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

Friday, September 28, 2012

Raiders 34 Steelers 31

Pittsburgh   -3½    @Oakland    45    -200  +175
Projected Win Probability:  64.81%

Losing to Oakland was pretty ugly last Sunday and one that will sit with all of us for a while as the Steelers have an early bye next week.  In a season and schedule where getting 10 or 11 wins was doable but difficult, throwing away opportunities like last week are hard to swallow and could come back to haunt us.

For the second game this season, the defense failed to register ONE SINGLE STOP in the second half of the game.  Read that again.  No turnover, no punt, no turnover on downs.  Three drives by Denver (17 points) and now four drives by Oakland (20 points).  Six of those drives were 9+ plays, including all four last week.  You can’t win games like that, no matter how good your quarterback is playing (and Roethlisberger is arguably playing the best football of his career right now).

In this week’s press conferences, Dick Lebeau is talking about “trusting the system” and “don’t give up the big play” (although the Steelers only gave up one play over 18 yards last week).  Seems to me teams are dinking and dunking on us down the field more than getting big chunks of yards.  The players talk about “making a big play”.

I don’t know what to think.  When it comes to fourth quarter comebacks and game winning drives, Tomlin/Lebeau have made opposing quarterbacks hall-of-famers on this stat since getting together in 2007.  Of the Steelers 30 losses, 19 have been classified this way by Pro Football Reference, including 13 that were comebacks (the Steelers HAD THE LEAD in the 4th quarter).

I have been trying to find perspective on this statistic.  Since 2007, the leading 4QC/GWD quarterbacks have been Eli Manning (21 of 59 victories), Peyton Manning (19 of 52) Drew Brees (18 of 57) and Ben Roethlisberger (16 of 47).  The Baltimore Ravens defense has allowed 4QC/GWD in 17 of their 34 losses since 2007.  The New England defense has allowed 11 in 22 losses.

Does that mean the Steelers blow games more than other good teams?  Maybe.  For good teams that lose 5-6 games a season, it’s not unrealistic to expect 50% of those to be some sort of 4th quarter comeback or game winning drive.  And the Steelers are 63% under Tomlin/Lebeau.  A little higher, yes, but not statistically abnormal either.

Maybe all this proves is that every good team loses games in the 4th quarter.  Not just the Steelers.  Not just Dick Lebeau’s defense or his system.  Do they suck when you watch them happen?  Yes.  Does is suck even more when it’s to Carson Palmer and the 1-2 Oakland Raiders?  Yes to that too.

If there is a concern it’s the fact both Oakland and Denver have not won a game besides beating us.  I’m not even sure how good our competition has been and if we are 1-2 vs. .500 teams (or worse). What’s going to happen when we see the Giants or the Ravens?

Just because it’s the bye week and I don’t feel like being miserable, I’m going to try and look at the glass half full.

Despite our up-and-down performances, I don’t think there’s another team in the league I’m super afraid of.  Who’s the best, really?  Atlanta?  Houston?  We lost to Houston last year 17-10 in their house and Atlanta scored TWO points in a playoff game less than 8 months ago.  San Francisco lost to Minnesota.  Green Bay is on pace to give up the most sacks ever.  The gauntlet of the NFC East isn’t particularly getting harder with issues in Philly and Dallas.

This team just needs to hang around and be ready when Baltimore comes to town.  That’s it.

And with the offense producing the way it is and with Roethlisberger playing at a high level, we should be able to do that even with the defense struggling at times.

I know there are problems.  I see them.  A lot of changes could be coming this off-season on the defensive side of the ball.  But those changes can’t happen now.  Tomlin and Lebeau aren’t going to panic and start making radical changes.  NFL Coaches just don’t do that.  They are pigheaded when it comes to sticking with their pre-season decisions on players, schemes, playbooks and plans.  Once the ball starts rolling in the season, that’s it.

We should be 2-1 and we’re 1-2.  I hate the loss in Oakland as much as anyone.  But there are possible wins all over our schedule and we just need to go get them.

Go Steelers!

NFL Power Rankings
Power rankings are based on who I believe would be favored on a neutral field if they played this week.

1.  Houston Texans (3-0)
2.  Baltimore Ravens (2-1)
3.  San Francisco 49ers (2-1)
4.  Green Bay Packers (1-2)
5.  New England Patriots (1-2)
6.  Atlanta Falcons (3-0)
7.  New York Giants (2-1)
8.  Arizona Cardinals (3-0)
9.  Pittsburgh Steelers (1-2)
10.  Chicago Bears (2-1)

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