Guest Column: 4th Down and 10 Facts: Pittsburgh/Vikings Post game Report
This game was truly a game of "almosts." This game "almost" gave me a heart attack. It "almost" ended in a humiliating loss to the Vikings in what was the "almost" gimme game of the year. We "almost" reverted back to the way we played on defense for the past 3 years: "almost" holding on for a win. Bettis "almost" went the whole game without injury and Randy Moss "almost" went the whole game without showing up again. Culpepper was "almost" sacked on one occasion and Michael Bennett "almost" stepped out of bounds on his touchdown scamper. Kris Brown "almost" nailed a field goal while Plaxico "almost" had another 100-yd receiving day. Burress also "almost" went the whole game without a drop.
The only certain out of the win was that our Defense must resolve through the week�s preparation to find the ferocious swagger it once had. The Offense must prepare for a game without it�s most faithful weapon and the Coaching Staff must scrap the conservative game no matter how many points the team is leading by.
Now on to the facts:
Fact 1#: The Prevent Defense sucks. Why? Why in heaven�s name would Cowher and Lewis decide to play "prevent-the-big-play" with just over 6 minutes left. That type of non-aggressive defense makes us vunerable. Look, these coaches have to start calling schemes to allow the defense to attack for 60 minutes, especially against a team that can put up points in a hurry. Besides, ironically enough, the big play did not hurt us until we jumped into the 7 � 8 defensive back scheme. The coaching staff should be ashamed and humiliated.
Fact #2: A defensive let down was due to come. Look, this defense is fabulous, but today, we we�re ripped again by the pass and here�s why: 0 Sacks. That�s it, the big goose egg. It makes you just want to bang your head into a wall, but just not yet.
Fact #3: I thought it was Philadelphia (2000) all over again. Jesus Mary Mother and Joseph! Why the conservative defense? Why did we play not to lose for the final15 minutes? Ego. Ego. Ego. Cowher�s and the defense�s. Hold on a second while now I start banging my head into a wall.
Fact #4: Bettis� injury could be worse than we thought. You can tell, because when the game was on the line, he wasn�t in there when we needed to run time off the clock and Fu just looked awful in his place. I was wondering why Zerorue wasn�t in the game and I remembered that Cowher sometimes makes insane decisions, so I continue to bang my head into the wall. I�ll tell you this though, if Fu doesn�t bounce over for 40+ on 3rd 11 with 1:30 left, the Vikings would have scored. You could count on it.
After the game Bettis said that not only was his hip hurting, but so was his groin. It�s a shame to because before he left the game, Bettis looked fabulous. Look for him to sit next week if it�s bad enough. We�ll need him full strength for Baltimore.
Fact #5: Kordell�s game was off today. Although he completed 13 out of 19 attempts, his fumble in the 4th was bonehead move. You do not fumble with 3 minutes left in the game inside your own 20 while nursing a lead. I continue to bang my head into the wall.
Fact #6: Teams have finally figured out Chad Scott. He plays aggressive and teams we�re unable to go long on him because of the pressure up front. These past two games, we haven�t gotten any pressure on the QB, but Chad Scott refuses to give a cushion. The sum of those two parts equals: 11 passed attempted at and 0 passes defensed. I could say that the lack of pressure on the QB gave him no chance against Moss, but 0 passes defensed!? That is shameful for a corner who was having a Pro Bowl type season. No doubt, Scott is going to be burned by the media this week as well he should be
Fact #7: Where we�re the Linebackers? Even Kendrell Bell didn�t have an impact. He finished the day with 1 tackle. Not the stuff of a Rookie of the Year. But, the growing absence of Porter and Gildon befuddles me. This Viking O-Line was prime for the taking and the couldn�t capitalize. It seems to me that the guys art starting to play to the level of their opponents. Hopefully the next fact will allow me to stop banging my head against the wall.
Fact #8: Troy Edwards was the player of the game. And yes, the pain stops. Boy, Troy had a whale of game. One touchdown, one forced fumble, a couple of decent returns. Kind of made me think I was watching the Steelers in Bizarro world.
Fact #9: We�ve had games like this before in the mid-90�s. This type of scare is nothing new to this team. Remember these games to name a few?
- Pittsburgh at Arizona 1997 : A rookie named Jake Plummer sends us into overtime.
- Pittsburgh vs. Indianapolis 1997 : The pathetically-awful Colts looking for their first win of the year miss a last-second field goal to win it. They end the season with the worst record in league, only to pick up a QB named Peyton Manning with the first pick of the draft.
- Pittsburgh at New York Giants 1994 : We one this game like 10 - 6. Our offense was horrendous.
Fact #10: This letdown was inevitable, but lets not panic (just yet): Let�s all breathe in very slowly. Look, we had 5 division games in a row where we went 4 � 1. In those 5 games, the team poured its guts out and emotion fueled this team to perform amazingly and exceptionally. But, if there was any game to have a let down, it would have been this one. Think about it, the Steelers were playing at home and against a lower tier NFC opponent. It could have been worse. It could have been a loss. Just ask the Raiders what it feels like. It wasn�t and we�re 9 � 2 alone atop the AFC Conference.
Thoughts around the League and on the Game.
- The Jets come to town next week after a heartbreaking loss to the Brady Bunch Patriots, they�ll get another one next week against our very own Black and Gold. Count on it.
- As I sit here and watch the Cowboys and Redskins, I ponder. The Redskins 5 game winning streak was nothing but a big tease.
- If you think we had a defensive let down, it was nothing compared to Cleveland, Baltimore and Oakland. Only Baltimore escaped with a win (again).
- Now that I think about it, the Giants are down for the count. Stick a fork in them. While you�re at it, throw the Redskins on that plate too.
- The win last week against the Titans looks even more impressive now that the Titan�s disposed the Browns quite easily.
- I noticed something on the Raiders final drive in regulation against the Cardinals. Rich Gannon on 3rd and Goal is flushed out of the pocket. He takes off for the corner of the end zone, but holds up and gets knocked out of bounds at the 2 instead of diving for the pylon. He throws a TD pass to send the game to overtime on 4th down, but bonehead, patsy plays like that could kill the Raiders down the stretch. If he dives for the goal line he would have made it.
- Denver�s loss coupled with New England�s win really hurts the Bronco�s playoff chances. Adding more fuel to fire, Rod Smith didn�t play this weekend. As Smith�s health goes, so does the Bronco's plan for football in late January.
- So maybe the Falcons were overachieving a little. The loss of Chris Chandler to injury though hampers their playoff hopes. Look for the Saints and Bucs to battle it out for the final berth.
- Bettis actually asked Cowher if he could go back into the game when the Vikings were threatening to pull of the upset, but was denied. Give kudos to Cowher to understanding that a loss of Bettis due to further injury would have been worse than a loss to the Vikings. That was at least one good call in the game.
- Next week�s Game of the Week: The 49er�s vs. the Rams in the Speed Dome. The rest of the league will breath a little easier if the Niners win. This is because the Bears hold a slim edge over the Rams for home field advantage throughout the playoffs. If the Rams get the home field, you can book their tickets to New Orleans.
Check out my pre-game for next week coming to Stillers.com in a few days. I will have the MPO count and more things to think about while going to the fridge for a beer.
Bettis is hurting, the defense was humiliated, Kris Brown remained inconsistent and the coaching staff once again provided questionable calls. But one things stands alone above all of that: 9 � 2.
Next week brings the Jets, new match-ups, new heroes and new goats. Steeler football hasn�t been this exciting in a while. While we critique and lambaste our own team, let�s not forget to sit back and enjoy the wild ride.
JB in the Big Steel Apple