An Outsider's View of the AFC Playoff Field (and Threats to Pats)

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RhodyPatriot

In the Starting Line-Up
Patriots are the class of the AFC. Only team that's beating the Patriots???
The Patriots themselves.
Really like the defense. Think they'll nut up when they need to. They will come up with the big TO.
My only concern is a penalty at a critical time. They need to play smart.
With Gronk and Edelman rested and ready the offense is fully loaded.
My only 2 concerns with the team are big ones.... the O line and the QB.
Getting Connolly back will help the O line a great deal. Let's hope that fixes what ails them.
Tom Brady MUST recognize he can no longer carry this team.
If Brady does recognize this and relies on his run game and the dink and dunk pass game (all too often Brady is changing calls at the line and looking to pass down the field) the Patriots will win the Super Bowl.
If Brady still believes it all revolves around him then he'll make big mistakes and will kill this team.
 

lillloyd

Third String But Playing on Special Teams
I see Oswelk already quoted the sentence I wanted to quote... but yes, this right here is my biggest postseason fear.

As a Steelers fan it's really quite hard to imagine a scenario where this happens -- again I think maybe we would have a 'punchers chance' at best, if we even made it that far.

Like most teams, we don't score nearly as well on the road. There's a narrative out there that Pitt is an old, aging team, but the reality is that we're actually extremely young/inexperienced on offense. Our OL, while improved, can still struggle mightily in stunt recognition, particularly on the road. Our wideouts outside of AB are not always on the same page as Roethlisberger. I think we've 'hidden' this somewhat in the friendly confines of Heinz field...but I think in a playoff atmosphere in a supercharged Gillette, a lot of these issues would come to the fore, particularly with BB calling the shots.

I think BB would basically create a full-game 'exam' for the OL and simply send complex stunts at Pitt and make them prove they could handle it. And like any exam where you barely know the material, the OL might do under the 'controlled' conditions of Heinz field but fail miserably with less favorable conditions (like the raucous crowd of Gillette). Pitt's OL has progressed nicely but I don't know that they're ready for 60 minutes of a BB-led gameplan...so I think in this matchup there'd be a lot more pass pressure on Pitt than you might expect.

And of course, I'm sure BB would create coverage looks on the back end that would make Ben think, and while he's progressed in that area he'll never be as cerebral as a Brady or Manning. (FWIW I really think the best way to attack the Steelers is to rush only 4 or even 3--but rush with stunts and other more complex schemes--and then drop 7 or 8 and let Ben struggle to sort out the coverage....I never understand why more teams don't do this. Most teams send 5 or more rushers, and Ben always destroys that approach, probably because he has less to sort out in coverage...)

It probably goes without saying but you guys should all be unbelievably gratefully for the *massive* Xs and Os advantage you have in most games. The Pats have formidable talent, but IMHO what puts them over the top year in and year out is the coaching staff and their ability to identify and exploit weaknesses, not just in the weekly game plan but even with in-game adjustments. Just world class stuff.
 

Oswlek

Veteran Starter w/Big Long Term Deal
As a Steelers fan it's really quite hard to imagine a scenario where this happens -- again I think maybe we would have a 'punchers chance' at best, if we even made it that far.

Like most teams, we don't score nearly as well on the road. There's a narrative out there that Pitt is an old, aging team, but the reality is that we're actually extremely young/inexperienced on offense. Our OL, while improved, can still struggle mightily in stunt recognition, particularly on the road. Our wideouts outside of AB are not always on the same page as Roethlisberger. I think we've 'hidden' this somewhat in the friendly confines of Heinz field...but I think in a playoff atmosphere in a supercharged Gillette, a lot of these issues would come to the fore, particularly with BB calling the shots.

I think BB would basically create a full-game 'exam' for the OL and simply send complex stunts at Pitt and make them prove they could handle it. And like any exam where you barely know the material, the OL might do under the 'controlled' conditions of Heinz field but fail miserably with less favorable conditions (like the raucous crowd of Gillette). Pitt's OL has progressed nicely but I don't know that they're ready for 60 minutes of a BB-led gameplan...so I think in this matchup there'd be a lot more pass pressure on Pitt than you might expect.

And of course, I'm sure BB would create coverage looks on the back end that would make Ben think, and while he's progressed in that area he'll never be as cerebral as a Brady or Manning. (FWIW I really think the best way to attack the Steelers is to rush only 4 or even 3--but rush with stunts and other more complex schemes--and then drop 7 or 8 and let Ben struggle to sort out the coverage....I never understand why more teams don't do this. Most teams send 5 or more rushers, and Ben always destroys that approach, probably because he has less to sort out in coverage...)

It probably goes without saying but you guys should all be unbelievably gratefully for the *massive* Xs and Os advantage you have in most games. The Pats have formidable talent, but IMHO what puts them over the top year in and year out is the coaching staff and their ability to identify and exploit weaknesses, not just in the weekly game plan but even with in-game adjustments. Just world class stuff.

This is great stuff.
 

Mike the Brit

Minuteman Target
PatsFans.com Supporter
Mike,

FWIW Pitt really seems to like Josh Harris (their current backup RB). He had a nice run (59 yd 'TD') that was called back Sunday, and some of the Pitt beat writers (Ilkin/Wolfley) have been singing his praises for a while. So the hope here is that he can be our Jonas Gray--an UFA who can fill in capably if Bell is out.

I actually think Pitt can be okay *running* the ball in Bell's absence -- our OL has improved enough that I think a decent backup RB can have some success in a pinch. Where there will be simply a massive dropoff will be in the pass game, where Bell has been huge in making positive (sometimes, explosive!) plays on checkdowns when the wideouts are covered up...plus he's great in pass pro.

Pitt was fortunate to have a veteran, RB1-capable backup in Blount while they had him. They clearly had concerns similar to what you've raised prior to the season, since they made the effort to sign him. It's too bad for Pitt that Blount committed what's basically a fireable offense; whether you're in the NFL or in a corporate gig, if you literally walk off the job you'll justifiably be treated harshly. But the point is, Pitt *did* actually make a solid effort to address RB depth by signing Blount in the first place.

Not sure what was meant by the "homer apologist" remark -- I think (?) I do a decent job of staying pretty objective and non-combative (I think if you search my previous posts here on this forum, it will bear that out). I think we just disagree -- IMO Pittsburgh acted reasonably here, both in initially trying to shore up their RB depth by signing Blount, AND subsequently cutting him when his behavior went too far out of line.
I suppose you might fault them for not signing a FA vet to replace Blount (some lobbied for Ben Tate but he was cut--twice--for similar reasons as Blount). But for better or worse that's not been Pitt's M.O. -- they tend to fill from within, and frankly signing Blount in the first place was a bit out of character.

Anyway, I appreciate the civility (both from you and from the forum in general), and I hope my previous response wasn't interpreted as NOT being civil...it definitely wasn't meant that way.:)

Thanks for the post, Lillloyd, and the apology is absolutely accepted.

One of the things that de-rails message board discussions is that people don't read what others say and reply to something else. My original post listed a number of risks from what looked to me the concentration on Bell -- what if he's injured? will he wear down? etc.

My original question came from my surprise at seeing the balance (or lack of it) on the Steelers' roster. The Pats have seldom had fewer than 4 RBs on the 53. I can see that not everyone needs to go with the running-back-by-committee approach, especially not if they have an outstanding back like Bell, but, given how much of a pounding running backs take, it seemed to me that, even before cutting Blount, the Steelers would have been thin at the position behind Bell. Without Blount it became worse.

I didn't want to force my view on you, but just wanted your thoughts. You didn't seem troubled and then there was the unfortunate injury ...

Still, no team can carry enough depth for all positions and eventualities (especially not if they want credible special teams). We'll see what happens in the next game.

So thanks for being such a good visitor and good luck with the rest of the (post-)season.
 

lillloyd

Third String But Playing on Special Teams
Thanks for the post, Lillloyd, and the apology is absolutely accepted.

One of the things that de-rails message board discussions is that people don't read what others say and reply to something else. My original post listed a number of risks from what looked to me the concentration on Bell -- what if he's injured? will he wear down? etc.

My original question came from my surprise at seeing the balance (or lack of it) on the Steelers' roster. The Pats have seldom had fewer than 4 RBs on the 53. I can see that not everyone needs to go with the running-back-by-committee approach, especially not if they have an outstanding back like Bell, but, given how much of a pounding running backs take, it seemed to me that, even before cutting Blount, the Steelers would have been thin at the position behind Bell. Without Blount it became worse.

I didn't want to force my view on you, but just wanted your thoughts. You didn't seem troubled and then there was the unfortunate injury ...

Still, no team can carry enough depth for all positions and eventualities (especially not if they want credible special teams). We'll see what happens in the next game.

So thanks for being such a good visitor and good luck with the rest of the (post-)season.

FWIW I just read on Steelers Depot that Pitt has brought Ben Tate in for a visit. It's accompanied by a GIF showing Tate absolutely whiffing on a blitzer in pass pro. (sigh.)

If they sign him, my bet would be on Harris still getting the majority of the carries, with Tate just as backup insurance. (I don't particularly like the idea of signing Tate--particularly if that pass pro GIF is representative--but I guess I understanding getting a vet into the fold).

You raise an interesting point on RB depth and putting rosters together. I think Pitt's thinking was, we'll sign Blount and essentially have a "1A" and "1B", and if both guys get injured we'll make do until one heals up. If necessary, we'll sign one of the many out-of-work vets to help. I guess in theory I agree with this approach, as arguably RBs are the most fungible roster commodity, at least from the perspective of *running* the ball (just run to daylight). It's the reason RB is one of the easiest places for rookies to have success (IMO), and why so many UFA RBs seem to do well.

In hindsight, I think where Pitt erred was having such a diminutive scatback (Dri Archer) as the #3...a guy who simply can't be effective in pass protection. (We do have a 4th RB -- fullback Will Johnson -- who is a good blocker and a serviceable emergency runner). But I'm sure Pitt was thinking, we just signed a "1A" RB to back up Bell, and that's probably better insurance than we have at either WR or QB (where the dropoff from AB or Ben to the 2nd best players would probably be even more devastating than losing Bell), do we really need a *third* veteran RB? But now they really are dealing with that worst-case scenario (Blount was effectively an unforeseen 'injury' through his actions)...we'll see how it turns out.

Anyway again Mike sorry if I did exactly what you mentioned (i.e. typing a blanket response to several posts rather than focusing on the specific intent of yours), probably some carelessness on my part...certainly didn't mean anything by it.

Good luck the rest of the way! Maybe with some exceedingly good fortune on our end, we'll get to discuss an actual Pats/Steelers game matchup :)
 

Mike the Brit

Minuteman Target
PatsFans.com Supporter
Good luck the rest of the way! Maybe with some exceedingly good fortune on our end, we'll get to discuss an actual Pats/Steelers game matchup :)


Aargh, no! I'm in France and the only pal I have here who is into the NFL is a Steelers fan. We might fall out and then where would I be?

(Very interesting post. Your point about Archer (who was one of the many Steelers draft picks I wish we'd made) is an excellent one.)
 

Patriot_in_NY

Veteran Starter w/Big Long Term Deal
Haven't read the whole thread, so not sure if any of these points have been brought up;

I actually do think that it will be Steelers/Patriots in the AFC Championship, with the Pats winning a good game to make the SB. I think of the teams left, Balt matches up best against us and I could easily see them come into NE and upset us. However, I do not think that they match up particularly well against the Steelers (at least @ Pitt), so I do not see them clearing the Wild Card round. L. Bell injury COULD be the only mitigating factor in me being wrong.

Both Indy and Cincy are fatally flawed teams and I just smell blowout in our Divisional game. Pitt/Denver could be a good game, but Den hasn't beaten a quality team in over 2 months and Peyton looks like toast lately. I look for a Pitt win with at least 2-3 Peyton ducks falling into defenders hands.

Don't get me wrong, I would prefer Dev here over Pitt, but I do think that barring significant injury to us in the Divisional round, We win against either team. Pittsburgh would be a more formidable challenge for us, but in the end......... I'll say it plain....... BB/TB OWNS the Steelers (and DL defenses in general). Not a sure thing by any stretch, but I like our chances. :cool:

So go out there and beat them damn Ravens this weekend. For the first time in forever, I will be a Steeler fan this weekend.
 

lillloyd

Third String But Playing on Special Teams
Don't get me wrong, I would prefer Dev here over Pitt, but I do think that barring significant injury to us in the Divisional round, We win against either team. Pittsburgh would be a more formidable challenge for us, but in the end......... I'll say it plain....... BB/TB OWNS the Steelers (and DL defenses in general). Not a sure thing by any stretch, but I like our chances. :cool:

So go out there and beat them damn Ravens this weekend. For the first time in forever, I will be a Steeler fan this weekend.

Kinda funny how there's a whole "rock-paper-scissors" thing going on with the fanbases of the various teams due to matchups and recent history:

  • Baltimore fans, having been swept by Cincy and being 0-3 against Pitt in the playoffs, are queasy about facing either Cincy or Pitt. But right or wrong, they have relatively little fear of going into Foxboro or Denver.
  • Many Patriots fans would just as soon avoid the Ravens...have zero issues playing Pittsburgh.
  • PITT fans don't have much of an issue playing the Ravens or Cincy. But they have zero confidence going to Foxboro.
  • Denver fans are leery of the bottom seeds (Balt and Cincy) due to recent history. (Actually they're leery of just about everyone until they're confident Peyton can be fixed ;)
When I think of the Ravens front 7 against my team, I'm not hugely concerned because I know that if they get to the QB, our QB will often as not spin out and punish them downfield...whereas fans with more stationary QBs (DEN/NE) may worry that similar pressure will bog down their offenses. But (unlike a Denver fan with a 'cerebral' QB) I'd fear the NE defense much more due to the confusing looks they might throw at Roethlisberger.

What's the saying in boxing? "Matchups make the fight"? ;)
 

New England Pride

2nd Team Getting Their First Start
Kinda funny how there's a whole "rock-paper-scissors" thing going on with the fanbases of the various teams due to matchups and recent history:

  • Baltimore fans, having been swept by Cincy and being 0-3 against Pitt in the playoffs, are queasy about facing either Cincy or Pitt. But right or wrong, they have relatively little fear of going into Foxboro or Denver.
  • Many Patriots fans would just as soon avoid the Ravens...have zero issues playing Pittsburgh.
  • PITT fans don't have much of an issue playing the Ravens or Cincy. But they have zero confidence going to Foxboro.
  • Denver fans are leery of the bottom seeds (Balt and Cincy) due to recent history. (Actually they're leery of just about everyone until they're confident Peyton can be fixed ;)
When I think of the Ravens front 7 against my team, I'm not hugely concerned because I know that if they get to the QB, our QB will often as not spin out and punish them downfield...whereas fans with more stationary QBs (DEN/NE) may worry that similar pressure will bog down their offenses. But (unlike a Denver fan with a 'cerebral' QB) I'd fear the NE defense much more due to the confusing looks they might throw at Roethlisberger.

What's the saying in boxing? "Matchups make the fight"? ;)

Agreed. How big of a deal is it that Bell wont play? Ultimately, I don't see how Baltimore will stop Brown.
 

lillloyd

Third String But Playing on Special Teams
It's a pretty big deal. But I don't think Pittsburgh's offense is going to collapse without him.

Bell only got 20 rush yards in the last matchup - frankly Baltimore typically throttles the running game no matter who's back there. But Bell's been absolutely huge all season turning checkdown receptions into first downs and explosive plays...plus he's a beast in pass protection. Ironically it's the loss of his ability to pick off blitzers that has me the most concerned, particularly with Ngata coming back to bolster Baltimore's already formidable front 7.

That all said, Pitt definitely *can* win without Bell against Baltimore. It was Ben (6TDs) and the receivers that did most of the damage last time out, not Bell. Not saying we'll throw for 6 touchdowns again by any stretch (IMO this will be a very close game), but if the OL can keep Ben relatively clean then Pitt should again have a pretty sizable advantage with their passing offense versus the Ravens DBs (who are a glorified M.A.S.H unit at this point.)

These division games tend to be 50/50 affairs. (I really hate division games in the playoffs when you're the favorite...no matter what the perceived advantage it always feels like a tossup because the teams know each other so well!) It would be great to have Bell, but if Pitt loses I don't think you can blame Bell's absence, because Pitt has enough even without him to potentially beat the Ravens (particularly at home). Certainly Baltimore has had more than its fair share of injuries this year, so if BALT wins it's not like the loss of Bell would be a valid 'excuse'. I would still favor Pitt but it's not like I'd be surprised if the Ravens came in and beat us, given how tight these games have been (this year's regular season results notwithstanding).
 

luuked

PatsFans.com Supporter
PatsFans.com Supporter
It probably goes without saying but you guys should all be unbelievably gratefully for the *massive* Xs and Os advantage you have in most games. The Pats have formidable talent, but IMHO what puts them over the top year in and year out is the coaching staff and their ability to identify and exploit weaknesses, not just in the weekly game plan but even with in-game adjustments. Just world class stuff.

You should come by during one of our live game threads and inhale the hate for McDaniels, Patricia and sometimes also Belichick. It often gets so absurd that you can't help but laugh. It really feels like many people here have grown up with the success that the Patriots have had for over a decade, take it for granted and often behave so entitled that you almost feel embarrassed.
 
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