couple defenders.The only sour note was the imbecilic, sloppy-assed reverse in the 4th quarter.Bettis had just run for like 5 and then 8 yards, and the Chefs were reeling.But Bettis hadn't really run wide -- except for the misdirection pitchout -- all day, and the reverse fooled no one.Worse, the reverse was so sloppy and shoddy that it could have easily resulted in a fumble and a hideous 4th quarter turnover.This clearly was a grab-bag playcall that had no place, no use, and no purpose at that juncture of the game.B+.
DC:Tim Lewis will need to take a long look at the film and diagnose the woeful problems in getting scorched by Prist Holmes.One problem appeared to be that the Chefs were able to use influence blocks based merely on formation, in which they simply had easy angles to seal defenders on those off-tackle runs.I also was very pissed about the Chinese fire drill that took place just before the snap of the 2-point conversion, in which no less than 8 defenders were scurrying around in mass confusion.The result was an easy conversion on a pass to the most likely guy on the field to be the target, Tony Gonzo.C-.
HC:Some good, some bad.On the good, Cowher had his men ready to play physical, smashmouth football.His O-line performed well under the noise.His offense played to his players' talents, not to some numb-nutted scheme, as occurred for two years under Kevin Gaypride.On the bad, Cowher -- a supposed special teams guru -- had another punt blocked, the 2nd in 4 games, which is grossly unacceptable.And Cowher, the supposed defensive genius, saw his run defense get severely gashed by a very ordinary O-line that lost its starting RT in the 3rd quarter.B.
This was a helluva road win and a real confidence booster for the sagging offense.To be sure, no one should expect this offense to start scoring 43 points per game, but this game showed some progress & continuity.Of course, more progress is needed...Stewart will need to throw better and run less, as more teams will assign a spy and stack the line to stop Bettis.While the defense played rather slovenly in the 2nd half, this was an aberration that should easily be rectified.This defense is far better than what they showed in the 2nd half.The Stillers are now in first place in the AFC Central, and after playing Tampa next week, they'll embark on a string of 5 consecutive divisional games that will make or break their shot at the playoffs.
One last note --- a special THANKS to all the Steeler faithful that showed up to the tailgate party at G30 of the Arrowhead parking lot!!We had a blast, and we hope that each and every one of you did, too.To be part of the camaraderie among all the Stiller fans was truly priceless.(If anyone has "electrons" of pictures that were taken, please email them to us at email@example.com so that we can produce a special page of tailgating photos.)Special thanks to "Fast Eddie" and the KC Steeler Fan Club for their hard work in organizing this tailgate party.(Fast Eddie even got his 3 seconds of fame on the CBS broadcast!)Also, special thanks to long-time Stillers.com faithfuls Kool Kris and NebraskaSteeler for attending the tailgate. And thanks to "Chef Drew" for his outstanding work on the barbeque grill all morning. Remember, the winning raffle numbers will be posted here this Wednesday, so stay tuned...