"You are educated when you have the ability to listen to almost anything
without losing your temper or self-confidence." - Robert Frost

Monday, September 19, 2011

Steelers 24 Seahawks 0

at Pittsburgh       -14       Seattle        40          -1000   +700
Win Precentage:  89.2%

It is very hard to me to know whether the Steelers are good or the Seahawks are just very bad from what happened yesterday on the field.

Obviously, the result is extremely acceptable.  We dominated all phases of the game and grinded out a solid 24 point victory and collected a shut-out in the process.  As with last week however, the only score that really matters is now 1-1, which is our record after two weeks of the season.

I would also venture that a team like Green Bay or New England would have beat the Seahawk team I watched by 50 points.  But do you really penalize a team’s performance for only winning by 24 points?

Already, this season is reminding me eerily of 2007.  That was Tomlin’s first season and our schedule was one of the easiest in recent memory.  The Steelers were favored by 4+ points in each of their first 12 contests, including six favored by 9+ points.  The team opened to a 9-3 record but those of us that studied tape knew the team wasn’t playing well and wasn’t executing well.  The running game was bad.  The offense looked lost at time in Arians’ first season.  The offensive line with Sean Mahan at center was consistently getting dominated in the trenches.  The defense was injured and kind of patching things together with string and masking tape.

We all know how that season ended.  The ill-fated New England blowout and two home losses (one in the playoffs) to Jacksonville highlighted four losses in our final five games.  The team looked beat up, out-coached and lacking talented depth players.

When I look back at the failings of that season, it was the overconfidence Tomlin, the coaches and team had about their ability based (apparently) solely on their 9-3 record.  Tomlin preached so much concern about wins/losses, that they seemed oblivious to the lack of execution happening week-in, week-out vs. weaker opponents.

While I love Tomlin’s results oriented approach sometimes (it rubs off on the team to make for a very resilient group), this coaching staff does not seem obsessed with “the relentless pursuit of perfection” when it comes to play execution.  There are consistently too many mental and physical breakdowns on plays we should easily have success on vs. the talent across from us.

For history not to repeat itself, I am hoping for the following:

1.  Tomlin has acknowledge he overworked the team his rookie season and that this contributed to their physical breakdowns as the season wore on.  With the oldest team in the league, Tomlin has to walk a fine line between working on improving execution and not overworking them physically.

2.  In that respect, Tomlin has to take a better psychological approach in post-game comments about the team.  Instead of praising them for wins, he should adeptly derail them for lack of execution.  This veteran team can take some criticism, both publically and privately.  And Tomlin has to honestly grade his team to the media.  Based on Sunday, we are not ready for the better teams in the league and Tomlin can’t and shouldn’t sugar coat that.

3.  One of the big differences I see from 2007 is the fact this team has better depth players.  When Aaron Smith was hurt that year, the run defense greatly suffered, but I see better front-7 players now on the roster.  And even some emerging depth in the secondary might hold up late in the season.

4.  The team HAS to stop creating offensive game plans that believe our offensive line is above average.  They are not.  They are obviously very below average and unless the offensive game plans compensate for this weakness, Roethlisberger is going to get more than just beat up and sore on game days.  He is going to suffer another concussion or worse.  Considering the team we faced, Roethlisberger took entirely too many big hits in that game.  Going into every game, there has to be a conversation on how to prevent Roethlisberger from taking too many hits.

As I stated in my pre-season analysis, this team is loaded with talent and that talent showed itself yesterday.  But the coaches need to realistically look at the weaknesses on this team and actually game plan to protect those weaknesses from being abused.  Nothing is more important going forward that how Tomlin coaches this team right now.

We need to relentlessly pursue perfection knowing that if we do, we might find excellence along the way.  Keeping this team focused on this task and not becoming complacent with a decent record is paramount for our season.

Thanks for reading.
~ dejzc

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