Taking a look back at the Steelers-Jaguars game on my DVR.
As good as the Steelers offense was in the first half against Jacksonville is as bad as it was in the second half.
After racking up 315 first-half yards including 134 on the ground, the Steelers managed only 55 total yards while converting only 2-of-7 third downs in the second half while hanging on for a 17-13 win.
Why such a difference between the first and second halves?
Well, Jacksonville finally wised up and figured out that the Steelers are a right-handed running team.
Bruce Arians called 29 run plays against the Jaguars (not including quarterback scrambles) with 26 of them going to the right side.
Now, a couple of those runs were eventually cut back to the middle, but they originated over Ramon Foster and Jonathan Scott and more often than not, there was a pulling guard involved.
Rashard Mendenhall alone rushed 10 times for 110 yards in the first half over the right side. Isaac Redman added 22 more yards on 4 carries.
When Jacksonville decided to either overload that side or walk down safety Dawan Landry and place him on the outside shoulder of Scott or put corners Will Middleton or Drew Coleman near the line, the run game went away forcing a lot of 3rd-and-longs.
Mendenhall ran 10 more times to the right in the second half and could only muster 28 yards.
The Steelers have historically been a right-handed running team under Arians because of the success of the “22 Double” and “Pike 34”, but it became evident that teams are onto how the Steelers run the ball well only to the right.
Arians going to have to able to find some success on the other side as well. Running for 168 yards to the right and 18 to the left is good for padding numbers, but it might come back and bite the Steelers sooner rather than later.
It almost did against the Jaguars.
* So you still don’t think that the Steelers are a running team anymore?
Well, a week after using the fullback 15 times, Arians used David Johnson as a lead blocker 13 more times on Sunday.
Don’t think the Steelers are a power-running team anymore?
How about 31 runs through six games inside the 20-yard line compared to 16 pass attempts?
Sometimes perception becomes reality and that’s definitely the case with the Steelers.
Air Arians? Maybe not.
* Maybe Arians is going to the ground more often because of the play of his quarterback?
Well, that’s not true, but Ben Roethlisberger has been very inconsistent this year including Sunday.
Roethlisberger missed a bunch of throws including four of his six deep balls.
Roethlisberger underthrew Wallace, overthrew Emmanuel Sanders twice and was just arrant on another deep ball to Wallace to go along with some bad throws underneath as well.
Roethlisberger very well could’ve been intercepted three times in the first half if the Jaguars’ defensive backs could catch. Lowery, Coleman and Rashean Mathis all had sure interceptions bounce off their hands.
The quarterback needs to play better and more importantly, he has to play more consistent.
* Beaten twice pretty badly by a speed rusher one of which caused a fumble in a close game.
If that was Jonathan Scott getting whipped up by Dwight Freeney, we would be hearing about how bad of a lineman he is and how he needs to be benched.
But if Max Starks allows John Chick to him twice simply by speed, one of which caused a fumble, we hear nothing.
Starks has never been good with speed rushers, and that showed again against the Jaguars. He was beaten badly for sacks simply on speed.
I’m sure T-Sizzle is taking notes in Baltimore.
* On the surface, Brett Keisel had a monster game, and he did.
He was disruptive, he batted balls down, he had the most important sacks of the day – he did it all.
However, let’s not overlook that he either left his gap or was blown out of his gap at least five times that led to some big runs.
* It’s quite interesting to me that two consecutive weeks in a row on the opening play of the game, a guard tried to backside cut backup nose tackle Chris Hoke just to see him fight it off and make the tackle.
It’s a shame that Hoke got hurt against the Jags because he looked like he was a man possessed for the second consecutive week.
Saying that, I don’t like when Hoke goes to play left end like he did once or twice against the Jaguars. He seems uncomfortable and out of place there.
* Sorry, but Isaac Redman would’ve never scored that opening-drive touchdown Mendenhall did.
That’s why his is, and should, be the Steelers’ featured back.
* The Jaguars definitely were fortunate early in the game when Blaine Gabbert saw a blitz coming from James Farrior and Larry Foote up the middle and floated a pass outside to Maurice Jones-Drew.
After numerous rewinds, that ball was a lateral. Incidentally, the ball would’ve been recovered by MJD, but I’m sure the Steelers would’ve loved a 3rd-and 17 rather than a 3rd-and-7 in which the Jags converted.
* Who knows what it is, but LaMarr Woodley is playing a whole heck of a lot better over the past two weeks, and I’m not talking about the sacks he is accumulating.
Woodley is playing faster, with more power, and most importantly, is finally shedding blockers to make tackles at the point of attack to help the run game.
Now this is the guy who the Steelers paid $60 million to a few months back.
* I was the first to rip Trai Essex for his play at left tackle against Houston, and rightfully so.
I’ll be the first to say that Essex has showed that he can play guard pretty well. On Mendenhall’s 68-yard run, Essex pulled and made the key block on Paul Posluszny to spring him.
Speaking of that play, the Jaguars blamed it on a miss fit with the defense. I sure didn’t see that. It just looked like it was blocked up pretty well with Essex’s block making an 8-yard gain into a 68-yard gain.
By the way, Scott also caved in the entire side of the line to make the play go as well, but you won’t hear that out of the pundits.
* Mike Tomlin was about as bad as the Steelers’ offense in the second half.
I’m not so interested in Ryan Mundy getting called for a roughing the punter penalty that kept the Jags’ drive alive more than why in the world is there any sort of punt block on up 17-3 midway through the third quarter?
Don’t even get me started on Jonathan Dwyer’s first series coming at an important time in a close game in the fourth quarter.
* Don’t know how many more misses Shaun Suisham has in him before he gets to hang out with Jeff Reed.
Makeable kicks have to be made. Period.
* Ike Taylor had his worst game so far this year, but it was still pretty good.
Taylor allowed only two catches, but one was a touchdown by Jason Hill.
Here’s the breakdown so far through six games of who has caught balls against Taylor:
Andre Johnson, Houston 3-23 yards
Nate Washington, Tennessee 2-11 yards
Jason Hill, Jacksonville 1-18 yards, TD
Reggie Wayne, Indianapolis 1-11 yards
Mike Williams, Seattle 1-9 yards
Damian Williams, Tennessee 1-8 yards
Mike Thomas, Jacksonville 1-3 yards
Pierre Garcon, Indianapolis 1-(-2) yards
Grading the Starters
QB – Ben Roethlisberger – C (Inconsistent)
RB – Rashard Mendenhall – A (Ran hard)
TE/FB – David Johnson – B (Does what he’s told)
WR – Mike Wallace – B (Was open deep all day)
WR – Hines Ward – B (Has a jump in his step lately)
WR – Antonio Brown – D (Did he play?)
TE – Heath Miller – B (Nothing he can’t do)
LT – Max Starks – C (Can’t allow John Chick to make you look bad)
LG – Doug Legursky – B (Getting better at pulling)
LG – Trai Essex – B (Better at guard than tackle)
C – Maurkice Pouncey – B (Playing better)
RG – Ramon Foster – B (Very few mental mistakes)
RT – Jonathan Scott – B (Solid effort)
DE – Ziggy Hood – C (Needs to be more physical)
NT – Chris Hoke – A (Disruptive when he was in there)
DE – Brett Keisel – B (Made plays)
LB – LaMarr Woodley – A (Back to the old Wood)
LB – James Farrior – A (Back to his old self)
LB – Larry Foote – C (Nothing spectacular)
LB – Lawrence Timmons – C (Better inside)
CB – Ike Taylor – B (Allowed first TD of year)
CB – William Gay – B (Not bad)
CB – Keenan Lewis – B (Makes a play a game)
S – Troy Polamalu – A (Makes big plays every week)
S – Ryan Clark – B (No big plays)
By Mark Kaboly