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Blast Furnace: Keys to Steelers’ success aren’t tricky

Blast Furnace

Six plays. That’s all it took for me to know there was no way the Steelers were going to win their Week 1 matchup with New England. And do you know why? Because they got too cute.

Sure, it’s been easy to pile on offensive coordinator Todd Haley the past few years for his reported clashes with our franchise quarterback and his penchant for calling pass plays whether they’re warranted or not. But as soon as Antonio Brown took that handoff, reversed field and reared back to uncork one of his left-handed beauties toward the end zone, I knew the game was over.

DeAngelo Williams had just gashed the Pats’ for an 11-yard gain, but rather than go back to that well and continue to slug the defending champs in the mouth a few more times, Haley went into his bag of tricks and pulled out a play Bill Belichick had undoubtedly seen on tape 10,000 times.

Trick plays do look awfully pretty when they work. Local and national sports anchors will fall all over themselves while lending their voices to those types of highlights. But at its very core, that play call was Haley and the Steelers showing an astounding lack of confidence to their opposition and a national television audience – not to mention rest of the guys wearing the black and gold on the Steelers’ sideline.

The fact that the drive ended in Josh Scobee’s extreme-wide-right miss in his first real game as Pittsburgh’s placekicker is beyond moot. The drive should not have stalled the way it did because Haley either felt the need to resort to trickery or wanted to showcase that smug smile of his for the NBC cameras should New England’s secondary been caught with its pants down.

The result of that play – and the game – was a loss. Any momentum the Steelers had seized by rolling down the field after the opening kickoff was lost, and there was no getting it back. Not with the Steelers’ defense having no answer for Rob Gronkowski all night, the secondary missing assignments left and right and Scobee’s less-than-stellar debut.

A loss is a loss – no matter how pretty the offensive numbers may look in hindsight. The Steelers are sitting at 0-1 with the 49ers coming to Heinz Field on Sunday. Maybe there’s some consolation in the fact that the Ravens and Browns also lost last week, but all three teams are looking up at Cincinnati. There’s a hole to dig out of, and for the Steelers, it starts on Sunday at 1 p.m.

San Francisco dispatched the Vikings in Week 1 – seemingly without having to strain too much. While I was giddy for the return of NFL football to my TV, I draw the line at a second Monday night game that starts after 10 p.m. and features Chris Berman and Trent Dilfer anywhere near a set of live microphones.

Stopping tailback Carlos Hyde and the scrambling of quarterback Colin Kaepernick will be job No. 1 on Sunday for the Steelers’ defense. Kaepernick is an inconsistent passer at best, but the Steelers had better fix the communication issues in the secondary (or maybe hide Robert Golden’s helmet on obvious passing downs) if they don’t want to see Vernon Davis running free across the middle all afternoon.

The 49ers bottled up Adrian Peterson and the rest of the Vikings’ offense last week, but the Steelers present a much tougher test. As always, Big Ben and the boys will rack up yards and move the chains between the 20s. The question is, will drives bog down and result in more field-goal attempts from Scattershot Scobee, or can the offense land the six-point knockout blows when they’re available?

 

Kevin Ritchart joined the Steelers Gab writing staff in January 2015. He is a veteran writer and editor who has a passion for all things black and gold. In addition covering local high school and college sports for the Trib Total Media family of newspapers for more than a decade, Kevin also possesses a wealth of professional experience in the fields of marketing and advertising. Kevin earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Kentucky in 1998 and completed work on his MBA in marketing at Argosy University in 2013. He’s enjoying his current role of freelance writer and stay-at-home dad. You can follow Kevin on Facebook, Twitter @KevinRitchart and Google Plus. To see Kevin's full bio please go to our Meet Our Staff page.

2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. Dustin

    September 18, 2015 at 3:37 pm

    Wow.
    It’s one thing to dislike our coordinator who have Ben his best stats ever and least sacks, but to write an article bashing him… sad.
    If you recall, even with that play already done witg Steelers still could have won that game because of the offense. FGs and that out of bounds TD gives steelers a win if made.
    Maybe you should be looking at the fact that our DEFENSIVE COORDINATOR or Tomlin lossed the game, not Haley.
    10 guys on the field leaving Gronk open, having DBs under 6′ cover him in the red zone and not to mention having 2 of the most athletic LBs in the league not sticking to him man to man the whole game, or at all!!! The entire game Gronk destroyed little guys. DuPrees bug ass or Shazier should have been on him at all times, not just jamming and releasing him to destroy our DBs.
    Horrible defensive game plan and scheme in general. But ya, lets blame Haley lol

  2. DrGeorge

    September 18, 2015 at 4:13 pm

    Even in this pass-happy era, the team that runs the ball best usually wins. It keeps the opposing offense off the field, wears down the opposing defense, gives your defense needed rest, and aids clock management. The Steelers ran well against the Pats between the 20s; the 49ers ran over the Vikings and into the end zone. Advantage 49ers. If the Steelers can’t stop the 49ers rushing attack, the 49ers win. If the Steelers pass more than they run, the 49ers chances of winning go way up. The Steelers are a TD favorite on their home turf; the 49ers will be suffering jet lag. Logic says the Steelers ought to win this one. But if Haley eschews the run on Sunday or if we try to run and cannot against their D, our home advantage goes away. So I would call this one even — and in such games, turnovers and defense usually decide the outcome. If I were a betting man, I wouldn’t.

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