Are you ready for some football?
Apparently, the Pittsburgh Steelers are not as they dropped a Jurassic Park sized doozie against the Buffalo Bills last weekend, losing 43-19.
Unfortunately, this was the last real chance for the team to improve itself as Coach Mike Tomlin will be playing the water boys and the bus drivers during the final preseason game this Thursday.
Think the team is properly prepped for the New England Patriots in the season opener?
Let’s find out as here are your Rapid Fire Conclusions:
You can put the dismal performance of the Steelers squarely on the shoulders of Tomlin. This was a critical game for the team to deal with the jarring losses of center Maurkice Pouncey for at least half the season and running back Le’Veon Bell and now Martavis Bryant to two and four game suspensions respectively. It was a time for the reeling starting defense to try to find itself. Instead, Tomlin treated the game as if it was a charity retired player match with bizarre lineups and limited play by the starters. Wonder why Tomlin’s record is 6-10 combined for the first quarter of the prior four seasons? Look no further than his squandering approach to preseason play.
The Suspended Star
There was very few shining moments for the Steelers during this game but one star certainly was Bryant, who apparently took his anger over the tyranny of drug tests against the Bills. But the obvious question was, “Why was Bryant on the field?” After disappointing his team, coaches and fans so miserably why did he get a hat for the game? Wasn’t the team desperate to find his replacement? Why give him the touches? This was no accident. Tomlin responded in the same fashion last year when Bell had his spell of Reefer Madness. It’s a bad message for young Steelers fans, and a missed opportunity to begin to find his replacements.
Family of Four Test
It has grown wearisome to comment on the play of Landry Jones but who can blame us? He’s all we’ve seen this preseason. When he trotted out to the field in the second quarter could you not hear the collective groan of Steelers Nation? Why? Because we’re cruel and inhumane? No, it’s because poor Landry doesn’t pass the Family of Four Test. That is…when you purchase a decent NFL ticket for $300, and include your family, you’re up to $1,200 before the kids start insisting on being nourished. That’s not including travel costs. So are you going to be thrilled with your investment if Jones is your starting NFL quarterback? Of course not. There would be a long line at the refund booth.
A one…and a…two…
With the addition of Michael Vick to the roster the team now has an NFL quality back-up quarterback. He proved it with his first throw of the game. You want a guy who isn’t going to be overwhelmed by the situation and who won’t be blinded by the lights. Now the Steelers need to look for a proper number three quarterback. That would be a young player with a lack of experience and a huge upside. You don’t need Jones to teach Vick. Ben Roethlisberger and the quarterback coach will do just fine. Time to move on Kevin Colbert. You can’t win them all.
The Southpaw Flaw
There is one issue with having Vick as your back-up quarterback. He’s left handed. This is rarely an issue if he’s your number one slinger but it can create issues if he is the number two. It’s the same reason that Bill Belichick and Tomlin preferred left footed punters. The reverse spin of the ball can be a bit jarring for players. Let’s hope this doesn’t cause a few drops if Vick ever needs to come in during a critical juncture of a game.
The New Defensive Wrinkle
Well…if the offense was offensive, that doesn’t compare to the disappointing play of the defense. The Steelers shifted their traditional Cover 3 to a surprising Cover 2 early this preseason. Against the Bills, the team unveiled a new wrinkle to the defense, this time rolling out the Cover None. What makes it most troubling is the lack of quality of quarterbacks who sliced up the Steelers defense. This coupled with the reality that the Bills were down to third string receivers. Yes…it’s now officially time to panic.
You can only imagine Vince Williams’ first words in the team meeting room when it was announced they would be playing a lot more Cover 2. “Oh crap!” Williams is a fan favorite during backs on backers drills, but he looks Lost in Space trying to fill the deep middle zone in Cover 2. If he ends up starting against the New England Patriots (if Lawrence Timmons isn’t ready to go) he might as well hold up a sign saying, “Please Insert Gronk Here”.
The Butler Did It
With four preseason games under his belt it’s time for new Steelers defensive coordinator Keith Butler to assert some control with his squad. What is the identity of this unit? Who is making the calls for what defense will be run? It appears there are too many cooks in the kitchen. Time for the Butler to take control.
Can we stop with rolling out Jarvis Jones and Arthur Moats as the team’s starters on defense? Are we’re trying to artificially boost their confidence? You can’t surrender the opening drive to the opposing offense. Let’s go with our best and that will ALWAYS be James Harrison and probably Bud Dupree.
Short Yard Specialist
Daniel McCullers got substantial game time against the Bills and he was steady if not spectacular. Yet the bigger question is why he wasn’t on the field during short yardage situations early in the game? Why wouldn’t you have him in there on every fourth and one? He’s not going to get you a sack or an interception but he wins every time against a center. It was disappointing they never mixed him in with the Ones to see how he fits in. Hopefully the team can figure out how to use Big Dan more effectively this year as he is a huge, and largely unused weapon in many ways.
The Battle Down Under
It says a lot about a game when the most exciting player is the punter…but if all of our offensive weapons continue to go Up in Smoke we’re going to need a punter of the highest caliber. Jordan Berry got awarded the job last week on Rapid Fire Conclusions. Now we’re putting in our votes for the Pro Bowl. We saw a whole season of Brad Wing last year…and he was okay. Berry has been sensational…and he’s brand new, fresh out of the box.
Slowly…Markus Wheaton is establishing himself as Big Ben’s number one choice across the middle. If there was any question he was the number two receiver on the team that was answered with Bryant’s suspension. Wheaton looks fearless and reliable for third downs. Look for a breakout season for him this year.
If anyone should be disappointed following the Steelers loss to the Bills (well…besides those Steelers fans who bought tickets) it should be those receivers battling for a position on the team. First you have Bryant unnecessarily taking up snaps. Then you…once again…have to have Jones as your quarterback for much of the game. Players like Darrius Heyward-Bey, Sammie Coates, Shakim Phillips, Dri Archer, Tyler Murphy and C.J. Goodwin all have the right to be angry.
Leave Them Wanting More
After Tomlin’s take on the preseason against the Bills how are fans possibly going to get pumped up with Thursday’s upcoming match against the Carolina Panthers? I wonder if the Rooneys will bring him into the office a say, “Coach, you do know we’re trying to sell tickets?” Well…at least if you watch Thursday’s game, you’ll know you’re a real Steelers fan.