It wasn’t so long ago fans would have relished the thought of the Steelers’ high-powered offense getting the football to start the second half, just 13 minutes after overcoming a two-touchdown deficit to tie the game in front of a very loud and supportive crowd at Heinz Field.
Unfortunately, the Steelers’ offense isn’t so high-powered these days. As for that crowd, it doesn’t seem very loud either, and maybe that’s because those two-touchdown deficits are becoming just a little too familiar.
Pittsburgh followed an all-too-predictable script during a 26-14 loss to the Ravens at Heinz Field on Sunday night.
Baltimore, like the the Chiefs two weeks earlier, and like the Jaguars back on January 14, effortlessly marched down the field on its opening possession of the game to take a 7-0 lead before the home folks were even settled into their seats. Just moments later, following a fumble by Vance McDonald that gave the visitors the football at the Pittsburgh 31, it was 14-0 with 8:03 still to play in the opening quarter.
Sure, the Steelers played an inspired second quarter to tie the game at 14 right before the break, but the opening offensive possession of the third quarter—one that included two runs by James Conner and a short pass to Ryan Switzer that lost five yards—was anything but inspirational.
The Ravens put the Steelers away — and their home fans to sleep — by methodically controlling the ball and the clock during the final two periods, needing only four Justin Tucker field goals to ensure a victory.
The Steelers, meanwhile, could tally only 47 yards on 23 plays in the second half, never once making it beyond midfield — a “feat” that’s almost unheard of in modern professional football.
The loss dropped Pittsburgh to 1-2-1 on the season and marked the third-straight defeat at Heinz Field. In fact, dating back to December 17, the Steelers have now lost four straight home games to teams among the upper-echelon of the AFC (the Ravens might not have had much success in recent years, but they’re certainly in the playoff mix more often than not). And in Pittsburgh’s last three home losses, the opposition has scored an average of 18.6 points before the Steelers could even crack the scoreboard.
Like Patrick Mahomes and Blake Bortles before him, veteran quarterback Joe Flacco enjoyed great protection all night and barely had any of his 42 passes contested, completing 28 of them for 363 yards and two touchdowns.
The Ravens’ running backs didn’t gouge Pittsburgh’s defense, but Baltimore stayed ahead of the chains all evening, as second and three was much more common than second and 13.
As for Steelers’ quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, he was again outshined by a passer of similar pedigree; he again couldn’t get on the same page with Antonio Brown, which is bizarre, given the connection between the two seemed almost effortless during the previous five or six seasons.
Back to the Steelers’ defense. What is its identity? Does it want to employ a zone, man-to-man or a combination of a lot of things? Is the unit a little too inexperienced to try various schemes? Should Keith Butler just simplify things until everyone has an idea of what they’re doing from week to week — or, heck, play to play?
Is Keith Butler even in charge of the defense any longer? And if he’s not, why is he still here?
People like to accuse head coach Mike Tomlin of not having his teams prepared to play sub-par opponents. But if it wasn’t for sub-par opponents, Pittsburgh might actually be winless through four weeks. It’s those upper-echelon opponents, the ones with the great coaching and similar talent, that have been outclassing the Steelers recently.
And good teams shouldn’t be getting outclassed by other good teams on a regular basis. The law of averages says those outcomes should even out over time. Yet, it doesn’t look like that’s going to happen anytime soon.
And that begs the question: are these Steelers a good team? My eyes tell me they’re not. The statistics certainly say the same thing.
Maybe that’s because the 2018 Pittsburgh Steelers are anything but good—and the opposite of good is bad.