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.
* 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