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December 19, 2010 - Ray Eckenrode
BLEEDING BLACK AND GOLD
GIVEN THE BOOT
Poor coverage, poor punting kill Steelers
It was over when:
+ Ben Roethlisberger’s desperation scramble and pass with the clock reading :00 ricocheted off Matt Spaeth along the sideline. The Steelers were forced to go for a TD when, after run blocking magnificently all day, the offensive line left Jason Taylor unblocked late in the fourth quarter and he tackled Mewelde Moore for a safety and five-point Jets lead.
Play of the day:
+ Dick LeBeau dialed up the perfect blitz on a key third-down play with the game tied at 17-all on the third play of the fourth quarter. Ryan Mundy came free and … whiffed on Mark Sanchez, who slid forward in the pocket and hit Braylon Edwards for a 16-yard gain the led to a 34-yard Nick Folk field goal that put the Jets up for good.
+ The Jets won the special teams battle (and the game, really) in all four quarters as their return game accounted for the team’s first touchdown and consistently set the team up with starting field position outside their own 35-yard-line. Meanwhile, Steelers punter Jeremy Kapinos showed why he was bypassed in seven punting tryouts this season, by consistently failing to pin the Jets when given the opportunity, either kicking the ball in the end zone, kicking it low or kicking it short. We’ve rarely seen two punters affect a football game as much as they did Sunday.
+ The Steelers were once again the victim of questionable officiating. First, a bogus helmet-to-helmet roughing call on Ryan Clark set up one of the Jets touchdowns. Then, a blatant pass interference committed against Emmanuel Sanders that should have set Pittsburgh up with a 1st-and-goal from the 8 with about 0:24 left, went uncalled.
+ As noted above, the Steelers offensive line was nails for most of the day, both in springing Rashard Mendenhall for the first 100-yard game against the Jets in more than a season, and in protecting Roethlisberger. While it’s a shame to waste that effort in a loss, it’s the single biggest positive the team can build from this week
+ We were almost coming out of our chair on the Roethlisberger fake spike in the first half! Great call by whoever called it, even if it was Bruce Arians, and we’re not sure what Mike Wallace was doing on his pattern. That should have been six.
Paralysis by analysis:
+ After we talked him up in our pregame blog, it took Jim Nantz less than a quarter to mispronounce Kapinos’ last name.
+ Both Nantz and Simms fell dramatically in our eyes, based on their commentary on the Ryan Clark hit. First, Nantz asserted he saw helmet-to-helmet contact. Simms corrected him, but made it worse by saying sometimes such a hit is a penalty even if it’s not a technical violation. What? Seriously, what? They asked players to lower their strike zones. Clark put his shoulder first then helmet directly into the receiver’s chest. Then, Nantz said that in any case it was a penalty because Clark launched himself. Yes, he did … into the receivers CHEST!
+ We assumed Referee Pete Morelli’s flag fell out of his pocket on the opening kickoff and that was seemingly confirmed when it happened twice more in the first half.
+ Perhaps the biggest screwup by the officials came in the second quarter when they mistakenly awarded the Steelers a first down on a nine-yard gain, which might seem like an advantage for Pittsburgh, but really is just the opposite as 2nd-and-1 is one of the down-and-distance situations that most favors the offense. The point became moot when the Steelers scored a touchdown on the drive anyway.
And now a word from our sponsors :
+ After exhaustive research, we can confirm that the second football player in the Subway commercials with Michael Strahan is Buffalo rookie running back C.J. Spiller. That was money well spent!
+ Speaking of spending money, 7Up obviously spent a pretty penny getting David Spade on board for the latest leg of the “ridiculously bubbly” campaign, but they’re going to have to do a lot better than that on creativity.
@CdrEck: Jeremy, you can’t punt the ball in the endzone. You just can’t.
@15MinutesBlog: If Ryan Clark gets fined for that hit, the NFL is dead.
@WhitlockJason: Jets-Steelers finished like an NHL game. Refs swallowed whistle. Cromartie grabbed receiver for 10 yds and no illegal contact.
We were right:
+ We told this would be a three-point game in the fourth quarter if the Jets stuck to a conservative gameplan and they did that exactly.
We were wrong:
+ We expected Mark Sanchez to come unglued in that weather. Give him credit, he didn’t.
Later this week:
There’s no time for the Steelers to sulk on this one as they’ve got to come back Thursday night against Carolina in a must-win game. Color us crazy but we’re really concerned about Pittsburgh players overlooking the Panthers and looking ahead to … Christmas. The Panthers played perhaps their best game of the season Sunday in defeating Arizona.
Despite the loss, the Steelers clinched a playoff spot. They remain in first place in the AFC North because of a better divisional record than the Ravens and can win the division and clinch the #2 seed by defeating Carolina and Cleveland. Since the Jets are likely to be the other wild card team, the Cleveland game could mean the difference between the #2 seed and the #6 seed for Pittsburgh. It will be very interesting to see if Troy Polamalu plays under those circumstances. The Ravens final two games are at Cleveland and home with Cincinnati. Should the Ravens lose either of those games, the Steelers would clinch the division, but not necessarily the #2 seed, with just one win. The Steelers are in good position in regard to tiebreakers with no worse than an 8-4 conference record and the only AFC strength-of-victory win over the Atlanta Falcons.