The Pittsburgh Steelers have seen better days than they are currently experiencing. The black-and-gold have dropped three straight games, after losing to the Broncos, Chargers and Raiders in consecutive weeks. Now they turn their attention to another AFC opponent, the New England Patriots, in Week 15.
Today in the Black-and-gold links article, we take a look at how the thought of the Steelers not just missing out on an AFC North crown, but even a playoff berth, isn’t out of the realm of possibility. In fact, it might be more of a reality after their latest loss.
Let’s get to the news:
By: Dan Graziano, ESPN
I mean ... did you SEE the final play of the Dolphins-Patriots game?
If you didn’t, please, go watch it. I’ll wait right here.
Greatest play ever, AMIRITE??
OK, so maybe that’s a little bit much. Tough to rank it with plays like the Music City Miracle and the Minneapolis Miracle, which won playoff games. Or even plays like the David Tyree helmet catch, which helped keep alive an all-time Super Bowl upset. Context matters, and this Week 14 regular-season magic trick didn’t crush the Patriots’ hopes or ensure the Dolphins of anything.
It was just amazing, is all. How often do you see the multi-lateral end-of-game desperation play work? Ever? All that was missing was a commentator yelling, “The band is out on the field!!!”
Besides, it’s OVERREACTION MONDAY, after all, so why not open up by wondering if that play was the greatest of all time. It probably wasn’t, but it had the kind of epic feel we look for in this weekly breathless exercise. And it leads nicely into our first reaction of the week:
The Steelers will miss the playoffs
Pittsburgh lost to the Raiders on Sunday. The Raiders. The team that’s spent the past eight months looking as if it wanted to get rid of enough players so it wouldn’t even have 11 to start on game day. Pittsburgh has lost three games in a row now and is playing without James Conner, who was helping them forget about Le’Veon Bell. They hold a one-half game lead over Baltimore in the AFC North, and there are three teams that have the same record as Baltimore and are out for a wild-card berth. Pittsburgh’s final three games are at home to the Patriots, in New Orleans and at home to rival Cincinnati. And did I mention they just lost to the Raiders? The Raiders!?
Graziano’s verdict: . If the Steelers lose their next two very losable games, they would be 7-7-1 and could need a Week 17 victory over Cincinnati to even have a chance of getting in. Remember the Bengals knocking the Ravens out of the postseason in Week 17 last year? Think they wouldn’t just LOVE doing that to the Steelers? Pittsburgh has to come up with a way of beating the Patriots and/or the Saints if it wants to avoid an embarrassing collapse.
By: Kevin Gorman, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
The Steelers knew beforehand that they would have to beat the Oakland Raiders without James Conner, a test for their running game. The surprise came when they had to start the second half without Ben Roethlisberger, who injured his ribs late in the first half.
Big Ben would rally the Steelers to another fourth-quarter comeback.
But the outcome would depend on the defense.
And the Steelers came up short.
1. Nowhere to run: Other than handing off to Jaylen Samuels on first down on their first two possessions, the Steelers did little to establish the run game.
Samuels got his first NFL start and had six carries for 11 yards in the first half – an average of 1.8 yards per – and added four receptions for 22 yards. The Steelers had 10 rushes for 6 yards, an average of 0.6 yards per carry.
They were bailed out by the Raiders, who had three facemask penalties for 45 yards. Two came on the same second-quarter drive: Samuels was pulled down on a run by linebacker Tahir Whitehead and on a pass by defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins.
But the Steelers failed to take advantage, as Roethlisberger was sacked by Clinton McDonald for a 7-yard loss and Chris Boswell missed a 39-yard field goal wide right.
2. Toe-tap JuJu: The Steelers have seen their share of toe-tap catches, from Santonio Holmes to Antonio Brown.
JuJu Smith-Schuster’s touchdown in the back of the end zone just before halftime has to rank among the best.
Roethlisberger nearly had a pass picked off in the end zone, as his throw to Smith-Schuster was broken up by safety Karl Joseph. On the next play, Roethlisberger found Vance McDonald for a 10-yard gain to the Raiders’ 2. But Samuels ran for no gain, and a short pass to Ryan Switzer left the Steelers a yard short of the goal line.
On third-and-goal at the 1, Roethlisberger threw a high pass in the back of the end zone. Smith-Schuster leapt high, tipped the ball to himself and touched both toes down.
The play was initially ruled incomplete, but reversed after a video review for a touchdown that gave the Steelers a 14-10 halftime lead.
It wasn’t picture-perfect but it was pretty.
(For the rest of the takes, click the link in the headline above...)
By: Joe Rutter, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
On a day when the Pittsburgh Steelers got help in other stadiums around the country, they couldn’t get a favorable outcome in the one that mattered the most.
Derek Carr stole the late heroics from an injured Ben Roethlisberger by leading the Oakland Raiders to a 24-21 victory at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum that handed the Steelers their third consecutive defeat.
Carr threw a 6-yard touchdown pass with 21 seconds remaining, and the Steelers missed a chance to force overtime when Chris Boswell slipped on a 40-yard field-goal attempt, and his kick was blocked at the buzzer. It was his second miss of the day.
In the past three games, the Steelers had their fate sealed in the waning moments: an interception in the end zone at Denver, a last-second field goal by the Los Angeles Chargers and the comeback Sunday that gave the Raiders their third win in 13 tries this season.
The three losses for the 7-5-1 Steelers have been decided by seven, three and three points — each defeat more deflating than the one prior.
“We’ll see what this team is made of, you know,” guard David DeCastro said. “We really will.”
When the Steelers took the field, they had a chance to catch several of the conference’s higher-seeded teams and also put some distance between themselves and the Baltimore Ravens in the AFC North. In addition to the Ravens, the New England Patriots and Houston Texans lost Sunday.
Instead, the Steelers remain perched in the No. 4 seed and maintain just a one-half game edge over the Ravens (7-6).
“Frustration is definitely setting in. You can see it,” DeCastro said. “You put a lot of energy into the sport and a lot of work into it. Losing games like this … it’s tough, man. There is still a lot ahead of us.”
It doesn’t get any easier for the Steelers, who play the 9-4 Patriots on Sunday at Heinz Field before traveling to New Orleans to face the 11-2 Saints.
“We all need to look in the mirror and figure out what is going on,” said Roethlisberger, who returned from a rib injury in the fourth quarter to give the Steelers a 21-17 lead with 2 minutes, 55 seconds left on a 1-yard touchdown pass to JuJu Smith-Schuster. “It starts with each individual. We have to look inside first.”