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After further review … (Steelers vs. Cardinals)


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

I said it last week against Jacksonville and I’ll say it again this week – Bruce Arians needs to find some sort of running game other than in the direction of the right side to help his running backs.

The Steelers went into Sunday’s game against the Cardinals as an extremely right-handed running team – almost to a fault.

Well, actually, it has been hurting them as of late, and Sunday against the Cardinals was no different.

The Steelers ran 19 times to the right for 53 yards and 6 times to the left for 33 yards with 26 of those yards coming on 3 carries on a meaningless drive at the end of the game.

After Sunday, only 11 percent of Steelers’ run plays have gone to the left side. You do the math. That’s 89 percent of the time the play starts from the middle to the right side, and that’s WAY TOO MUCH.

Jacksonville figured that out last week in the second half and shut down the Steelers’ run game. Arizona figured it out right away.

The Cardinals continued to bring down safety Adrian Wilson as the eighth man in the box, and lined him up on the defensive left side of the ball.

There were a number of occasions when Wilson would run blitz when he recognized the formation.

Case in point was the first two running plays of the game that resulted in negative gains. Later in the game, it was obvious that Wilson recognized motion by a receiver that indicated the Steelers were running to the right.

Wilson walked up, shot the gap and made the play.

The confusing thing about it is that the better run blockers are most definitely on the left side of the Steelers’ line with Max Starks and Chris Kemoeatu, but Arians rarely calls a run play that way.

* Saying that, Arians is wise to the fact that everybody knows they run to the right so much, and will play-action off that a number of times a game to try to get a safety out of position for a deep ball.

That’s what happened on Mike Wallace’s 95-yard touchdown catch. Wilson walked down as the eighth man in the box to the left side of the defense.

Once Wallace beat cornerback Richard Marshall, it was impossible for the safety playing the middle to get over in time to disrupt Wallace.

Knowing Arians, maybe running right 89 percent of the time to the right is to set up the deep pass.

Who knows?

* I know the false start on Wes Saunders the play before Wallace’s 95-yarder was indeed going to be a fake 22 Double pass, sort of like the one they missed in Super Bowl XLV.

* A simple thing as miscommunication can really affect an outcome of a game. It happened to the Cardinals twice in a matter of minutes that indeed affected the outcome of the game.

On Ryan Clark’s interception early in the game, the bad pass by Kevin Kolb was caused by miscommunication between Cardinals tackle Levi Brown and guard Daryn Colledge.

Brown blocked end Brett Keisel instead of the blitzing Lawrence Timmons leaving Colledge to block the air. Brown should have slid over to block Timmons and Colledge could’ve picked up Keisel.

Timmons’s pressure forced Kolb to throw the ball early, which was tipped and intercepted.

Not long after that, miscommunication on the other side of the ball resulted in a Heath Miller touchdown.

Everybody on the entire Cardinals defense was playing zone except for cornerback A.J. Jefferson. That left Miller wide open for a touchdown.

* I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. LaMarr Woodley has been very impressive fighting off blocks and making tackles in the run game over the past four weeks.

For my money, that’s much more important than the sacks he has accumulated. Sacks come and go, but making plays in the run game is invaluable to the entire defense.

* It’s hard to say how well that reserve nose tackle Steve McLendon really played.

Arizona didn’t really try to run early and very little at all after Beanie Wells went out.

However, you can tell that McLendon gets it.

On one play midway through the second quarter, McLendon literally held off Arizona center Lyle Sendlein with one hand, poked his head around to see where the running back was, before heading in that direction to try to make the tackle.

That’s called being gap sound.

* Troy’s Polamalu didn’t look crisp. And like always, his coverage skills are not very good at all. Polamalu needs to do what he does and that’s create havoc. When he doesn’t do that, he doesn’t quite look like Superman out there.

* No doubt Adrian Wilson should be fined for hit the hit he put on Hines Ward in which Ward hurt his ankle.

Wilson did lead with his shoulder, but also provided solid helmet-to-helmet contact with a defenseless receiver. And by definition, that’s a no-no.

By the law of the NFL, that should’ve been a penalty and should warrant a fine.

We will see.

* Just an observation: Ziggy Hood is on the ground way too much.

* Wow, you have to give the Steelers offensive line credit. Arizona did put some pressure on Ben Roethlisberger, but not the kind of pressure the bothers him.

And the Cardinals defense did a lot to confuse the offensive line, too, but it didn’t work.

* For my money, I think the current offensive line unit of Starks, Kemoeatu, Pouncey, Foster and Gilbert is the best group that the Steelers have.

* You might think that Ike Taylor didn’t have his best day. I feel he had one of his best.

Forget the penalties, when you can hold Larry Fitzgerald to three catches with two of those coming on pick plays across the middle, you did yourself good.

It opens up a bunch of other things that Dick LeBeau can do defensively when you don’t have to scheme for an elite receiver like Fitzgerald.

Through seven games, Taylor is averaging allowing 2 catches for 23 yards per game.

Here’s the updated Taylor catch allowed list:

Larry Fitzgerald, Arizona 3-58 yards
Andre Johnson, Houston 3-23 yards
Nate Washington, Tennessee 2-11 yards
Rob Housler, Arizona 1-20 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 – A (Very accurate)
RB – Rashard Mendenhall – C (No room to run)
TE/FB – David Johnson – C (Missed key blocks)
WR – Mike Wallace – A (Can’t stop him)
WR – Hines Ward – C (Maybe 4th best WR on team now)
WR – Antonio Brown – A (Getting better every week)
TE – Heath Miller – B (Struggled blocking, but made every catch)
LT – Max Starks – B (Joey Porter was a non-factor)
LG – Chris Kemoeatu – D (Too many dumb mistakes)
C – Maurkice Pouncey – B (Solid effort)
RG – Ramon Foster – B (Right place at the right time)
RT – Marcus Gilbert – B (Getting better)
DE – Ziggy Hood – C (Something’s missing)
NT – Steve McLendon – B (Good first effort)
DE – Brett Keisel – C+ (Was very quiet)
LB – LaMarr Woodley – A (Amazing again)
LB – James Farrior – B (Blitzing a lot lately)
LB – Larry Foote – C (Nothing spectacular)
LB – Lawrence Timmons – B (Getting better outside)
CB – Ike Taylor – A (Pro Bowler in the making)
CB – William Gay – B (Beneficiary of Ike’s play)
S – Troy Polamalu – C (Seemed a step slow)
S – Ryan Clark – B (Is fearless)

 By 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. Mr.Cynical says:

    Next year in the draft we need to find replacements for Chris Kemoeatu and David Johnson–they stink! Also, what is up with Ziggy Hood? Really Ziggy. . . really? You’re a man beast and you play like a ‘bitch.’ We have three tough matchups in a row. We’ll see how good we are down the stretch.

  2. the old coach says:

    The Steelers will need an all out effort from their D to beat the patriots it will not happen. Brady knows this Defense better then the Steelers. Brady stats after Sunday 36-43 437 4 td’s Patriots 38 Steelers 24 sound familiar

  3. Rolph says:

    The Steelers will need an all out effort by their offense and will get it

    Steelers 37-24

  4. DLS says:

    Need Hayward to get in there, everyone needs to be fresh this week, I don’t know if I would be so critical of Hood, there are many games where you can say any one of our D-linemen are non factors..

  5. Dick says:

    How to handle the Patriots on Sunday? Many will say we need to gear up the running game……..grind out the yards, eat up the clock, and keep Brady and the Patriots off the field. This is a good game plan but usually doesn’t work with the Patriots. The laser arm of Brady doesn’t take long to score and we usually have trouble trying to stop Welker. Maybe, just maybe, this is a good time to unshackle Ben and go with the no huddle. We have some weapons so let’s use them and see what happens. I know this sounds crazy but maybe, we can outsore them. They O-line needs to play big in this scheme and give Ben the protection he needs. Let’s mix it up and give the Pats a different look this time. We need to stop being predictable.

  6. leefoo says:

    I agree on everything, esp Troy looking a step slow.

    He is now merely very good.

  7. This should be Arians last year

  8. Rick says:

    Wow, no report on Sanders, who replaced Ward after Hines was injured. Both made important catches in the game. A “C” for Ward, then how about a “D” for you?
    We beat the Pats by collapsing the pocket onto Brady, fast. Jam Welker hard at the line, not 7 yards downfield.
    We don’t need to be nice, and if fines are levied by the Godfather, so what. They are now handing out fines for anything related to typical football play.
    Eff the run game, use it as whatever, go for the throat early and often, stretch everything out and protect Ben. We can gash them good with the run when they can’t stack for it, and we are getting better on the O-line.
    A shootout potential is a shootout potential – come with loaded guns and extra weapons and ammo.
    Kemo, Pouncy and maybe one other ought to take anger control classes – that is the play does end, you stop. MP goofed in a previous game, Kemo’s first game back, he goofed. No goofs Sunday guys.
    Critical of Hood, nice to pick on a second year man. One of our D-Line guys “not being a factor”, ah, maybe cause they were concentrating on him allowing someone else to step through.

  9. Scott P says:

    Arians is an arrogant, stubborn jerk. Who runs 89% of the time in the same direction?? Especially when it is not working. I can’t wait until that idiot is gone at the end of this year.

  10. Steelers4Life says:

    Great overall game for the Steelers, that matters more than picking on an individual here and there. They finally looked like they could dominate a team they were supposed to dominate.
    The Patriots have been a tough matchup for the Steelers, but they are NOT unbeatable. I see this game as being more about the coaches ability to design the right game plan, which means one that nutralizes the game plan that will be designed against us, than I see this game being about Brady or the rest of the players on each side. We know they are going to exploit our weaknesses, I have yet to see this coaching staff come up with a game plan that effectively exploits theirs. Brady is not unshakeable, he is no different than any other QB. Hit him often and hard enough, disrupt him enough and he will make mistakes… Try to defend him w/o getting in his face and all over him and you have just played into his strength. Hit him early, hit him hard, hit him often and the rest will follow as their defense will end up on the field longer than ours.

  11. Chitown Ed says:

    Agree with Rick- we need to have a more creative all out offensive game plan against the Pats. Unleash Ben with the no-huddle or the short passing game and just score. This should open things up later for the run with draw plays and even deep balls if the safeties start cheating up. Let’s attack them from the get go for a change and get them on their heels. Our defense may give up some points as well, but our D is certainly better than their’s and should be good for a few more stops.

  12. David says:

    Sometimes it takes brawn to beat an oponent, this week is different its gonna take a collective group of men to outwit belick , this is a cerebral coach who can identify weekness and when he smells blood he goes after it til there’s nothing left. Let’s hope that within the scope of it all we can reconize and focus what little blood we will smell

  13. Broadway Franny Rose says:

    How can Farrior get a B for that piss-poor performance? He was burned for a long TD, and that alone rates an F grade. Once again, Kaboly goes Vanderjagt on us.

  14. Donny says:

    I still don’t like W.Gay starting at all. As for the draft we need a NT, Guard and Safety. Another Rt or swing tackle is another need.Bruce Ariens needs to go Ben makes his play calling look better than it is. If there was another QB under center he would have been fired by now..

  15. Mr. Cynical says:

    I am convinced that the Steelers would have drafted NT Phil Taylor–in the first round–instead of Heyward this year if the Cleveland Clowns wouldn’t have drafted him (not that Heyward is a bad player to have). Taylor could have replaced Hampton immediately. I am excited about the potential of Curtis Brown and Marcus Gilbert—certainly, both should be starting next year for the Steelers. Also, Stevenson Sylvester should be ready to replace James Farrior next season. With that being said, I think Ward, Hampton, Farrior, A. Smith, Kemoeatu, Worilds (bust), and McFadden will be cut next season, which would free up money for the Steelers to sign free agents in 2012. 2012 draft needs will include LG, LT, CB (can never have too many), & S. Also, BA will not be with the Steelers next season.

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