So I had to sleep on it, allowing myself to fully digest everything that happened in yesterdays game with the Steelers vs the Eagles, not allowing emotions to cloud my thought process as I write this up. It wasn't a good sleep though, my mind running through the game over and over, trying to keep things in perspective.
To keep things in perspective, it was a loss, something that we expected to happen at least once (okay, maybe five times) this season. One team had to win and the other had to lose. It was a much deserved win by the Eagles and Jimmy Johnson's defense. A constant blitzing defense against the Steelers offense made Ben Roethlisberger and Willie Parker ineffective. We expected Johnson's defense to play tough, question is, why didn't Bruce Arians? Perhaps I'm jumping ahead of myself on this, so let me digress abit before addressing that question.
It was a very physical game, which left players battered and bruised. Brian Westbrook went down early, Donovan McNabb would end up hobbling at times, Ben Roethlisberger would leave with a hand injury, Byron Leftwich would end up with an ankle injury and Casey Hampton would suffer a groin injury. Credit to both defenses for shutting down the strengths of their opponents offense. In the end, it would be a very defensive, low scoring game. There would be a total of 12 combined sacks, three interceptions and three forced fumbles. For a fan who enjoys defensive shows, this was the game to watch.
As a Steelers fan, I couldn't be happier with the performance of Dick LeBeau's defense. Steelers defense kept the Eagles running game under 100 yds and limited McNabb to his lowest passing perfomance so far this season. Having registered 361 yds against the St. Louis Rams and 281 yds against the Dallas Cowboys, the Steelers would keep McNabb to 196 yds with one TD. As the game proceeded, the Steelers defense adjusted and held the Eagles high powered offense to make it a smash mouth game. In the end, the Steelers would only allow 13 offensive points. Of course, that was 13 points too much. We can't overlook Jeff Reeds accomplishments either. It was Jeff Reeds field goals, including a career long of 53 yds, that kept the Steelers in the game offensively. However, the Steelers defense and the kicking prowess of Reed were the only good things Steeler fans could take away from the game.
Last year the Steelers ended the season with questions on both the oline and the special teams. Special teams this game for the Steelers was once again questionable. Though no bobbles or mess ups as there was in the Cleveland Browns game last week, Steelers return team couldn't produce much in yards returned, and the special teams defense allowed Philly to return the ball for good field position. Offensive penalties against the Steelers would back the Steelers up not once but twice, not pretty when the Steelers offense hadn't been able to get anything going most of the game as it was. This was just plain bad playing on the Steelers part.
The most disheartening though was how the Eagles defense totally descimated the Steelers offensive line. The constant blitzing from Johnson's defense had the Steelers oline collapsing like a house of cards, allowing eight sacks on Ben Roethlisberger and one on Byron Leftwich. When Ben was being sacked, he couldn't get anything going on offense, regardless of whether it was the rush or in the passing game. Amazingly, the Steelers were still able to get it down the field enough for two field goals. Unfortunately, this wouldn't be enough and the offense would look out of sync for most of the game. A gutsy attempt by Ben, when he was allotted time to throw, would end up with an interception with a long pass to Nate Washington to be picked off by Asante Samuel. There was nothing pretty to the Steelers offense at all.
Although we could credit the loss to the Steelers offensive line and the failure to protect Ben, the onus of this one lays directly with the play calling of Bruce Arians. Arians seemed to have failed to adjust the play calling to give both the oline and Ben a break against the constant onslaught from the Eagles defense. We've seen this before in last years game against the Cardinals. Rather then keeping Ben back in shotgun, or playing no huddle, Arians seemed to continue to place his quarterback directly in the line of the barrage, by having him play directly under center. He failed to give the Eagles different looks offensively to help the offense get in sync.
Arians got a pass last year from most of the fans given it was his first year as OC with the Steelers, unfortunately, this year will be different. With the level of talent on the Steelers offense, we'll expect the Steelers OC to be able to develop play calls to utilize their strengths and adjust for the defense that their playing, otherwise we'll be calling for his head (not that some of us aren't already). Oh and we'll be expecting him to be studying more then the prior weeks game film. Bruce, this loss is on you.
Update Note: I should read others blogs before writing my own just so I don't get accused of plagarism. Having noticed that Sircheeks blogs on the Cleveland game did a good/bad/ugly and my title thus referenced that, I felt it better to change the title.