The question comes not just from the fact that the Steelers lost to Cleveland Browns with it’s ugly violence filled finish. The question comes from the fact, more than anything else to the fact that what should be the strength of the Steelers is falling down on the job. The offense line has not been playing well. When you add to that the three game suspension loss of Mike Pouncey, the future doesn’t look bright.
When dealing with a young quarterback there are two things that really help him be successful. The first is a good running attack, the second is keeping the quarterback from getting sacked. Both of those things very much are dependent upon the offensive line playing as a cohesive group, and playing well. Take your best running back out of the picture with Conner’s injury, add to that a line not playing well and then remove a highly mobile pro-bowl center and that young quarterback is going to suffer. There’s a small hope Benny Snell can return and infuse some energy into a lackluster running attack.
The Steelers upcoming schedule puts them in a favorable position to go 4-1, and come to the last week of the season at 9-6 and playing the Ravens. A win in that game would then likely determine a playoff spot for the Steelers. But given the current status of the line and running attack, it doesn’t look good for the Steelers going forward. It’s a shame in a year when the defense is playing so incredibly well. Here we go.
Well it wasn’t pretty and of all things for Adam Vinateri to miss a game winning field goal is pretty amazing and pretty lucky. The Steelers played a decent game, the defense continues to grow and improve. Minkah Fitzpatrick continued to pay dividends with a 96 yard touchdown return. It’s completely awesome to have a front seven getting to the quarterback, AND have people in the secondary who are actually ball hawking and getting turnovers.
The injuries continue, Roosevelt Nix is a huge injury that hurts the running offense and not having Conner or Snell doesn’t help at all. Without Conner, Snell and Nix the Steelers are far more dependent on their passing attack. I love Mason Rudolph, he’s growing but not quickly, and Randy Fichtner doesn’t seem to have a lot of confidence in him. The receiving core is solid but not spectacular. Juju, Johnson and Washington are all having their moments, but don’t seem to be able to consistently beat man to man coverage in a way that allows Rudolph to hit them for anything other than short passes. We are back to the thing, that can work with a running attack, and that most Steeler fans hate, the dink and dunk offense.
But a win is a win and the Steelers are at .500, I still predict them being 8-6 going into Baltimore on the last weekend. The question is, will beating the Ravens that weekend actually gain us a playoff spot? The Ravens beating the Patriots makes that much less likely. Here we go!
So the Steelers win their 18th straight home game on Monday Night Football. It didn’t start out well, a terrible interception by Rudolph. Mason looked really rusty in the first half. It took a horrible pass interference call to seemingly get the Steelers going. Insta Karma got the ball back in his hands on a blown coverage and rambled into the endzone to get the Steelers back into the game.
The story of the game was Steeler football, run the ball, Conner was over 140 yards, Snell looked tough again. Unfortunately both left with injuries which is a concern for next week. And the Steelers played solid defense with several takeaways, the call Fitzpatrick to Fitzpatrick was made twice. Mr. TJ Watt had himself a game including a strip sack and another sack where he pinned an attempted pass into Fitzpatrick’s hand and swallowed him up.
All in all a good, nerve wracking game tonight but a win none the less. A more dominant performance would make me feel better, but it’s all about the Colts next week, here we go!
So I wrote a piece earlier this week about how dangerous a no win team can be in the NFL. People may want to blow that off and normally I’d argue but in fact it looks like the Dolphins are even more dedicated to earning the first pick in the next NFL draft than even I imagined. Today the Dolphins traded their leading rusher for draft picks. According to ESPN.com this leaves the following backfield situation for the Dolphins:
The Dolphins are likely to give 2018 fourth-round pick Kalen Ballage, undrafted rookie back Patrick Laird and rookie seventh-round pick Myles Gaskin bigger reserve roles with Drake gone from the rotation.
The only name I know from that list is Gaskin from Washington State, let’s hope he’s not going to turn out to be another Gardner Minshew, that’s a coming out party I don’t want to see. But is also unlikely given the line situation for Miami who has already traded away their starting left tackle. Ryan Fitzpatrick has a tough gig playing behind a suspect line, he has a talented Devonte Parker to throw to. The Steelers need to shut Parker down tonight, without Drake that should give the line and linebackers time to get to Fitzpatrick. Hopefully the offense, after losing Parker, will be even more dejected than they’ve been. So far this season the Dolphins are averaging 10.5 points per game, take away any running attack and they should have a hard time scoring enough points to win.
But what about the Dolphin Defense? They’ve been giving up 35.2 points per game and that’s before they sent Minkah Fitzpatrick to Pittsburgh and before Rashad Jones sat out injured. The Steelers are averaging 21 points per game. So an average night for both teams should mean a 10 point Steeler win. However, over the last few years this is exactly the kind of game the Steelers have been losing. So there is a bit of anxiety tonight, especially with Tuitt gone, Watt coming off an injury and Rudolph’s lack of deep balls so far. But tonight could also be Mason’s coming out party. The line looks to be back on track, Conner and Snell are running well, give Mason a good running game, two weeks of prep and hopefully he’ll finally start cutting loose downfield. We’ll find out in a few hours, here we go!
Yes, you read that correctly, the dangerous Dolphins. There may be nothing more dangerous in the NFL than a winless team. You see they go through the stages of death. First, they are in denial about how bad they are. Then, they get angry about the way things are going. Then they get depressed about the state of affairs. Finally they come to acceptance and hope. That hope is the dangerous bit. You see if they find themselves hanging around in the late third, or early fourth quarter of the game they start to believe, this could be the one.
The reason this makes me nervous is that our Steelers have had a tendency over the last few years to not dominate the teams they should. And Miami is a team they definitely should dominate. But if the Steeler offense doesn’t produce touchdowns instead of field goals and we let Miami hang around, this could get ugly. And if it does, given the Ravens beat the Seahawks last week, well, this season is likely over for the Steelers.
Let’s hope they come out and Conner and company run all over the Dolphins, Mason starts to let loose a bit and the defense considers it’s improvement. Here we go!
It was a wonderful night. Hell, even Cris Collinsworth wasn’t nearly as annoying as he normally is on Sunday Night Football.
Duck Devlin gets his first win as an NFL quarterback and a Pittsburgh Steeler. The Steelers played, for the first time this year, Steelers football. What do I mean by that? Simply this, run the ball and play incredible defense. They absolutely did that. Conner and Benny Snell racked up over 100 yards of total rushing for the team. The passing game was small but efficient and was exactly what you needed when you have your undrafted third string quarterback starting a road game.
The defense play was inspired, the pass rush was awesome, this led to turnovers, interceptions, fumbles and a defensive score.
The bad news, Tuitt is out for the season and he’s been playing absolutely amazing. Tyson Alualu played fantastic in relief and his tip lead to an interception, but we likely to add someone to pick up some of the loss of talent.
The good news, next week is the off week. So hopefully, we find another lineman, we get Mason back, we get Joe Haden, Steve Nelson and a bunch of other banged up players healthy. This is hugely important because if this team is going to save this season, they need to get on a roll. Here we go!
First play, can’t cover a tight end and Artie Burns in coverage.
Defense looks good tonight out of the gate against the run. Looking for Dupree to have a big night.
A three and out is a great start! You can hear the Steelers fans in the stadium. Only took the idiot Collinsworth 3 plays to make a mistake, God I hate him.
Switzer standard nothing return. When will we finally change our special teams coach.
Let’s go Duck! Love taking a shot on first down, not a great throw.
Conner for a loss, MacDonald for not enough, three and out.
First penalty of the night, false start on a punt – Chargers at their 20.
Ok, we’re banging Rivers around right off the bat.
Backwards pass, Devin Bush, TOUCHDOWN!!!! That’s why you move up 10 spots in the first round, what an athlete. Steelers 7-0
Gordon gets started, quick out route and a Charger first down.
Tipped!!! Bush is there again!!! Again, that’s why you move up 10 spots, Tyson with the tip. That’s Devin Bush at +6 in turnovers for him alone this season.
Conner for a couple, then Conner on a quick pass for a few, third down.
Conner again, first down! Hodges 3-4 so far.
Hand off exchange a little goofy, Conner for 1. Conner again 3 and 4.
Conner on a pass, where’s the spot? First down!
Conner off-tackle, TOUCHDOWN! Steelers 14-0
Chargers from the 24.
Gordon for nothing. Keenan Allen first down.
Given the injuries tonight, Barron, Nelson, this is essentially last years defense plus Bush.
Gordon for 4, Gordon for nothing. Completion, short defense will get off the field.
Good punt and of course a special teams penalty, but it’s on the Chargers, shocked! Going to re-kick, as Tunch Ilkin always says, re-kicks always lead to big plays. Or one more yard. We start at the 14.
Conner on the loose, 11 yards (6-30) exactly what we I called for in today’s post, Steeler football, hard defense and pound the running game. End of the first quarter, Steelers up by 14.
Diontae Johnson for 8 on a quick hand off.
Benny Snell football time, or not.
Conner pounds for the first down.
Conner for two, damn he’s running hard tonight.
Diontae Johnson for a first down, love this kids route running.
Benny Snell for 4. Duck for 2 and Desmond King thumps him.
Conner is a beast and the Chargers knock him over the line for a first down.
Benny Snell bangs through the jumbo set for 7. Benny Snell football, first down!
Snell for one, man we’re finally eating up clock for the first time this season.
Two yards on first down. Conner quick out, breaks a tackle, TOUCHDOWN! Jesus after the broken tackle he strolled in from the 15. Steelers 21-0
Chargers from the 14 and a nice run for a first down.
Chickillo got a gift and couldn’t pull it in. Nice line play, no gain third and 13.
And we let someone float into the middle of the zone for 13, right in front of guess who, Artie Burns.
Eckler for nothing. Oh Shit – Bush’s down. He’s walking off, hopefully it’s not serious.
Rivers airs it out he’s open, and Williams drops it.
Williams, first down, right in front of, oh yeah, Artie Burns.
Jesus can we cover Williams, play fake damn near cost us a touchdown.
Gordon for nothing, two minute warning.
Rivers intentional grounding, Big Dan putting on the pressure. Gordon short pass, fourth down.
Field goal attempt – DOINK!!!!!
A quick run and that’s the half 21- 0, a first half shutout!!!!!!!!!
Tuitt is out. Defensive offsides, 5 yards first down and five.
Hodges to Conner and he’s off, first down.
Snell for 4. Diontae Johnson drops the pass but Davis whacks Johnson and picks up a 15 yard penalty, first down.
Conner for nothing.
Duck is flushed from cover and tosses it away down the line.
Wow, great screen, Snell to the 20 but it looks like a hold on the play, JuJu commits the crime.
3 and 6 instead of a first down. More flags, looks like defensive offsides, third and one.
Benny Snell football! First down! And the Chargers get an unsportsmanlike, Desmond King, ooh that was a chippy penalty. The refs have sucked all over the NFL today.
Conner looks banged up on the sideline, we can’t catch a break.
Another bad snap but Snell with a good run, third and four.
Snell, measuring for a first down. OMG, first down by one link in the chain, let’s pound this in from the 2!
Conner is in!!!! And goes nowhere.
Conner for a half yard.
Horrible snap, ball rolling down the field, Hodges scoops it up and throws it away.
Bringing in Boswell. Money! Steelers 24-0
Crap run, Rivers a quick pass and it’s third and 2.
TJ Watt blocks River’s pass.
Not much, loss of 1 and then. Moncrief with a diving catch for a first down.
Yes, you read that right Moncrief caught the ball.
Twelve men in the huddle, first and 15.
Conner strung out for nothing. Man we are chewing up clock though.
Conner for two and out of pounds, nothing good there, third and 13.
Check down to Conner and he gets 12. Time to punt.
Holy Shit! Muffed punt, Justin Layne knocks it out and recovers. But it’s probably going back over to the Chargers for fair catch interference and that would be a fair call.
Chargers ball, fair call but the boos in the stadium are loud, crowd over half Steeler fans.
Watt almost gets the sack Rivers throws it away deep.
Rivers abuses the zone coverage for 25. Devin Bush picks up an unsportsmanlike penalty, gives up 15.
Wow, great play by Rivers, negated by a hold on Bud Dupree.
Hilton wraps up on a short pass.
Bush whiffs on a short pass, luckly Vince bangs him down but Eckler runs for a first down.
Chargers first and 10 just over mid field, 20 yard pass, Chargers on the 30.
Bush whiffs on another tackle and the Chargers have a first down, Devin Bush needs to amp up and wrap up.
Rivers to the endzone, out of bounds.
Finally, everyone sacks Rivers, Watt and Chickillo.
Who the hell is impersonating Collinsworth, he’s complimenting the Steelers.
Haden makes a magnificent pass break up! Fourth down.
Ahhh there he is, poor Phillip Rivers has never had a good left tackle, Chargers field goal.
Pittsburgh 24 – San Diego 3
Snell for 3, Vannett for 6, that wasn’t a catch, Steelers get to the line, Benny Snell for the first down.
JuJu finally on the slant for 7.
Benny Snell football is kicking in, first down.
Bad throw deep, interception Chargers, Jenkins made a good play on a ball Hodges put too much air under.
Rivers airs it out, three guys back but the receiver was open and Artie Burns in coverage.
Williams for 11, first down.
Steelers defense looked confused, another first down, 22 yards right in front of Artie Burns.
Pass deflected, the rush is really getting home but the coverage looks confused.
Good play but the flag comes in and the penalty is on………Artie Burns, hands to the face, first down.
Two Steelers whiff, first Bush (that’s 3) then a DB.
Edmunds with a nice pass breakup near the goal line.
First and goal, another whiff on the tackle, Steelers need to wrap up!!!
Hilton and Bush wrap up, no gain on the swing pass.
Cam Sutton with a great one-handed breakup.
Should have been a touchdown, and now it is, in front of………wait for it……..Artie Burns.
Steelers 24 – 10
Ok, long drive and kill the clock.
Benny Snell football! 13-70, awesome.
Snell for 1. Snell for 1, they gonna let Duck throw?
Switzer behind the line for shit, far too conservative for a 14 point lead.
Decent punt, Chargers on their own 22.
Fitzpatrick drops an interception.
Cam Kelly, nice hit, no gain.
Wide-open catch for 20, they’ve been playing deep all night and he ran past the entire dime package.
Big Dan, hands to the face after Gordon got nothing.
Cam Sutton with another nice play.
Bush nice job staying with the play, third and six.
First down at the 2:00 warning.
Moore for a first down in front of Sutton.
Touchdown, one possession game
Steelers 24 -17
TJ Watt has looked like he’s in pain for most of the last quarter, wonder what he’s dealing with.
Cam Sutton goes up and snatches the onside kick, wild awesome play by Sutton.
Run by Snell for 2 (timeout), Snell for nothing (timeout 1:16)
Hodges keeps and dives into the back of Schuster, 4th and 1 (timeout 1:11)
Steelers elect to punt. Downed by Holton at the 1.
TJ Watt on the sideline.
Hilton almost makes a great interception on a Rivers bomb.
Sutton seals the deal, interception!
Duck Hodges gets a win in his first start, first Steeler QB since Roethlisberger to get it done.
A little confrontation at the end, Philip Rivers being a whiny bitch and grabbing Mike Hilton.
Ok, honestly, things don’t look good for the Steelers tonight. No Ben, no Mason, as I talked about in my last post, third string quarterbacks seem to play well in the moment off of the bench, but when a team can prepare for them it’s not pretty. As much as I love Duck Hodges, there’s a reason he’s a third string quarterback in the NFL. Add to that Jaylen Samuels being out, a guy who has been running the wildcat which had some success and took a little pressure off the quarterback. Then, pull out Steve Nelson and put Artie Burns in against a quarterback who loves to sling it and it’s hard to be confident.
So how do the Steelers beat the Chargers? Well, they have to exploit a somewhat rusty Melvin Gordon who has definitely also hurt the Charger locker room. Duck Hodges and Artie Burns have to surprise Steeler Nation with their level of play. The Steelers have to get James Conner rolling and give the Chargers a good dose of Steeler football. Hard nose, productive running and solid defense. The final piece being, the Steelers have to bang up Phillip Rivers and not give him time or let him get into rhythm. Finally, they have to feed off the crowd, most “home” games for the Chargers have felt like road games and we know Steeler fans will definitely show up. Taken together that’s a tall order, but it could happen.
Why tonight’s game will suck to watch
Tonight will be a painful game for me to watch unless it’s an immediate and prolonged Steeler blow out victory. First, the most annoying thing to me is that I can’t stand the way announcers fall over Phillip Rivers with constant praise. Without Ben in the lineup as some sort of counter balance, my least favorite announcer, Cris Collinsworth and the leather chair he calls games with will make me sick with how much time they spend talking about how amazing Phillip Rivers is, how many kids he has, etc… Seriously, over the years I’ve begun to wonder if Rivers provides sexual favors for announcers the way they fall all over him.
Yes, even worse than listening to announcers kiss Phillip Rivers’ ass is when it’s Cris Collinsworth leading the the charge. The former Bungle is my least favorite announcer. I hate everything about him, I hate his fake hokey schtick. I can stand his pretentious bullshit and his observations are usually terrible. If I could possibly sync up the delay between Steeler Radio and the TV broadcast I would happily listen to that while watching the game but the delay drives me nuts. Even worse, the guy hates the Steelers and finds anyway he can to downplay the Steelers regardless of who they are playing. Listen tonight, 4 yard gain by the Chargers great play, 4 yard gain by the Steelers automatic criticism of the play. I get why he hates the Steelers, as a former Bungle he remembers that the Pittsburgh Steelers have always owned the Bungles, even this year.
Hope is a four-letter word Steelers Nation, but that’s all we got tonight. Here we go!
As Steeler fans we often have taken pride in the fact that the AFC North has often been, the toughest division in the NFL. NOT this year! Which hooray, means that the Pittsburgh Steelers, sitting at 1-4, likely starting their third string quarterback, with what seems like half the team on the injured list, is still in the running to win the division.
Mason Rudolph may yet get to start on Sunday, he’s still working his way through the concussion protocol. If not, Duck Hodges showed himself admirably in relief of Mason Rudolph last week. However, I really hope that Rudolph can play. It has been my experience that very often a backup comes into a game and plays fantastic. I’m not sure if it’s adrenaline or the team rallying around him but it often happens. However, it has also been my experience that the next game, the start, is often not so good. No excitement, no adrenaline, the whole playbook a little bit of film on the guy. It all gangs up and seems to make things a bit too big for the backup.
So the Steelers season may come down to a doctor’s decision and how well our defense continues to play. Hopefully the Chargers coach reaming his team and Melvin Gordon’s hold out return are sewing dissension and disharmony in the Chargers locker room. That and their terrible run defense is what gives the Steelers a chance.
Ok, so why is there any hope left at all? Let’s look at the division, first, the Bungles are the Bungles and are likely heading for a very high first round draft pick. Additionally, nothing about that team says late season run, not even the return of AJ Green. On top of that with a victory against them in the bag, the Steelers are effectively two games up on the Bungles. I don’t see them much better than 4-12 this season.
The Cleveland Browns, the darlings of the NFL pundits this year, the team that was going to be the surprise Superbowl champs have turned out to be the Brownies we know and love. There is no arguing the level of talent on the roster, they have amazing talent up and down the team. Except, that they don’t seem to know how to play as a team. They will certainly get wins this season, that talent won’t completely be stopped. But Baker Mayfield seems to be having a sophomore slump and was even benched in the fourth quarter this week. The big danger from the Browns is the rest of their schedule is division games and only two really tough games, New England and this week at Seattle. The Browns high is likely 9-7, their likely low 7-9.
Now the big one, the Ravens. We’re two games behind them plus the tie-breaker, that’s a tough row to hoe. But here’s the thing, the Ravens look human. Lamar Jackson is not yet a great passer and he’s not running nearly as much as he was. Teams have tape on Jackson now, so the Ravens are falling back on an old formula, run the ball and play defense with an occasional spectacular play by Jackson. The question really is, is Ingram enough and can the Raven defense hold up. I’d say after watching what we did against them last week the answer is no. I see six potential losses on their season schedule, they still have to face the Patriots, Rams, Niners, Bills, the Texans and the Seahawks. If they win out the rest they are 8-8, but they’ll likely beat one of those teams which puts them at 9-7, unless they lose to the Steelers in Baltimore, on the last day of the season, then, they are 8-8.
The Steelers have the Colts, the Rams and the Bills left, I’ll chalk those up as losses. If the Steelers win the rest, and my predictions pan out, they could walk into Baltimore on the last day of the season in an all or nothing game against the Ravens in Baltimore. God that would be amazing. This scenario however only likely plays out if Rudolph plays on Sunday, our defense continues to improve, the o-line holds up and we win the games we should win. There is no longer any margin of error left for the Steelers, unless the Ravens utterly self-destruct, let’s hope so.