Wednesday, September 24, 2008

WHISTLING PAST THE GRAVEYARD ???



I'm sure that you've heard of the saying "Whistling past the graveyard". When you say this about a person, it basically means that they are trying to ignore some existing problem, fault, or situation as they nervously walk past the graveyard where they know they belong, a hyperbole for going down in flames if you will.

While driving this evening I had a chance to listen to a report, "straight out of the Steeler locker room with Tim Benz". During his report, Benz went on to explain that an offensive linemen, after looking at the game films, said that, "We (the offensive linemen) graded out better than we expected". Another said, "After looking at the films a second time, we didn't look quite as bad."

Now I don't know about you, but I thought that Sunday's game was one of the worst offensive performances I've seen in a long time. So you subject your $100 million dollar quarterback to nine sacks, eight knockdowns and God only knows how many other near-death experiences and all you can say is "We graded out better than we expected"?

It was very obvious while watching the game the players had lost their composure and were totally at the mercy of the Eagles. However, before we throw these guys completely under a steamroller (I just didn't want to use the word bus), it must be said that the entire unit looked like it had never seen a blitz before. Where were the adjustments, coaches? What about the play calling to combat the all-out blitzes? How about a screen pass, a draw play, a wide receiver screen, a pitchout? Aside from a screen pass (which was not performed well at all), none of these other plays were tried, and they are all effective against blitzes.Don't blitzes come with a danger to the defense anymore as in, "The quarterback beat the blitz."?

How about this one: How many times did you see the Steelers break their huddle very late and then wait to snap the ball with two, one or even zero seconds on the play clock? Who do you think benefits from this? Certainly not the offensive linemen because the element of surprise is completely gone by that time. The defenders can time their rush to coincide with the ball snap and gain a running start on the stationary offensive linemen. Having a running start going against you can never be a good thing.

And what about a quick-hitting slant pass over the middle? Break one of those for a big gain and those safeties will be thinking twice about coming on an all-out blitz every play.

For all of the reasons that I just cited, I have to place the blame for this loss squarely on the shoulders of Mike Tomlin and more particularly, Offensive Coordinator, Bruce Ariens. These guys have to be more flexible in their play calling and need to get out of that football coach mentality where, for example, you stubbornly refuse to stop running the ball off tackle on every play because, "That's what our football team does." Sometimes, the coach who is willing to say, during the heat of the battle, "Well that didn't work, we'd better switch to Plan B", has a much better chance of stealing a victory than the person(s) who are completely inflexible.

This offensive line isn't great, but they're not as bad as the Eagles made them look either. Unfortunately for Ben Rothleisberger, the miracle that is video will insure that he'll continue to get a steady diet of blitz packages each and every week until the Steelers prove they can stop them. But until the coaching staff starts using their imagination, these players will continue to be made to look bad and their quarterback will begin to accumulate the adequate number of hits to insure a major injury. This situation has to be addressed immediately or this team could see their season suddenly spiral out of control. For the first time in a long time, the Steelers coaches just looked like they didn't have a clue in this one.