We turn directly to your question and smoldering vents this morning in Ask Ed. Chat today at 1:30 at www.post-gazette.com/chat
--- YOU: Do you think that ko return in ot saved Archer? When do they have to make room for Bryant? Or did I miss that? If so, who got cut?
ED: I’m not sure who they will cut. They do not have to make a move until 4 p.m. Monday to make room for Martavis Bryant on the roster. However, if that one kickoff return means anything, then the bar of expectations must be mighty low. Dri Archer returned the kickoff 31 yards, from the goalline to the 31 to start overtime. It was the longest kickoff return of his young career.
--- YOU: There were plenty of FA kickers available when the Steelers gave up a 6th rounder for Scobee, the guy they now have dropped. (I'll bet Boswell was one of them.) They also could have had Scobee for free, had they waited a day or two--since eh was going to be cut--before panicking (over the wrong guy, ultimately).
Somewhere this needs to be toted on the Colbert/Tomlin performance evaluations board.
ED: Other teams were looking for kickers at the time and they believed someone else would have picked up Scobee. I do not recall anyone criticizing the trade because most believed Scobee was a good kicker. The real question might be, did the Steelers give up on him too soon? But either way, it turned disastrous all the way around -- lost draft pick, lost cap room (and real money) and now lost kicker.
--- YOU: Ed, I'm guessing you might be the one to answer my question. I Googled it to no avail. Why is Michael Vick now being called Mike Vick??
ED: Because that is what he prefers.
--- YOU: Although Stephon Tuitt has been impressive with a lot of sacks early, does he have a problem with pad level on some running plays? Wasn't he stood up and pushed back a lot on Ravens' running plays? Or is he coached to do that if it looks like a stretch play?
ED: You may be on to something. While Pro Football Focus gives Tuitt an excellent 5.1 rating for his pass rush, they mark him down to minus 2.6 against the run. He has a plus 3.3 overall rating. However, against Baltimore, they did not give him very good ratings at all – minus 2.6 overall, with a minus 1.3 against the run and a minus 1 on his pass rush.
--- YOU: Hey man, don't be afraid to criticize Mike Tomlin. I am sure he is a nice guy, but 2 games this season he made horrible decisions and was simply outcoached in key parts of the game. Belichick schooled him and Harbaugh simply outfoxed him. Sure the kicker is ridiculous but he simply isn't a high level NFL coach.
ED: I leave the criticizing up to the columnists, Twitter and emails. However, please do not tell me that John Harbaugh outcoached Mike Tomlin. Did he do it on that fake field goal or the one where he had Joe Flacco unsuccessfully sneak on fourth and one rather than run one of his big backs in there?
--- YOU: The Steelers nose tackle play has been lame, period, actually worse than lame..
McLendon hasn't been a producer in years and Thomas even is less. McCullers can't get on/stay on the field because of injuries or lack of experience or some other reason.
ED: What makes you believe their nose tackle play has been poor? Since it is the only objective view we can go by, I will turn to Pro Football Focus again, where they have Steve McLendon at a plus 1.5 this season, including a plus 3.5 vs. the run. It would be higher except he gets a minus 1.6 for penalties.
--- YOU: It appears that every writer from all around the country are ripping Tomlin--except the local writers--musn't upset the coach--he might not approve!!!!!----He signed the QB and the kicker who failed ---the Ravens are not a good team and will be lucky to make it to .500--yet Tomlin messed it up with his bad selections and signings!
ED: I fail to see where Mike Tomlin blew that game. I also do not remember many ripping the deal when they traded for Josh Scobee. It’s easy to not like that trade today. For a backup quarterback who had just 2 days to prepare, I thought Mike Vick did a decent job. Maybe the local writers have more common sense than others and are not knee-jerk reactionaries.
--- YOU: The play call to pass to AB on 4th and 1, reminded me of Pete Carroll's call to pass rather that give the ball to Marshawn Lynch. We should have given the ball to Bell. In fact, we had the ball with 4 minutes to go in the 4th. All we needed to do was get a 1st down and run the clock out. We should have given the ball to Bell.
ED: Apples and oranges. It was not fourth down in the Super Bowl, it was second down, so the Seahawks had more than one chance to score if that ball is not intercepted. Why do you assume that Le’Veon Bell would have picked up that one yard? The call was not a bad one because if Vick throws any kind of reasonably accurate pass, Antonio Brown would have been able to catch it for the first down. Instead, it was way too high. Yes, all they needed to do was get a first down to run the clock out, but Baltimore did have a defense out there to try to prevent that, and did.
--- YOU: My question revolves around playcalling - particularly the 3d and 5 pass to Coates - when you have Brown, Bell and Heath Miller on the team, why are you calling a play to a rookie instead of getting the ball to one of the other proven guys? That wasn't the time to try to break someone in - it was just one of the many times they swung and missed in efforts to put the game away.
ED: Rookie Sammie Coates was on the field because Markus Wheaton was off with an injury. Maybe those other guys were all covered.
--- YOU: That was a pretty tough loss to take. And I'm sure I'm in the minority on this, but am I out of line for thinking that was actually some pretty solid coaching on the Steelers last night? Cases in point:
- Special teams preparation on the stopped fake field goal. That was outstanding.
- The Steelers put themselves in position to win based on field goals. Maybe it's fair to say Scobee should have missed 1. But even playing those probabilities, with 2 opportunities, he should have been able to convert. The coaches put the team in position to succeed.
- Antonio Brown, one of the most sure-handed receivers in football, let a TD pass go through his hands. Good play call; poor execution.
- On the 4th down that gave the Ravens the ball in OT, the play call was great. The coverage was right, Brown was open, and it should have been a high-percentage short-distance pass to an open receiver with great hands. Of course they didn't convert, but the way the play developed up to the pass showed it wasn't a bad play call.
- Sacks galore one season removed from sack misery
- And, with one TD drive excepted, a great defensive effort by a team dealing with some injuries (Shazier, McCullers) and major DB questions heading into the season, playing against a (debatably) good QB.
Am I crazy?
ED: Others (see above) might think so because you just refuse to blame the coaches for that loss, not the players.
The Steelers lost one they should not have last Thursday, in part because of their kicker, but if they are looking for miserable company, they can peer across state, where the Philadelphia Eagles also lost by 23-20 Sunday to their bitter division rivals Washington Redskins when their new kicker, Caleb Sturgis, missed a 33-yard field goal and a PAT.
That dropped the Eagles to 1-3, 0-2 in the NFC East. And the Eagles are not playing with their backup quarterback.
Also, Jacksonville traded Josh Scobee to the Steelers because they preferred Jason Myers, who missed a 53-yard field goal try in regulation and a 48-yarder in overtime in their 16-13 loss to the Colts.
Onto some other Stuff:
--- Cincinnati and red-hot quarterback Andy Dalton are the surprise of the AFC North after one quarter of the season. The Bengals are 4-0 for the first time since 2005 and Dalton has a 123 passer rating with nine touchdowns and just one interception and two sacks. Dalton passed for 321 yards in the Bengals’ 36-21 victory over KC.
--- Indianapolis, one of the favorites to win the AFC this year, nearly fell to 1-3 but it pulled out an overtime win at home to Jacksonville with Andrew Luck out with a shoulder injury. As it is, the 2-2 Colts lead the crummy AFC South, where Indy has won 15 consecutive division victories, tying the 1972 and 1973 Miami Dolphins for the longest streak since 1970.
--- Kansas City, another team that was supposed to be strong this year, is 1-3, as are the dysfunctional Miami Dolphins.
--- San Diego, the Steelers’ next opponent, averages 411 yards per game, third most in the league. However, like the Steelers in 2014, the Chargers’ points do not match their yardage production because their 24-point average ranks just 15th. The Chargers are coming off an unimpressive 30-27 win at home to Cleveland.
--- As with the St. Louis Rams, the Steelers may be visiting their second city for the final time in the early going of the season because the Chargers are one of the favorites to move to Los Angeles next season. Unlike St. Louis, though, if the Chargers move, San Diego may never get another NFL team. It is a gorgeous city, but bordered by the Pacific Ocean, Mexico, the desert and soon, a two-team Los Angeles two-hour drive to the North.
--- Peyton Manning threw two interceptions Sunday and the Broncos still beat Minnesota 23-20 to improve to 4-0. It is the seventh time Manning has led a team to a 4-0 start, most of any quarterback in NFL history and three more than anyone else.
--- With 1:51 left in regulation Thursday night, the Steelers had a third-and-five at Baltimore’s 24. The Ravens lined up just 10 players on defense. The Steelers called their second timeout, bailing out that defense.
--- Atlanta’s Devonta Freeman rushed for three touchdowns again in the Falcons’ 48-21 victory over Houston, becoming the only player since the 1970 merger to rush for three TDs in each of his first two NFL starts. He leads the NFL with seven rushing touchdowns.
--- Carolina cornerback Josh Norman had two interceptions in the Panthers’ 37-23 win at Tampa Bay, or one more than all of the Steelers’ cornerbacks combined this season. Norman returned one for a 46-yard touchdown, his second of the season.
--- So now it’s reported that Josh Scobee had a quad strain before the Steelers released him. And when did that happen? Did the coaches know? Did he say anything to the team about it? Or is it merely a convenient “quad strain.’’ The injury makes no difference to the Steelers because they owe him the remaining portion of his $2.5 million one-year salary no matter what, even if he signs elsewhere.
--- A curious tidbit from Thursday night’s game is why Michael Vick did not try more than two passes longer than 20 yards. He has the arm for it and, as he showed on his 36-yard pass to Antonio Brown in the end zone that was dropped, the accuracy on the deep passes. Also, the Ravens are vulnerable to the deep pass.
Steelers safety Mike Mitchell is on Steve Smith’s lifetime hit list for a hit Mitchell did not deliver.
Nothing made much sense regarding Baltimore’s 23-20 overtime victory over the Steelers Thursday night, including Smith’s claim that Mitchell speared him and said “How do you like that?” after the hit.
Replays showed linebacker Lawrence Timmons is the Steelers player who delivered the blow -- a legal one at that -- that knocked Smith out of the game with a lower back contusion. Nonetheless, Smith threatened Mitchell before leaving Heinz Field.
“The best thing I can do without threatening him and saying that I will assault him when I see him is I will say I look forward to playing him again,” Smith said. “He's on my lifetime hit list.”
On Friday, Mitchell had a quick comeback for his former teammate with the Carolina Panthers.
“Steve is an emotional guy,” Mitchell said. “He’s used that emotion for years to be a great player. That’s something he uses to try to fuel himself. I will say, if you look at my fine history, I’m more of a helmet to helmet kind of guy, so I’m not going to spear you.”
Mitchell said he is not concerned by Smith’s threat.
“It’s not even something I concern myself with,” he said. “I didn’t think anything of it when I heard of it. I don’t think anything of it now. I’m just going to go on playing football.”
Josh Scobee not only lost a game for the Steelers on Thursday night, he breathed life into Baltimore Ravens. And that could come back to haunt the Steelers in January.
The Steelers had a chance to bury the Ravens and send them to 0-4, but Scobee’s missed field goals let the Ravens off the ropes. And now, they have a chance to come back to relevancy in the AFC playoff picture.
Don’t laugh. The Ravens are 1-3, but they have the Browns at home next week and a game at San Francisco the week after that. They very easily could be 3-3 and ahead of the Steelers, who play at the Chargers and then play host to the Arizona Cardinals.
Not to mention the Steelers must play a first-place schedule and the Ravens have the benefit of playing a third-place schedule. While the Steelers got the Patriots and Colts the Ravens get to play the Jaguars and Dolphins.
That’s a big difference.
Now, because of Scobee, the 23-20 overtime loss on Thursday night could make the Dec. 27 game in Baltimore a play-in game for the playoffs.
That would make for some great theater if it happens, and it could happen in what is shaping up to be a very mediocre AFC after New England and Cincinnati. The Raiders, Jets and Bills are the only other teams in the conference with two victories heading into the weekend.
The Bills might stay in the playoff race, but it’s hard to envision the Jets and Raiders doing the same.
Twelve games remain, an eternity in the NFL, but I’m saying the Bills, Ravens and Steelers are playing for the two wild card spots, with the Dec. 27 contest at the Ravens deciding which team from the AFC North goes and which stays home.
*The Steelers did the impossible by losing to the Ravens on Thursday night. According to numberfire.com, the Steelers had a 99.82 percent chance of winning with 1:59 remaining.
At that point in the game they faced a third-and-5 after Le’Veon Bell rushed for a 4-yard gain. The Steelers ran Bell up the middle again for 1 yard and ran the clock down to 1:06 before calling a timeout to bring Scobee on for a 41-yard field goal.
Scobee missed, giving the Ravens the ball at their own 31 with 1:01 to play in regulation. The Ravens then converted a third-and-10 when Joe Flacco threw to Kamar Aiken for 20 yards to the Steelers 32. Two plays later, Justin Tucker kicked the tying field goal.
*Scobee probably won’t be kicking for the Steelers when they play at San Diego on Oct. 11, but let’s place some blame on Mike Vick for missing a wide open Antonio Brown on the fourth-and-1 on the Steelers’ second overtime possession.
That’s a throw an NFL quarterback has to complete, and Vick threw it five feet over Brown’s head. Vick took the blame after the game, saying that throw will haunt him for a long time. At least he didn’t blame the wind like Scobee.
*If there is a positive to come out of the game it’s that the Steelers had 167 yards rushing on 33 attempts. That’s better than 5 yards per rush, and it came against a defense the Steelers usually have a hard time running the ball against.
The Steelers rushed for 100 yards or more for just the fourth time in 18 games against a John Harbaugh-coached team. Le’Veon Bell had 129 yards on 22 attempts, including a 22-yard run at the beginning of overtime that set the Steelers up inside Ravens territory.
Bell gained eight more yards on the next two plays. Then the Steelers tried a pass on third down and a Vick run on fourth-and-2.
Hindsight is 20-20, but Bell was running so well at the time that maybe offensive coordinator Todd Haley should have given him at least one of those opportunities on those two downs.
*In case you missed it, Antonio Brown’s NFL-record streak of catching five passes for at least 50 yards came to an end at 35 games. Brown had five catches for 42 yards. Still, Brown set a franchise record for the most receiving yards through the first four games of a season. He has 478, 24 more than Mike Wallace, who had 454 through four games in 2011.
*Coach Mike Tomlin now has a losing record against the Ravens (8-9).
*Darrius Heyward-Bey is tied for the team in receiving touchdowns with two. Who would have that would happen at the beginning of the season?
*One reason to believe the offense might improve against San Diego: Martavis Bryant returns to the team today.
Steelers vs. Ravens does not have the same feel to it this week. It no doubt has to do with Baltimore’s unprecedented 0-3 start and the injury to Ben Roethlisberger that will keep him out 4-6 weeks.
The most unusual is the Ravens’ record because this will be the seventh time Roethlisberger will miss this matchup. Baltimore will be down and out if they lose. The Steelers started 0-4 in 2013 and won eight of their next 12 and still did not make the playoffs, although a missed field goal by Kansas City is what prevented it.
So, in just the fourth game of the season, the Steelers can pretty much dispatch their most bitter rivals from the AFC North pennant race. But will they?
Baltimore has won three of the past four games against the Steelers and three of the past five in Heinz Field. They have become quite comfy playing in Pittsburgh.
The Ravens beat the Steelers in the playoffs for the first time in four post-season games against them, sans Le’Veon Bell, of course. But what’s tougher to overcome, the loss of a great running back or a great quarterback?
Last season also was atypical for these teams because they beat each other up in their own stadiums during the two regular-season games. Usually, these games are decided by 3 points or fewer.
What also is atypical is the Ravens and Steelers no longer bully their way with great defenses. The Steelers’ defense, though, has been a pleasant surprise for them the past two games and though Joe Flacco has tortured them at times in the past, maybe they can make it three straight.
A prediction: Steelers 17, Ravens 16. Vick will make just enough plays, as will his defense, to pull this one out. I also am 3-0 in my season-long predictions and I picked the Steelers to win this one back then.