Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Kind of Like A Team: Steelers Lose


Football weather. Pittsburgh football weather.

With the Miami Dolphins in town. Ryan Tannehill had never even seen snow before.

In any other year, the Steelers would have come out and established themselves as the physically dominant team, making the warm-weather Dolphins pick themselves up out of the snow as much as possible. Even in the utter garbage of the 6-10 season in 2003, the Steelers pounded the Raiders and Chargers (both admittedly bad teams) into submission in December games at Heinz Field with 130+ rushing yards in each game. In the 6-10 year of 1999 the Steelers only win in the second half of the season came against a Carolina team that finished 8-8. The offense ground out over 200 yards on the ground with The Bus going for 137 and Richard Hundley going for 72.

So how did the Steelers attack the Dolphins? After running the ball 15 times for 55 yards (3.7 yards per carry) in the first half with Bell (10 carries, 40 yards), Dwyer (3 carries, 8 yards) and Jones (2 carries, 7 yards) getting touches, the Steelers only ran 5 times for 21 yards in the second half. Even though Le'Veon Bell's numbers actually improved in the second half (4.2 ypc after going for 4.0 ypc in the first half) he only got the ball 5 times. For the day, the Steelers finished with 84 yards on 21 carries in the snow against the 23rd ranked run defense in the league that was giving up 122 yards per game on the ground.

Okay, let's get this over with.

Game Recap

With Cody Wallace at center, it wasn't a surprise that the Steelers ran a lot of shotgun. Ben got sacked on the second play, which pretty much ended the first drive. The line got better after that.

Cam Heyward came out on a mission. Plain and simple. It was like watching the Hulk out there.

With the snow swirling, the Steelers went to the ground and had their most successful drive of the game. 12 plays, 74 yards, 7+ minutes off the clock. This was Pittsburgh Steelers football.

The Prescription got things rolling with 4 straight runs then Dwyer converted a 3rd and 1. Heath made a big grab over the middle off a play-action pass and lowered the boom on a safety to move us into Dolphins territory. Then it was back to the ground and The Prescription converted a 3rd down on a swing pass. Seriously this drive was all Le'Veon Bell. He got us into a 3rd and 4 from the 5 yard line where Ben found Sanders right at the goal line and he spun into the end zone.


On this drive: 8 carries, 32 yards, 1 reception, 9 yards.

Somehow, Bell would only get 7 more carries the rest of the game. 

Tannehill takes a shot deep for Wallace but Cortez Allen makes a fantastic play to out-jump Wallace and knock the ball away. Tannehill decided to take the game over with his feet. He scrambled for a first down on 3rd and 8 then ran a read-option that was almost a mirror image of the Terrelle Pryor play and he went untouched for 50 yards down the sideline before finally being knocked out.

Seriously, how do you let that happen?

For some reason, the Dolphins decided to throw and their drive stalled out and ended with a field goal.


Second Quarter

The Steelers don't do anything. Miami's punt returner slips and falls on his back as he catches the ball, which was somewhat of an omen for their drive which didn't go anywhere.

Things were looking good and the Steelers were grinding with Felix Jones getting a few carries to get us into 3rd and short. It fell apart when Ben got the ball knocked out of his hand and the Dolphins recovered.

Wallace makes his only two catches of the game on sideline-outs that get the Dolphins inside the 10. Two plays later, Tannehill finds a wide open Charles Clay for a touchdown.


The Steelers last two drives of the half encapsulated everything that is wrong with this team this season. On 3rd and 3, they took a shot deep down the field that Brown couldn't quite get. On the next drive, they threw a 4-yard pass on 3rd and 7 and had to punt, which was blocked and the Fins took over at the Steelers 42. The defense held, but once again terrible coaching bit the team in the ass. The Dolphins lined up for a 52-yard field goal (no easy task in general, and most likely impossible out of the snow) with 21 seconds left. The Steelers had 3 timeouts. Rather than letting the kick miss and taking over at the 42 with 18 seconds and 3 timeouts to try to get into field goal range, they sent Troy back into the end zone to try to return the kick. The kick came up well short and rather than letting it fall and giving the ball back to Ben, Troy tried to bring it out then threw a few backwards laterals (more of this later) and the ball eventually wound up with Ike Taylor who tried to outrun the Dolphins defense but was eventually run out of bounds as the clock ran out (more of this later, too).


Terrible last 8 minutes of the half. Really have to question the coaching choices to call for a deep pass on 3rd and 3 then throwing a 4-yard pass on 3rd and 7. Trying to return the kick was a terrible decision as well. 18 seconds is plenty of time to run 3 plays to get into field goal range, especially with 3 timeouts.

Third Quarter

The Dolphins went to the air and hit a few passes, including a 3rd down conversion to a wide open Charles Clay, who the Steelers still hadn't figured out how to cover. The Fins worked it down into the red zone and Clark gets flagged for a helmet-to-helmet hit on 3rd down to put them right on the doorstep. It was a strange play because Clark lowered his head and targeted Thomas' midsection then Thomas lowered his head and brought his head down into Clark's shoulder. Nevertheless, it's Roger Goddell's NFL, so that's that. Daniel Thomas pounds it in untouched.


The Steelers came out on a mission and took a shot deep for Markus Wheaton then kept their foot on the gas with a third down pass to Heath down the sideline. On the next play, Ben gets the ball out quick to Brown on a crossing route who just tears past the Dolphins defense across the field, gets around the corner and takes it all the way to the house.

All Antonio Brown Does Is Make Big Plays


Just like that, we were back in the game.

Two plays later, Troy takes over and steps in front of a pass then takes it to the sideline and flies into the end zone


That was a vintage Steelers comeback right there. Score a touchdown. Turnover on defense. Score again.

Unfortunately, this isn't a vintage Steelers team.

The Dolphins came right back at the defense and somehow found Charles Clay, who played like Cassius Clay, one-on-one with Cortez Allen down the sideline. Allen has great position and takes a swipe at the ball and flat out misses it, letting Clay make the 40-yard catch on the sideline.
Clay makes another catch to get them inside the 5 then Tannehill throws one to Hartline one the sideline where he toes the line a la Santonio in Super Bowl XLIII and hauls in the touchdown.

Credit where credit is due, that was a great catch.


Things seem to get set back on a phantom holding penalty on DeCastro where he threw a guy to the ground, but AB picks it up on 3rd down then Sanders takes a WR screen for a solid gain down the sideline to get the ball into Dolphins territory. The Prescription gets two carries to get us into the red zone as the quarter ends.

Fourth Quarter

On the first play of the quarter, Ben throws a bullet to Cotch down the seam and he hangs on right at the goal line for the score to put us back on top.


The defense holds the Fins to a 3rd and long and seem to get out of it when Tannehill checks down to Clay, but Troy can't wrap him up and Clay picks up the first down. The Steelers waste a time out on defense which gives the stadium an opportunity to play Renegade, which works as Jason Worlids comes up with a sack to give us the ball back.

The Steelers picked up a 3rd down with a pass to Sanders but don't do much else as Sanders can't come up with a second third down catch, because that would be too much to ask for. Three incompletions meant the Steelers only took 2:20 off the clock despite running 6 plays. The good news is that the Steelers were essentially able to flip the field on Miami, holding them to a 3-and-out and getting the ball back at the 37.

Cotchery makes a big catch over the middle to get us across the 50 and things start to look good. However, two penalties on linemen put us back in 2nd and 19 and a WR screen to AB goes nowhere. Stuck with the ball at midfield, the Steelers have to punt and miss an opportunity to pin the Dolphins deep when McBriar's punt bounces into the end zone

On the second play, Daniel Thomas gets a carry around the left end and gets a wide open hole and rumbles down the sideline. Clark takes a terrible angle and Thomas turns back inside and runs across the field before William Gay finally brings him down 55 yards later. Yikes.

Daniel Thomas, playing possessed

Two plays later, the other shoe dropped. Tannehill swung a pass out to Clay in the flat, who was bottled up by Cortez and Troy. Somehow, he was able to spin out of both tackles, and away from Allen again and get into the end zone.

How does that even happen?


The last time a Clay was this dominant, Humphrey Marshall got shot in the stomach.

The Steelers got a pretty good kick return, but a holding penalty put them back at the 10. With 3 minutes to play and 90 yards to go, the stage was set for a vintage Ben performance. Someone forgot to tell the receivers to catch the balls as Bell dropped a pass on first down and Sanders dropped one that hit him right in the numbers on third down. The Steelers then had to waste a timeout to decide what to do with 2:33 left.

They decided to go for it.

Seriously, on 4th and 10 from the 10 with 2:33 left and 2 timeouts.

Ben rolled out and tried to run and only got 8 yards

Okay, even if the Fins get the ball on your side of midfield. Either way if they get a first down it's over. You punt. Use your timeouts on first and second down. Third down they either have to pass for the win or run. If they don't make it, the clock stops at 2:00 and they have to punt, which has a pretty good chance of going into the end zone with the wind at their back. Then you have essentially 1:55 and only need a field goal to tie.

But no, like they have done much of the year, the Steelers gambled the entire game on one play's success, and it didn't work. The Dolphins took over and Tomlin didn't use a timeout after first down, letting more time waste off the clock. He used the last one after second down, and the Fins ran on third down to run 40 seconds off the clock before kicking a field goal.


We lost another 10 seconds there by not taking a time out after first down.

The Steelers got the ball with just over a minute to play and no timeouts. Ben gets sacked and Sanders gets tackled in bounds on 3rd down, letting the clock wind down. The Steelers barely get the 4th down snap off with 1 second left. Ben completes a pass to Sanders on the right side who throws it back to Bell then to Gilbert then to Ben then back to Brown who makes a move up the sideline and takes off. Brown has a clear path down the sideline and blows past the Dolphins defense, catching them flat-footed. But, since this is the 2013 Steelers, even this doesn't work as Brown steps out of bounds twice at the 13 yard line, ending the game.

Final Thoughts

  • You're not going to win giving up 105 yards to Daniel Thomas and 181 yards on the ground. Period.
  • Thomas was averaging 3.6 yards per carry before this game. Went for 6.3 today.
  • Miami hadn't scored more than 27 all season and dropped 34 in the snow on the Steelers defense.
  • Terrible clock management once again, this shouldn't be a surprise now.

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