Monday, February 7, 2011

GTOPG: Steelers Lose Super Bowl; GTOG Tells You Why

By Finesse

Ok, so the Steelers lost. Worse things have happened in life. Here at GTOG, we don’t like to offer excuses or just regurgitate talking points that you could fall asleep to on Mike & Mike. We like to give perspective.

The one thing that I did not think would happen in the Super Bowl was that the Steelers would be the cause of their own demise. I figured that if Green Bay won, it would be because Green Bay is a very good team, with some very good players, and a quarterback primed to get smothered with adulation that we in GTOG nation, frankly, just won’t pay attention to. I did not think that the Steelers would lose this game because of 3 brutal turnovers, several missed passes by Ben Roethlisberger, a no-show performance from some of their top defensive players, and some shaky decision making from the coaching staff. Somewhere, Jeff Reed and Bill Cowher are having a toast.

None of that above paragraph takes away from the Packers. They are deserving Champions. They were the favorites. They made plays that caused the Steelers’ three turnovers. They overcame even more significant injuries than the Steelers did, despite Troy Aikman calling Maurkice Pouncey “the greatest rookie lineman of all time.” (Not that Pouncey isn’t great, but if we were setting the over-under on Steelers’ games that Aikman watched this season, it would be 2.5.) At the end of the game, the right team was on the podium.

There are several ways to react to a game of this magnitude, so we’ll be comprehensive this morning and soak in both the little and the big picture.  Why did we lose, and what does it mean?  After the jump...

The five reasons the Steelers lost this game:

5) Not getting the fumble recovery on the opening punt

The key to beating the Steelers’ defense is to have a smart quarterback. That sounds obvious, and it is, but it is an important point. The Steelers’ success on D is predicated on confusing the opposing team and baiting their QB into doing something stupid. This is why we don’t beat Tom Brady – he understands what we are doing, adjusts to it, and knows when to throw it away or take a sack to avoid a turnover. Aaron Rodgers, the highly unnecessary chip on his shoulder aside, gets it.

Smart.  And Very Good.  Unfortunately.
What does this have to do with the Steelers’ opening punt? If you looked at the Tweets going around before every Packers’ possession, the theme was the same: “Steelers need a turnover here.” Sorry everyone, but these teams could still be playing and we still wouldn’t have a defensive turnover. Rodgers took the hits and took the sacks, but he never did anything dumb.

That’s exactly why not recovering that fumble was a key play despite it happening so early in the game. Those are the breaks the Steelers needed. Even with all of their talent, Green Bay can be rattled, and they definitely were at various points throughout the game. It just would have been nice to land an early blow.

4) Coaching.  Ahh, where to begin…

- Timeouts. None of us has any idea why the Steelers burnt two timeouts early in the second half, but I’ve been racking my brain for at least 10 seconds and I can’t think of any good reason. The Steelers couldn’t even get enough first downs on the final drive for this to really come back and bite us, but don’t fool yourself – the fact that we only had one timeout remaining with 1:50 left and 87 yards to cover made the usually combobulated Steelers’ two-minute offense look, well, discombobulated. We wasted 27 seconds at one point so Roethlisberger could throw the ball into the fourth row on a 4 yard out pattern to Mike Wallace.

At least he was great during half time show.
- The Shank. Sure, you could blame Shaun Suisham for kicking a 52-yard field goal out of bounds down the left sideline, but that would be like blaming the paper towel dispenser in the Jeff Reed fight – it never had a chance. The kick would have made it 21-20 but that would have required a physical possibility of Suisham making it. After nearly missing an extra point a few minutes earlier, it wasn’t happening. Jeremy Kapinos was a modern-day Ray Guy out there. Get the ball in his hands.

Actual poster above Jeremy Kapinos' bed.
- Play-calling. I’m nitpicking here, but I want to go back to the first quarter when the Steelers had a third and 2 around midfield somewhere and we dropped Roethlisberger back into shotgun to rifle a 92mph heater past the outstretched arms of a covered Heath Miller 16 yards down field. It’s like the coaching staff thought, “Ok, we have 50 plays that we could call here, each of which would give us about an 80% chance of converting. Or, we could call the one play that has a 5% chance of working and a 95% chance of breaking Heath Miller’s index finger if he gets a hand on it. Let’s go with Plan B.”

3) William Gay

I was trying to refer to William Gay as something that is the opposite of “Revis Island” but, in thinking about that, I’m not really sure what Revis Island even means. It just sounds cool. What doesn’t sound as cool is Gay Island. If you’re a receiver playing the Steelers, you want to spend time on Gay Island.  The only thing William Gay has going for him is that if he decides to go by “Bill Gay,” that sounds a lot like “Bill Gray” from Bill Gray Nissan. That should make Gay’s transition later this summer to used car salesman seamless.

"Zero Money Down!  Zero Percent Financing!"
 2) No-shows on D

As much as we want to, not all the defensive woes of the Steelers can be laid at the slow feet of Bill Gay.  There were also at least three usually prime-time performers who were anything but.

- Troy Polamalu. He may be the most popular Steeler, but he had the worst playoffs of any of our stars. He was invisible again last night, except for when his highly lauded instincts instictivized him to leave receivers open streaming to the back pylon of the endzone. (Made up words like “instictivized” are our tribute to Bill Cowher). He blitzed only one time, a decision that may be attributable to the coaching staff, but is nevertheless confusing. A lot of the Troy Justifiers attributed his lack of aggressiveness this post season to his Achilles injury and bought into the conventional wisdom that the Steelers were somehow protecting his Achilles by having him run 50 yards chasing speedy wide receivers around the field on every play instead of blitzing 8 yards to the QB. Why did we not hear even a single person question the wisdom of this? If you had a bum foot, wouldn’t you rather run 8 yards than 50?

- Lamar Woodley. He may have arms the size of redwood trees, but that bull rush was not working last night. Rodgers was doing a fantastic job of recognizing the pressure coming from Harrison on his blind side, so Woodley could have really complicated things if he could have gotten a push in Rodgers’ face. He didn’t.

- Ryan Clark. The hero of the Baltimore game was a step slow on every pass in this game. Or maybe Aaron Rodgers is a step faster than Joe Flacco. Whatever the case, not a game tape that he will enjoy reviewing.

1) Rashard Mendenhall

As hard as the Steelers fought to get back in this game, it was all but officially lost when Rashard Mendenhall fumbled with 11 minutes left in the 4th quarter with the Steelers down 21-17 with the ball on the GB 40-yard line. You can conceive 1,000 other scenarios for how the Steelers lost this game, but this was the biggest play by a landslide. Clay Matthews caused the fumble, which is good for him because he otherwise made his impression felt only by flopping to the ground on every rush to the QB like a widow wailing at a casket. Overrated.

Arguably this pic is NSFW.

So that’s the analysis of the game. It’s frustrating because it seemed winnable.  In reality, however, all the mistakes the Steelers made were the same types of mistakes that they made all season. And Green Bay was good enough not to give the game back to us. Kudos to them.  But going play-by-play through a loss is no fun, so let’s examine the bigger picture here.

Summary: What it all means

First and foremost, consider this game an enormous missed opportunity for Ben Roethlisberger. There is no way to sugar coat it – this is a bad “legacy” game for him. Everything was setting up perfectly for him, with all the credit he was getting for reaching his third Super Bowl and for not sexually assaulting someone (allegedly) for 9 months. We’re proud of him on both counts. We know that both things are very difficult to do.  But he had a bad game when a decent game may have been enough.

He threw two weak interceptions and missed at least one wide open deep ball to Wallace. He looked completely lost on the last drive, squandering an opportunity at immortality if he had converted for a TD. He pump faked wide receiver screen passes and then threw the wide receiver screen. This one game doesn’t change the fact that he is a great quarterback. It also doesn’t change the fact that he isn’t the greatest in the game.

That title, temporarily at least, belongs to Aaron Rodgers. If you work for a national newspaper, here’s how you write this morning’s column: Go back to last year’s column about Drew Brees, hit Ctrl+F, replace “Brees” with “Rodgers”, submit to your editor, and then figure out how to shoehorn your 6th meal of the day into the expense report you submit to accounting when you get back home.

Rodgers was fantastic last night, and would have been even more fantastic if his receivers hadn’t dropped several easy catches. He has a little bit of a smugness to him that is off-putting, but otherwise seems like a fine person. We get a little disturbed at the handwringing over the “disrespect” that was shown to him by sliding so far in the draft several years ago – imagine the horror of being the 20th pick in the NFL Draft?!?! How awful!! We’re sure that he will be getting verbal massages from the punditry all week – you’ll have to forgive us if we don’t tune in.

No Thanks.
Perhaps the most lasting outcome from this loss will be in how it affects the perception of this group of Steelers when history writes their story in 20 years (or in 20 days when the Post-Gazette comes out with some sort of commemorative edition of this season). Three Super Bowls would have been a remarkable, historic achievement. Two Super Bowls is just an achievement. Yes, that’s an arbitrary line, but we live in a time where most people sleep in “Hyperbolic” chambers and love to declare things either the greatest, worst, or overrated. Rarely in between. This Steelers’ run (so far) has not achieved greatness, but nor has the team been overrated. The Steelers are an annually competitive team that has won 2 Super Bowls in 6 years. So instead of feeling sorry for yourself about last night’s loss, tip your cap to the Packers, throw your Terrible Towel in the laundry, and cheer up. We aren’t going anywhere.


  1. Wondrous recap. And I rarely use the word "wondrous." Hard to disagree with any part of this analysis, though I point out that Mendenhall was maybe that one fumble removed from being the Super Bowl MVP. A fine line between goat and hero, and after campaigning all season long for him to get the ball more often, I'm still in his corner. He ran very well. We also can't underestimate the impact of Keyaron Fox's boneheaded penalty, which backed the Steelers up to the 10-yard line with 2 minutes to play and 1 timeout. If we have the ball at the 30 in those circumstances, I'll take our chances. If we have the ball at the 30 with 2 minutes left and all three timeouts, I really like our chances. It was a collective harmony of carelessness that deprived us of that opportunity. It was the dance of not champions.

  2. To be clear, the "Overrated" was aimed toward Clay Matthews, not Rashard.

    But yes, it was the Dance of Runner Ups last night.

  3. have to agree on coaching a bit. More so on Arians...I get they must have seen something in the screen game (if GB packers play press covg, you assume all you need is one-2 good blocks from a great WR/TE/pulling lineman team from springing a big one), but after 8 times and you're racking up 3yds per, give up. Why not go to your bread and butter passing game in the middle of the field with heath/hines etc? Yes its the biggest game of the year, but no need to out-think yourself and go away from your strength...putting it in Ben's hands, not a WR one on one with excellent corners.

    Also on Troy. Seems very logical that blitzing requires a lot less effort than playing centerfield, along with not have to stop and turn on a dime.