Stillers-Bengals Post Game Analysis & Grades:
Like Aerosmith's classic bluesy tune from '71/'72, "Same Old Song & Dance", today's team stink was just another same old song & dance from Bill Cowhead and his band of boneheads. Some people probably thought I went ballistic during today's abortion. No dice --- like EMTs who have been on the job awhile, the shock and horror of seeing yet another bloody mess wears off after experiencing it all too often. Nothing happened today that we haven't already seen this year AND last year. Foolish false starts. A holding penalty to wipe out a 46-yard FG and push us out of FG range. The starting QB throwing 2 terrible INTs and playing like manure. A punt returner slipping on bone-dry Astroturf as he goes to field a punt. Another punt returner calling a FC when the nearest defender is 12 yards away. OLBs imitating pantomimes. RTs imitating tree stumps. A free safety showing up late on a TD bomb. An offense wasting a timeout because the clock ran down to near 0, and another TO burned when a WR had to call one. An opponent taking the opening KO and scoring an easy TD. Same old stuff, same results.
QB: The Western Union Man was his typical poor self, going 5-11 for a measly 36 yards before being excused from the game and given a spot on the bench. He threw 2 utterly ghastly INTs, the 2d of which was returned for a Cinci TD. On the 1st TD, he had someone open, but hesitated to throw, and then scrambled and threw a terrible toss that was well behind Blackwell. The 2d INT was the classic case of Stewart getting happy-feet (RT Conrad got abused), and despite having some more time to decide/throw, hastily threw a lousy throw that was well underthrown of a wide-open Ward. Mike Prozac was inserted the very next series and played the remainder of the game. Ever since the repulsive pass Tomwhack threw from his BACK in preseason, I promised that I would devote no time analyzing any of Prozac's performance this year. I'll stick to that promise, especially since it's asinine for a team out of playoff contention to be wasting PT on a 15-year scrap-heap vet who is an UFA after the season. Stewart, F. Prozac, B-.
RB: Bettis ran hard and tough, though yardage at time was tough to come by against a fairly stout Cinci front 7. I felt Bus cutback the key 4th quarter 4th & 8-inch run a bit too hastily; the play was designed to go up LT, and the blocking appeared to be in place, but Bus cut it up LG rather hastily, and the pursuit got him. A poor spot by the refs, by the way, but a hasty cut by Bus. Hunt carried a few times with little success, and fumbled away the ball on 1 play, in which he was never hit. Amos was finally allowed to play (for just 1 play, of course), and turned in a nice run on a mis-direction pitchout play, turning what looked to be a sure no-gainer into a 4-yard gain with some dime-stop cuts. B-.
FB: Wittman had a few solid lead blocks. Unfortunately, as has been the case the past 2 seasons, these were sandwiched around a host of other plays in which Wittman looked as bumbling and stumbling as a blind drunkard. On 1 play, in which Wittman was to lead block on a play around left tackle, Gandy quick-blocked Copeland, and then moved on to hit a LB. Wittman arrived a second later, presumably to finish off Copeland. Instead, Wittman was shoved aside by Copeland like a trash can tossed to the curb by the sanitation department. Measley Reese even commented after this grisly gaffe, "John ought to be ashamed of himself." Yes, he OUGHT to, but since we have had no other viable FB depth on our team for the past 2 seasons, Wittman can commit premeditated murder without feeling ashamed. On the 3d & 1 Bus plunge --- which was stopped short, requiring the 4th down Bus run --- Wittman lead-blocked and dove into the stack, and hit NO ONE. He whiffed, and ended up on the ground, while defenders engulfed Bettis and stopped him 8 inches short of the sticks. The do-it-all wonderboy had 0 passes thrown his way. D.
WR: A so-so game from this motely crew. Hawkins, the indispensable, irreplaceable starting receiver, got hurt late in the 1st half, which, given Cowher's love-affair with this guy as a STARTER, would have surprised none of us if Cowher came out after halftime and waved the white flag in surrender. Ward and Troy led the way with 7 catches each; Ward scored on a 34-yard pass play (about a 15 yard catch, and a ghostly secondary allowed him to run untouched to the EZ) and Troy made a superb adjustment on a underthrown deep ball for a 37-yard gainer. Will Jackwell had his usual production, catching 2 balls for a piddly 9 yards a catch; bobbling 1 tough try near the sideline, and dropping a pass on an out in the 2d qtr. With Hawk out, Shaw saw loads of action, catching 3 balls, including a 15-yard TD pass, which was his 1st of the season, which pushes him ahead of Hawkins in that department. Strangely enough, Shaw became the "go to" guy on the game's final drive, being the intended receiver on both the 3rd and 4th down plays. The 3rd down play was a deep out that was a bit high, and the ball glanced off the very edge of Shaw's fingertips. The 4th down hitch was in Shaw's hands for a 1st down, but the Cinci DB made a good jab of the ball as he came in on the hit a split-second after the ball arrived. C.
TE: Breuner had a career day, grabbing 2 passes on identical plays (a seam route straight up from the left TE spot) for 51 yards. Lyons had 1 grab for 7 yards. The blocking was ok. B.
OL: The line play was mostly ok, but there were the usual breakdown and blunders that we've come to expect from a Bill Cowher-coached team. Wayne Candy, for example, committed 2 jackassed false starts. The most egregious blunders were by Piss Conrad, who did nothing more than imitate a flagman at a construction spot on a highway. This worthless dildoboy just STOOD AROUND a good bit of the game, and time after time, allowed his man to pressure the QB. I get so sick of this "Oh, well, Conrad is a good run blocker, and he's still developing" bullshit. If a tackle cannot pass-block in today's NFL, then he shouldn't be on the roster. Period. Development? Is this man on the same development schedule as Jamain Stephens?? If so, will he be cut next summer, or in '01? Brown actually started at RT, but was pulled in favor of Conrad, and never returned. Faneca showed some confusion -- along with Gandy -- on some Cinci stunts. Duffy was barely marginal. On the 3d & 2 pitchout that Huntley fumbled on, Stai clumsily failed to block his man was he pulled, and this man ended up turning an easy gainer into a wheezing, stumbling effort by Huntley, and he fumbled the ball away a couple seconds later. C-.
DL: The overall play of the line was as usual; no pocket push; too many gaping holes; and a mediocre job of keeping the ILBs freed up. Steed was hurt early, and replaced by Faat Staat, which only exacerbated our problems. Henry was quiet all game. Hot Tub Harrison, of course, was inactivated. Roye had a strong game, mustering 6 solos, and showing great speed and desire to chase down plays away from his assigned spot. 1 of his 2 sacks really impressed me, in which he was hit by 3 different lineman, and basically double-teamed at 1 point, but he kept chugging and fighting for the sack. C.
LB: Another typical day from our LB crew --- the ILBs fought hard and strong, and the OLBs stood around like fashion models at a photo shoot. Holmes led all defenders with 8 solos and 2 assists, while Kirk added 6 solos. A few of the good gainers can be partially blamed on these men, but all in all, they played far above the norm. The OLBs, meanwhile, got pushed, shoved, and abused like the new man in a gay prison. Gildon's play --- 1 solo and 1 assist --- goes far beyond the stat sheet. He flat out sucked the big red salami. Following last week's stench in Tennessee, it seemed improbable that ANY veteran starting OLB could repeat the same stench and soft play 2 weeks in a row. As long as the odds may seem, Gildon did just that. When the Bungals wanted to run wide, they sealed Jason in as easy as sealing a ziplock bag. When they wanted to run up tackle, TE McGee CONSISTENTLY shield-blocked Gildon, with Jason simply standing there, gently titty-fighting McGee and offering no resistance at all. Basnight's 35-yard run was this exact play, in which Gildon never once tried to help seal the gaping hole up RT, and Basnight easily bolted thru for the big gainer. Pass pressure from Jason?? Zippo. Oh, sure, perhaps he did have 1 pass pressure, in which after several seconds, he came under the RT to the inside, only to have Blake easily juke away and run for 5 yards. On one 3d & 9, Jason had an easy shot of Blake near the LOS, but despite having 2 hands around Blake's ankles, Jason weakly allowed Blake to scamper away for a 12 yard gain. Let's not forget the 3rd play from scrimmage, on a 3d & 2. Blake faked the PAP, and mini-rolled right, where he had LOADS of time and room to set up his feet and throw a rainbow bomb some 55 yards downfield to Scott for the 76-yard TD. Gildon jumped on the play action fake like a beggar diving on a fifty-dollar bill on the sidewalk of Forbes Avenue, which is WHY Blake then had the room and time to set up camp and throw deep. The other Pitter Pat Brother, Carlos "The Acceptor" Emmons (he accepts blocks more than any LB in the NFL) fared a lil' better. Emmons actually contributed a few tackles, and also plucked a nice INT while playing zone. But the Bengals had an easy time running up tackle on his side, too. Emmon's pass pressure was non-existent. ILBs, B. OLBs, D.
DB: Another patchy effort from this crew. DeWayne was abused by Scott on the early TD, but came back and was fairly solid. He should have been called for PI in the EZ on the one deep floater to Pickens; DeWayne clearly hit/hooked Carl's arm as he jumped up to bat the ball. Townsend wasn't abused as much as I felt he would, though he did get juked out of his jock on 1 super-short hitch to Scott, resulting in a 17-yard gain. Flowers played ok, though on 1 long Dillon run, Flowers had him dead to rights as he blitzed into the backfield, but Flowers flailed badly on a diving whiff. Very poor. Travis Davis, aka "The Anchor" (not because he anchors the defense, but rather, because he offers as much help to the CBs as an anchor to a drowning man), once again offered no help to DeWayne on the early Scott TD bomb. Cowhead immediately sent him to the pine, since this was, oh, about the 12th time this has happened this season. Shields replaced Davis and played more than adequately, causing even the slowest of observers to wonder, "Why has Shields NOT replaced Davis about 7 weeks ago??" Oldham got abused on a deepish flag to Scott, setting up the 2d Cinci TD. C+.
Spec Teams: A real shoddy day from this sorry crew. Lance Brown was flagged for a 15-yard mask on 1 kickoff. On bone-dry turf, Hawkins slipped as he went to field a short punt, thus giving away some yardage. Breuner was flagged for holding on a successful FG, thus pulling 3 points off the board and forcing us to punt. Near game's end, when we needed a big play (down by 7, 4:15 left), Troy fair-caught a punt at his own 13 with no one within 12 yards. Kris' KOs were far too short. The lone bright spots were Kris' FGs, Josh's punting, and Ward making a TD-saving ankle-grab of Mack on one KO return. Amos was finally "allowed" to return KOs, though the Bengals thought so highly of AZ that after their 1st KO, they kicked all remaining KOs away from him. D.
Off Coord: Kevin Gaypride gave us the usual 15-Cent, Grab Bag offense that we've all come to expect and hate. Yeah, we threw deep 3-4 times, and we tried 1 misdirection play with Amos lined up at TB, but this was mostly whipped cream on a shit gameplan. Cinci's pass defense is HORRIBLE. They should have been ripe for the pickin', but Gaypride was not able to regularly exploit this band of idiots downfield. The epitome of Gayrpide's offense was the 3d quarter drive that began on our own 38 with 9:38 left in the qtr. Bus ran for 11; we hit Ward for 7 and then for 13. On 1st down from the Cini 30, Bus ran for 9. 2d and 1 --- a OC's dream, especially when you're down and you need a big play. Nope --- a wide Bettis run was engulfed for a 3-yard loss. Gandy's false start set up 3d & 9, and Gaypride called his favorite play -- the RB SCREEN -- which Prozac was under heavy pressure from Spikes and had to throw-away. In the 4th quarter, on a 3d & 17, Gilbride sent Stewart in as a WR (since Hawk and Blackie were banged up, this was somewhat out of brute necessity), but in keeping with Gaypride's slothfulness ALL season, the playclock was nearly down to 0 and we had to burn a TO. foolishly enough, Stewart was never used at WR thereafter (on the games' final drive). C-.
Def Coord: Every time I hear the babble of "Jim Haslet is considered a hot head-coaching prospect around the NFL," I literally want to vomit. For the THIRD straight week, Asslet's defense allowed the opponet to take the opening KO and march for an easy TD. And you see a scheme that ask s for 285-pound Kirkland to cover Carl Pickens on a deep flag, which resulted in an easy 34-yard gain. Even the dimwitted Coslett must have laughed his ass off when his coaches designed that play. Late in the 3d qtr, we had Cinci pinned on its own 6, but softly allowed them to march into our territory before punting. The quality defenses make the stops to force a punt from the shadows of the goalpost. Had Pelfrey made an easy 31-yard FG, Cinci's "O" would have scored 23 points, which is unacceptable. D.
Head Coach: Field Goal Bill pulled a few changes out of his hat --- like using AZ on KO returns, and quickly pulling Brown, Stewart, and Davis. The Amos move was a no-brainer that was 6 weeks too late; ditto for the Davis benching. Stewart certainly should have been benched, and Prozac has already been declared the starter for Thursday's game at Jax, but I cannot see any purpose in tying up valuable developmental QB PT time for deadbeat QB Mike Prozac. The season is over, and we need to groom youngsters as well as determine who might/might not have what it takes to remain in the NFL. Here's a typical Cowher post-game quote: "The play on their first third down, that was a play we had covered in practice, but we were late getting over there for the first touchdown. There's no reason for that, and it's not going to be tolerated." Oh, sure. After 11 games, and 12 weeks, Travis Davis & his "late getting over there" -- which has happened to him ALL SEASON (like the Moulds' TD at Buff.) -- is now "not tolerated". It shouldn't have been tolerated the minute the month of September ended. It's this kind of coaching and low standards that separates the .500 teams from the playoff contenders. It's this kind of coaching that allows you to lose to BOTH Cleve. and Cinci in the same year. F.
I noted before here that perhaps the best thing that can happen to this team is another all-out collapse, so that Rooney, Donahoe, and Cowhead cannot gloss over the ugly warts that permeate this team. This loss --- along with at least 3 more that most assuredly will come --- assures us of that. A cheapo win today could have allowed the pipe-dreaming FO (Front Office) and staff to foolishly conclude that we'd bounced back and that we're "back in the hunt". Like an over-the-hill boxer who blindly thinks he can still go out and challenge for the title, only pathetic losses to pitiful teams like this Cinci team can show management and staff how much work needs to be done and how many changes need to occur. Our "O" struggled last year, yet we're running an IDENTICAL offense this year. Our WR corps struggled last year, and we lost our #1 WR to free agency, so we turned his job over to a sparsely-used 2d year unpolished WR, and REFUSED to sign a capable veteran WR. Our QB struggled in '98, yet we REFUSED to hire a QB coach to work with the most important player on the field, and we refused to bring in a real, capable, backup QB. The NFL Films presentation of the '99 Steelers should be entitled, "The '99 Steelers -- A Lost Season of Stubborn Stupidity".
The Still Mill