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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 three Super Bowls -- XL in Detroit, XLIII in Tampa and XLV in Dallas. 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


  1. Rambis says:

    Not sure how Jonathan Scott’s play is called “above the line” with the comment that he “played pretty well” in the text, then in the grades he gets a C with the comment “not bad, not great.” Comments seem about as consistent as the Steelers’ offense…

  2. David says:

    I’m with the first responder, none of this makes sense. On to the next topic, Who’s next, Can’t wait!

  3. David says:

    oops, I know who is next, we play the Houston Texans in that nice stadium they have over there, and they are playing some good ball, we need to get some film on this team, they are well balanced, and coached, as where we are as cordinated as a drunk who just got off the ferris wheel…………. we need luck and a good game plan…..

  4. Carl says:

    Gonna disagree on Mendenhall. I think he looked tenative, juking and dancing alot. Not saying I saw alot of holes, but when there were some, he just plain didn’t hit them. Shortest distance between two points is a straight line, just saying…

  5. Jay B says:

    So you say Lamarr cant get to the QB and he gets a B? What is the fascination with Woodley? I think he’s the most overrated LB in the NFL. He gets single blocked nearly every play and he averages 3 tackles per game! Look at the film of his sacks this year, I believe 2 of them he wasn’t even blocked! This guy is lucky Harrison is on the other side. Harrison is hurt and has outplayed Woodley the last 2 games easily.

  6. Bobby says:

    I like this column every week… I like to see someone actually break down film before pretending they have a clue about the game of football. Being a former D-1 football player, I learned a long time ago to break down the film bfore passing judgment. No one le in the media seems to do this. And they are clueless. That being said, this week, I agree with everything you said except for the comment about Mendenhall. He had 3 or 4 designed cutback runs, one move and go. The hole was there, he just went his own way and it appeared to the untrained eye that he didn’t have anywhere to go, but he did backside and he missed it. He is to tentative and always dancing, he needs to hit the hole hard and fast. One move and go. He has gotten into some very bad habits and they are going to be tough to break.

  7. Dick says:

    Hope game planning is better for this one. Someone needs to light a fire under these guys because they’re gonna have their hands full on Sunday. Sure hope someone other than us gets punched in the mouth. I think we need to see a little more of Blitzburgh for a change. Also, let’s put more of the game in Ben’s hands with more “No Huddle.” Above all, let’s make sure he is protected even if it requires two blocking backs in the backfield. WE’RE WITH YOU GUYS —- GO STEELERS!”

  8. Robert says:

    I don’t think I would be as harsh on Aaron Smith. Struggling with double teams is what he is supposed to do. I thought occupying blockers in a 3-4 is what a lineman is supposed to do. Anytime he beats a double team would be a plus. He still can stop the run if he is single blocked. Could it be Woodley not making the play when Smith is double teamed? Granted, for the NFL he is long in the tooth, but he is still playing well enough yo be on the field. Who on the team is better at this point?

  9. Zarbor says:

    I like the format and the player grading at the end. I’m with Carl, Mendenhall looked awful and the Steelers are not correcting his ballerina tip toe scared running. Holes were scarce but when they appeared, he missed them or better yet refused to hit the holes with force. In my book Mendy get a “D” since on top of all this he still almost lost the ball on several tackles. Not good. Its time for Redman to get more of the carries.

    I agree that Aaron Smith is done. He can’t shed double teams like he did. Injuries have caught up. Waiting to see Timmons become a game changer like Pola. This is the year where he should be the most dominant on defense. Have not seen it yet. Glad to see that Harrison is okay. Woodley… comment. Why is McFadden still on this team?

    Disagree with Jonathan Scott. He’s not that good.They really need to stop being pig headed and get Flozell back. Lastly, its time to expect more from Ben. Too often this guy looks great (first drive) only to come back and look like a dopey rookie. Hey Ben, the line is no good. Have you heard about throwing the ball away sometime. Unbelievable.

  10. sjb says:

    This just goes to prove that Mark K. is the ultimate “glass half-full” Steelers fan. Combine this cheerleader article where the Steelers magically come out of this game with a B average, with the last one he did about the Steelers D “stepping up” when they needed to against Indy, while totally ignored the fact that they allowed Painter to take it right down the field and score on the next very possession and what you have is a sports fan that probably sees the Pirates lastest offering as a season to be proud of.

  11. Rbird says:

    Really look forward to these articles. You provide alot of insight and you bring up some things I miss during the game. I really think it’s more of a cohesion problem with the Steelers right now. A missed block here , a missed assignment there. I hope to start seeing gradual improvement in the upcoming weeks. All that said, we are lucky to be 2-1. The schedule has worked out nicely but a true test awaits this week at Houston.

  12. Rob says:

    I agree with Jay B and Carl.

    Mendy does too much dancing. Same thing I coach my kids save that for the safeties and corner-backs. Burst through the hole at full speed. He looks tentative and I am sorry to say, scared. How many tackles does this guy break? Not as many as many other backs his size.

    Woodley needs to step up and be consistent. Seems every yr he starts slow and takes games off. Even last year we were complaining. This was clearly one of them. Look at the film.

  13. Rick says:

    Oh wow, wasn’t Scott’s fault on sack-strip-recovery for TD play.
    Did MK even watch the play. If Scott had even “touched” Freeney other than to pat him on the shoulder as he blew right by he wouldn’t have gotten there. So where’s the “it’s Ben’s fault” here? And for someone downfield, quick pass or no, the _4, appeared to be left guard, was downfield ahead of Wallace even doing a slant in, so it wasn’t miscommunication by changing the play, just what play was _4 running?
    That said, then we need to move on cause the O line is not what it should be, and Johnson should not be asked to block any more, he simply isn’t getting the job done.
    As for the premier young std LBs, we have all seen the sign and production goes down routine. They are catching attention, and getting focused on, so others need to step up.
    As for Smith, you tear your muscle in your arm, then come back from it without really having a preseason. I saw a lot of #91 all over the place in the game, as well as getting a lot of double teams.
    The not-first-string DBs need to pick it up and know what to do. Or hopefully McFadden will be in better physical/health shape than he was in the Baltimore game.
    The Steelers need to bring it all together consistently or we will not like what happens in Texas.

  14. Mr. Cynical says:

    Why did the Steelers cut Craig Urbik in 2010? Now he’s starting for the Buffalo Bills and doing a damn good job! It sucks that Darnel Stapleton had to retire because of his bad knees–he did well when he started. He played in the team’s three playoff games in 2008, including the Super Bowl XLIII victory over the Arizona Cardinals. Help wanted on offensive line; start dialing phone numbers Tomlin! Put and ad in the Classifieds! I only weigh 220 lbs but I’ll give it a shot!! I’ll have to ask Brian Cushing for some roids!

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