Coaches need to take some heat
Monday, September 22, 2008
By Ron Cook, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
PHILADELPHIA -- The worst part wasn't the 15-6 loss or the nine sacks by the Philadelphia Eagles or the fact the Steelers' offense could have played the game all night and still not threatened to score a touchdown.
The worst part yesterday was that the Steelers didn't have a clue what hit them at Lincoln Financial Field.
I'm talking about the players, sure. All of the offensive guys -- everybody from the quarterback to the running backs to the wide receivers and tight ends to the poor, beleaguered offensive linemen -- were truly awful.
But make sure you don't overlook the contributions to this sporting nightmare from Mike Tomlin and his Steelers coaches. They couldn't have had a more rotten game.
Where were the adjustments to Philadelphia's all-out blitzing defense? Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Johnson is good, but he shouldn't be that much smarter than Tomlin and his guys.
Where were the draw plays and screen passes and quick, three-step-drop passes that slow down a pass rush and beat a blitzing defense? Did Steelers offensive coordinator Bruce Arians call more than one or two all day?
"We didn't have any answers for what they were doing," wide receiver Hines Ward said.
The man wasn't being critical. He merely was telling the hard truth.
Meanwhile, the Baltimore Ravens -- make that the AFC North Division's first-place Baltimore Ravens -- are home licking their chops. They can't wait to take their shots at Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger Monday night at Heinz Field.
"Baltimore has their own stuff," Steelers guard Kendall Simmons said. "But I can promise you, they'll add some of this stuff, too."
Why not after the way Johnson exposed the Steelers' offense?
The Eagles didn't blitz nearly as much in their first two games -- they didn't get a sack in their 41-37 loss to the Dallas Cowboys last Monday night -- and clearly caught the Steelers off guard.
Again, shame on Tomlin and his coaches.
"Our guys were getting rattled out there," Ward said. "You end up doing a lot of thinking. You don't know if you're blocking the right guy or doing the right thing. That's when you end up losing your technique. It can turn into a long day in a hurry."
The longest, actually.
You think it hurt to watch Roethlisberger drop back to pass? Imagine how it pained him. He was sacked eight times, a number that easily could have been 12 or even 15 if not for an offside penalty on the Eagles, a couple of Roethlisberger scrambles for minimal yards and the fact he threw away a few passes just as the Eagles were knocking him into next week.
As bad as the day was for Roethlisberger -- he lost two fumbles, threw an interception and took a safety -- it could have been much worse. He left immediately for the locker room after taking that eighth sack late in the game when his right hand was stepped on. X-rays showed no broken bones.
Big Ben was lucky to be able to walk to the team bus.
What's surprising is that backup quarterback Byron Leftwich willingly went into the game. If he had told Tomlin, "No thanks, coach, not today," and begged off for safety reasons, no one would have blamed him.
Of course, Leftwich was sacked, too.
Tell the truth.
You want the Steelers to trade for new offensive linemen, don't you?
Those guys always are easy to blame and they certainly aren't exempt from criticism. Tomlin said there were times they were "beaten" on their blocks. There also was a false-start penalty on tackle Willie Colon and two on guard Chris Kemoeatu as well as holding penalties on Colon and Kemoeatu that were declined.
But it's flat wrong to just finger the big fellas.
Roethlisberger and his receivers didn't do a very good job reading the blitzes and making the Eagles pay for bringing so many so often. "There were plays to be made out there and we didn't make them. The skilled people, I'm talking about," running back Willie Parker said.
And I keep wanting to go back to Tomlin and the coaches. They did nothing to help the linemen and Roethlisberger. The running game wasn't very good -- Parker had just 20 yards on 13 carries after gaining more than 100 yards in each of the first two games -- but Arians didn't give it much chance.
"I was surprised," Eagles defensive end Trent Cole said. "They came out passing and I was just like, 'Wow! This is going to be fun.'"
For him and his Eagles buddies, maybe.
Not so much for Simmons and his bunch.
"It was 10-6 in the fourth quarter and the feeling on our sideline was like we were down 28-3," Simmons said. "That isn't right, man ...
"I'm going to bite my tongue. All I'm going to say is they were bringing more people than we could handle. We can block five or six. But when they bring six or seven or eight people, there's nothing we can do."
You beat that by having Roethlisberger and his receivers make the hot reads. You beat it by getting more out of Parker and the running game. You beat it with those draws and screens. And you beat it by winning the one-on-one blocks.
One lousy game doesn't have to ruin a season.
"Oh, we can get it fixed," Simmons said. "We definitely can get it fixed."
By Monday night, hopefully.
Any later than that might be too late for Roethlisberger.
Ron Cook can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
First published on September 22, 2008 at 12:00 am