Wednesday, November 14, 2007
By BOB LABRIOLA
The statistics were startling. Still are, to the point of defying explanation.
On their first offensive possession of the game last Sunday at Heinz Field, the Browns drove 71 yards in 16 plays for a touchdown, and along the way they converted 4-of-4 third down situations.
By the end of the first half, the Browns had 21 points, 11 first downs, 115 total net yards and had converted 5-of-6 on third down. The Steelers were losing, 21-6, as they headed to their locker room.
The only points the Browns would add in the second half came on a 100-yard kickoff return, and what the Steelers defense did to the Cleveland offense nearly defies belief.
On their first six offensive possessions in the second half, the Browns managed no first downs – none – and for the entirety of the third and fourth quarters they had two first downs, 48 net yards of offense and converted 0-for-6 on third downs.
People who make a living commenting on NFL games, particularly the former players and coaches, love to make a big deal about halftime adjustments. Current head coaches become millionaires many times over because of their perceived ability to adjust to things the opponent is doing successfully.
But in the aftermath of their 31-28 comeback win, Steelers players said there were no halftime adjustments. Not possible, right?
“Sometimes people tend to panic when they are in the face of adversity and they want to change,” said Coach Mike Tomlin at his Tuesday news conference. “I will always be resistant to that, because I will always trust our men and I trust our preparation. The reality is that Cleveland made some plays in the first half of that football game because they have good people.
“Schematically, I thought we were sound. Fundamentally and technically I thought we were sound. We were close on a lot of plays and they converted a lot of third downs in that first drive. There was a defender right there and we tackled guys immediately. Some of the first downs were converted on second effort, as was the case with (Joe) Jurevicius stretching out and moving the chains. They got some short fields and put some points on the board.”
And then Tomlin hit at the heart of the matter: “A lot of times when you change, you create new problems. We knew what our issues were, we just needed to continue to do what we were doing and do it a little better. That is what we did.”
How might that philosophy apply it to this week’s challenge against the New York Jets and kickoff returner Leon Washington?
“I am taking a similar approach to our coverage units as I did when it happened with our defense,” said Tomlin. “Just because things go bad, I don’t want to have a knee-jerk reaction and be emotional. We are not in that business. We are professionals. We have some guys that need to do a little better job at shedding blockers and tackling. We have to do a better job at getting them in position to do that. There won’t be drastic changes. That is not how we operate.”
But that shouldn’t come across as meaning the Steelers simply will hope things get better in the area of special teams coverage. A few weeks ago, Tomlin waived former No. 2 pick Ricardo Colclough after he continued to make mistakes on special teams, and the prospect of more roster moves of that type should not be discounted.
“We respect the process and we understand there is a fine line between success and failure in this league, in all phases,” said Tomlin. “We are not doing really well right now, but the answers are probably right in front of us and the adjustments are probably minor.
“That is the way we are approaching it. I think everybody knows we need to get better in that area and I think we will get a concerted effort. I think we will get the best the men have to offer and then we will move on
They hit that right on the money, it is funny how the commentators are always all over half-time adjustments and how they did or didn't make them IMO its more about making plays that you didn't make in the first half or making things happen on Defense