The scoreboard says quite enough, as do the stat columns. The one area I expected to be the cause for our demise in penalties, was the thorn in the Steelers' foot, and it didn't even help to slow them down at all. While we failed to execute in any phase of yesterday's debacle, it's clear there were a root few key problems we were unable to overcome, all stemming from being completely outcoached by Mike Tomlin and Dick Lebeau, but the problem started with personnel decisions. The beginning sequence of the video demonstrates how their offense executed their offensive game plan to neutralize our pass rush with quick passes to get the ball out and lots of fleet footed receivers finding space quickly.
Dick Lebeau and Mike Tomlin knew, if they frustrated Seymour early, they could potentially take him out of his game, and therein deplete the team's most capable leadership in Nnamdi's absence, and neutralize the rush from our front four by getting the ball out quickly--exactly what we should've done. Only big Ben is highly capable of doing this; Jason Campbell, not so much. The Raiders' D backs and backers in coverage would have to be very physical and press the receivers early, taking away the slants and underneath stuff from three and five step drops and the gun; they failed miserably in doing so, and the Pittsburgh air show exploited it.
JC was the wrong personnel decision for this game; Bruce is the only guy we have who can effectively use a playbook to make up for our inefficiencies blocking. Also, the decision to play Zach following zero practice probably had everything to do with his very uncharacteristic clutch drops, that would've probably moved the chains several times like they usually do. We had an outcry for Nnamdi to play all week too, and it was also expressed that it makes zero sense to play guys before they're ready, whether that means fully healthy or prepared to go. We have done well giving our depth and youth chances to shine when necessary, and paid for not using the guys who practiced all week in preparation for Pittsburgh.
The third key personnel decision that hurt us, was not getting Mike Bush involved earlier. We knew going into the game that Pittburgh boasted the top run defense in the league, and also that our blocking effectively needed a fifth lineman out there in Khalif Barnes to go most times, and that our back would likely be met at the line of scrimmage by primary tacklers on the defensive side. Mike Bush falls forward for three yards much better in tough yardage situations than does McFadden, who needs to get the ball in space, and Dick Lebeau did a fine job of keeping McFadden from getting those opportunities at all. The Wild Hog could've mixed in effectively too, with Mike getting the majority of carries from the formation, oh, and catches.
All in all, it was a humiliating loss, but this team can use what we already knew about this team and was reinforced by the weaknesses highlighted in Pittsburgh to get better and move on. The "no more... shoulda, coulda, woulda," that Tom is preaching will come into play now, more than ever for this Raider team. Hit the jump to keep reading...
Firstly, Jason Campbell is not the starter for this team regardless of him being the "hot hand," if the coaches and staff are truly genuine in starting the guy that gives this team the best chance to win, especially in this matchup. We knew going into the game, that the only successes we've garnered thus far, were from creative blocking assignments and play actions and misdirects that made up for our inability to sustain blocks for any significant deep drops or plays that require our qb to hold the ball for any longer than 3 or 4 seconds; many NFL teams are able to get the ball out effectively in this much time. Bruce was immediately able to do it once in, but by then, we needed far too much to happen. Bruce has the ability to effectively use short passes, pre snap reads and deciding where he's going before the snap, and what to do when blitzed that finds us and our offense believing it can move the chains and strike gold in the red zone.
If there was ever a time to get McFadden out wide to make Pittsburgh dedicate one of its playmakers and keep them out of the backfield and making plays on our runners, it was yesterday. The three wideout sets we fielded against their backers and d backs was the wrong three guys all day long. Without Chaz or DHB on the field, the smallish fast guys in Nick Miller and Jacoby Ford can be taken away easily all day long. McFadden in the mix lined up wide creates matchup problems while keeping at least one safety or lb from making plays on the qb and the running back. With Zach having missed practice all week, McFadden lined up wide with Reece running circle routes, wheels, and in the flats along with Myers and/or an eligible Barnes, our wideouts would've seen much more opportunity to get open, and Polamalu wouldn't be free to roam as he was. NE showed how to take Troy out of most of the plays, and we didn't follow.
Tomlin and Ben neutralized our blitzes and the pressure from our front four by getting the ball out quickly with slants and seam routes. If our pressure isn't getting there, personnel should be dedicated to helping out with coverage under, making Ben hold the ball a little longer and allowing the pocket to collapse and requiring Ben to make something happen and creating turnover opportunities. He got it out in under three seconds almost all day long, and the frustration showed with Seymour's reaction following the quick strike touchdown to Sanders. Ware failed to even redirect him at the line: a rookie mistake I hope he can learn from. We missed Nnamdi bigtime in that game, but it didn't appear the personnel we fielded grasped the tasks at hand 100%. It was imperative that the pass rush got all the help from the coverage (pressing and redirecting wideouts) it could get, and vice versa.
Had Bruce started, the overall outcome might not have been a win, but I've no doubt we'd have at least been able to move the chains much more, and perhaps hit paydirt at least once in the red zone, instead of the punt, punt, punt, turnover scenario we saw all day long. Effective use of both Bush and McFadden could've helped us keep the balance a little more. Abandoning the run, even when down by the margins we found ourselves so early, was the demise of our pass game. We found ourselves in constant second and third and long situations--we've struggled from here all year long due to the inability of our guys to sustain blocks in obvious pass situations--and played right into the strengths of the Steelers all day long.
Who starts at qb against the fins remains to be seen, but whoever it is, I hope our coaches consider their abilities to execute a game plan before we field that personnel next week, because the go ahead with JC was clearly not the decision to start the guy who gave this team the best chance to win the game. Jason may eventually learn this skill, because it's clearly not an innate talent of his, but for now, he's sorely lacking in that department. Furthermore, the offense seems fully aware of this fact, and responds accordingly when the guy best suited to lead us to victory is on the field. Grads haters will have words to say regarding his being the better guy for the job, but to them, I ask: Was Jason truly prepared to use quick passes to neutralize Pittsburgh's dominant defense?
the answer can only be: no. I hope we learn from this shellacking, and continue to grow. As it stands, we took a significant step backwards, yesterday.
Nation, how do we best learn from a game like that?