But still need better for what he's being paid. Then again, Rudolph only got two catches for six yards. Carlson is obviously more explosive per catch than Rudolph
My Postgame Thoughts.
We won. It wasn't always pretty, but we won. We made plays when we needed to, we kept drives going, and more importantly, we scored TDs.
The important thing here, was we didn't settle for red zone field goals. I think we scored a TD most times we were in the red zone. Things like red zone TDs, 3rd down conversions are huge for keeping us winning, and for three quarters, we did a much improved job at that.
What I HATE, is the conservative playcalling in the fourth quarter. We're scared to lose. Runing AP, although not usually a bad way to go, is not the right call. On 3rd and 3, they KNOW we're running AP. Run a play action, do some crossing routes, something to get someone open and move the chains. We can't rely on AP making something out of nothing every play.
Having said that, my positional breakdown is as follows
QB: B+ Cassel had a pretty decent outing. Not truly special, but he showed poise, leadership and zip on his throws that Ponder has been lacking thus far. Don't get me wrong, he's not leading us to the superbowl, but he'll make the season more enjoyable, that's for sure. Struggled with accuracy at times, but other times, he did a spot-on job getting the ball where it needed to be. He had a dropped interception, as well as a bit of luck with a bounce on the fumble. Put me in the "start Cassel vs. Carolina" group.
RB: A. What can I say? AP was AP. showing speed, burst, power, quickness. Everything we take for granted. People, please realize how spoiled we are. I hope everyone here truly appreciates watching him, he truly is a once in a generation player. Despite having 140 yards and 2 TDs, it still seems like a so-so game by his standards. He's just that good. We didn't see any Gerhart, running, and I'm quite happy with that. I'm starting to suspect our coaches are trying to kill his market value by not using him much so we can re-sign him for cheap. Felton was key. He was making pretty good blocks as usual. On APs second TD, Felton was able to very quickly get over and take a blitzing Polamalu out of the play. A lesser man can't get there, and Troy blows that play up in the backfield. Instead, AP is able to get clear and walk in for the TD. On APs long TD, he once again got Polamalu out of the play, and with some downfield blocking, AP was gone.
TE: C+ They had some good moments blocking, but they were basically a non-factor in the pass game.
OL: B Significantly improved. They seemed to play much better, block much better, and adjust to blitzes much better. I can't give them all the credit though, our playcalling was improved, as well, I believe Cassel forced the Steelers to actually play honest D. They couldn't force 8-9 in the box as we actually hit receivers downfield this game. This helps the OL.
WR: A- Simpson and Jennings were real good. Simpson is definitely showing that re-signing him was a smart move. Jennings is Jennings. that 70 yard dash looked an awful lot like Jennings of 3 years ago for the Packers. Everyone else was basically a non-factor, but our game called for alot of 2 WR sets, and the 2 out there did a good job. Downfield blocking was good too.
DL: B+ We did a full 180 from the past few weeks. We're getting pressure, and we're clogging lanes. I can't give them an A however, as I truly do believe the Steelers line is that bad. They've been having huge issues all season long, and Ben taking alot of sacks is nothing new. However, 5 sacks and a forced fumble is nothing to hang your heads about. Good production from them.
LB: B- LB is still one of our weak points. Chad and Erin racked up alot of tackles (19 between the two) Chad is #9, Erin is #12 in the league in that stat through four weeks. However, our last position is a real weakness. We keep rotating guys in and out to try and find someone to show they deserve it. So far, nobody has. We still struggle in pass coverage over the midde. We simply are not equipped to run a zone defense. Our LBs struggle too much getting into their zones and effectively covering. They've made some good plays in the past few weeks getting interceptions, but they go and get beat the next opportunity.
DB: C We really need work. We just do. We're letting guys run free back there. We've had some good plays, forcing coverage sacks, but too often we're letting guys wide open. I understand we're in trouble with injuries, but we need to rise up and play well. We're simply not. Our D has let us down all season, and almost did again. Fortunately our DL was up to the challenge today, because our DBs certainly were not. On the positive side of things, Andrew Sendejo seems to be picking up his game nicely, and is making an alright backup. Harrison Smith is still a beast, but has work to do getting the coverage aspect down.
Special Teams: B+ Coverage was pretty good. No big returns, can't complain. We pinned them inside the 20 a few times on both punts and kickoffs. I think we won the field position game this week, which is huge to getting the win. Walsh can't make every kick. Locke seems hit or miss, but I'm giving him slack as a ROokie. Could have used a few more yards on that last punt of his. From our 40, 36 yards to give them a start with their last posession isn't terribly good.
Coaching: B- for 3 quarters, our offensive playcalling was actually not bad. We were mixing it up pretty well, keeping the Steelers off balance. Defense was good for most of 3 quarters as well. As soon as the fourth quarter hit, just like every other game, we get super conservative. For those of you pining for Marty Shottenheimer, this is what Marty Ball is. We get scared of losing. We go into conservative defensive formations, and don't play offense to win.
However, good momentum going into the bye. Keep this up vs. the Panthers, I"ll be there to watch.
What a world of a difference he made. Let him get some rust out and he could be putting up decent numbers. Remember we missed a field goal. Almost put up 40. With two weeks taking most the reps, we could see him put up a 50 burger.
My two pennyworth on the game
QB - whilst Cassel didn't light up the Steelers there is no doubt in my mind that he was a vast improvement over Ponder. There was an air of confidence about him that I just haven't felt with Ponder on the field and I think it showed with the offence. The blocking and pass protection was vastly improved, even if some of the playcalling wasn't. Is he a world beater or going to win the Super Bowl for us? probably not but like it or not he was a big upgrade over Ponder. He doesn't lock onto a WR and went through his progressions as needed, in addition didn't have happy feet like Ponder. Of course the Steelers didn't have any game film on him which helps so we would have to see a couple of games more before he knew fully what we were getting. However he is better than Ponder at this point.
RB - Peterson was back and had some good blocking in front of him, think having Felton back had a big impact on that. Great player and can't say anymore than has been said already.
WR - we finally saw what Jennings can do when he has a half decent QB throwing to him, good game from him. My biggest surprise this season has been Simpson and again he looked comfortable with Cassel throwing to him. I was on his case a lot last year but he finally seems to have got a grip and is becoming a useful target.
OL - a much better day from them and helped get Cassel established and in sync and they looked the best I've seen this season. Looking to see them improve much more.
DL - didn't get as much pressure as I would have liked but did get the job done. I think the fact that Steelers were constantly holding restricted their effectiveness, else people would still be looking for Big Ben as he would have been buried so many times.
LB/DB - still got sucked in on some plays and allowed some 3rd and long conversions due to missed assigments and poor tackling techniques. Robinson got caught on several occasions and showed why he's not a starter, hopefully the bye week will allow us to get back to full strength at the DB spots.
ST - had some good moments and I still think the fair catch penalty against Sherels was a BS call - that could have really put the Steelers on the back foot if that wasn't called.
Coaching - some improvement is areas but what was with the 4th quarter conservative playcalling? Something Frazier and Musgrave need to address but again showed their negative side, especially when the offence was playing above our defence level yesterday. In my book a good form of defence is offense and we should have gone after the Steelers in the 4th and put them away instead of allowing them to come back.
Overall a good game and always happy to see us get a win under our belt. Lets hope we can build on this in the bye week and then come out fighting in 2 weeks.
Considering Cassel only had a few days to get in sync with the starting WR's & TE's as opposed to Ponder who has had all year with Jennings & 2 years with others, it's understandable why he missed a few receivers in the game. He did however make all of his last 11 passes.
Couple of things
Yes Robinson looked like an boy amongst men for most of the game and I was surprised that they didn't pick on him more than they did.
As for Big Ben, he relied mostly on bubble screens for 1st downs and we couldn't seem to close quick enough. Tackling was much better than it has been and I have to think that because Cassel gave the team some belief in their ability to win.
When AP comes down in favour of the backup you know it's time for Ponder to ride the pine
Bye the way I am no 3-0 watching the Vikings play, they should pay me to watch :-)
As we saw, Cassel already had the confidence & the ability to do more, thus the improved play calling most of the game.