Archives for posts with tag: Steelers

Can’t trust that night.  Monday, Monday…gives the Skins a fright.  I’ll give the estate of John Phillips a reprieve by not going through an entire set of lyrics that focuses on the Monday night misery experienced by the Burgundy and Gold over the years.  But let the record show that this team is 2-15 in Monday night games at Fed Ex Field.  Not ideal by any stretch of the imagination…and instead of being able to celebrate the raising of the 2015 NFC East banner (okay, so there wasn’t really a ceremony) the Skins wake up 0-1 with more questions than answers.

Captain Kirk- the Franchise-Tagged one completed 30 of 43 passes…but many were in check-down mode.  Instead of stretching the field or challenging the Steeler secondary, we saw the classic short stuff that pads the stats while infuriating the faithful at the same exact time.  The Original Series episode most resembling Cousins’ week one performance?  “Gamesters of Triskelion”, where they do gladiator stuff and the episode at first glance appears to be better than it actually is.

The Tragedy of Robert III- well, fans of a Stuartesque restoration on the shores of Lake Erie were given a rude awakening.  They saw the former face of the Redskins franchise complete 12 of 26 passes for 190 yards and an interception against a Philadelphia defense that ranked 28th in the league against the pass last year.  Unfortunately as has been the case with the House of Griffin, the phrase “adding injury to insult” isn’t just cute wordplay–it’s reality.  RG3 broke a bone in his non-throwing shoulder taking a hit against the Eagles.  Instead of focusing on if he’d keep his starting job by the time the Browns came to Fed Ex Field, Robert III is headed to IR with no return in sight until Halloween…if then.  “A shoulder! A shoulder!  My kingdom for a shoulder!”

Running aground- Fifty-five yards on just twelve carries!  No runs on third and short or any third down at all!  If Alfred Morris were still here, he’d be like Zack Morris wondering why the latest episode had no scenes at the Max.  Matt Jones gained 24 yards on 7 carries and reportedly made the wrong read on an early 4-yard loss.  The second-year pro has the central casting look of an NFL runningback, but is not proving himself so far this season.  Plan B is the oft-injured Chris Thompson.  Can they bring back Wilbur Jackson?

Rating the Receivers- everybody got fed Monday night, with the firm of Reed, Garcon & Jackson combining for 19 catches.  DeSean Jackson showed why he’s a game-breaker with a 33-yard grab standing out in his 6 reception, 102 yard performance.  Jermaine Crowder even got into the act as a junior associate with 6 catches.  Problem was, Jackson was the only receiver to catch more than one pass and average more than 10 yards per reception. 

Third and Checkdown Time- the good news is Kirk Cousins completed 7 of 10 passes on the money down.  The bad news is that all 7 were of the short variety…and only 3 saw the receiver reach the magic marker.  Jordan Reed was the security blanket, catching all 4 passes thrown his way for 36 yards and one conversion.  All ten third down attempts were pass plays…with Kirk & company converting 1 of 2 short-yardage (1 to 3 yards needed) plays, 0-2 mid-yardage (4 to 6 needed) and 2 of 6 long-yardage (7+) situations.  That over half of your third downs were long yardage says a lot about the offense’s inability to do the right thing on first and second downs.

Getting gashed- last year the Skins ranked 26th in the league in stopping the run and allowed a 2nd-worst in the NFL 4.8 yards per carry.  Monday saw more of the same with DeAngelo Williams ripping off 143 yards on 26 carries.  Much was made on social media of the Steeler runningback leaving a 75-cent tip at Ledo’s Pizza over the weekend.  Let the record show that it is not cool to stiff your waitstaff…but it is also not cool for a server to make a tip (or lack thereof) public.  After further examination, it was revealed that not only was the server fired but that Williams ordered salads and pasta.  At Ledo’s Pizza.  He probably also gets the Western Omelet at IHOP…

Mason Nation- major shout-out to linebacker Mason Foster, who can order the oatmeal at IHOP for all I care after tallying 14 tackles against the Steelers.  Or the Chicken Christopher at Mortons.  Or the hamburger at Union Oyster House.

Situation Norman- thank goodness they brought in Josh Norman to cover the likes of the Antonio Browns of the NFL.  Except for Monday night…when Brown tore through the Redskin secondary like a blowtorch through butter to the tune of 8 catches for 126 yards, two touchdowns and one massive endzone gyration that merited not just a penalty but a spot on “Dancing With the Stars”.  While it was uncomfortable watching Bashaud Breeland get turned inside out (he did make an early interception while tallying 9 tackles), with every catch one thought “where was Josh?”.  Especially when the $75 million dollar price tag and FOX pregame segments are involved.  The team threw out the “scheme” talk of Norman taking one side of the field…much like if the Nationals only had closer Mark Melancon pitch to right-handers.  While it’s not like this is a defense that doesn’t have a slew of potential leaks, but not to make the adjustment seems short-sighted.  One cannot wait to see where Dez Bryant lines up in week two…

Flying Flags- nine penalties for 55 yards…with two on special teams and seven on offense.  Five false starts (wondering what sort of drills we’ll see in Ashburn this week) and two holds.  Kory Lichtensteiger was flagged for two false starts while Trent Williams was tagged for a false start and a hold.  Most costly penalty?  Actually the sequence that saw a Vernon Davis hold wipe out a 10-yard Matt Jones run…turning a 1st & 10 at the Pittsburgh 32 into a 1st & 20 at the Washington 48.  Tack on a Trent Williams false start before the next snap and the Skins were 1st & 25 at their own 43.  They’d wind up turning the ball over on downs…missing the marker by one yard after coughing up 15 via infractions.  Pittsburgh would take the ball 67 yards on 14 plays to score just before halftime and the Skins would never be within a touchdown again.

Dissecting the Division- so Philadelphia and the New York Giants, despite making coaching changes, stand atop the NFC East?  The Giants 20-19 win over Dallas gives them the divisional record (1-0) tiebreaker and first place in the standings this week.  Philadelphia’s win over Division III Cleveland (I still believe they don’t give out scholarships with the Browns) allows the Eagles to embrace all that is Carson Wentz.  Dallas is in last place because of their 0-1 division record.  But that can all change Sunday.

Hall of Fame football coach Chuck Noll passed away Friday evening.  I remember when I started following the NFL as a kid I had trouble telling the difference between Chuck Noll and Chuck Knox;  it wasn’t as bad as Frank Gifford saying that George Foreman and not Chuck Foreman was catching passes for the Vikings or, heaven forbid, Thurman Munson making tackles for the Cowboys.  In a world where coaches can often be larger than life personalities who often oversell and underdeliver, Noll was the quiet achiever.  Unlike Hank Stram, he wasn’t miked up to say “64-toss, power trap”…or anything else.  Even among colorless coaches in the 1970’s, Noll didn’t stand out:  he failed to make “silent and stoic” his trademark like Bud Grant…or even wear the quiet fedora like Tom Landry.  He taught, built, and won…while deflecting praise to his players.  In a sport where Bill Walsh went straight from winning Super Bowl XXIII to the NBC booth…Noll retired from the game and stayed out of the limelight.  In a world where Hall of Famer Bill Parcells releases the book “Finding a Way to Win” in the middle of a 6-10 season and then writes “The Final Season:  My Last Year as a Head Coach in the NFL” a few years before taking the Dallas job, Noll never wrote an autobiography.  Noll never even cooperated on a biography of his legacy as the architect of the team of the 1970’s.  In a game where a coach’s ego can often be the size of the stadium he coaches in, Noll was the quiet conscientious objector.

“Players win.  Coaches teach”– Before taking over the Steelers, Noll was a winner.  Twice an NFL Champion as a player with Cleveland (1954-55, while playing in the title game two other seasons)… an AFL Champion as an assistant with San Diego (with 4 other appearances in the title game) and an NFL Champ as Baltimore’s Defensive Coordinator in 1968 (before the Colts lost Super Bowl III to the NY Jets), winning seemed to happen around him.  Or he was an active part of the winning process. “The thrill isn’t in the winning, it’s in the doing”.

“Geese fly 75% faster in formation”– Noll took a misguided franchise that had 7 winning seasons to its 30+ year history.  The actual number of Steeler seasons in the team’s history can always be debated:  during World War II they merged with Philadelphia for one year (going by the name “Steagles”) and spent another season merged with the then-Chicago Cardinals (a less-imaginative “Card-Pitt”).  With Art Rooney, Jr. and Bill Nunn, Jr. (who passed away earlier this year), they built through the draft as opposed to trying to trade their way to respectability (as had been the case in the past with the franchise).  On the first day of training camp, Noll told the team that for the most part they weren’t any good…and a big chunk of them would be gone sooner rather than later.  But those that stayed would learn.  And from the first round picks to the free agent pickups, Noll would teach his players technique and repetition.

“The single most important thing we had in the Steelers of the 1970s was an ability to work together”— can we also say a little luck?  The Boston Patriots almost hired Noll after the 1968 season, but shied away just long enough after the Colts lost to the Jets in Super Bowl III…and hired Jets Offensive Coordinator Clive Rush.  The Patriots went 5-16 under Rush…and instead of 21 games Noll lasted 23 seasons in Pittsburgh.  The Steelers also won a coin flip with Chicago the following season that gave them the #1 pick in the draft.  If they lose the toss, the Bears get Terry Bradshaw…and the Steelers settle for Mike Phipps of Purdue (next QB taken) or Notre Dame DT Mike McCoy (next player selected)?  Two years later, Noll wanted to take a runningback in the first round–only it wasn’t Franco Harris but the University of Houston’s Robert Newhouse.  Art Rooney Jr. won that battle, and the Steelers made the playoffs 10 times in the 12 years Harris was with the team.

“Don’t leave anything on the beach but your footprints”–  we’re constantly talking about legacies and Mount Rushmores in sports and specifically football;  talking heads spout numbers and context until we realize that it’s actually sunny outside.  Noll’s legacy will no doubt be debated and held up against Lombardi, Landry, Shula, Walsh…and others for years.  But after spending 39 years in pro football…Noll simply got on with his life.  A licensed pilot who also dabbled in scuba diving… a wine connoisseur who enjoyed cooking…a jazz enthusiast who guest-conducted the Pittsburgh Symphony.  He always told his players to prepare for “their life’s work” after football.  Charles Henry Noll had a full life that wasn’t made more complete by wins or championships.