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After further review …


Taking a look back at the Steelers-Colts game on my DVR

* Ben Roethlisberger and Mike Wallace have developed a strong enough rapport that words don’t need to be said for the two to be thinking the same thing.

That was proven during last week’s win over Seattle when Roethlisberger gave Wallace a look that turned into a short touchdown pass in the back of the end zone.

To steal a famous line from Big Ben: Live by the sword, die by the sword.

On Dwight Freeney’s strip sack and ensuing touchdown return by Jamaal Anderson (wait for it) it wasn’t Jonathan Scott’s fault.

Nope, it was Big Ben and Mike Wallace ‘living by the sword and dying by the sword.’

Rewind back to the third offensive play of the game for the Steelers – a 29-yard catch-and-run by Wallace. Cornerback Jerraud Powers jumped the route, but was late getting to the quick throw from Roethlisberger to Wallace that resulted in a big gain.

Don’t think Roethlisberger and Wallace didn’t notice either that Powers jumped the route, either.

So when the same play was called late in the first half with the near identical formation other than a third receiver in the game rather than a second tight end, Roethlisberger and Wallace did their own little thing and decided not to let anybody else in on it – well, at least that’s what the films says.

The play was a run-option with the run part taken out of the equation at the line of scrimmage. The only two people who really know what is going on is Roethlisberger and Wallace. It was probably something that was discussed between Roethlisberger, Arians and Wallace sometime during the first half.

In theory, it was a good idea.

In reality, it was a disaster.

First of all, Scott is setting for a two-step drop and a quick throw by Roethlisberger. Scott was in perfect position with his inside protected well for where he thought Roethlisberger was going to be vulnerable.

When Roethlisberger decided to take a couple more steps back to buy time that he couldn’t afford, Scott was instantly out of position and Freeney had a free run at him.

What makes this play so intriguing is that even if Roethlisberger would’ve gotten the ball away to Wallace, it would’ve come back.

Guard Chris Kemoeatu was 10 yards down the field blocking a linebacker – exactly where he was supposed to be because it was supposed to be such a quick throw that he wouldn’t have been called for illegal man down field. Also, Heath Miller and Hines Ward were already blocking down field.

It just goes to show you that even though the replay appears that Scott was absolutely whipped by Freeney on the play, all the blame really needs to go to the decision to take a quick-hitter and turn it into a big play.

* Put me in the minority, but I think Jonathan Scott played pretty well on Sunday.

Now, he didn’t play great, but he was above the line.

Mind you, Scott didn’t get much help at all with the preeminent pass rushers in the league in Freeney, and did a good enough job to keep him off Roethlisberger when the quarterback decided not to get out of the pocket at a whim.

I am sure you will disagree.

* Roethlisberger played a flawless first 18 minutes of the game. He was sharp, he was accurate, and most importantly, he was in rhythm with his passes that made the pass rush unable to get to him.

However, the first time he tried to make something happen with his legs to extend a play is when the Steelers got into trouble. Mathis forced a fumble.

How you stop the Colts’ pass rush is with the rhythm passing game and the Steelers did that … for the most part.

* LaMarr Woodley hasn’t put pressure on the quarterback because he has been on coverage? Well, against the Colts, Woodley rushed the quarterback 27 times and dropped into coverage 14 times.

* I’m not quite sure what Bruce Arians was thinking by not attempting to block Freeney at all during a Mendenhall first-quarter run. I suppose the fake reverse action by Wallace was supposed to hold Freeney, but who knows?

* David Johnson’s one job is to be a blocker, and he continues to struggle with consistency.

On a first-quarter run, Johnson missed a block on linebacker Kavell Conner that got Rashard Mendenhall crushed. Later in the game, he lined up as a true fullback on a lead play and ran right past Colts’ linebacker Pat Angerer that once again got Mendenhall crushed.

Problem is, the Steelers have nobody better at that position so DJ needs to get better. And soon.

* A slow-developing play-action pass deep down the field takes time. And when Roethlisberger hit Wallace for a first-quarter 81-yard touchdown pass, Roethlisberger had plenty of time.

But you know what, those sorts of things happen when you have both your best pass rushers (Freeney and Mathis) on the bench and rush just four. The Colts asked for what they got there.

* I truly think Cris Collinsworth is a talented individual. Now, I might be the only one, but whatever. But saying that Roethlisberger’s little nod in Wallace’s way before his 81-yard touchdown catch was some sort of precursor of what was going to happen was misguided.

Roethlisberger nodded at Wallace for him to come in motion – it’s as simple as that.

But you know what, I am all for sensationalistic journalism.

* Troy Polamalu played one of his best games of his career. He was disruptive and seemingly one step ahead of what the Colts were doing.

But with Polamalu, he could easily go the other way next week because his “guesses” usually even out over a course of a year.

* It very well may be time to see less of Aaron Smith.

Smith has just been a shell of himself the first three weeks of the year, and it’s hard to tell why. It doesn’t appear to be any signs of a couple arm injuries over the past couple years affecting his play.

What it looks like is that he is just physically getting whipped. I’d give him a few more games, but the Steelers need to keep a careful eye on him.

* The Steelers ran two screen passes to Mendenhall. That was enough for me for the year. Sure it is a supposed good way of slowing down the speed rush, but seeing Scott, Kemoeatu, Doug Legursky lumber their way down the field is telling – it tells me they can’t do it.

Grading the Starters
Ben Roethlisberger – B (Played great … except for 3 bonehead plays)
Rashard Mendenhall – B (Not his fault)
David Johnson – C (Tough day blocking … Part II)
Mike Wallace – A (Nobody can stay with him)
Hines Ward – B (Fitting into a new role nicely)
Heath Miller – C (Struggled with his blocking)
Chris Kemoeatu – C (Still lacks explosiveness with pulls)
Jonathan Scott – C (Not bad, not great)
Doug Legursky – C (Size has become an issue)
Maurkice Pouncey – C (Still makes a mistake here and there)
Marcus Gilbert – C (Better than expected)

Casey Hampton – B (Still getting cut)
Ziggy Hood – C (Was very quiet again)
Aaron Smith – D (Struggled with double teams)
LaMarr Woodley – B (Can’t get to the QB)
James Farrior – C (Linemen were all over him)
Lawrence Timmons – B (Best game so far)
James Harrison – A (Looked like the old Deebo)
Ike Taylor – A (Shut down Wayne)
William Gay – B- (Held his own)
Troy Polamalu – A (Best game ever?)
Ryan Clark – B (Solid as always)

– Mark Kaboly




Author: Mark Kaboly

Mark Kaboly is the Pittburgh Steelers beat writer for the Tribune-Review. Mark has covered more than 300 NFL football games in all 32 NFL cities as well as four Super Bowls -- XL in Detroit, XLIII in Tampa, XLV in Dallas and 50 in San Francisco. A Belle Vernon Area graduate, Mark earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in English with a specialization in journalism from California University of Pennsylvania. Mark lives in Port Vue with his wife, Jennifer; daughter Briella; and boys Rocco and Bugsley Pug

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