5 Smoldering Questions: Steelers at Ravens

img_0531By Hombre de Acero

The Steelers bye week went well, as neither AFC North rival logged a victory and as several key players appear to be returning to practice, if not full health. But before the Steelers arrive in Baltimore for their all-important showdown with the rival Ravens, this corner of Steelers Nation must first resolve these 5 Smoldering questions:
1. The Steelers activated Ladrius Green from the PUP list during the bye week, and Mike Tomlin’s assessment was positive. Although some Steelers beat reporters do still do not expect him to play this season, Kevin Colbert and Mike Tomlin have nearly two weeks to make a decision on whether to activate him or not.

Should the Steelers opt to activate Green, who should they cut to make roster room for him?

2. Neither Mike Tomlin nor any of the members of the Steelers locker room claimed nor accepted any moral victories after the Patriots game (indeed, Cam Heyward was quite critical). Good for them.

Fans however, do have some luxuries not afforded to the pros. Now that you’ve had time to digest the game, do you take anything positive away from the Patriots game, or was it simply a case of missed opportunities that will hurt the Steelers down the road?
3a. You might want to get out a pencil and paper for question 3 because we’re going back to high school Algebra class. Here’s the equation:

4(123 + 72 + 222 +140)/(-91) + (-97) = 0

Can you make sense of that with the naked eye?

OK, here’s the decryption code: In the last two season the Steelers have give up 123, 72, 222 and 140 yards rushing in four games missed by either Stephon Tuitt or Cameron Heyward, all of which were losses.

Is this just coincidence, or is there an “X” factor that either of these two men bring to the defense?

3b. As someone who wanted to see Dick LeBeau stay on as defensive coordinator 2 years ago, I readily concede that one of the legitimate knocks against him was that it took too long for rookies to learn his system.

However, Johnny Mitchell has been with the Steelers as an assistant since 1994, and aside from Casey Hampton in 2001 and Stephon Tuitt in 2014, you can practically count the number of rookie defensive lineman starts on his watch on one hand.

Given the Steelers struggles without Tuitt and Hewyard, and given that it is well known that Mitchell “strips rookies down and retrains them from zero” do you think that Mitchell has gotten his fair share of criticism regarding the progress of the Steelers defensive rebuild?

4. The Steelers 4-3 record at the bye week presents a Glass Half Full, Glass Half Empty situation. Regardless of whether you’re in the half-full or half-empty camp, which player(s) need to step it up during these final nine games to full up the rest glass’ other half?

5. (Rebecca is throwing this one in because she really needs to know…) Why is it that the Steelers dominated the Ravens for so long during Mike Tomlin’s tenure, only to have the storyline flipped? It started with the 7-35 humiliation at M&T Bank Stadium in 2011, and there haven’t been many good moments since. Even last year, when the Ravens were very nearly dreadful, they beat the Steelers twice. Any theories?


  • 1. Given what I have seen in the last two weeks from New England and Washington, having a player of the caliber of Green (tall, fast receiver who can stretch the field) presents problems for defenses that most cannot satisfactory solve. I would think that is why the Steelers chose to invest, even though the almost certainly knew that he wouldn’t be available for the first half of the season. Jesse James has done a fine job this year, but is not of the caliber of a Gronk or Reed, at least not yet. Additionally, with the wide receivers group being unusually thin in terms of health and/or experience, you keep him with an eye toward a late season and playoff run.

    Who gets bumped is interesting. I would have thought that Grimble was just going to be a placeholder, but has shown great potential and I think we lose him if we cut him. Maybe you write off Cody Wallace for the season and hope that Finney or Hubbard can step up in case of an emergency.

    2. The team had every reason to collapse given the circumstances. Indeed, many of us were not expecting much. It turned out to be a winnable game against arguably the best opponent in the league, without Ben, Cam and a host of others. Who’d of thought? This was more of we lost rather than we were beaten, and there’s a difference. If it is possible to win without Ben (not recommended), then this is a team that holds its destiny in their own hands, even if the injury gods do not smile favorably upon them week to week.

    3. Most years the fate of this defense rises or falls on the performance of the linebackers. With this group, and perhaps league wide, it may come down to the defensive line.

    3b. If the above is true then it may eventually be appropriate to hold the preparation of this group to a different standard.

    4. On offense, Todd Haley and Ben. Unless he is injured Le’Veon Bell should never be restricted to 10 touches a game. That’s just dumb. All weapons aren’t equal. Learn how to be more strategic Get the ego out of it and also do some things that protects and enhances the chances for the success of the defense (get early leads and consume time such that opponents can’t use their entire playbook, for example). Doesn’t mean you can’t take your shots, but at least consider what position you place the defense when you swing for the fences in the first quarter and miss. On defense the front seven has to, first of all stop the run at all costs and then try for more pressure if not sacks. The secondary has to stop channeling Ike Taylor.

    5. 2011 was the end of the Hines Ward era, and with it one helluva mean streak. Perhaps this team has taken on too much of Tomlin’s personality and may be a bit too respectful of the opposition. With Steelers/Ravens its really punch or get punched in the mouth. Those are the only two options.

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  • 1. Pass on this for now. Green’s not going to be activated this week, and there will be some bumps and bruises among those who do play. Let’s wait to see the injury list and what the options are the week he gets activated before we decide.

    2> A loss is a loss is a loss. Brady and the Pats tried to hand them the game, but they weren’t able to take the gift. Can’t wait till they get back to full strength, if and when that ever happens.

    3.Heyward and Tuitt are extraordinary talents, and their ability to take up blockers and bust up plays is the single biggest key to the success of this defense. You take away either of these guys, the linebackers aren’t nearly as good.

    3b. No. No. A thousand times no. Damned few of the new linemen have ever played anything like the Steelers’ 3-4. Mitch is as good a DL coach as there is. It’s just that you can’t plug a guy into a defense that is so radically different from what most of them have experienced and expect it to work. It takes too damn much time, but that’s the cost of doing business. Pay up and suffer.

    4. Ben. AB. Bell. Shazier. Jarvis Jones. Burns. Davis. And everybody else.

    5. Hines Ward and Ryan Clark departed, this a time when the team got older, slower, and less brutal. The Steelers went through a huge transition – the kind that causes some teams to go 4-12 – and the Ravens beat them badly at first and then seemed to get into their heads last year. Of course, there was also the infamous Tomlin Two-step. A combination of bad timing, bad luck,and bad play. The trifecta from hell.


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