The Pittsburgh Steelers took on the New England Patriots in Foxboro on Thursday night and lost 21-28. Some aspects of the game were reassuring, while others were definitely frustrating. In my last installment of Chill out or freak out from August 30, I suggested fans need to freak out about special teams and adjustment to Cover-2 and tackling. In the chill-out category were the backup quarterback situation, no Bell nor Bryant, and the offensive line.
What's worth freaking out over and what isn't such a big deal?
Kicker Josh Scobee- Chill out
Here, "chill out" does not mean that he had a good game in Foxboro. In fact, he was terrible. Those two missed field goals cost the team points and, perhaps more devastating, were a real momentum-killer. Does this mean that Scobee is a horrible kicker and will always perform so poorly? No. It just means he had a bad game in Foxboro.
Scobee framed his poor performance as an anomaly saying via PennLive, "The first one was strange. It took off really funny and just darted to the right and that doesn't happen very often, or ever." He also kept things in perspective: "I expect better of myself, but at the same time it's the first of 16 games and I know that I'm going to be counted on in the upcoming weeks."
The Secondary- Freak out
I'm not suggesting a full-blown freakout here. Instead, this is a recognition that the problems we saw in the preseason have not been resolved. The players seemed lost and confused, often making last-second adjustments that rarely included covering TE Rob Gronkowski. Perhaps they were saying, "Yeah, man. Let's not waste resources covering someone who just can't be covered."
So Gronk lines up as the wide out inside the 20 and no one covers him... #smoothpittsburgh— Peyton McCullough (@PDMac76) September 11, 2015
Haven't seen a TE that wide open against the Steelers defense since... two weeks ago. Charles Clay. This PIT defense has issues.— Mike Rodak (@mikerodak) September 11, 2015
There were also some perplexing personnel decisions. Cortez Allen and Antwon Blake struggled throughout the game, while inexplicably, Brandon Boykin spent nearly the entire game on the bench. Why? It isn't as if the starters had such amazing synergy that Boykin's presence on the field would have disrupted a good thing. Quite the contrary.
Tackling- Freak out
The Steelers' struggles with effective tackling continued during the preseason and, as we saw on Thursday night, it seems to be a feature of the 2015 regular season as well. Many players tackled in a way more reminiscent of a TSA patdown than a professional football game. There were 13 missed tackles in the game against the Patriots. With two missed tackles each were Ryan Shazier, Lawrence Timmons, Jarvis Jones, Antwon Blake, Will Allen, and Cortez Allen.
With the defense already struggling in terms of schemes and personnel problems, they cannot afford to slack when it comes to football fundamentals.
Le'Veon Bell & Martavis Bryant- Chill out
The Steelers' run game was still very effective in the absence of Le'Veon Bell, and their passing game was adequate without Martavis Bryant. DeAngelo Williams was a huge asset to the offense, while Antonio Brown picked up where he left off last season. Markus Wheaton had a dropped pass and Darrius Heyward-Bey made a careless mistake in the end zone that cost the team a touchdown. Overall, though, the offense functioned well even without Bell and Bryant.