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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 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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