Stillers-Jags Post Game Analysis & Grades:
Another ugly-to-watch loss, and the 2d home loss in as many weeks. What really is sad is that never during this game did the Steelers have even ONE moment where it appeared they were poised to win the game. The entire team appeared to be only performing its appointed duties. Champions are built out of a lust for winning, but this group of sorry players showed none of that today. Worse, nothing good comes out of this game --- nothing to build on, and nothing to provide inertia for next week.
QB: Not much needs to be elaborated on Stewart. He flat out smelled, completing only 15-32 for 126. The 1 INT was Hawk's fault, not Stewart's, but the Jags had 1 other INT nullified by encroachment, but a couple other balls SHOULD have been picked off by the Jags. The things that I have HARPED about all summer and autumn again soured Stewart's effectiveness: blatant telegraphing and a refusal to throw downfield ON the run. Stewart's scrambles and runs off of rollouts were ALL (but 1) runs where Stewart had NO INTENTION whatsoever of throwing. Stewart also fumbled away a ball, and took a safety late in the game by refusing to throw-away or scoot from pressure. The refusal to TRY to throw a pass on the 4th & 1-foot rollout was utterly inexcusable. There were several, but the 1 play that really showed me what a BUSH-LEAGUE QB Stewart is, was the deepish throw to Troy down the left sideline just before halftime. (I watched this several times on video in disgust.) Stewart STARED at Troy from the moment the ball was snapped. Troy had a step on Thomas, but the ball was lollipopped (as are ALL of Stewart's downfield throws) and Thomas batted the pass away at the last second. Any sort of look-off, and a strong throw, gives us 6 points before the half. All in all, a stench-laden performance, which is what we've come to expect from the Western Union Man. F.
RB: Bus ran hard and had some of his best running of the season today. Sure, there were several of his runs stopped quickly by heavy Jaguar penetration, but Bettis, especially in the 2d half, ran hard and blasted defenders. Hunt had a couple nice carries and blocked solidly. Wittman had 1 catch for 4 yards, and had a couple good blocks, but also got stood up on occasion. B+.
WR: A rather sorry day for this crew. Troy dropped a pass on the game's 1st possession (though it would've netted only 9 yards on 3d & 14). Troy did have a superb RAC for a 1st down on what appeared to be a hopeless WR screen on 3d & long. Hawk caused the INT by allowing a perfect throw to go thru his hands. Ward failed to aggressively come back for the ball on the underthrown flea-flicker. Jackwell fumbled (though we recovered) after a reception. Perhaps the most sinful play of the day was the Stewart fumble, in which Hawk was clearly standing 3 feet from the ball. However, Hawk pussed out and refused to dive after the ball, and a Jaguar dove in and recovered the ball. This is the kind of unacceptably gutless play that makes the difference between a 6-10 team and a 10-6 team. D.
TE: Breuner had a whopping 1 catch for 5 yards, and committed a false start. Man, the tremendous value we get from this multi-million dollar TE!! Lyons had 1 grab for 13 yards. Tuman was thrown a deepish pass down the sideline that was horribly underthrown into double coverage. The blocking was ok. B-.
OL: The OL sucked the big red salami today. They did open some ok holes on runs, but this was a soft Jags run defense that was made worse by the injury that prevented Wynne from dressing. The leakage on pass plays, coupled with a plethora of dumbassed holding penalties, and false starts, was pitiful. Gandy was ABUSED twice on consecutive plays by Brackens, and his holding penalty negated a 20-yard Stewart run. Stai was steamrolled, and Brown simply whipped badly, on the final safety. Duffy was continually getting shoved back on running plays, and committed a hold that negated a 16-yard Bettis run. Stai was guilty of jamming up 1 screen pass, and a run play, with lethargic movement. It's a pretty sad indictment that the coaches have such little faith in these underachieving slouches that we cannot play smashmouth football on 4th and short. F.
DL: This was actually 1 of the better days for our d-line in quite some time. Henry and Roye each knifed in to make some big plays; Henry causing an int. grounding and Roye batting a pass. Both played the run stoutly, as did Steed. I felt Steed got gypped on the holding call, although I don't know the exact letter of the rulebook. Steed tackled the blocker on a running play, but that's football. Henry's only boner was flailing and missing Brunell on the key 4th & 6. A.
LB: Holmes played his ass off and had a stellar all-around game, with 6 solo tackles and 8 total. Holmes also had a couple good QB pressures. Kirk led all players with 9 solos and 11 total. However, Kirkland failed miserably on 1 of the 2 or 3 huge plays of the game. On the 4th & 6 play in the 1st quarter, right after the Hollis FG was erased due to delay of game, Kirk came in from the right side on a delay blitz, totally untouched. Henry was inside and was bearing down on Brunell, yet Kirkland foolishly forgot his outside contain responsibilities and clumsily dove at Brunell's feet. Brunell escaped a sure sack and scrambled for 12, which set up the Jags only TD. I re-watched this on video about 8 times, and I'm still in disbelief how a veteran all-pro can dick up what should have been an EASY sack. Rather than an emotional sack that would have turned around momentum and given us golden field position, Kirkland flails and misses, Jax marches for a TD, and we are once again in a hole both emotionally and on the scoreboard. I don't want to hear any bitching this year from Kirkland when he's NOT voted to the Pro Bowl, because Pro Bowl players don't botch game-breaking plays like this one. Gildong actually was serviceable today, stuffing a 3d & 3 run and playing fairly solidly. However, the Jax TD drive was aided by a 12-yard Talor run, in which Gildon was literally CAVED in toward the nose-guard and Taylor easily loped thru a gaping hole. Jason got a sack, but it was a Dong Sack, as Scott came blitzing in from the right side and nearly sacked Brunell, and Brunell scrambled to his right and was corralled by Gildon. Otherwise, had Brunell immersed himself into a vat of diarrhea just before gametime, Gildon would have never noticed, because Gildong never even got close enough to sniff Brunell. Searcy bullied and shoved Gildon away from the QB all day. Emmons was as worthless as tits on a bull, doing nothing in the pass-rush effort and doing very little in run support. Porter played only sparingly. Holmes: A. All others: C-.
DB: This group played fairly well, though the Jags helped them look good with some dropped passes and a poor day by Brunell. Davis tackled hard and hit hard, and caused the Brady fumble that the refs foolishly ruled inc. Scott and Dewayne covered well, and both tackled well. Flowers committed the foolish personal foul penalty but played solidly. Davis was beaten on the TD, but it was an asinine scheme that asked Davis to cover a split WR from the FS spot in the middle of the field. A-.
Spec Teams: Another shoddy day from this crew that helped lead to defeat. Barlow nearly broke a punt return for a TD. Josh's punts were often low. Simmons, in what appears to be a weekly thing, over-ran the punt returner, which enabled Barlow to have acres of room on his long PR. There were 2 bright spots: Troy and Joey. Troy was blasted on 1 punt return, but kept his balance, spun away, and raced to the other sideline. The only thing that prevented a sure TD was DeGay Townsend, who pussyfooted as the "lead-blocker", which caused Troy to slow down, and then Townsend didn't get a very clean block on the punter at all. Very poor. Porter made 4 solo stops on special teams. Brown booted a nice 48-yard FG. C.
Off Coord: Sure, the QB sucked, but Kevin Gaypride deserves some blame for today's ineptitude as well. Gaypride finally got some balls downfield -- not as deep as I'd like to see, but there were about 3 balls thrown 25 yards downfield. He did get Stewart on the move, and reduced the amount of shotgun snaps that Stewart took, which was good. Still, you see crap like a 1st down draw play when we're down by 10 and have the ball on our own 20 with 5:30 left in the game. You see crap like 6-yard out on 3d & 7 early in the 2d qtr. And in the drive that ended with the incomplete flea-flicker, we had the Jags on the ropes. Bus had just run for 11 yards, and we had a 1st down on the Jax 47. THIS was the time for a flea-flicker, or a play-action bomb. We called a play-action, but instead it was a whopping 4-yard completion to Wittman near the sideline. The overall pace, except for perhaps 1 drive, was overall slow and slumbering. AS an aside, according to the post-game press conference, Cowhead, not Gayrpide, called the plays on the two 4th downs in the 2d half. Perhaps the biggest knock on Gaypride is his utter failure at grooming Stewart, teaching him to throw on the run, and teaching him to look-off. C-.
Def Coord: Overall, the D played solidly, but much of that must be attributed to a woeful Jax offense that looked similar to our offense. The TD was apparently the result of Jax seeing films and taking advantage of a ridiculous pass defense that asks Davis to remain in centerfield, but cover a split receiver on a flag pattern. Not even a young Rod Woodson could have covered this TD pass. A real poor scheme by Jim Asslet. B-.
Head Coach: It's high time that Bill Cowhead start vehemently accepting some responsibility for this team's miserable situation. It's not simply poor execution. It's also poor preparation. What's worse, is that this team has no killer instinct, nor any confidence or desire to make big plays. This team, on all fronts, is playing not-to-lose football, rather than playing to win. You could argue that the two 4th down calls were playing to win, but I disagree. These calls were made out of a desperate total lack of confidence in a team that once prided itself on smashmouth football. We've supposedly got a premier power RB, yet we are 0-4 this year on 4th downs, and not once has Bettis carried the ball in any of those plays. Play-action and flea-flickers are workable when there's been previous success with Bettis in similar situation, but it was clear that the Jags never expected Bettis to get the ball, and were eagerly looking for a stunt play like the ones we tried. It's simply the loss of a mindset that Cowhead has allowed to escape from our team. Our current mindset is that a.) we can't play smashmouth on 4th and short, and b.) when we get into FG range, we play turtle and prepare to kick a FG. D.
As I said in my pregame writeup, a loss today would, and will, have hideous consequences the rest of the season. The offense is in disarray, the QB situation is pitiful, and there is no hope in sight. We have 4 QBs on the roster --- 2 greenhorns who have no NFL experience, and 2 veterans, neither of whom is worth a tinker's damn. The defense, which in it's '94-95 heyday regularly made big plays to either set up scores or score the TDs themselves, no longer makes any big plays at all. The team has beaten a pitiful expansion team and a sorry Raven team, and then has been whipped at home by solid teams in Seattle and Jax. Only drastic changes can right this founder ship, and those changes would have to include, at a minimum, actually starting your BEST offensive playmaker (Edwards), as well as starting a potential defensive playmaker (Porter), and immediately trading for or signing a veteran QB who can come in and either start or come off the bench.
(One final note: The Still Mill will be traveling to Buffalo for next week's Stiller game versus the Bills, so my post-game report won't be complete until the Tuesday following the game.)
The Still Mill