Here we go...again. Another chance to win a game and the team can’t get out of it’s own way. They surely got out of Ezekiel Elliot’s way all day, though. I’m going to take a quick walk through what worked and what failed in this loss.
What worked: Most of the offense. No, Le’Veon Bell did not have a fantastic day running the ball, but he was effective at times and a real weapon as a receiver. It appears his struggles in the run game stem from the offensive line, who may not have opened a ton of holes for Bell, but did give Ben Roethlisberger time to throw this week. Speaking of Ben, the guy looks healthy this time around and he made a lot of great plays, getting almost everyone involved in the offense.
(Almost) anyone not named Brown or Bell. Eli Rogers made plays, Cobi Hamilton played well, Ladarius Green had a couple of catches and Jesse James made catches and picked up additional yards after the catch. The parts of the offense that were missing the last few weeks came back and played well. Just about everyone contributed.
What didn’t work: Run defense. Yes Ezekiel Elliot is the ultimate downhill runner and he’s a load to stop, but once again discipline in run defense is an issue. Too many times players were out of position or unable to make a basic tackle.
Covering tight ends. It seems every week, for the past several years, a tight end has gotten himself open for big plays against this defense. The Steelers’ defense on the final drive completely forgot about Jason Witten, and he does what great players do—he made them pay for it with catches for first downs.
Sammie Coates was dressed and in the game but has nothing on his stat line. He’s disappearing from this offense faster than Limas Sweed.
The defense as a unit is becoming this team’s worst enemy. No one will ever confuse this current rendition with Blitzburgh or The Steel Curtain. No offense is afraid of them and they are giving up big plays at an alarming rate. Opposing offenses are racking up yards and points against the Steelers’ defense. Penalties have been a concern all season and the facemask by Sean Davis yesterday is just one of many. Yes, some of this can be chalked up to the youth movement at defense, but player discipline falls firmly in the wheelhouse of leadership and coaching. Mike Tomlin is not getting the job done from this perspective. I’m not calling for his job (yet) but it’s Tomlin’s job to find ways to get these men in line. The current methods are not working. AND, how many two point conversions have to fail before you stop trying?
At the final whistle, this may have been the most frustrating game I watched this season. The offense did its job and put up 30 points. The defense gave up over 400 yards and 35 points. The inability of this defense to stop anything brings up the sad reality that the arrow for this team is definitely not pointing up. I don’t care that the Cowboys are currently the best team in the NFL. The Steelers had the game in hand and they gave it away.
Thank goodness it’s hockey season and the Penguins are playing well. Otherwise the week between losses would be unbearable.