It's time to calibrate our weekly Freak Out Meter. The Steelers beat the Chargers 24-20, but it was a very intense game that generated a lot of anxiety and stress at many points. In previous editions of Chill out, the secondary, tackling, suspensions, and placekicking have been on the radar as potential sources of freakoutishness in fans. What made the list this week?
Special Teams- Freak Out
It pained me to give special teams a freak out rating, but let's be honest. Even with Chris Boswell kicking darn-well, there are other components of special teams that are absolutely horrible. Jordan Berry's punting has been inconsistent. Worse, against the Chargers, special teams ran a clinic in dumb errors. Jordan Todman had a stupid block in the back that negated Antonio Brown's decent return. Shamarko Thomas had an above-the-neck issue and tried to catch a punt after the Chargers had already signaled a fair catch. Special teams coach Danny Kelly needs to do a better job.
Run Defense: Chill Out
Last week I gave run defense a freak out rating after they allowed Justin Forsett to rush for 150 yards. I am happy to report that the Steelers run defense functioned well against the Chargers. How effective was the Steelers run defense this week? They only allowed 52 yards. Let's hope the Ravens game was an anomaly and that the Steelers can continue to thwart rushing attempts closer to the line of scrimmage.
Officiating: Freak Out
This problem is not Steelers-specific, although there were several disturbing lapses in judgment during the Steelers vs. Chargers game on Monday. A few standouts: Officials blew a whistle early, ending a Le'Veon bell play well before forward progress was over. Later, the Chargers were on the receiving end of an early whistle, so I suppose those two mistakes neutralized each other. Still, it is disturbing to see a play ended before it is actually over.
The bigger problem on Monday was an 18-second clock error that could have worked to the Steelers disadvantage. This mistake happened towards the end of the fourth quarter and ended up being irrelevant since Le'Veon Bell was able to score a winning touchdown, but it is terrifying that a mistake of that magnitude can go undetected (or happen in the first place).
Good catch by some of my crew. 18 secs ran off the clock on the kickoff/touchback. Clock went from 2:56 to 2:38. What was the timer doing?
— Mike Pereira (@MikePereira) October 13, 2015
There have been other inexcusable mistakes this season involving other teams. Last week, officials bungled a call that robbed the Lions an opportunity to get into the endz
Defending Tight Ends: Red Alert Freak Out
I haven't given a RAFO rating to any unit or situation so far this year, even when Ben Roethlisberger fell to a knee injury against the St. Louis Rams in Week 3. Despite huge improvements in the secondary, there is one very troubling aspect of the Steelers pass defense. They can't seem to defend tight ends. Or, they choose not to. The Steelers performance against Chargers tight end Antonio Gates was reminiscent of their dismal performance against New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski.
I'm not an NFL coach, but I'm pretty sure leaving tight ends completely undefended is not a good strategy, unless, of course, your strategy is to allow the opponents' tight ends to gain miles of yardage against you. Ok, maybe not miles, but the Gates had two touchdowns and 92 yards, averaging 10.2 yards per play. Against the Patriots in Week 1, Rob Gronkowski had an astounding three touchdowns and 94 yards, 52 of which were off of a single play. Even in their Week 2 victory against the 49ers, they allowed tight end Vernon Davis to rack up 62 yards. 43 of Davis' yards were on one play. Yikes.
Hopefully the Steelers defense can sort out the tight end situation the way the improved their run defense. It is not a desperate situation, but it is very troubling.
Your turn to weigh in. What are you chilled out about? What is freaking you out?