Monday, November 24, 2014

For Whom Le'Veon Bell Tolls: Steelers Win


For the second time this season, the Steelers took the field on a Monday night after losing a pitiful game the prior week. In both occasions, the stars seemingly aligned so that a win would propel them back up the divisional standings.

After writing a post on opening drives this week, I was particularly interested in how this game started, especially since the Titans had one of the worst opening drive offenses and the Steelers had one of the worst opening drive defenses.

The Titans ignored that fact and let the Steelers have the ball first.

It was the Le'Veon Bell show right out of the gate and for good reason - Bell ripped off runs of 12 and 19 yards to move the Steelers into Tennessee territory. Bell got 5 straight carries on the opening drive to get us into a 3rd and 6 when they gave him the ball again, which seemed like a give-up play to settle for a long field goal. Suisham was good from 49 into the wind.


Only the third time this year the Steelers scored on their opening drive. As was to be expected, Gruden was saying Gruden things.

On the first pass of the game, Zach Mettenberger threw one behind a receiver on an out-route and William Gay jumps the route and takes it back TO THE HOUSE.

Just like that, it's 10-0.

Unfortunately, the defense couldn't keep it going. They gifted the Titans some yards on a facemask then failed to get home on a blitz and Mettenberger hit Wright on a deep cross inside the 10. On the next play, Bishop Sankey (whose name sounds like a chess opening) ran through 6 arm tackles and got carried into the end zone by one of his linemen.


The Steelers came out passing and Ben hit Heath down the seam on a beautiful play-action to get us out of trouble. The offense continued to work it down the field before Ben hit Heath again down the middle to move us into Titans territory. Ben had to file a missed connections ad on CraigsList after floating a ball to a wide open Martavis Bryant in the end zone that the DB was able to recover and knock the ball away. Ben made up for it with a rope on the sideline to AB to get us inside the 10. Unfortunately, the offense out-thinks itself when Ben tries two fade passes that both fall incomplete and we have to settle for 3.


Second Quarter

For some reason the Steelers thought that squib kicking was a good idea on kickoffs to start the game, so the Titans got great field position. Mettenberger and Wright hooked up again and Mike Mitchell made a horrible attempt at a tackle, allowing Wright to get down inside the 10. The Titans get down to the 2, but thankfully Sankey trips over a blade of grass and the Titans have to settle for 3.

Live by the Bishop Sankey, die by the Bishop Sankey


The teams trade 3-and-outs before the Steelers finally get rolling when Ben decides throwing to Antonio Brown is a good idea. AB makes big catch after big catch, getting 11, 9 and then 17 to pick up a 3rd and 11 and get us out near midfield. The Prescription got a handful of carries to get us into Titans territory and take it down to the 2 minute warning. After a sack, AB bailed us out again with a conversion on 3rd and 8. Ben kept the foot on the gas and hit Heath on the numbers to get us to the red zone. After a timeout, Bryant dropped a pass that hit him right in the numbers on a post route to the goal line. It may have been tipped by the defensive back but Bryant has to make that play. Tomlin's bizarre clock management came into play when he took a timeout after a 2nd down run, leaving 52 seconds on the clock then called a pass to the end zone. Ben made his worst throw of the season, well behind AB and it got picked off.


Things went from bad to worse when Mettenberger bombed one and hit a wide open Nate Washington for an 80-yard touchdown.

What. Even.


Looked like the Steelers were in Cover-4/Quarters and Washington ran right past William Gay. Gay and Will Allen were about even there so Gay had no help over the top.


Third Quarter

Things looked bad as the Titans got the ball first, but thankfully they didn't know what to do with a lead and went 3-and-out.

The Prescription and AB continued to carry the team on their backs and got us to midfield before back-to-back sacks sent the ball back to Tennessee.

Coming into the game, Titans TE Chase Coffman had 2 catches on the season and 6 in his 5-year NFL career. But in one drive, he transformed into the second coming of Tony Gonzalez and tortured the Steelers for 3 catches and 32 yards, capping it off with a 4-yard TD reception over a diminutive corner and an out of position Mike Mitchell. Somewhere in there, Mitchell missed another tackle because he is as good at tackling as he is at twitter.


With just over 18 minutes remaining in the game, Steelers Nation was in a bad place. Everyone was looking at the schedule and wondering how this team beat the Colts and Ravens while dropping games to the Bucs, Jets and trailed the Titans by 11. The Steelers hadn't come back from a double-digit deficit in the second half since the 2002 Wild Card game against the Browns. You know which one I mean.

Quite frankly, it was a sickening situation. And the only prescription was Le'Veon Bell.

Bell absolutely took the game over on this drive, putting the team on his back and carrying them all the way down to the red zone, including a 27-yard run where he looked bottled up then deftly slid sideways into a hole and was gone down the sideline. On the last play of the quarter, Ben takes advantage of the LBs sneaking up to stop Bell and hits Heath down the seam to get us inside the 5.

Fourth Quarter

Right out of the break, Bell once again delivered, driving up the middle then stretching the ball out for the goalline.



The Titans went 3-and-out and we got it right back with 13 minutes to play. After absolutely dominating the Titans on the ground the last drive, Ben came out and ripped them through the air, getting us into Tennessee territory with a pass to Lance Moore then coming back with two check-downs to Bell to get another first down. Bell did some more work, allowing Ben to set up a beautiful play-action pass that he ripped to AB on a flag route.

What an absolutely monster throw. AB was bracketed by two Titans defenders when Ben threw the ball and in one step was wide open and able to make the grab. What a throw, what a cut by AB and what a catch.

Did that catch look kind of familiar?


A typical Steelers game would have followed the script where the defense, after a big score, allowed the other team to march right back down the field and tie the game or take the lead. Thankfully, this was not a typical game. The Titans were able to get the ball to midfield but opted to punt with 7 minutes to go rather than going for it on 4th and 4.

The Steelers got the ball back with 6:58 to play and did not relinquish it.

Things looked precarious when the Steelers got into 3rd and 4 right off the bat after Tennessee wasted a timeout trying to challenge an incomplete pass and turn it into a fumble. Ben was able to connect with Markus Wheaton on a slant route to pick up the first down. Don't under-estimate that catch. Manny Sanders dropped that same one at least 3 times last year in big situations.

From there, it was all Le'Veon Bell.

10 yards. Boom.

10 yards. Boom.

8 yards. Pow.

This is basically how the Titans defense felt on the last drive.

3 yards then 8 more. Boom. Boom. Two minute warning.

From there, it was just semantics as Bell picked up 5 more for a first down and Tennessee used their last timeout.

Because Mike Tomlin does not understand simple clock management, they ran the ball again rather than just kneeling it out. Nothing happened and Tomlin finally realized they could kneel it out.

Victory Formation.


204 rushing yards for Le'Veon Bell, 4th most by a Steelers back in a single game and 4th most on Monday Night Football history.

As Tomlin said after the game, don't write our obituary just yet.

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