Another week, another loss to a team that the Steelers should have, and could have, beaten. I’m going to take a look at some of the things that went well for the Steelers and a few of the the things that did not.
What worked: Other than the coverage on tackling (yup, that again) on the 95-yard catch and run by old “one trick pony” Mike Wallace, the defense played fairly well. That was the only offensive touchdown the Steelers allowed in that 60 minute horror flick Sunday afternoon. The return of a healthy and rested Cam Heyward and Ryan Shazier helped keep the Ravens’ running game from getting more than 50-yards. Artie Burns caught the first interception by a defensive back this season. All the linebackers played fluid and swarmed to the ball and 38 years young James Harrison keeps finding ways to harass Joe Flacco. Shazier was a force all day, Heyward made his presence felt on every down and Lawrence Timmons made plays at the line and in coverage.
Late in the game, the offense found some rhythm and success, but that’s garbage time and the Ravens seemed content to let the Steelers make the underneath throws, keeping everything in front of them.
What didn’t work: The run game. Le’Veon Bell was only able to gain 32 yards on 14 carries. Credit (I think) to the team for not giving up on it too early, but I was confused by the attempts to run on third down that failed all day. Whether it was scheme, trouble for the o-line blocking, or predictability it just seemed that the Ravens were prepared to contain Bell throughout the afternoon. The real question is why the offense didn’t try anything different. There seemed to be zero adjustments throughout the game other than throwing DeAngelo Williams out for a carry.
Sammie Coates. When the chips were down, so was the ball. On the ground. Coates had chances to make plays and put points on the board. Ben was far his most accurate on Sunday, but Coates is doing nothing to solidify his roster spot or make us forget Martavis Bryant.
Big Ben Roethlisberger. All week the talk was about how poorly Ben plays his first game back from injury. I saw too many erratic, underthrown, overthrown, heck piss-poor throws. It seems this team, and Roethlisberger are unable to buck the trends Steelers fans have to come to hate and fear every season.
Special Teams. As a whole, this unit was beyond bad on Sunday. A blocked punt, a twisted leg trip for an attempted onside kick and too many return yards allowed to one of the most dangerous return men in league history. Sound familiar?
Shamarko Thomas gets a mention. After his tiptoe on near the goal line on a downed kickoff, he returned to the same undisciplined special teams flag magnet he always was. He’s fast and athletic, but has zero brain function during game day. I could go on, but there’s one more name I need to touch on.
Mike Mitchell. I’ve praised Mitchell at times this season for his toughness and hard hitting. I’m done praising him even a little at this juncture. Yes he plays with fire, but he is not a great safety, or even a very good safety. He’s a liability. I’m tired of screaming at my TV screen, watching him miss tackles, play out of position and draw flags on a weekly basis. He’s not worth his current salary and certainly not worth the 8 million dollar cap hit for next year. He’s supposed to be the last line of defense and a safety net. Nothing should get behind him, especially a five yard out that ends up going for 95 yards. A team can live with penalties from a great or even good player, IF that player helps his team more than he hurts it. Mitchell can’t help himself it seems, but the Steelers can help themselves by finding his replacement. I’m sure we’ll see him in the starting lineup for another 8 weeks, but unless he can reign himself in, and soon, I hope not to see him in black and gold at all next year.
At the final whistle, this game was over before it even started. Mike Tomlin needs to do some quick, deep reflection regarding his team and where it’s headed. Right now they are a very undisciplined group. Over 100 yards in penalties is unacceptable. Let the Raiders keep those records please. Against the Ravens in week nine the Steelers’ offense was playing the most lackluster, uninspired football I’ve seen since Mark Malone was under center. The problem is that this team has the talent to put 30-plus points up every week, regardless of the competition. Baltimore was missing starters from the secondary and the Steelers should have been able to take advantage. Instead they went three and out over and over again—never changing what wasn’t working. Einstein said “The definition of insanity is doing something over and over again and expecting a different result.” There are a few things this team needs to stop repeating or else this insanity won’t stop and they will continue to lose games.
The Ugly goes to the injury bug. I don’t know how long he’s out, but this offensive line is far better with Maurkice Pouncey than without. Losing DHB is also a hit to an offense that is struggling to make plays downfield.