Cowher Names Hawkins as Starter, and Loose Slag from The Still Mill
* In a fit of stupidity that is so typical of Cowher, he named Lil' Courtney Hawkins as his starting WR this week opposite Hines Ward. Ergo, we've come full circle in this goatrope known as the Bill Cowher regime. In '98, Hawkins was one of our starting WRs. Our passing game sucked, so badly that it was the 2nd worst in the entire league. No sooner did the finale end at Jax, than Cowher began bemoaning the lack of a downfield passing threat. Because of this, the team passed on Kearse and drafted Edwards in the 1st round. Hawkins again was a starting WR in '99. Our passing game sucked, so badly that it was the 2nd worst in the entire league. Cowher again spent the offseason bemoaning the lack of a downfield passing threat, and armed with his new-found power with the resignation of Tom Donahoe, basically strong-arming his way into drafting Plex Burress in the 1st round. Our passing game is the 2nd worst in the league, and Lil' Runt Courtney -- the guy who was a UFA and received exactly zero phone calls from ANY NFL team all spring and summer -- is now again our starting receiver. I've stated it here before --- I like Hawkins�.as a SLOT receiver in a 3-WR or 4-WR package, not as a starting receiver. We've already conducted as thorough an "experiment" as possible with trying Hawkins as a starting receiver, and the results were a disaster. The guy is too small, too slow, and too unproductive downfield to be a starting receiver. What this leads to, of course, is opponents "cheating" other defenders by shading coverage to other receivers, as well sneaking up to support the run. Mark my words --- Hawkins will spend the rest of the season getting blanketed and will give us little more than some shorty curls and crossers. If Burress needs to be sat down --- and I have no problem with a brief demotion -- then the guy who should replace him in the starting lineup is Bobby Shaw, not Courtney Hawkins. Shaw clearly has far more upside; is far younger; and has been superbly effective all season long. And lest anyone give me the malarkey about "X" receiver and "Y" receiver�save it for the trash dump. The Stillers are about the only team that goes around pigeon-holing their receivers into this bullshit little game of "the X receiver does A, B, and C, but he's not allowed to do D because he's the X receiver and not the Y receiver." If the Stillers has Isaac Bruce, he'd spend the entire game running 6-yard curls, because of this cock-and-bull, juvenile mentality of "he's the X receiver" and "so-and-so is the Y receiver".
* I lost track during Cowhead's weekly press conference, of the number of times he said "hopefully". As in, "Hopefully our passing game will get better. Hopefully we'll finish off games. Hopefully we'll put more points on the board. Hopefully Stewart can start hitting some of these open receivers. Blah blah blah" Funny, this is the same Cowher who all but guaranteed that "Well run the table". Now he's giving us a laundry list of "hopefully's". Hopefully is for the lottery. Hopefully is for when you take your car in for a tune-up and worry that you might need a new alternator. Hopefully is when you ask some woman you've barely met, out on a date. Hopefully's are far from a sure thing, and hopefully's don't feed the bulldog. Cowher's getting paid over $2M per year, presumably for his leadership and motivation, rather than for his tactical skills. Excuse me if I'm not overly inspired by Little Billy's "hopefully's".
* In reviewing the tape, Stewart's arm was barely nipped as he threw that INT. That gains him a small bit of absolution from me, but not total. Stewart's pocket presence is unacceptably poor for a man with the amount of reps and PT he has under his belt in the NFL. If a thundering herd of elephants were approaching Stewart, it's doubtful that he'd have enough sense to scoot a few yards away.
* Apparently, the big ref controversy is that the Iggles illegally touched a Stillers inside the 10-yard "free zone" on the 2nd onsides kick. (The rule is that the kicking team can't touch a receiver in that zone, until the ball is touched by a receiver.) Forget the crying about the officiating. An on-sides kick happens in split-second fashion, with about 18 bodies scrummed up in a 30-square-foot area. What Cowher and his idiot staff should spent time on, is trying to establish a much more sensible scheme to line up and field onside kicks in the future. On the 1st Iggle attempt, the Iggles had 8 men on that side of the field, and we had 5 men in our "front line" on that side. On the 2nd try, the Stillers rrreally adjusted, by adding a 6th man to that front line. Four Steelers were in a "2nd line" about 10 yards behind the first, presumably positioned to catch any deep boots. Four? A waste of manpower. I guess any special teams scheme, in which only 6 Steelers, including a brick-fingered TE, are lined up on the right side of the "front row" against EIGHT eagles, is the work of the special teams mastermind, Billy Cowher. 6 on 8 --- ya gotta LOVE those kinds of odds. I think all schemes should incorporate this kind of numerical disadvantage. Equally depraved was the "sit back and wait" mindset --- similar to the defensive mindset that has led to four of our losses, by the way -- where our "receivers" were meekly sitting back and waiting for the ball, rather than taking some initiative to seize the ball before the wave of Eagles arrived.
* If there's a ref's call to bitch about, it's the crossing route Edwards caught, in which he was hastily ruled down after he was "tackled". Problem was, he never landed on the turf�.instead, he landed on the DB's leg, and popped up and immediately started running for more yardage. But the ref had already hastily blown his whistle, so no further progress was granted.
* On the Stillers' first play of the game, Stewart completed a short curl to Ward that was very low & barely caught. Ward got up and gave Stew a hand gesture to indicate "higher". Later, a similar curl to Ward, on a similarly low throw, was incomplete. Ward got up and again gave the "get the ball UP" gesture, and had the disgusted look on his face like someone who'd just bitten into a rotten apple. I find it hard to believe that Stewart is throwing the ball with laser-like, pin-point accuracy in practice, and then is scattering the ball around in a slipshod manner in games.
* Once again, a Gilbride screen play was nearly INT'd. On a 3rd & 20 late in the 2d quarter, rookie DT Corey Simon smelled, read, and reacted to a screen play, and had an INT in his mitts but dropped it. It's almost impossible to name a game this season where a screen pass wasn't sniffed out and nearly INT'd..
* On the other hand, the big 16-yard play by Pritchett in OT, was actually a screen play that was changed by Pritchett himself. The left guard pulled to his left on this play, and Joey Porter, smelling and reading a screen, appropriately shuffled to his right. Whether by design or instinct, Pitchett, who was veering toward his left, cut it back toward the middle, where McNab hit him for the wide-open dumpoff. While Kevin Gaypride has had nearly 2 years to hone this "read and react pass offense" that is nearly the worst in the NFL for the 2nd consecutive year, the Iggles showed they truly do have a read and react offense.
* After reviewing the tape, I'm still absolutely mystified how this dim-bulb staff of the Stillers refused to assign MAN-ON-MAN coverage on the ONE back Philly was lining up with. That can be tough, when you are facing an offense with, say, Bruce, Holt, and Az Hakim. It's another thing when you are facing Terrance Small and Charles Johnson.
* My articles are archived, and you can go back thru the past 8 months and see that I have been pleading for a new scheme --- one that will IMPROVE our passing offense from 2nd worst in the NFL in '98 AND '99, to something a bit more competent. Amongst the things I've been pleading for and harping on, are things like:
1. scrapping the I-formation or at least reducing it.
2. Inducing SPEED into the skills positions
3. getting some UPTEMPO in terms of the slothful amount of time it takes Gaypride to get the playcall in, and get the offense lined up at the line of scrimmage.
4. spreading the field.
5. getting your ATHLETIC QB out of the pocket and on the move.
6. Getting your skill players in favorable one-on-one matchups.
7. using multi-talented players like Ward to add some razzle dazzle to a dry, stale offense
8. scrapping this incessant fetish with pulling Dawson 34 times a game, just because it's kool to have a center pull out.
9. USING the ENTIRE preseason as an opportunity to POLISH & PERFECT --- not simply meander about aimlessly --- the PASSING offense.
10. eliminate the asinine penchant of having 2 or even THREE receivers run patterns in which they all end up within an area the size of your typical elevator.
Clearly, none, or very little, of this has occurred. I saw the trainwreck in preseason, when it was readily apparent that this offense was not going to be any better than it's 2 preceding years' offenses.
This entire offense needs to be stripped down, thrown out, and started anew. Plus, a new, REAL QB, must also be brought in. But doing ONLY ONE of these, without the other, is another act of futility that will not work.
* Cowhead seemed pretty irked at the shallow kickoff of Kris Brown, which is fine. My problem, is that Cowhead, and others, suddenly see this as some sort of aberration that just suddenly cropped up last week. If you go into my archives and read my '99 player grades, you'll see this excerpt on Brown: "Also, his KOs were terribly shallow the entire season. I'd venture to guess he had no more than 3 TBs the entire season, and all too often his boots were barely getting to the 12-yard line." I've even harped on his shallow boots a few times this preseason and regular season. Rest assured, this is no aberration --- it's a TREND that has been occurring since Brown arrived. You'd think that a cheap, miserly team like the Stillers, who readily enjoy playing it "close to the vest", would aggressively ensure that they could get every possible edge they can, since they refuse to go after high profile FAs or play with a "play to win" mindset. Nope. Brown's kickoffs chewed the pink salami as a rookie, and they have in his 2nd year, too. As an "FYI", I actually record where every KO goes to, when I chart the plays during the live broadcast of a game. With a little bit of scouring, I can actually go back and tell you how deep every one of Brown's kickoffs went this season�and last. This, of course, might cut into my beer-drinking time, plus I'm travelling to The Burgh this week to attend the Stillers-Jags game & see family over Thanxgiving, but if I get around-to-it�.
* Burress got his due in the Philly game. The pass play he got blasted on, was entirely his fault. Had he caught the ball, rather than dropping it, he would have been in a fetal position and most likely would have been able to absorb the hit. Instead, he arms were spread eagle as he tried to pull in the drop, and he was a sitting duck that got crushed. Then, on the 2nd onsides kick, Burress was simply lambasted by an onrushing Iggle whose sole purpose -- by design -- was to knock out a "receiver" so that a fellow Eagle could recover the kick. I mean, this Eagles player just blasted Burress like a foam blocking dummy, and the frail Burress went flying backwards, onto his back.
The Still Mill