S.O.S. (Part Two)
More Thoughts by PalmerSucks
September 27, 2013
Derek Moye is listed at 6’ 5”, 210 lbs. He’s exactly the kind of big WR the NFL is featuring today, guys who outsize defenders and make catches even when there’s no separation.
Moye shone in camp, becoming one of the few pleasant surprises of the pre-season. A couple weeks ago he had a nice TD grab against Cincinnati which showcased his physical talents.
Moye’s reward for all this? Getting to watch the next game from the stands, in street clothes.
Yes, it’s same ol’ Stillers all over again, the guys who won’t consistently play rookies because, well, they just don’t know the system. And it’s not just the no-names; first-rounder Jarvis Jones makes a big play then sits so Worilds can come in and do nothing. But hey, Worilds knows how things are done around here, right?
Sunday Night against Chicago was classic S.O.S:
--The defense that didn’t give up tons of points (14 of the opponents’ 40 were courtesy of the Stillers offense) but, again, failed to produce a stop on the game’s key third-down play. This unit (again) failed to rack up sacks, although, in their defense, Cutler was getting rid of the ball too quickly early on to give them much chance of reaching him.
--The line that can’t block consistently. When Ben did have time he deep-fried the vaunted Bears’ defense, owing to his status as the league’s best pump-fake QB. But all too often pass rushers jail-broke in, including the killer play where Ben got the ball knocked out of his hand and returned for the game-clinching score.
The Stillers are now 0-3 and all alone in last place, owing to an amazing weekend where the other three North teams pulled off improbable upsets. (By the way, will we EVER see a game where Average Joe has to carry the load? The headlines should have read “Baltimore fizzles as Flacco puts up a measly 53 passing yards in the half” but thanks to both their defense and special teams scoring, the Ravens actually took an eight-point lead going into halftime.)
Worse, it turns out the Brownies picked up Brian Hoyer, the guy I’ve said the Stillers had no business ever letting go. All Hoyer did was toss two of the sweetest corner-end-zone TDs I’ve seen; it’s possible Cleveland’s stumbled onto a better QB than the bust-in-progess they’ve currently got as the starter. With an actual QB, the Brownies are dangerous. Let’s hope they come to their senses and put the bust back in when his hand’s healed.
The Stillers should be careful checking in at customs on the way to London this week; they might get arrested for impersonating a pro-football team. But seriously, getting away might be the best thing that could happen to them right now.
0-3 is no accident. The system isn’t working and it’s time to admit it. A few things need to change if the team has any hope of salvaging what’s left of the 2013 campaign:
--The idea of maintaining a run-first identity in this age of pass domination needs to be scrapped. Likewise, the idea of fitting players to your system – rather than the other way around – should be dumped.
When Denver got Peyton Manning, did they say “OK, this is how we do things around here, deal with it!”? No, they changed their offense to fit Manning’s strengths. Likewise, the Stillers need to adapt the offense to the skill set of their best player, Ben Roethlisberger. Note to team: a dink-dunk passing game does not suit Big Ben’s style.
Emphasizing pass should be a no-brainer this week, facing the 28th-ranked Vikings defense. Notice I said “should.” The Stillers have a way of holding on to tradition, and I’m not just talking throwback jerseys.
--LeBeau’s cushion-giving bend-don’t-break defense needs some tinkering. Yes it keeps the scoring down, but it also breaks down at key times. Watching the aggressive Bears’ defense, which not only forced turnovers but scored points, should have been a wake-up call for the Stillers coaches. Let’s see if they got the message.
By the way, I was going to lay into Woodley for not containing Cutler on that killer third-down scramble, until I saw the replay. The Chicago RT not only horse-collars Woodley, he face guards him too – an outrageously obvious double-penalty on the game’s key play, that the officials somehow missed.
Speaking of Woodley, he’ll have a chance to start doing something this Sunday, facing Phil “Slow Feet” Loadholt at RT. This might be the $60-million dollar man’s best chance to shine this season. Woodley vs. Loadholt is to me the match-up of the game; if Big Lamarr can finally generate some pass rush, Ponder will continue his second-year slump.
Don’t be surprised to see Minnesota come out spreading the field to open up the run, not pass. No doubt the Vikings are salivating watch film of Bears’ RBs gashing the Stillers defense. No doubt this could be an A.P. nightmare if the gaps aren’t filled, and guys like Clark whiff on tackles as they did Sunday.
--The infamous “pool room” policy is a source of jokes, but there’s a serious side to it too. It’s not the first time I’ve heard that the younger players just don’t take their prep work seriously. Maybe the guys do need a lesson: for example “you don’t dance and jive after making a play when you’re down three scores.”
With things clearly broken, the Stillers need to take some chances – right now not risking anything is risking everything. The defense needs to try some less conservative schemes, and the no-play-rookie policy needs to go. As I’ve discussed before, the Stillers field one of the league’s smallest WR corps, and the only receiver who consistently gets separation is Antonio Brown. Moye deserves a shot to show if he can be that big downfield target Plaxico Burress was brought in to be. Just like Jones deserves a shot to prove he’s worth his high draft slot.
The Stillers have a chance to use a rare out-of-the-country game as the symbolic starting point for change. If they do, there may still be time to make something of the season. If they don’t, they’ll do a lot worse than 8-8 this year, and the changes will have to be made. Better to start now, while there’s still some season -- not to mention pride -- left.