The Steelers fell to the Packers, 27-17, at Lambeau Field on Sunday to drop to 1-3 to start the 2021 campaign.
Yeah, I’m not either. I don’t think anyone is. I don’t think anyone expected much more than what the Steelers displayed on Sunday, which was a shaky quarterback in one Ben Roethlisberger, who briefly flashed on the opening drive with a perfect 45-yard touchdown strike to receiver Diontae Johnson, before regressing back into the skittish and inaccurate passer we’ve come to know over the past year or so.
I will say this, it was nice to see the Steelers actually jump on an opponent early and establish a lead. This is where you’d normally expect the defense to take over and grind those Packers into powdered cheese. Unfortunately, the unit that looked so dominant in Week 1 at Buffalo hasn’t been seen since about the second quarter of Week 2.
It didn’t take long for Aaron Rodgers and Co. to come back and tie the game—just two series. And it took even less time for Green Bay to take the lead after that, thanks to yet another turnover from Roethlisberger, who was stripped of the football at the Pittsburgh 23.
Rodgers did what quarterbacks playing at his level normally do, which is to say, he quickly took advantage to give his team a seven-point lead.
True, the Steelers could have tied it on the next drive if Roethlisberger had been able to connect with receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster, who was wide open down the seam and would have walked into the end zone. But Roethlisberger couldn’t hit his wide-open target. Maybe Smith-Schuster could have picked his veteran passer up by making a highlight catch, but you could have said the same thing a week earlier about how a wide-open James Washington should have laid out to catch a pass that, had his quarterback been on point, would have landed right in his breadbasket for an easy touchdown bomb.
Did you see how Rodgers made things easy for his receivers, with the pinpoint accuracy and those impossible-to-defend back-shoulder throws?
Yeah, that’s how it’s done.
Of course, Rodgers may have had a harder time being so accurate, had the likes of T.J. Watt, Cameron Heyward and Alex Highsmith been more disruptive. True, Pittsburgh’s defense did register eight quarterback hits and three sacks—including two from Watt, who returned to the lineup after missing Week 3 with a groin injury—but stats don’t always tell the whole story. If you watched Sunday’s game, you know Rodgers never really had to run for his life.
He did run for a touchdown, though.
As I’ve said before, what the Steelers do better than anything these days is make life miserable for opposing quarterbacks. Unfortunately, the past three passers they’ve faced have looked quite comfortable and content.
That’s not good. Neither are the Steelers.
If you want, you can blame a poor call by the officials at the end of the first half for turning the tide of Sunday’s game; safety Minkah Fitzpatrick blocked a Mason Crosby field goal attempt and returned it all the way to the house, but cornerback Joe Haden was called for being offsides on the play. Was he? Maybe. Maybe not. But, instead of a 17-14 halftime lead, Pittsburgh trailed by seven points after Crosby converted on his second chance.
Would things have been different if not for the questionable call on Haden? I don’t know. Has the running game been “different” at any point this year? Has the offense looked “different” at any stage of the 2021 season?
You can certainly make excuses, much like folks did following the sketchy roughing the passer call on Melvin Ingram at the end of the first half in the Week 3 loss to the Bengals.
Sometimes the stats really do tell the story, though. For example, the Packers were nine of 15 on third-down conversions, while Pittsburgh was four of 11. I’m not sure if a 17-14 lead would have made the defense more dominant in the second half and the offense more potent.
Although, it may have reversed a quite damning streak; after Crosby connected on his second field goal to open up the third quarter, it marked the ninth-straight game in which Pittsburgh trailed by at least two scores.
To me, that’s the most telling stat, the most eye-opening trend when talking about the state of these Pittsburgh Steelers.
Good football teams don’t constantly find themselves behind the eight-ball with their pants down (to quote my former boss and his philosophy on business). More often than not, they get on top of their opponents early and control the tempo.
These 2021 Steelers can’t seem to establish a tempo, other than “SOS.”
The Steelers are 1-3 after four weeks and two games behind everyone else in the AFC North.
The Steelers are bad. Everyone else in the AFC North is good.
Nothing more needs to be said.