By Michael K. Reynolds
You can put as much lipstick on the pig of a performance the Pittsburgh Steelers produced against the Philadelphia Eagles but you’re still left with a slab of ugly bacon and a first class sizzling.
That whooshing noise you heard early in the first quarter was the expectations of fans for a rapid return to glory for the Black and Gold. Sure…everything can be fixed but it’s disappointing we are already breaking out the toolbox.
Here are some rapid fire conclusions that oozed unctuously from the Eagles game.
Welcome to Your 2014 Pittsburgh Steelers
It’s easy to say this was “just a preseason game” and try to dismiss this performance. But the top litmus test for a team’s preparedness for the upcoming season is the first half of the third preseason game. The argument of “it’s early, the team will get better” is always an interesting one because it assumes that none of the other 31 teams will bother to improve in the ensuing weeks and months. Hopefully, this was truly an anomaly, but if we’re being honest it’s some indication of what all of the offseason moves and training has brought us…and that’s an unattractive picture.
A Harp Seal Clubbing
Make no mistake about it, in what was the most important game for the Steelers since the season ended last year, that was one of the worst beat downs the team has absorbed in quite some time, regular or preseason. It wasn’t a case of some freak plays that caused the score to spike. It was a systematic dismantling of the Steelers defense with a matching ineptitude by the offense. If you double the score and stats of the first half, to compare starters vs. starters, the team would have lost 34-0 and been outgained 501 to 192 yards. The worst humiliation came when head coach Mike Tomlin kept his starters in during the third quarter only to have the whipping continue by the Eagles scrubs.
Tomlin’s Number One Goal in Trouble?
Tomlin stated that the team’s number one goal this offseason and through training camp was to be stronger on defense in sub-package play. With that being the case this game must have been extraordinarily disappointing for the coaching squad. The Eagles methodically ripped away at everything the Steelers threw at them.
No, Coach, Please Don’t Punish Me So…Harshly
One of the great disappointments of the game was to see running backs Le’Veon Bell and LeGarrette Blount back to business as usual after their huge act of selfishness. Tomlin decides to punish them by making them play more? Hey, if they are the type of players that feel “punished” by getting on the field they are wearing the wrong uniform. Imagine how pleased those running backs on the bubble were with that decision.
A Few Do-Gooders
- Darrius Heyward-Bey deserves a spot and significant role with this team. He was the second best receiver in a Steelers uniform last night and he has a strong willingness and ability to serve on special teams. At 28, he is in his prime.
- The first string offensive line can be relied upon in pass protection. They have given Ben Roethlisberger a pocket and time throughout the entire preseason.
- Troy Polamalu with a bad hair day is beneficial for the team. Good to see Troy step forward and be willing to light the fire. His play in the third quarter was one of the few acts of inspiration.
- The fact that Daniel McCullers is the most exciting player on defense is probably not a good sign. But after three quarters of watching the defensive line collapse it was enjoyable to see the push go in the other direction as soon as he stepped on the field. On one play, the big guy took both the Eagles left tackle and guard in tandem five yards into the back field. Obviously the Eagles offense wasn’t suited for too much time for McCullers, but they need to get his raw power and pocket-crushing ability in the mix.
A Few (Actually Many) Disappointments
- Time to worry about Jarvis Jones. The lack of pressure was the biggest shortcoming for the Steelers defense.
- The lack of adjustments by Dick LeBeau. He looked helpless on the sidelines.
- The disappearance of Ryan Shazier. He was drafted by the team to flourish in sub-package play. Instead he found himself swallowed by single blocks the entire game.
- Mike Mitchell may be the biggest disappointment to date after his big free agency signing. Missed tackles. Little impact on the passing defense. And someone needs to tell him that in Pittsburgh we don’t celebrate hard hits on opponents after they gain 20 yards on us unless we dislodge the ball. Quietly return to the huddle Mr. Mitchell.
- The Maurkice Pouncey impact. Granted he’s less than one year removed from a serious knee injury. Still you had hoped for more in run blocking with his return and with David DeCastro at his side. Do we truly have two All-Pros working side-by-side? Let’s see some gaping holes to prove that point.
- The Point of Emphasis. It turns out the only ones able to slow down the Eagles high-powered offense were the officials. And that was because they were so busy calling penalties on Ike Taylor. Let’s get the Zebras off of the field because it’s ruining the game Mr. Goodell.