Diontae Johnson dropping what would have been a 75-yard touchdown on the first play of the game was an omen of how the day was going to go for the Steelers, as they fell to 4-3 in a 20-10 loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Truthfully, I don’t know how many times I can write the same words after a Steelers’ loss. It’s the same thing every week- the offense is abysmal, and the defense does its best to keep them alive. Against the Ravens and Rams, that formula worked, and the offense came alive when it mattered. This week, the offense sputtered, Kenny Pickett got hurt, and Pittsburgh fell to 4-3 looking like the pure embarrassment we have come to know and hate.
The Steelers have now gone 55 consecutive games without 400 yards of offense, which is more than four times as many games as the next closest team. They went three-and-out on their first four drives, not getting a first down until just under 9:30 left in the second quarter. The defense did their best to keep the Steelers in the game, as did the Jaguars themselves with the mistakes they were making. After marching down the field, Jacksonville got a little too cute with a shuffle pass to Evan Engram that was sniffed out by Kwon Alexander, who forced the ball lose and it was recovered by Cole Holcomb. Later on, the Jaguars were threatening to score when Trevor Lawrence threw a duck directly to Damontae Kazee that set up the Steelers’ drive for their first points of the day. Pittsburgh had another takeaway in the second half that on a fumble when the Jaguars were in plus territory.
On three takeaways, the Steelers mustered just three points, and played all the hits along the way. After the first fumble, they went three plays, two yards, punt. After the interception, they drove down the field only to settle for a field goal. And after the third takeaway, Pittsburgh went three plays, lost nine yards, and threw it behind the line of scrimmage on third and seven just to punt it right back to the Jaguars. Overall, the offense had 199 yards of offense and stunk to high heaven once again.
Now, obviously there is context that needs addressed. Kenny Pickett went down in the waning moments of the second half with a rib injury on a play that wasn’t called roughing the passer. On the ensuing field goal, the Steelers were flagged for lining up over the ball, which negated three points. Officiating isn’t the reason they lost- they were severely outplayed in every aspect-but there were a few calls that didn’t go their way.
Now, let’s talk about Mitch Trubisky, and his knack for predetermining where he’s going with the ball. Multiple times, he threw the ball into a mosh pit of Jaguars, and he paid for it in the middle of the fourth quarter with an interception that put the final nail in the coffin for the Steelers. The Jaguars kicked a field goal to make it a two-possession game, and the fat lady began to sing.
Pittsburgh couldn’t keep their defense off the field, and it led to Trevor Lawrence throwing for 292 yards and putting up a passer rating of 100. Evan Engram was a killer, as well, catching 10 passes and constantly moving the chains for Jacksonville, who was 6-of-13 on third downs compared to the Steelers’ 3-of-12 showing. Jacksonville had 115 more yards than the Steelers despite running just one more play. We can talk about a few bad calls and Pickett going down, but the offense looked like their usual non-productive selves for the entire first half. This was the physical embodiment of what I’ve been saying. And I know some of you reading this don’t want to hear it, you don’t want to acknowledge it, but let’s call a spade a spade- this isn’t a good football team. Relying on your defense to hold teams to 10 or fewer points for three quarters and needing multiple freak plays and turnovers to go your way before your offense decides to look like an actual NFL offense for 10 minutes a game isn’t a sustainable way to win games.
And how fitting is it that on Halloween weekend, the Steelers get unmasked as the fraudulent contenders they tricked some into believing they are. They were outgained by 660 yards entering this week, and they are now the only team in football with a winning record and a negative point differential.
The Steelers have a very clear ceiling. They are good enough to beat mediocre teams, occasionally pull off a surprise win, and maybe even sneak into the playoffs as a Wildcard team. But if and when they do get to the playoffs, their fate will be getting outclassed and embarrassed by actual Super Bowl contenders. Like it or not, that’s what they are. And until the offense becomes at least competent, that’s what they will remain.