Commentary by PalmerSucks
September 14, 2012
Well, Stiller fans, don�t say I didn�t try to warn you about that defense. As a certain Stillers head coach would say, �it is what it is.� In this case, �it� is a unit that no longer has the top-name players that once allowed it to take chances � and usually get away with them. After a promising start, which included of all things a takeaway, the Stillers� pass defense proceeded to get picked apart on a series of long drives.
What can I say? In my pre-season report I mentioned two areas that HAD to be fixed, or else. One was scoring offense, the other, pass defense.
The Stillers finished the game with a ton of possession, but just 19 points to show for it. 19 points won�t even beat Tim Tebow, let alone Peyton Manning.
I�m sure a lot of fans will blame Ben�s pick-six for the loss, but to me, the game turned on this sequence: the Stillers ran a 9-minute drive for a field goal, while Denver possessed the ball for just 36 seconds and scored a TD. There you have it � a failure in the scoring-offense department, followed by another pass-defense collapse. The classic 2011 formula for a one-and-done season � returned to haunt the Stillers in the 2012 campaign.
So is it time to panic? Well, reading some of the fan-site message boards, a lot of Stillers fans seem to think so.
I don�t know about you, but I leaned towards the Stillers dropping the opener. The defense you saw, featuring Chris Carter in Harrison�s spot, simply wasn�t up to the task of carrying the load in the absence of points scored by the offense. Nor will they be for most games, which goes back to the original point I was making.
However, that doesn�t mean the defense can�t still be effective � provided they can continue to do a nice job of keeping the opponent from scoring, as they did last year. Then, as I�ve said again and again, the 2012 season will hinge on the offense scoring more than 20 points a game.
That�s why the Stillers need to recognize the true nature of their team, and its strength. All off-season we�ve heard talk of the team and its supposed need to �get back to Stillers football� � code for �run the ball more.� That idea worked great in 1972, but unfortunately isn�t suited for winning hardware today. Frankly, these people harping on the need to run the ball � led by the team�s owner � need to STFU and take a reality pill.
Three-quarters of all offense generated last week came by way of passing � it seems embarrassingly obvious to say, but that�s because the NFL has become a passing league. Certain elements in the Stillers organization want to think otherwise, almost as if they�re right and the rest of the league � including the teams that have won the last few Super Bowls � are the ones who�ve gotten it wrong.
The Stillers set out early Sunday Night trying to establish the run. Nothing happened. Then they turned to their up-tempo passing game, and for the rest of the game nearly outdueled the Broncos in a no-huddle passing contest.
The Stillers� best players on offense are the QB Roethlisberger, receivers Brown and Wallace, and TE Miller. That means they�re set up to win with the pass � and the sooner they realize that it�s all about the run-around-and-extend Roethlisberger passing game, the sooner they�ll have a shot at a winning season, and a shot at a playoff run. Running the ball to support the passing game is fine � running the ball just for the sake of running the ball, isn�t.
In fact, the Stillers� organization should realize the strength of the offense not just for the sake of the offense, but the defense, too. A low-scoring, eat-the-clock O is one thing when you�ve got a dominant defense, but the �12 Stillers unit ain�t no Steel Curtain. As I said earlier, the top-name players largely aren�t there anymore, and the ones who are, are old.
The front three once clogged the lanes and allowed the linebackers to make their splash plays � but gone is Aaron Smith, and Chris Hoke now rushes to the broadcast booth to yuk it up with Edmund. Hampton, for his part, can no longer handle 30 plays a game.
The secondary is unproven, and Cortez Allen, who looked so promising in camp, looked lost out there Sunday Night. The OLBs failed to pressure Manning, and as for the inside guys � let�s just say things are bad when Larry Foote has the best game of anyone.
The Stillers must turn to their passing game, to score more points, and make up for the fade on defense. It�s that simple. I�ve often wondered in the past why more teams didn�t scrap the run,and try passing more on the Stillers � after watching Sunday, expect them to.
So then, back to the panic thing � the Stillers now face the Jets. You remember the Jets, a team the mainstream sports media were panicking over themselves, due to a total lack of scoring capability in pre-season. Now, after one week, the Jets are unstoppable, and their fans aren�t asking if their team will win, but by how many points?
OK, OK � it�s pressure time, yes, and the Stillers do need to avoid the dreaded 0-2 start. But is it really time to panic, as so many fans seem to be doing already?
A couple things to keep in mind about the suddenly-mighty Jets:
--Mark Sanchez isn�t Manning � either Manning. What you saw from the Denver QB is a guy who can elevate everyone�s game around him. What you�ve never seen is the same thing out of Mark Sanchez.
--Lost in all the Jets hype is the fact that Buffalo absolutely gashed them on the ground. The Bills racked up 195 rushing yards at a 7.5 per-carry rate. Even worse, CJ Spiller notched 195 yards at an Alabama-vs.-Appalachian-State-like 12.1 yards-per rate. If there�s ever a week to temporarily go run-first, this would be it.
You know I�ve bragged up Jon Dwyer in the past. Sunday he�ll get a chance to show what he can do. I�ve said before, Dwyer has first-round skills with a sixth-round attitude. He seems to be turning his head around though. There�s no reason he can�t plow through the Jets defense the same way Spiller did.
Not only that, but preseason sensation Chris Rainey failed to produce even one big play last week. That could change against this suspect Jets defense. The Stillers lost to Denver because they hit a lot of singles, and no home runs. That won�t hold against the Jets.
As of Friday, it appears that All-World Jets CB Revis won�t be playing. Paging Mister Wallace, Mister Mike Wallace � please report to the 9-route room. It�s time for the offense to break out big. And who knows, maybe Dick will devise a real defense to stop Tebow this time, should he make an appearance.
I�ve been following a Jets� free-agent gem named Austin Howard. Last week he handled the Bills� big-money defensive end, Mario Williams, with ease � opening up huge passing windows and making Sanchez look way better than he is. That has to stop this week � paging you, Mister Woodley.
Sanchez doesn�t handle pressure well. Last week, he had little of it put on him. It�s time to get this QB controversy started that�s been so hyped up in New York.
If the Stillers can fix their two big weaknesses, they�ll have a say in who goes to the Super Bowl this year. If not, my pre-season pick of Houston vs. San Francisco stands. But the Stillers are likely going nowhere with an 0-2 start.
Time to panic? Nah � not at least until after Sunday Night.