The Pittsburgh Steelers are a very inconsistent team, and nothing showed this more than the team rebounding from losses to the Broncos, Chargers and Raiders with a huge home win vs. the New England Patriots in Week 15. It doesn’t get any easier for the Steelers though, as the New Orleans Saints await in Week 16.
Today in the Black-and-gold links article, we take a look at how Keith Butler and Mike Tomlin, every Steelers fan’s favorite scapegoats, out-schemed, and out-smarted, the great Tom Brady and all-knowing Bill Belichick.
Let’s get to the news:
By: Chris Carter, DKPittsburghSports
The Steelers’ 17-10 win over the Patriots at Heinz Field Sunday was the team’s biggest win of the season and was encouraging because of the direction of a defense that has been searching for its identity all season.
Let’s dig deep …
• Where scheme beat team: Keith Butler had been the target of much criticism in recent weeks for the defense’s fourth quarter failures during a three-game losing streak. But against Tom Brady and Bill Belichick, he delivered a gameplan that never allowed the five-time Super Bowl champions to get a fix.
The initial plan appeared to feature a return of Artie Burns to the starting lineup. But when Brady connected with a wide open Chris Hogan with 63-yard touchdown pass, Burns was removed from game and didn’t see field again, outside of special teams.
While many, including myself, saw that play as a huge mistake by Burns, Mike Tomlin provided a different assessment after the game of the lone touchdown surrendered by the Steelers.
“That play wasn’t even his fault, so I think I want to be clear in saying that,” Tomlin said when asked about pulling Burns after the touchdown. “That play we gave up was not his fault. I accept responsibility that it was our fault. I was too busy arguing a sequence of events prior to that really to make sure we had proper communication in that sequence, so we essentially spotted them seven.”
The Steelers did spot the Patriots seven points in a game they won 17-10. But my initial reaction to Tomlin’s postgame comments was that he was covering for Burns, who has had a rough season.
However when I reviewed the tape, Tomlin’s explanation made sense. Dale Lolley and I had speculated during the week that Burns would be asked to explicitly play man coverage. But the Steelers had to play the Patriots, a team that rarely lets an opponent just play one style of defense without challenging it.
Watch how Burns plays tight to Josh Gordon at the bottom of the screen and follows him the entire play, while Joe Haden and Sean Davis are clearly in zone for a Cover 3 scheme. It’s apparent the Steelers switched out of their called defensive play because of the motion by Hogan to to the top of the formation and went into a zone scheme.
The problem came when everyone switched into the Cover 3 zone and Burns stayed in man coverage. My estimation is Burns was told only play man unless told otherwise and the Steelers forgot that when making the switch at the line. While he was in man coverage and Haden and Davis covered two-thirds of the field, the one-third of the field left vacated by Burns’ assignment was exposed and Hogan was wide open:
(To read more click the link in the headline...)
By: Mark Madden, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
After soiling the bed in fashions varied and messy over the prior three weeks, the Steelers stared down their personal boogeyman at Heinz Field on Sunday and kept their playoff hopes realistic with a victory.
It felt like the Steelers should have won by at least 14, but you need only win by one.
A bad defense elevated itself through sheer will and stopped Tom Brady throughout the game and, dramatically, at its death.
The defense moved up a notch in my book. That puts it at notch one.
The Steelers can be proud, and relieved. Their season was on the brink.
Thing is, their season is still on the brink. They lead the AFC North by a paltry half-game.
That’s why the Steelers have to replace Chris Boswell. They won’t.
But if they don’t, they will pay for it.
The Steelers kicker lost the game at Oakland. He did his best to lose vs. New England. Forget the kick Boswell made. The one he missed left the result in doubt and gave Brady a chance he usually doesn’t squander. Boswell sliced it right like Judge Smails. The difficulty of the win connects directly to Boswell’s shank.
Boswell has missed 12 kicks (seven field goals, five extra points) this season. The notion a kicker would be kept on a roster long enough to miss 12 kicks is absurd. Boswell should have been canned a month ago.
Kicker is football’s most disposable position. (Running back may be second: Witness Jaylen Samuels deputizing for James Conner taking the place of Le’Veon Bell.) Why are the Steelers holding on to Boswell?
They brought in Shaun Suisham to work with Boswell. Suisham is the kicker Boswell replaced. They should have hired a shrink instead. Boswell has the yips.
That should be Boswell’s problem, not the Steelers’. Enough is enough. Get another kicker.
If the Steelers miss the playoffs, it should be because real football players fail. Not a kicker.
After Sunday’s win, Mike Tomlin said Boswell is “our kicker from start to finish.” Ride or die. If Tomlin means that, it’s stupidity dipped in stubbornness drooling from the mouth of a coach who isn’t exactly having a career year.
Ditching Boswell was obviously considered. The Steelers tried out two other kickers last week. Kai Forbath performed well enough to win the job. The Steelers kept Boswell. Forbath signed with Jacksonville and made two field goals in two tries. One-for-one on extra points.
Rookie Matt McCrane was the other kicker. He was cut by Arizona (twice) and Oakland earlier this season.
Is McCrane better than Boswell? He can’t be worse. That’s usually a terrible, haphazard reason to make a personnel move.
But it’s come to that.
Don’t fret about the cap hit. (Boswell is signed through 2022. If he’s cut, his cap hit for next year would be $4.8 million.) Worry about making the playoffs now. Think about what kicker gives you the best chance to win. (It’s not Boswell.) Boswell’s contract was too much, too long in the first place.
Deactivate Boswell if you don’t want to cut him. Fabricate an injury and put him on IR. But get another kicker.
Why on earth is replacing Boswell so hard? When is the last time a team treated a failing kicker with such deference?
Boswell has cost the Steelers. The Steelers are lucky Boswell hasn’t cost them more.
By: Chris Pastrick, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
Pittsburgh Steelers kicker Chris Boswell deleted his Twitter account following the team’s 17-10 victory of the New England Patriots, according to various media outlets.
It’s unclear why he deleted his account, although it likely could have been due to the volume of negative comments from fans.
Already having missed 11 kicks this season, Boswell missed a 32-yarder Sunday.
ItzYinzburgh posted screenshots showing more than a few fans tweeting “kill yourself” at the 27-year-old kicker.
In addition to deleting his Twitter, Boswell disabled comments on his Instagram.
As for Sunday’s game, Boswell redeemed himself somewhat, making a 48-yard field goal late in the game.
Earlier this week, the Steelers brought in two other kickers for tryouts, but opted to stick with Boswell. Former teammate Shaun Suisham was brought in as a guest at practice to help.
Back in August, the Steelers signed the Boswell to a multi-year deal reportedly worth slightly less than $20 million. It will keep him with the Steelers through the 2022 season.