Chalk Talk: Steelers Coaching Stubborn and Stupid On Thursday Night


One of the best scrambling and play extending quarterbacks in the league is hobbled due to an ankle sprain.  Your team is on the 2 yard line with a 1st and Goal.  You are playing one of the worst rushing defenses in the league.  So it only makes sense to run the ball and punch the rock into the endzone.  But, using Rashard Mendenhall to do it four times in a row wasn’t just stupid…. it was stoopid.

If you stood Rashard Mendenhall and Isaac Redman side by side, you would see to differently built running backs.  Though they are similar in weight (Mendy 225lbs, Redman 230lbs), Redman is a bit taller and carries his weight differently.  Mendenhall is built like a sprinter – bigger upper body, trim torso, and powerful legs.  You can see all those things working in tandem when he breaks the edge and is off to the races… well I guess you would have seen that last year.  Redman is built with most of his weight in the lower half of his body – kind of like Bettis, but with less beef in the butt.  These are qualities that work well oh say when you have a goal line situation and you need a guy to churn and push his way through a crowded line of scrimmage.

Mendenhall has shown all season long his lack of ability when it comes to bowling over a defender to get extra yards.  Sure, he can get a couple more yards after the first hit – but it usually comes in the form of a spin move or stiff arm (things you don’t have time for at a crowded goal line).  Redman on the other hand has shown that he can get two or three guys strapped to his back and keep running for another yard or two… or more.  There’s a determination in his running in the form of his legs constantly churning until he is brought down.  Mendenhall lacks this quality.  So it would only make sense that on a 1st and Goal with your scrambling QB injured that you would shelve your speed RB for a more power back.  But not for Arians and Tomin.

For four straight plays the Steelers ran Mendenhall.  The PPG reports that the third down play was to be a passing play, but Roethlisberger checked that off and called an audible because the Browns overloaded the side where the pass was intended.  Can’t fault Ben for that, he was doing his job.  But why was Mendy even in those packages to begin with?  At least for me it made complete sense to put Redman in those packages instead of Mendenhall.  Since when does Mendenhall get pushed through a line?  Granted, he has a few short TD runs this season, but I’m pretty sure none of them came inside the 5 yard line.

Arians in his true Arians way called three stale running plays.  And, once again, our confidence in this coach and offense to score in the red zone when it matteres, were knocked down a bit.  Aside from Mendy running for a chunk of yards in the 3rd quarter alone, he was ineffective most of the evening as was the offensive line in getting push off of the 2nd worst rushing defense in the league.  Understandably, play calling is limited when your QB can’t run a play action bootleg or pitch out.  So if that’s the case, then Redman should have been the guy in the huddle to put your team in a position to score.  Arians did have a chance to get creative in this series.  He could have gone Wildcat with Ward taking the snaps.  Ward was actually the third string QB should Batch have been injured while Ben was temporarily sidelined.  Arians could have put Hines under center and gone two or three wide.  Ward certainly could have run with the ball if he needed to.

Bottom line with that series, as with most of the Steelers series that get inside the 10 yard line, Arians lacked the killer instinct to find the right play in order for the Steelers to put away the Browns – they way the Browns and McCoy were playing the Steelers truly only needed another 7 points to ice that game.  Stubborn and stoopid.

Tomlin is responsible for this stuff as well because he should have roped in Arians on this drive knowing how limited his QB really was.  Tomlin was also stupid for allowing Kemoeatu to stay in the game after the second holding call and hands to the face penalties.  If you think Kemoeatu is your next best choice when a guard moves to center or goes down, it’s only because Kemoeatu holds on practically every call.  I’m surprised the NFL doesn’t assign a line judge to just watch him.  The guy is (as Kimmy put it) a penalty machine and has been responsible for numerous drive killing penalties.  Trai Essex may be lower on the skill level than the rest of the line, but at least the dude shows some discipline.  Maybe Tomlin was so worried about Big Ben that he put Kemoeatu in there knowing that even though Kemo would hold, at least Ben would be safe.  Again, stoooopid.  If that kind of thinking is hindering your team from being effective, then Ben should have been pulled and Kemo left to freeze on the bench.

Next week against the Niners is a critical game and a tough one.  This coaching staff will need to get creative in how it will attack the Niner defense.  They are #1 in the league against the rush but 16th in the pass.  So we will need to see production from the QB position – no matter who is under center.  The Niners are 14th in the league in sack totals.  I foresee a bunch of shotgun formations for Ben (if he plays – as of this morning the MRI ‘didn’t look good’) with a bunch of short quick outs.  I’m sure the Niners, having a Harbaugh at the helm, will try and exploit this injury as much as possible.  I hope Arians is graced with a stroke of genius next week, or we could see the Steelers limping, quite literally, to the playoff finish line.

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