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After further review …


After some technical difficulties, taking a look back at the Steelers-Texans game on my DVR … finally

* Remember what Dwight Freeney did to Heath Miller last week when the Steelers asked their Pro-Bowl tight end and one of the best blocking tight ends in the NFL to block a preeminent pass rusher like Freeney?

Remember what James Harrison did to Dallas Clark when he was asked to block the former defensive player of the year?

What happened was that Freeney made Miller look foolish and Harrison did very much the same to Clark – or to put it on layman’s terms, they did what they were supposed to do.

What’s my point, you ask? LaMarr Woodley is my point.

Woodley has been one of the most dominant pass rushers over the past three seasons (35 sacks) along with being just as stout of a run stuffer.

Dick LeBeau once told me the reason why the Steelers are so difficult to run against is because it’s very difficult to move Woodley out of the way in order to do so.

That’s what makes what happened on Sunday against Houston so disturbing.

Woodley was once again a non-factor on defense, and it wasn’t because he was dropping into coverage, was getting double teamed, or facing an All-Pro tackle.

Woodley was relegated a non-factor by the likes of … wait for it … TIGHT ENDS!!!

Out of the 54 defensive snaps Woodley participated in Sunday, 25 times he was blocked by a tight end one-on-one – and got his butt whipped each and every time.

Either Owen Daniels or Joel Dreesen locked onto Woodley and drove him out of the play time and time again, and as illustrated earlier, that should NEVER happen to a stud like Woodley.

Houston was so comfortable allowing either Daniel or Dreesen to take Woodley out of the play, the last six series of the game, he was blocked by tackle Eric Winston only twice.

Here’s the breakdown of what Woodley did:

25 times blocked by a tight end.
12 times by an offensive lineman.
8 times he dropped into coverage.
8 times he went unblocked.
1 time he was double-teamed.

On the flip side, Harrison was blocked by a tight end 11 times out of his 43 snaps – also not acceptable.

Woodley should need both a tight end and a tackle to block him, but it’s not happening. And you wonder why the team is getting gashed by the run?

Well, there’s one big reason.

* While on Woodley, Arian Foster’s touchdown run that gave the Texans the lead in the fourth quarter was Woodley’s responsibility.

And once again, it shouldn’t have happened. It was just a lack of concentration on Woodley’s part getting out of position when he should be anticipating a cutback.

It’s not like Foster hadn’t been cutting back all game long and it wasn’t like the Texans didn’t run the same exact play earlier in the game.

Foster’s touchdown run was the same call as the 10th play of game. This time, Woodley didn’t wander too far and he was there to make tackle for only a 5 yard gain.

* Once again, I didn’t think the offensive line played any worse than they did all of last year, and we all know that they got to a Super Bowl with that line.

OK, Trai Essex was bad … especially early, but he got better as the game went on. Essex did allow a sack that was nullified by a penalty; a clean blind side hit by Danieal Manning; and a speed-rush sack all with a span of four plays during the first offensive series.

But after that, Roethlisberger was clean.

He dropped back 16 times in the first half, and was hit three times and only once with any force. Roethlisberger was hit only five times over the first 49 minutes of the game.

But once again, a bad spurt hurt the line late in the game. But get this, their best offensive lineman in Maurkice Pouncey was the one who let Shaun Cody whip him and then Antonio Smith right after that to get sacks.

Throw in a late hit call and Pouncey made too many mistakes for the rock of the unit.

* Back to the offensive line. When your pass-happy offensive coordinator calls 13 straight runs in the third quarter and into the fourth including all eight plays on a field goal drive, somebody is doing something right (offensive line).

What was going right was the Power, Pike, 22 Double or whatever you want to call it. I call it the Chris K. play because Kemoeatu pulls on the play to kick out the end or the linebacker.

It has been the Steelers best running play for years now, and it resurfaced Sunday as 83 of their 118 rushing yards came on that play.

It was working and Bruce Arians stuck to it – but we brush that kind of stuff to the side when we talk about the OC.

* OK, time for some Arians bashing now.

Arians was very smart at times and dumb at other times. When he calls that quick stuff for Big Ben, it’s brilliant and works. Then he has to go ahead and call a slow-developing play-action pass with Ramon Foster pulling to pick up unblocked Mario Williams from the blind side.

Not smart and not realistic to think Foster could get there.

* Enough of the Isaac Redman talk. He is a good backup, but no way is he better than Rashard Mendenhall.

The reason why Redman was able to gain more yards against Houston is quite simple – there were lanes open for him and very few for Mendenhall.

* Speaking of the run game, I really liked that toss power sweep that Mendenhall scored a touchdown. There was a lot of talk when Sean Kugler took over about how he liked run plays outside the tackles a lot.

They really haven’t done much of that over the past two years, but it is something that they can take advantage of both Mendenhall and Pouncey’s speed and should do more of.

* Want to know why the Steelers gave up so many rushing yards? It’s simple – every player on the front seven consistently got blown off the ball by a single blocker.

It’s as simple as that.

* Sure, the Texans had one heck of an opening drive, but what about the Steelers’ opening drive of the second half?

I’d say that 13 plays, 74 yards and nearly eight minutes off the clock is quite impressive as well.

* Chris Hoke played a half dozen or so snaps at defensive end – OK, that’s enough of that.

* On a 3rd-and-1 at the Steelers’ 19-yard line with six minutes left in the first quarter, Matt Schaub scrambled from a drive-extending first down.

After further review, however, it clearly shows that Schaub gave himself up with a baseball slide nearly a yard before the sticks.

The rule states that the ball be marked at the point where the quarterback STARTS to go into his slide, not where the he ends up.

Bad call and the Texans scored a touchdown a few plays later.

* Ziggy Hood did a nice job of being gap sound (for the most part) but really struggled getting off the block and making the tackle.

* What in the world happened to Lawrence Timmons?

Man, he was out of position all day, took bad angles, refused to take on blocks, totally left Daniels all alone in the end zone for a touchdown and decided to leave Foster uncovered in the end zone before Ike Taylor saved him.

Timmons needs to play a lot better, especially with him moving outside now.

* One thing the offensive line has really struggled with is picking up the twists and stunts by the defense.

And yes, that’s where cohesion comes in, and obviously they don’t have that yet with all the movement within the unit.

* For the life of me I can’t understand why Troy Polamalu left Daniels all for James Farrior to cover for that big catch in the fourth.

Looking back at it, Taylor was watching Jacoby Jones and trailing him. He got help from William Gay and instead of helping out Farrior, Polamalu helped triple team Jones.

Something was missed there, and the Steelers got gashed.

* By the way, that block in the back on the field goal return for a score was called on Brian Cushing decking Ziggy Hood. Now, Manning did wrong to Daniel Sepulveda as well, but for some reason that wasn’t called.

* Roethlisberger was once again off with his accuracy and this was even before he was getting hit around late in the game. Twice he missed Antonio Brown in the drive right before the half and had no pressure at all.

* Brown is getting there, but you can guarantee that he will either not recognize a blitz or run a wrong route at one point during the game.

Grading the Starters
Ben Roethlisberger – C (Something was missing)
Rashard Mendenhall – C (No room to run early)
David Johnson – C (Was better blocking this week)
Mike Wallace – B (Makes a play every game)
Hines Ward – D (Can’t drop that pass)
Antonio Brown – B (Targeted a lot)
Heath Miller – B (Chipped a lot)
Chris Kemoeatu – B (His pulling made the run game go)
Trai Essex – D (Bad, bad, bad)
Ramon Foster – B (Won’t wow you, but gets in defenders’ way)
Maurkice Pouncey – C (Needs to be better)
Marcus Gilbert – D (Consistency isn’t there)

Casey Hampton – C (Got pushed off the ball)
Ziggy Hood – D (In position, but can’t shed blocks)
Aaron Smith – D (Better than last week)
LaMarr Woodley – F (Unacceptable performance)
James Farrior – C (Linemen were all over him)
Lawrence Timmons – F (Tons of mistakes)
James Harrison – C (Nothing spectacular)
Ike Taylor – B (Shut down Johnson and Jones)
William Gay – B (Held his own again)
Troy Polamalu – B (Good at times, average at times)
Ryan Clark – B (Maximizes ability)

– 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. David says:

    You lost me when you said no way Isaac is better then Rashard. Ok, let’s suppose your correct on this,( don’t know why you would be), but for an instant let’s take back the time off the click. Rashard is the feature back behind a line that even the whiley road runner couldn’t even get through , what was his total rushing yards on 18 touches less then 40 yards, well behind that line, that’s the equivalent of rushing for 100. That same line in front of Isaac, allowed him to gain over 44 yards in less touches, the ground game actually got better in the 3rd quarter when Rashard was on the sideline and that was even pointed on one of the ESPN shows, Mewelde more averaged more yards with the few touches he got late in the game also. Mendenhall may be a good change up like Eric pegram was when bettis played , but to me, and for a long time, Rashard is more hype ….

  2. Great article and very good analysis. Read somewhere else that in the steelers scheme the left side defensive end is more like a second nose tackle and the right side end does more outside containment. Not sure if that makes sense but probably explains Hoke filling in for a while.

    My big question is your grade for David Johnson. I didnt notice him much during the game but have noticed that overall this year he has been doing a LOT of lookout blocks. If I am not mistaken, he whiffed on 2 guys on the blocked field goal. Looked pitiful. Think we need to be looking for a 3rd tight end and move Saunders(?) up to #2.

    Am really hoping that we dont have a recurrance of the Jason Gildong syndrome with Woodley and Timmons. Looks very familiar though…..

    Love your article, keep up the good work!

  3. Ollie says:

    I beleive that if Redman got as much work as Mendenhall, he would be better or as least as good.

  4. sjb says:

    Agreed, if Mendenhall was better than Redman why isn’t he the feature back against the Titans? Even the slow to react Steelers coaching is finally seeing the obvious. In terms of ability, Mendenhall probably is better but behind this line, he’s a poor fit. If this line was capable of any lateral movement, Mendenhall’s dance to the daylight technique might work but as it stands what little openings are there for positive yardage close long before the ever hesitant Mendenhall gets there; where as Redman hits it as it’s being opened, making the most of the opportunity. North-South running versus East-West and the Steelers o-line who holds their blocks like a hot potato aren’t skilled enough for the later.

    All I know is Mendenhall is averaging 3.0 YPC, Redman is averaging 4.9, Moore is averaging 7.2, even Ben gains more yardage than Rashard and I’m pretty sure if Clay was in there, he would too for pete’s sake. Time for a change.

  5. Mr. Cynical says:

    Mendenfumble dances too much! Hit the freaking hole buddy! When your o-line opens a hole it usually closes quickly—hence, you must hit the hole right away to get past the d-line! Redman was hitting the hole quickly that was the difference between the two in the Texans game!

    Mendenfumble is a talented back but I don’t think he’s the right fit for the Steelers. He is a better fit for a team like the Texans because of their zone blocking schemes.

  6. Bobby the Bat says:

    I thought the same thing about Schaub’s slide near the end of the 1st quarter. What about the other 3rd down play on the game winning drive when the TE picked the ball off the turf. Both calls were reviewable but not challenged. For as bad as they looked and for as much as they did not deserve to win, the Steelers may have escaped with a win if those plays are challenged and overturned as they would have been.

  7. Bill Z says:

    Let’s see, Woodley,Timmons and Polamalu are still trying to figure out what to do with all their money, Harrison is seeing double, Pouncy is still miffed that the Steelers didn’t get his brother, the rest of the offensive line is offensive, Mendenhall is trying to figure out what he’s going to say on Twitter next, and Ben is still on his honeymoon so we all know what’s on his mind. Yep, I’d say that about covers it.

  8. Ironman says:

    Way too much information here…. basically can sum up the post above in a few words….sloppy play by defense..even Troy was out of position all day (whats up with THAT?). Offensive line..I dont even know what to say, except they are offensive…even Pouncey’s play has dropped to lowest common denominator. Finally, Bruce Arians playcalling is going to get Roethlisberger killed, or in a wheelchair…

  9. BSAlarm says:

    Ben Worthlessbooger is a legend in his own mind. Someone needs to deliver a wake-up call and get his attention.

  10. Scott P says:

    It is very difficult to accurately compare running backs when the O-Line stinks as bad as the current one does. That being said,Redman deserves more touches. I also would like to see Dwyer get some opportunities.

    I am not totally down on Mendenhall but I don’t think the productivity gap between him and the reserves warrants the disparity in touches. It isn’t like Emmit Smith being backed up by Troy Hambrick.

  11. Big Game James says:

    It’s obvious that our o-line is better north-south than east-west. That’s why Moore and Redman are better options than Mendenhall right now.

  12. John David says:

    Hey, I’m not worried at all. Team spokesman Mike Tomlin will figure it out, I’m sure.

  13. SteelFor7 says:

    I am appalled by Pittsburgh sports writers backing BA. He stinks, the reason why Steelers win because Ben can avoid the hits and make plays. More than 60% of the times the pass plays designed by BA dont work..i mean they just dont work. If there was any other QB instead of Ben we would not win games..forget about SB. And who says he doesnt have any say in who is playing on o-line. Get rid of BA..we would have won 4 SBs with Ben any other OC.

  14. Bryan R says:

    You write Hines should’ve caught that pass. If it’s the one I
    ‘m thinking about, shouldn’t the DC have been called for hitting a defenseless receiver? What’s the rule say? Hines was still in the air when he was drilled in the back.

  15. Jay B says:

    Finally a media member is calling out Big Lamarr! Most overrated linebacker in the NFL. And now he won’t have Harrison to draw double teams on the other side. So will the 10 mil per year man get more than 3 or 4 tackles this week. Or will he get a sack where he isn’t unblocked or matched up on a RB. Im not holding my breath. I can’t believe the front office payed this guy that much money. Should have offered him half and spent the other 5 on Flozell, atleast with him you know you got your money’s worth, atleast last year they did. Big Lamarr has alot of plays to make to justify the 10 million he’s making.

    So they signed Starks today and cut a draft pick from last year. Can he be any worse than J. Scott?

  16. Lance G says:

    The difference with Redman was the blocking not the back. For some reason in the second half it finally occurred to Arians that a lead blocker could help. David Johnson was lining up in the backfield in front of Redman. Maybe if Arians did that the whole game we would get some running yards.

  17. Jeff C says:

    Mark, I think this is overall a good thorough job that reflects someone who watched the game in slow mo several times. As a knowledgeable football fan, I am confident in my belief that Lamar has been particularly disappointing. Your identification of how frequently he was single blocked by a tight end solidifies that belief.

    You didn’t offer a grade, but I’d suggest the coaching deserves a very low grade, if not an F. Our inefficient use of timeouts in the 2nd half directly aided the Texans game winning touchdown drive as I have to believe that being down to their final timeout, Tomlin was unwilling to risk a challenge on the 3rd down play where Daniels appeared to catch the ball simultaneously with it kissing the surface (by rule not a catch). Secondarily, their special teams has been very disappointing, from allowing a walk in 2 point conversion to the Ravens who exploited a weakness in the PAT formation, to the blocked chip shot FG to the fair catch of a ball on the 5 yard line.

  18. David says:

    It’s kinda easy to see the difference in running styles between Redman and mendenhall. Positive yards vs. Negative yards. And per average. And with a line like we have at this moment, its very telling on who thrives and who whittles.

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