Labriola On

Labriola on quitting, fundamentals, CBs

Ready or not, here it comes:

  • It last came up back in November 2013 after a game the Steelers lost, 55-31. It came up again this week, somewhat expectedly, because the Steelers were coming off a 34-3 loss.
  • "It" refers to the opinion that Mike Tomlin should have pulled Ben Roethlisberger from the game in Philadelphia at some point after the Eagles had taken a 34-3 lead with almost exactly two minutes left in the third quarter.
  • You know, to protect him. From injury. Maybe Antonio Brown, too, while you're at it. Get him encased in bubble wrap, too.
  • If there is an official name for that coaching strategy, I'm not familiar with it, but that's OK because I simply refer to it another way. Quitting. Because that's what such actions by a coach represent. Quitting. Giving up. Or as Roberto Duran once put it so succinctly: No mas.
  • Pulling the franchise quarterback and the All-Pro receiver is a message from the coach that he has given up, surrendered. He is telling his team that the game is a lost cause, and that message certainly is contradictory to all of the other teaching/preaching done by the coach to his players. You know, all that stuff about playing through pain, and dealing with adversity, and being resilient. That stuff.
  • I can hear the NFL Films music in the background as the coach addresses the team: "Forget all of that stuff now, fellas, that stuff about giving all you've got and fighting to the last, because we're getting our butts kicked and I'm worried about the quarterback getting hurt. So we're going to quit right now, but then next week …"
  • How do you imagine that would play in a locker room filled with professionals? To me, if I were one of those professionals, it would raise a bunch more questions.
  • Such as: What's the deficit have to be before we quit? Does it have to be 34-3, or could it be 31-3? How about 34-6? At 31-10, are we still trying to win? If we're protecting players from injury, who all gets protected? Ben Roethlisberger, OK. And Antonio Brown? What about Maurkice Pouncey? Le'Veon Bell? Le'Veon Bell? Or is it DeAngelo Williams and Le'Veon Bell? Cam Heyward and Stephon Tuitt? Ryan Shazier? There's not a lot of depth at cornerback, so what about some of those guys? Our punter and placekicker are having nice seasons so far, and you know how hard it is to replace those guys midseason, so what about Jordan Berry and Chris Boswell?
  • Then imagine being one of the guys left off the protected list. How do they feel about being classified as cannon fodder? Think that creates locker room harmony? What kind of team-building does that represent?
  • Oh, and since we're quitting on games, coach, when is it OK to quit on the season? Would it come down to having a certain record at a certain milestone of the season, or is it more dependent upon how many games behind the division leader we are at a certain milestone of the season?
  • Can I borrow a pen? I want to get all this down so I know when I quit vs. when I'm supposed to fight through adversity and be resilient. Thanks, coach.
  • It goes down in the record books as a 301-yard passing day for rookie Carson Wentz, but that actually is rather deceiving. Wentz finished with 301 yards passing, but only 227 of those actually deserved to be credited with the throwing of the football. The rest of it came from run-after-the-catch, and most of that was because of missed tackles.
  • Football often is described, ad nauseum, as a game of fundamentals, and that sure came true in Philadelphia, because the Steelers were terrible in two fundamental areas – tackling and catching the ball – and were crushed as a result.
  • Marcus Peters has four interceptions through the first three games of this season. A Steelers cornerback hasn't finished a season with as many as four interceptions since Deshea Townsend had four in 2004.
  • Peters was picked No. 18 overall by the Chiefs in 2015. In that same draft, the Steelers had tried to make a trade to get into position to pick cornerback Trae Waynes, but no team was interested in moving down, and the Vikings grabbed Waynes with the No. 11 overall pick. After a rough rookie season in which he made only one start and got called for a bunch of penalties, Waynes has rebounded nicely as a full-time starter who has two interceptions over the first three games for the 3-0 Vikings.
  • After missing out on Waynes, the Steelers would have selected Peters when their turn came at No. 22 overall, but the Chiefs thwarted that by pulling the trigger at No. 18.
  • With regard to Sunday night's game against the Chiefs, I'm putting the number of touches for Le'Veon Bell at 30, with more being an indication of the game going well for the Steelers. And even though the expectation is for a bunch of those touches to come on receptions, the current state of the Kansas City run defense hints that Bell could end up with A LOT of carries. Maybe he gets to 30 touches just on running plays.
  • Bell with 30 carries on Sunday night will mean the Steelers won.
  • This Sunday night against the Chiefs could end up being a defining game for these Steelers. Come out and play well, set the tone and execute the fundamentals, and the Steelers should win by a couple of scores. And if that happens, everything is back on track in terms of the expectations for this season.
  • Struggle for the victory, or lose, and 2016 will veer off in a completely different direction: A week-to-week struggle whose most likely end would be on the road in the playoffs.
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