View Full Version : So good it's bad

10-25-2009, 01:02 AM
On the Steelers: So good it's bad
No matter how (or how many times) you look at it, technology cost Hines Ward a touchdown last Sunday
Sunday, October 25, 2009
By Ed Bouchette, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Given enough slow-mo, high-def replay, NFL officials could turn the simplest play into a Zapruder-like film examination.

Maybe that's better than having the kind of blown calls that have dominated playoff baseball this year, but the nitpicking on football plays that should be obvious keeps mounting.

The Hines Ward touchdown that was overturned near the end of the first half against Cleveland last Sunday is an example. Ward caught the ball in the end zone, landed with it in the end zone, rolled over once with it in possession in the end zone and then rolled over again out of bounds and the ball came free.

Even a trainer would have tossed his collie a treat for that trick and officials promptly and correctly ruled a touchdown catch.

But then, the replay official buzzed down to Walt Anderson, the referee, to take another look at it. Upon further and further and further review, Anderson overturned the call and said Ward did not maintain possession.

Here are passages from the NFL rule book on what constitutes possession:

"A forward pass is complete when a receiver clearly possesses the pass and touches the ground with both feet inbounds while in possession of the ball."

"A player who goes to the ground in the process of attempting to secure possession of a loose ball (with or without contact by a defender) must maintain control of the ball after he touches the ground, whether in the field of play or the end zone.

"If he loses control of the ball, and the ball touches the ground before he regains control, there is no possession. If he regains control prior to the ball touching the ground, it is a catch, interception or recovery."

How Walter Anderson got an incomplete pass out of that on Ward's play remains a puzzle.
Mendenhall goes back to Football 101

Rashard Mendenhall has been taking lessons on how to hold the football.

You've seen how he holds the ball; it looks as if he's dangling a cut of sirloin as he runs through a pack of Dobermans. That thing won't last long in his hands if he continues to hold it that way, so his coaches have been working with him to secure the ball better.

They'd also like him to run a little lower to the ground so he is not quite as big a target. That might take a little longer, because old running habits are hard to break and Mendenhall has been running that way all of his life.

He has a high running style, giving defenders more to aim for and not giving him the leverage he could have if he ran lower to the ground. It's not the kind of thing that will happen overnight, and he has done OK the way he is running now over the past three games when he has rushed for 304 yards and four goal-line touchdowns.

His running style will evolve over time, but in the meantime, he will need to tuck the ball under his arm quickly before it starts popping out the way it did his rookie season.
The 'gang' isn't all here this year

In the way-too-much research department, statistics show that the Steelers are not gang-tackling anywhere near like they did last season.

The coaching staff keeps track of tackles, registering them when they watch tape of the game on Mondays. Tackles are not recognized as an official statistic by the NFL because individual teams keep the tally and the objectivity and definition of "tackle" varies widely from team to team.

Mike Tomlin's coaching staff, however, has not changed since he arrived. Every coach on his staff in 2007 remains and none has been added. So the same position coaches account for the tackles, yet there is a wide discrepancy in assists and solo tackles.

The Steelers finished last season with 1,104 total tackles, of which 771 were solo or 70 percent. Through six games this season, they have 319 total tackles, of which 270 were solo or 85 percent.

Also, of the top four tacklers on the team, three are defensive backs. James Farrior leads with 44 tackles, 32 of which are solo. The next three are free safety Ryan Clark with 37, all solo, and cornerbacks William Gay with 35, all solo, and Ike Taylor with 25, all solo.

Linebacker James Harrison remains on his NFL defensive player of the year pace in big plays with six sacks, four forced fumbles (he finished with seven in '08) and two pass deflections (one last season). Yet his tackles are down. He had 100 last season, 25 after six games this season, on pace for 67. That merely could mean offenses are not running/passing his way as often.
With any luck, no Pro Bowlers

Privately, the Steelers hope to have no one play in the Pro Bowl this season and it has nothing to do with having to pay bonuses to individuals.

The Pro Bowl for the first time will be played at the Super Bowl site, Miami, on Jan. 31, the Sunday before the Super Bowl in Miami. Obviously, no player on the two Super Bowl teams' rosters will participate in the Pro Bowl.

It's likely many of the players chosen to play who lose in the AFC and NFC championship games the previous Sunday will opt out as well.

That means few, if any, of the league's stars from the four championship game teams will play. Is this any way to promote an all-star game? What you will have, then, is the largest list of "Pro Bowlers" ever because those who are voted in and do not play will count and those who replace them will count.

The Pro Bowl traditionally was played in Honolulu the week after the Super Bowl, but the league moved it to the Super Bowl site this season because it could not come to an agreement with Hawaii to hold the game there in 2010. The NFL also was searching for ways to make the Pro Bowl more appealing to fans who have stayed away from it in droves on television.

Putting it at the Super Bowl site the week wedged between the championship games and the Super Bowl, however, was the worst possible alternative.

The league did reach agreement with Hawaii to return the Pro Bowl to Honolulu in 2011 and '12, where it will again become a nice little perk for participants and their families, and irrelevant to football fans.

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