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Stillers-Browns Postgame Analysis and Grades

September 15, 2008 by Still Mill

Stillers 10, Clev. 6 ���
Stillers 10, Clev 6��. Sep 14, 2008 ����Game #2


Stillers-Browns Postgame Analysis and Grades


The Stillers ventured to hated Cleveland and weathered a storm, both literally and figuratively, by slogging out a hard-fought 10-6 win.Amidst gusty winds and swirling rains, the Stillers held off the Browns under some tense moments in the 4th quarter to prevail for a huge victory.




QB:Ben completed 12 of 19 for 186 yards, which wasn�t shabby, given the weather conditions and his sore shoulder that severely limited his practice this past week.He was also victimized by 2 drops by Hines.�� Ben made 2 huge pass plays in the 2H to help gain the win.First, out of his own EZ, he calmly hit Ward for a 31-yard gain. Then, with just 3:16 remaining in the game, Ben rolled right and threw a bullet over the middle to Miller for a huge, game-sealing 19-yard completion.


Ben wasn�t without a host of miscues, however.�� He double-clutched more than a teenager learning to drive a manual transmission for the first time, and it got him sacked unnecessarily.It happened at 10:45 2Q, and then on the 1st drive of the 3Q.While there are times where it is prudent to eat the ball and live for another play, sometimes an incomplete pass is better than a 7-yard loss and extra punishment.The clutching also happened on a deep ball to an open Parker, in which Roth foolishly double-clutched, thereby giving the safety plenty of time to get over and lay a big hit on Parker as the ball arrived.Ben was also gimpy on his hurry-up 3rd down sneak attempt early in the 2Q, in which he bobbled the snap and lost any chance of quick forward momentum.The play was stuffed and the Stillers had to punt.�� Benji also just-missed an open Ward on a deep ball in the 4Q, which would have either scored 6 or at least put the ball deep in Clev territory.


The dark cloud surround Benji was the very mysterious post-game interview on NBC-TV by Andrea Kramer.�� Ben was asked 3 times, quite pointedly, about his shoulder, and he side-stepped the question each time like a politician under a Congressional inquiry.�� Unless Ben was merely being a wiseass, this is disturbing.�� ���B


RB:Parker had a very steady, strong, all-around effort, rushing 28 times for 105 yards.While not gaudy stats, Parker had 2 huge, clutch runs to help win the game.On a 4th & 1 in the 2Q, he bounced a play wide right and got 13 yards, and the Stillers scored their lone TD 4 plays later.Then, late in the game, as the Stillers were trying to salt the game away, Parker gashed the Browns with a 19-yard run that essentially sealed the �W�.


Sadly, Parker was totally non-involved in the passing game.Yes, he was thrown the deep ball in the 1H, likely as an afterthought, but that was it.�� You see Darren Sproles take a quick flare to the house for a long TD, yet Parker is treated like a leper in the passing game.Ever wonder why Parker is never mentioned with LT and others as the best back in the league?�� It�s because he plays in a Neanderthal offense that has no concept of simple, quick flips to a RB in open space.


Speaking of leprosy, Shar Mendenhall must also have it, as he was never once lined up on offense, much less given the ball.�����A

FB: Davis played sparingly.Lined up as a solo back, he had 1 carry for 2 yards.���� Inc.


WR:Tonio Holmes led the way with 5 grabs for 94 yards and several clutch plays.On the Stillers� first 3rd down of the game, he had a clever push-off of a Clev DB, and snared the stop route for a 16-yard gain.Later, he had a terrific pluck of a bullet over the middle, good for 15 yards.In the 2H, he made a superb adjustment and leap on a deep ball, and hauled it in for a 48-yard gain.He also had a strong run on an end-around, good for 10 yards.


Ward had the lone TD, but had 2 critical drops.Late in the 1Q, he dropped a crosser on 3d & 8.In the 2Q, he dropped an easy TD, which went right thru his hands and off his chest.To his credit, on the next play he hauled in the game�s lone TD.


The extreme downside is that, for the 2nd week in a row, the Stillers got absolutely nothing from their #3 and #4 WRs.�� This was a disturbing trend last year, and it is no secret that, in today�s NFL, you cannot advance deep in the playoffs without a modicum of production from your 3 & 4 receivers.����B-


TE:Miller had 2 grabs for 33 yards, including the clutch 19-yard near game�s end.Despite the near-constant use of the 2 TE set, Speath has been written entirely out of the passing game.The blocking was sporadic.Miller, for example, got in Parker�s way on 1 of the 23 counters that the Stillers ran, this one being at 10:20 2Q.Miller also got away with a possible hold on McGinnest on the 4th & 1 play that Parker bounced wide for 13 yards.���Miller was flagged for a hold on a running play early in the 3Q, thus killing that drive.B-


OL: Clev had spent considerable resources upgrading their D-line, and the Stillers� O-line had a real test.For the most part, they passed that test.Sure, there were a few sacks.As noted above, two of them involved Benji doing more pumping and milking than a Dutch farmer.On a 3rd & 2 in the 1Q, Arians refused to use a PAP, and the jailhouse rush got to Ben for a sack.I cannot blame this kind of sack on the O-line.


Hartwig struggled against Rogers.In the 2Q, he weakly failed to hold his block, and then slipped, allowing Rogers to hammer Parker for a 2-yard loss. On the 2d play from scrimmage in the 3Q, Hart allowed Rogers to slice right by for a 2-yard loss.Hartwig was also flagged for a hold on a Parker run in the 4Q.


But the O-line, overall, got the job done.Prior to a couple vanilla plunges to run out the clock, Parker gained 4 yards per rush.Ben was given ample time to throw on the TD pass, as well as on the 31-yarder to Hines from the Steeler EZ.Chris Kemo pulled and had a strong kickout block on Parker�s 19-yard run late in the game.Anyone still bemoaning the departure of Crybaby Alan Faneca, please step forward.����� B


DL:An okay, but hardly impressive, effort today.Before bowing out to a calf injury late in the 1Q, Keisel was trucked by Lewis on a 3-yard run.Kirschke had a rare stuff for a 2-yard loss.Hampton was flattened on a 3d & 1 plunge at 5:00 3Q, but soon helped Harrison make a stop by blowing up a ground play.Still, facing a mediocre journeyman like Hank Fraley, Hampton was very, very unimpressive.Others, including the Pittsburgh media, certainly will, but I won�t fawn over abject mediocrity.��


Aaron Smith had a fairly strong game, playing stout in the running game and also having a key hit on Andy late in the game.�� Eason got a lot of PT with Keisel hobbled, and whiffed badly on an easy sack of the oafish, bootfooted Anderson in the 4Q.������ B


LB:Some good, a lot bad.�� If LBing is the key to a great 3-4 defense, we�re looking at a train wreck.


Foote had a solid stop of Lewis late in the 1Q.That was about it.�� On the 4Q screen to Harrison, Foote -- totally unblocked -- came ranging over as upright as a giraffe, and then meekly waved at Harrison as the backup RB sauntered for a 23-yard gainer.�� This was horseshit technique that I wouldn�t tolerate from an 8th grader, much less a supposed starting NFL LB. ��Foote was also pathetically slow in coverage on Lewis in the 4Q, which led to a 9-yard gain. If you can�t cover a broken-down Jamaal Lewis at this point of his career, you can�t cover a picnic table with a tarp and you have no business starting in the NFL.


Farrior wasn�t much better.He had a good read and fill on the Lewis off-tackle plunge in the 1Q, limiting Lew to a meager yard.But, lined up as an extra OLB on a key 3d & 4 in the 2Q, he failed to read the end-around to Cribbs and then failed to shed the block and provide any help, thereby allowing Cribbs an easy 5 yards. In the 4Q, Farrior was utterly hideous.First, he was flagged for a 15-yard taunting penalty, which is absolutely inexcusable for a defensive captain and supposed �team leader�.Taunting penalties are asinine stupidity at its worst, but its even far worse when a veteran leader does something as assaholic as that.On the very next play, Farrior feebly whiffed on Lewis after a valve dump, allowing what should have been a no-gain to be a 5-yard gainer.Later in the 4Q, Farrior was trucked by Lewis for a 4-yard gain.


Woodley tailed off a bit after his big opening week.His pass rushing was sporadic and he wasn�t able to create much havoc.�� Wood was also flagged for a key roughing-the-passer penalty in the 3Q, although it was a bullshit flag.�� This was a bang-bang play, with Woodley hitting and wrapping the QB -- as he is supposed to do -- a millisecond after the pass was released.Later in the game, The Little Baby, Shaun Rogers, took 2 steps well after Ben had released a pass in the 4Q and then put an absurdly deliberate shoulder into Ben, knocking him to the turf without a flag.I have no problem with Woodley on this play and I hope the coaching staff encourages him to do the same technique at every opportunity.


Harrison had a strong overall game.He had a big hit and stuff of Lew in the 3Q, and created the pressure that allowed Smith to drop Andy near game�s end.Jamie was fired up from start to finish and led the way in terms of intensity and effectiveness.��


Timmons, sadly enough, saw infrequent playing time.Even though Foote continues to flounder in open field, unless an injury occurs, Timmons will not be permitted in the starting lineup until, at best, 2010.�� ILBs:C-����� ��Wood:B-���� Harrison:�� A-


DB:A rather lackluster overall performance.Facing a team hit by injury at the receiver spot and on a gusty, rainy evening, the secondary nevertheless allowed Clev receivers to roam as free as the lion on the African frontier. A plethora of easy drops by Edwards and Winslow negated considerable yardage from the Clev passing offense.


Pola had a pretty strong game.He led off the game by blowing up the first play, slicing into the backfield and fighting a blocker to blow up the play.He had good, tight coverage on Winslow on a 3D play early on, forcing the incompletion.He had a superb read on the INT late in the 1H, which snuffed what would have been an chippie FG.He also had a crisp stop of Winslow early in the 3Q, just short of the sticks, which forced a punt.He had a good bustup of a 4Q 3rd down pass, but the ball caromed up in the air and Winslow was able to out jump the shorter Pola for the grab.


McFadden started in place of the injured Townsend.He had a gift INT in the 2Q, catching a badly under thrown deep ball.This was a bit of a lazy play, as he never left his feet to go up and haul this one in, but at least he didn�t drop it.He gave up massive cushion on a 3d & 7 in the 4Q, allowing an easy 9-yard catch.But to his credit, on the following 3d & 7, he held his ground much firmer on Edwards, and had positioning on the slant route, which was busted up and forced the FG attempt.He was also flagged for an illegal contact penalty in the 2Q, which was utter bullshit.Winslow made contact on McFadd, and even tugged on McFadd�s facemask, yet somehow the CB was flagged.Unreal.


Ike was solid in run support, but gave up more cushion than a sofa factory.Not overly impressive at all.


Clark delivered a couple big hits.He had a bust-up of a crosser late in the 1Q, and then separated Edwards from the ball around the Pit 4-yard line with a blistering hit that left both men a bit woozy.


Overall, this unit is going to have to play much better against a better passing team.���� B-


Spec teams:A couple near-disasters, but overall a positive day from this crew. Reed boomed a couple KOs for TBs.The KO and punt coverage teams, facing the dangerous Cribbs, were outstanding.Helping lead the way was none other than starting OLB Jamie Harrison, who either made or was in on 2 or 3 coverage stops. Amidst the wind and rain, Reed nailed a huge 48-yard FG in the 3Q.Given the tight game and the weather conditions, this was as clutch of a FG as can be made in the NFL.��


The return teams gave everyone some high adventure.With the winds pushing punts to & fro, Moore nearly touched a punt as it sailed down to earth, but luckily he pulled his hands back far enough.Had the ball nicked one of his fingers, Clev would have gotten the ball deep in Pit territory.Then, Mendenhall misplayed a KO, of all things, in the 3Q, and Davis added insult to injury when he tripped Mendenhall after the ball landed.Mega kudos to Woodley, who had the presence and the hustle to get back and then dive for the loose ball, which luckily slithered OOB at the 2 to avoid a colossal disaster.���� B


OC:The weather conditions certainly wreaked havoc on using a full array of the passing game.Still, it was bizarre to open the game with 2 straight bubble screens, especially against a defense missing its starting safety amidst an otherwise weak secondary.Then, on a 3rd & 2 on the first drive, Arians, who still has little clue as to what to do on 3rd & short, refuses to at least run a play-fake, and just like last week, the jailhouse rush got to the QB for a sack.


Conversely, near game�s end, when we all were expecting a repeat of last year�s playoff fiasco versus Jax (with a host of weak-assed plunging), Arians called a boot right on SECOND down (not third), which Ben, with eons of time and room, hit Miller for 19 yards to seal the deal.This was a brilliant, albeit obvious playcall, as it gave Ben the opportunity to run for a few yards if need be (and keep the clock moving), and it gave him some options against a weak Clev secondary.��


What is enraging me is the chickenshit Wannstedt/Cavanaugh rotting of rookie Shar Mendenhall, who not only didn�t touch the ball on offense the entire game, but never even entered the game on offense the entire game.I find it almost impossible to believe that this offense would give Carey Davis -- a blocking FB -- a carry out of a 1-back set for a meager 2-yard gain, yet refused to allow Mendenhall to participate on offense after a solid showing last week in his rookie debut.�� RB is, by far, the easiest position in pro football for rookies to step in and contribute.As we found out last season, Parker is not going to hold up the entire season by toting the ball 28 times a game.Mendenhall was drafted in the 1st round to ease the load and give this offense a spark with his size and speed.�� Unless he missed a team meeting or violated some team rule, this is outrageous stupidity at its worst.�� B-


DC:LeBeau once again lucked into another notch in his belt.The weather conditions bogged down the Clev offense, and Clev�s gross mismanagement of the clock, combined with a strange decision to boot a meaningless FG late in the 4Q, let Dick off the hook.�� He defense got carved up 3rd downs, allowing 7 of 15, notwithstanding a drop or 2.The pass pressure was feeble and far too meager.�� Andy was entirely too comfortable in the pocket, and until the last minute of the game, took almost no punishment whatsoever.If this is the best LeBeau can do, it�s far from good enough.����� C


HC:Tomlin had the team decently prepared, and the team showed good toughness in a hostile atmosphere.�� There were some sloppy penalties (encroachment on a punt; Farrior�s taunting; holding twice on running plays) that need to be cleaned up.�� I�ll also reiterate my tirade here about the chickenshit Wannstedt/Cavanaugh rotting of rookie Shar Mendenhall.�� INEXCUSABLE, and Tomlin deserves as much, if not more, blame than Arians.�� I also wasn�t pleased with Tomlin�s TO as Ben was drawing the Clev defense offsides on a 4th & 1 in the 2Q.


Beating Clev on the road is always good, although Tommy won�t always have the luxury of facing a dummy like The CrennElephant.������B


Synopsis:An ugly, but effective, win.Winning on the road against a bitter, hated rival is rarely ever easy, and the Stillers showed some good moxie and fortitude in grinding out this win.�� Obviously, numerous warts arose during this game that must quickly be addressed.The pass rush was meek and feeble.There is no production at all from the #3 or #4 WRs, and the Steelers have to be the only team in the NFL that has zero receptions among its top 3 RBs.�� The road doesn�t get any easier next week, with the Stillers traveling to Philly to take on the Iggles.Hopefully the Cowpokes will beat them up pretty good on MNF and the short week will hamper the Iggles� preparation.



(Still Mill and -- when it comes to the analysis of the Pittsburgh Stillers, no one else comes close�.)




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