Dolphins at Steelers Wrap-Up, and Jax Preview By CK Stiller
I�ve taken my share of shots due to my prediction last week. Rightfully so, as I was wrong on several key points, most notably the Steelers run game. First, the line played fantastic. I can not remember a game Marvel Smith played that well since 2004, and this is including pass protection and run blocking. Smith allowed one sack against Jason Taylor, on a play in which Batch held on to the ball too long, but it was otherwise a great night for everyone but Simmons. Willie Parker ran tough, and was consistent all night long. The run game opened up the passing attack. While the Steelers had balanced play calling throughout the game, Batch didn�t even complete 50% of his passes in the first half. The run game won the day for the Steelers, which I did not think it could do. It put Batch in a position where he only had to manage the game, and he delivered. I will say this, though. The Dolphins did not blitz often against the Steelers, and left it to their front 7 alone to get the pressure. They seemed to try too hard to cover up their weak secondary by being more cautious with their coverage.
Defensively, things generally looked good. I hated Mularkey�s gameplan. Culpepper was unable to throw the short routes he was asked to for much of the game (how do you keep under throwing guys that close to you?), however he had some success throwing deeper passes. The Dolphins best drives came when they stretched the field vertically. Culpepper had success with the deep crossing routes, and even had several dropped on him. I found it interesting how little the Dolphins threw at Polamalu. I can not remember a single instance where he was targeted, and I hope all offenses do the same. There were too many passes thrown underneath
I won�t even touch special teams. Anyone with eyes saw how awful that was�
Jacksonville was tied with the Steelers last year with 47 sacks, 33 of which were from the DL; compared to just 12 for their LB�s, and only 3 for their DB�s. The Jaguars clearly rely on their front 4, or more specifically, their DE�s to generate a pass rush. Both their starters and back-ups contribute, with no single player registering over 10 sacks. You won�t have to worry about much blitzing. The Jaguars prefer to let their LB�s read and react to the play. While I have questions about the general ability of the OL in pass protection, I don�t see Batch being under heavy pressure.
Last season, the Steelers right side was dominated by the Jaguars. Both Simmons and Starks looked terrible. Simmons was being driven into the backfield for much of the night, and a key reason why the Steelers had no run game. Starks gave up 2 sacks (the only ones given up all night) to Reggie Hayward, and was generally abused in both pass protection and run blocking. Fortunately for the Steelers, Starks is playing at a much higher level now then he was for last years meeting with the Jags, and they will be facing a banged up DL. Marcus Stroud rolled his ankle last week, and was limited against
The Jaguars have an aggressive secondary. They like to jump routes, and collected 19 INT�s last season as a result. Mathis is physical, and if he gets beat, he will make sloppy mistakes. There are holes in their zone, and like similar defenses, they allowed a fairly high completion rate (59.1%). Plays are there to be made. In 04, Roethlisberger had his first perfect game, with a 158 QB rating. Last season, even without Ward playing, the Steelers did have open receivers for much of the day, but Maddox was simply unable to hit them, as he put up one of the worst QB performances I have ever witnessed. I expect Miller to have a big game. At least 5 catches, and a TD. He shouldn�t have any problem finding, and sitting in the holes in the Jaguars zone defense. Even with Maddox starting, Miller had a solid game last year, and was able to make some huge plays when he wasn�t forced to stay in and help Starks block.
Stillers Run Game
Last week, I predicted the run game would fail miserably, and it blew up in my face. The Jaguars have contained it twice in a row now. Last year, the left side looked good, but as stated previously, the right side was simply dominated. I expect the same thing to happen to Simmons against
This all starts with the front 7, which I fully expect to dominate this game. The Jaguars line is mediocre at best. Porter and Haggans should have a field day. Across the board, I would describe them as slow, and either should be able to get the edge without much problem. The Jaguars have no back who can block, so it�s no surprise they don�t use many two back sets. One of them should be coming clean all night long. Not one member of this line could even come close to starting on the Steelers.
You all probably know how slow Leftwhich is. This guy can not handle the pass rush. He�s inaccurate as is (58.9% completion rate for his career), and only gets much worse if he has a defender in his face, which I expect he frequently will. While having a cannon arm, he doesn�t know how to use it. He reads defenses poorly, and misses his WR frequently. The Jaguars struggle to sustain drives because of it. He is almost a mirror image of Drew Bledsoe.
As previously stated, the Jaguars do not run many two back sets. Their base is a three-wide, 1 TE/1 back set. It�s where they get their best match-ups. Their entire offense revolves around spreading you out, running, and using it to open up their vertical passing attack with the play action. The Jaguars receivers are big and fast, if you haven�t heard. All three of them are above 6�4. They certainly should have the ability to stretch the defense vertically, and maybe they could if they had a line that could block. At this point, Ernest Wilford would be the most polished receiver. They have the ability to hit the big play at any time, and there was at least one close call last season when Leftwhich overthrew Reggie Williams, who was left alone with Chidi. The Steelers were banged up in the secondary. McFadden was starting his first game, and Towsend was out. Willie Williams was still playing. The Steelers corners are much improved, but I�m still uneasy about these safeties. Reggie Williams hit a big play on Polamalu last year, and
Stillers Run Defense
There is no way in hell these guys should run on the Steelers. Period. Their tackles should be overmatched against Kiesel and Smith. Neither guard is able to get to the second level and throw a successful block. Their line is just weak and slow. Foote and Farrior should have a field day. Fred Taylor can make something out of nothing, but there�s no way he will do so consistently.
Prediction: Last year, it took 4 Tommy Maddox turnovers and a blocked punt for the Jaguars to overcome the Steelers�in overtime. They had 10 of their points set up deep into Steelers territory, on top of the game-winning pick that was returned for a TD. In 04, the Steelers jumped up quickly on the Jaguars, shut down the passing attack, and allowed them to slowly crawl back into the game before the Steelers opened the pass back up, and Roethlisberger won the game with a classic two minute drill. The Jaguars are not in the same league as the Steelers, and with or without Roethlisberger, this should be an easy win.
Final Score: 24-10