The game started off with the Steelers playing field position cat-and-mouse with Tennessee’s offense, but a fumble by Ben at the goalline killed our early momentum. Even a field goal on that drive totally changes the gameplanning for the rest of the game.
Jeff Reed missed another field goal. What is going on? He used to be Mr. Automatic, now he’s missed very makeable field goals in the last few weeks. Ever since the New England game, he just hasn’t been as sharp. That won’t cut it come playoff time.
Nate Washington is turning into a reliable reciever…in the second half. For some reason, be it Ben or the recievers, but Nate and Holmes have had trouble reeling in passes in the first half, but when the game is on the line have come up huge in the latter parts of games.
The defense didn’t have their best game, but Tennessee was averaging 326 yards per game coming into the game, and they racked up just about that many against the Steelers. Tennessee was also averaging about 25 points per game coming in, and they put up 24 (not counting the 7 points from the interception return).
However, giving up 320 yards and 24 points should not be cause for alarm. Our defense has been spectacular, and it should be noted that only 10 teams in the league are averaging allowing less than 320 yards per game. So this game by our defense while not spectacular as we have become accustomed to seeing, was still comparably good.
On the flip side, our offense, which has averaged barely over 300 yards per game, put up 374, with Ben throwing for over 300. However, therein lies the problem. Statistics have proven that teams throwing for over 300 yards are much less successful than teams running for over 100. I hate to be one to incite division or player drama in the locker room, but Parker is right. We need to run the ball more. And for the love of all things holy, PUT A BLOCKING BACK IN!
We are by far, the worst screening team in the league, so that element is out of the game. Our offensive line, while it has been servicible, is much better when they’re driving off the ball rather than stepping pack letting defenders run at them. As we saw against Tennessee, delayed runs and draw plays just didn’t work against their fast defense. Yet, Arians still insisted on calling them. Moore was running good on runs up the middle, but we didn’t establish anything with enough consistency to run play-action. Parker was getting a few creases when we were running quick-hitting running plays that allowed him to use his speed and cutback ability.
We need to fire Arians. This offense is going nowhere. Mike Mularkey, who was the Steelers offensive coordinator in the early 2000’s when Bettis racked up a crapload of yards, has brought his power-football scheme to Atlanta, and look at the success it’s had. We need an offensive coordinator like that.
The Steelers are much, much more successful when Ben has to throw less than 25 times in a game. While Ben has had over 25 attempts in almost every game this year, it’s still a fact that, throughout his career, his best games have come when he hasn’t had to make plays.
The Steelers did show some good things in this game. Harrison set the team record for sacks in a season. Holmes made a fantastic catch on a very well-thrown ball by Ben for the first touchdown. Hines made a heck of a catch and put up a great fight to get into the end zone for the second score.
However, once we took the 3rd quarter lead, the Titans turned it on and we fell apart. This game did seem to have a lot in common with our loss to Indianapolis in 2005. Both games had missed opportunities on the offensive end (including missed field goals) as well as offensive turnovers that the other team converted into points.
On the bright side, we have an easy game against Cleveland to close out the season, then we get a week to rest up before a likely rematch with Indianapolis in the second round of the playoffs.
As the #2 seed, the only team we can not face in our first playoff game is the #6 seed. All things seem to be pointing to Baltimore, who only has to beat Jacksonville, getting the spot. Therefore, Baltimore will play the AFC East champ in the first round and Indy, who has already clinched the #5 seed, will face the AFC West champ in the first round. With Baltimore and Indy as the Wild Cards, I wouldn’t bet on either of the division champs winning those games, meaning Indy will come to Pittsburgh and Baltimore will go to Tennessee in the 2nd round of the playoffs.
Let’s not forget, this is what Tennessee has been doing to teams all year, so, in all respects, we played a very average game against a very good team. However, in spite of playing an average game, we were still in position to win the game. Heck, we had a lead in the 3rd quarter. Let’s hope no one gets seriously injured against the Browns, and let’s hope Ryan Clark can get over his separated shoulder in time for the playoff game.