Steelers Review: A Fine-Tooth Comb

Jim Wexell gets a chance to re-think his decision to not fire Mike Tomlin following Sunday's stunning Steelers loss.

In the lead to my column for Steelers Digest on Sunday night, I channeled Wyatt Earp in "Tombstone" when I wrote that I was not going to fire the coach today.

I looked up the exact line, and I was close: "I don't think I'll let you arrest us today, Behan."

But today's a new day. I'm going to hold my nose and review this game while running with the notes. And who knows? Maybe I will fire the coach today.

Let's get this over with:

* Ben Roethlisberger, meet the great Gerald McCoy. He's going up against a guy in Cody Wallace whom you picked up off the waiver wire last year and has surprised a bit with his fill-in action at times. Today, he appears overmatched.

* And tell Le'Veon Bell that the outside rusher -- with McCoy and a blitzer in the middle -- is his man. Le'Veon, you owe your team six points.

* Mike Glennon to Mike Evans, giant to giant. It's kind of what the Steelers have wanted. Or, I should say, what Ben has wanted.

* For the Bucs, an All-Pro DT, a top 10 draft pick, and their top free-agent acquisition, DE Michael Johnson, have all come through in the first few minutes. There's some talent there.

* I didn't like Glennon coming out, but he's made me look foolish. The 6-7 QB has more mobility than I ever imagined. Or saw.

* I think I called him Kent Graham Jr.

* The franchise QB is off to a slow start with the batted pass on third-and-6.

* Is that what they mean by coming out flat?

* Troy Polamalu just lined up at outside linebacker, got up the field a bit, held the point, and turned the run inside for a short gain. I see these kinds of innovations every week. Too bad Mike Tomlin grabbed the runner's facemask though.

* I don't know. Cortez Allen's running pretty well with Evans and Vincent Jackson early. He's not bad for a No. 2 CB. Meanwhile, Jason Worilds was just blatantly held on the rush, in front of Walt Anderson.

* The quacking 50-yard field goal just bounced in off the bottom of the upright. Some days even the Tampa Bay Bucs get breaks.

* Yes, I'm apologizing at an agonizing rate.

* But, really, I just wanted to use apologize and agonize in the same sentence.

* I watch my freshman daughter play goalie for her big-school varsity powerhouse and I see the older girls -- who haven't been in the big games my daughter has -- constantly advising her and protecting her and in general worrying about her. I get the same feeling watching LeGarrette Blount hog kickoffs in front of Dri Archer and telling him what to do. Let the kid play already.

* I did not know, while at the game, that Heath Miller's drop in the open field was precipitated by a deflection at the line. And here I thought the toughest and greatest TE in franchise history just came out flat.

* When Markus Wheaton went way up to pluck that 29-yard pass from Roethlisberger, I thought that Wheaton was the go-to guy today. But neither Ben nor Todd Haley seemed to agree with me.

* Roethlisberger took a brutal blast from some guy named McDonald. He beat Wallace. And he's not an All-Pro.

* Man, that friggin' Cody Wallace came out flat today.

* What a convoluted explanation by Mike Periera to explain why Wheaton's obvious drop was actually a catch.

* Now I'm Walter Sobchak in "The Big Lebowski": "Am I the only one around here who gives a s--- about the rules?!?"

* Archer just took one of those Tavon Austin jet sweep passes. How did Blount allow this play to be called?

* Justin Brown. End zone. Drop.

* Mistakes happen, but this guy really hasn't deserved to be in this position. I disagree with the coaching staff on this.

* Yeah, A.B and Wheaton aren't going to give you much blocking in the run game, but receivers have to catch the ball first. Let's get our priorities straight here.

* Or, put just Mike Adams in the slot.

* I watch the smart and tough Darrius Heyward-Bey work his butt off every day at practice, and I watch Danny Smith cuss his special-teams units out over missed details during each of the three long and dull special-teams periods every practice. But there's DHB getting called for offsides on the kickoff. Sonofagun came out flat today.

* Cam Thomas is having a decent game. But I have to agree with the fans who want to see more Stephon Tuitt.

* I did see John Mitchell chew Tuitt out at practice last week for messing up a detail.

* Again, I think of how my daughter has been coached this soccer season. A highly decorated freshman who should've been given the job from Day One, she wasn't. She had to work. And every day she wasn't the starter, she worked harder. Then before the rivalry showdown, the coach held a pre-game competition to name the starter. My daughter was out of her mind, competitively, and got the start. And had a brilliant game. As much as I had been disappointed in the coach for not seeing that she clearly deserved the job, in the long run I was grateful that she made her work harder. It made her better.

* And that's what I see happening with Tuitt.

* I think I'm done with soccer now. Thank you for your patience.

* William Gay was standing up over the nose on the punt, but back a bit. Didn't look like he was within a yard of the center. It seems that not only are the officials reaching for back-of-the-book penalties, they're reaching on their parameters as well.

* Typical Walt Anderson Call-of-the-Year nonsense.

* I think Le'Veon let this praise for his patience -- not to mention praise as the best back in the game -- get to his head a bit. He's a bit too patient today.

* The linebacker was talking smack to Bell first, yet Bell was called for a 15-yard penalty for taunting. This has been the worst call so far. The official was looking for something that really wasn't there. Poor, poor job.

* But fire Tomlin.

* Miller's finally waking up. Slacker.

* I'm seeing more brute strength out of David DeCastro, and that had always been my concern with him.

* DeCastro just turned his head to hear Roethlisberger's audible. Called a false start. You really have to re-watch this officiating crew before you fire Tomlin.

* Oh, I already did? Well, fire Colbert then.

* A.B. scores and I'm looking at the official looking at him. Definitely looking to make the new Call-of-the-Year. And he does.

* This has been the worst call so far.

* OK, you can't go to the ground to do a push-up. But, really? A 15-yarder? Just doesn't make sense. Gene Steratore would never have called that.

* You're going to break my heart some day and call non-football rubbish at a key moment, aren't you Geno?

* Making it back to the field is one thing for Sean Spence. Now he needs some playing time. Yes, Doug Martin is a star NFL back who can make you miss like that in the backfield.

* Vince Williams replaced Spence for a series or two, but I don't see that as a viable option. Lawrence Timmons has to get the buck and all of its communications down pat. Williams will play if Timmons gets hurt. But it might just be good coaching that they can find some time for Williams when they can.

* Blount is finding some holes behind DeCastro. You want to call this team soft until you watch these two guys go to work. It's a light in the tunnel, for sure.

* As one of the coaches told me last year, Kelvin Beachum will be the kind of guy you say you want to replace every year, but when you're looking at absolute garbage value on draft day, at that position, you're going to take a stud at another position every time. Beachum plays well enough to allow you to divert that way.

* Just when you think you can predict Roethlisberger's intentions, he fools the world by calling for the snap on fourth-and-1. Well played.

* Antonio Brown's diving catch over Alterraun Verner, while being held, may have been his best catch of this short season. That's not saying much, I guess, but with Brown this season it really is.

* And it was a great throw from Roethlisberger two snaps after smacking his right hand off Marcus Gilbert's helmet.

* For those saying Troy Polamalu has slowed to a crawl, you should see him lumber around the practice field during the week. Ugh. And he's been that way the last three years or so. I'm always amazed he can get those legs working as well as he does on game days, when he really doesn't look slow to me.

* How do you get back-to-back delay of game penalties? Fire Lovie Smith.

* Oh, they got the breaks in the final minute and won. Nevermind.

* Brett Keisel's still playing at a high level. Maybe he's not the A player he once was, but he's a solid B, without a doubt.

* I did not know Daquan Bowers grabbed Roethlisberger's facemask on that horsecollar sack. Officials who look for everything should've spotted that. Shaun Suisham would've gotten 15 more yards for his end-of-half field goal attempt.

* Hey, difference in the game, but I doubt an apology will be forthcoming.

* Timeout by Tampa Bay an instant before Tomlin threw the challenge flag. At the game it appeared that Tomlin was a bit later than that, and I criticized him for not using the TB timeout to get a better look at the replay. But it looks closer to simultaneous on TV.

* Spence is held in full view at the point of attack on a touchdown run. Ten yards back, four fewer points, difference in the game.

* This officiating is really bad. I would've gotten a personal foul too, Cameron Heyward, so don't sweat that. Someone needed to speak up there.

* Fire Dick LeBeau anyway.

* And I do believe we have a winner for Worst Call of the Day.

* Beautifully designed play-action pop pass to Miller, who's on his way to a career day. Didn't he come out flat, though?

* Bell did NOT lose 20 pounds this offseason. He lost 10 before his rookie season and another 10 this offseason. Why are national media guys saying this so often?

* Tie game and the offensive coordinator's calling for a pass off a reverse to a wide receiver? Fire Todd Haley.

* Wait. The play gained 17 yards. Trick plays are only good calls if they work. Fire Haley later.

* Holding on the overmatched Beachum negates a TD. OK, fire Haley now.

* Miller took a blast in the head on that called-back TD, and then threw a solid lead block as Bell's fullback, before re- catching his TD pass (while taking another brutal blow). I think Heath can be the new coach, since I'll be working with a skeleton crew next week.

* How difficult can beating Jacksonville be? In the heat? I mean, only Bill Cowher ever lost to bad teams there.

* Wait. Didn't I fire Cowher in 1999 for running out of Chuck Noll's players?

* Yes, I sure did. And I fired him again in 2000, and 2003, and 2006.

* Wow. Polamalu's actually one of the best defenders out there. He'll take the blame for the loss later in the locker room. I really wish he would stop lying.

* When Evans pulled his groin and Allen intercepted that deep Glennon pass with 4:38 left in the third, I really thought the game was over, and there's no doubt I relaxed. Fire me.

* If only I didn't have to watch the rest of this game. But I do want to see the penalty called on Maurkice Pouncey that was so very costly.

* Steelers killer Louis Murphy replaced Evans, so even when you think an injury's a blessing, on some days it's a curse.

* I bored you enough elsewhere with my Murphy deja vu spiel, so excuse me if I don't go into it again here.

* I really like the designs of some of these running plays with the pulling guards and tight ends. I don't think I'll fire Mike Munchak today, Behan.

* That's the first time I've seen Roethlisberger audible to a punt. Alert, alert, we're going to let you off the hook on fourth-and-2 here!

* Polamalu got less of the facemask than Bowers did in the first half. This one's called though and it put the Bucs in Pittsburgh territory and ultimately gave them a field goal.

* So I'm a middle linebacker, or better a free safety, and I'm looking at Will Johnson, the fullback, lining up at tight end, and Miller, the tight end, lining up at fullback, and my brain's working overtime. Ben hands off to Le'Veon and I go. But, oh, no. It's a friggin' flea-flicker and there's a guy running behind me.

* Too bad A.B. dropped the game-clincher. Fire Richard Mann.

* I'm not sure to whom I should credit for that brilliant pre-snap design on the flea-flicker. I think tight ends coach James Daniel is calling plays for my puny staff right now.

* Up 24-20 after two gigantic first downs, the Steelers could not put the game away with 7:30 remaining as Roethlisberger misses a wide-open A.B. deep. The inability to put games away in this scenario has been a bugaboo of Roethlisberger's throughout his career.

* Glennon overcame a second-and-23 by throwing a nanosecond before the blitzing Lawrence Timmons belted him, and the ball was on the money to a rookie TE in the middle of triple coverage for 21 yards. Killer play. Glennon is definitely better than I had suspected.

* Oops, I forgot. Fire Keith Butler.

* The blitz is repeatedly picked up. Either Tampa Bay has the Seven Blocks of Granite up front, or the Steelers really are lacking in pass-rushers.

* A Tampa media man told me it has to be the latter. "More like the seven loaves of bread," he said of the TB O-line.

* I gotta say it again: Polamalu is playing out of his mind.

* William Gay wasn't suckered by the halfback option. Gay has been in position time and time again this game. He is an excellent football player.

* This team really isn't that bad.

* But the disappointing finish looms and I have to get up to the locker room.

* Hey, we all know the finish by now. I just want to see if Pouncey really did double-clutch on the Steelers' final possession.

* Yep. He did. Can't blame Walt Anderson for that one.

* You can watch the Glennon/Murphy/Vincent Jackson show without me. I have to get to the South Side, and then I have to sort through all of the applications that are pouring in. Lot of vacancies to fill.


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