Sunday, October 06, 2013

Steelers, Week 4, Quick Thoughts

Didn't get to watch it yet (may never), only heard the game on radio. But, in one word, yeeeesh. If I needed any proof for the necessity of a workable Left Tackle, it's these first 4 games. But then again, I didn't expect our defense, the Dick LeBeau defense, the "#1" defense, one with HOF shoo-in Troy Polomalu, to be so freakin' bad.

Like any normal Steeler fan, I need to think about next year's draft. We'll have a high one. We need a primo Left-Tackle. And maybe let some other organization choose it for us. After the LT, maybe finally get a CB who can catch a ball.

Since the loss came from the defense...
All the commentaries are showing me my analysis is correct - there can't be turnovers, yet, because of our rebuilding phase... which this clearly is, BTW. The good veterans of yesteryear are gone, and with them the professionalism in the locker room. But the current state reveals a lot about last year's decision making: we thought we had the talent to make another 12-4 run. But because of injuries - and I believe that's the answer for last year's woes (plus the poisoned superstar pills of Wallace and Mendenhall) - we didn't have the consistency we needed. If we had in 2012 a healthy Harrison, Polamalu, Big Ben, and Antonio Brown for all 16 games, we'd have been around 12-4 again.

This is not the issue for 2013. We got rid of a HUGE number of people in order to get younger and (possibly) cheaper. With that, we've lost even more leadership: Max Starks, Harrison, Charlie Batch, Casey Hampton. These dudes obviously had enough talent, and even more leadership. We don't have that this year and you can see the fallout. But in the interest of the future, we needed to go younger.

What I saw in game 4 is that our offense is finally getting in shape, despite the crucial deficit in the o-line (see below about Levi Brown). It's amazing that the commentaries all lambasted Todd Haley, the OC, for 3 weeks and in game 4 he's finally doing well. Amazing what having your #1 TE, #1 RB, #1 FB will do, eh? The offense finally scored enough to win the game, it's the defense that let us down.

Same thing happened last year! And if Ben (and to a lesser extent AB) hadn't been injuried in the Chiefs game, I'd like to think we'd have kept the pace up and been around 12-4; we were that good.  The 2012 defense started badly and slowly but got great at the end, despite no turnovers.

 I'm thinking the same thing could happen this year, but with these caveats: (1) last year, the turnovers didn't come because we didn't have Harrison and Polomalu, (2) this year it's because we have a very young O-line (no more Hampton) which doesn't occupy the middle like we used to, and the middle LB - because of injuries - are 2 freakin' newbies! Vince Williams a rookie 7th rounder and Kion Wilson who was selling insurance last year. Our middle is so soft that it doesn't allow pressure to the edges and it forces the safeties to play linebacker. This neutralizes Polomalu and seems to have nerfed Clark.

Then again, given the number of rookies and over-fined vets, our defense could also be nerfing themselves so we don't give up 15 yard penalties all the time.  Our defense, with our as old-school as definitionally possible DC,  may not be able to adjust to the frankly chaotic rules changes.  Every team may suffer, but it could be the Steelers most of all.  The refs don't know how to call the imaginary penalties and this could make our group so flaccid.  Maybe.

The Levi Brown trade...
This incident shows how much the commentariat fire too fast. And how much trust has been lost.  The Steelers Lounge guys are a case in point - they made a special podcast on Wed afternoon to declare how horribly stupid the Steelers FO is - that they would dump 4 million dollars on a terrible LT!  They are desperate!!  Wah!!!   And I listened to them, and the entire basis for their freakout is that we paid too much.  They admitted b'ferush that if we paid "vet minimum" that the deal would be actually good. 

Which turned out to be precisely the case.

They haven't made another podcast since the full facts were announced LATER THAT AFTERNOON.  And so we can use them as an example of the standard internet paper tiger bluster: goin' nuts because of false information and too arrogant to admit error.

But these guys are experts and their doomsaying reveals a problematic context: they feel that the past few years has shown the poor decisions of the regime of Tomlin/Colbert and once the trust has been lost, it takes a lot of counter info to clean the slate.  The past few drafts have been just terrible.

Tomlin not Colbert

But let's look at the record: Colbert has been GM since 2000.  The drafts from then have been basically good.  When did things go terribly?  Well, Tomlin came aboard in 2007.  Look at this 2011 chart of his picks - there's a lot of busts in there, especially in the most recent years (2012 is a freakin' disaster).  It's possible to blame our previous success (see here, #5), that we can't pick higher because we're too good etc.  Except first and second rounders are supposed to be really good, no matter the draft position.  And Gilbert & Adams are both second rounders!

Until I see more information about Tomlin (so far, he's shown to be a bad evaluator of talent and a terrible in-game manager, and as seen in the disarray of 2012, a very bad disciplinarian) I will still blame the bad drafts on the bad position coaches.   Which, yeah, still goes back to Tomlin's lack of talent evaluation, but at least its one step removed.

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