Steelers at Patriots: What We Made Of It, Pas de Deux

As I noted in my opponent preview, pretty much no one expected the Steelers to win this game. They didn’t. The final score of 28 – 21 looks better than it really was.

And yet, perhaps the most frustrating part was it looked for most of the game like they had a decent chance to compete.

Fortunately it was an exhibition game which doesn’t count.

Wait, you say it does count? Bummer, dude.

But let’s at least see what we can extract from it. First, Rebecca’s thoughts on the Good, the Bad, and the Not Unexpected

The Good (or at least modestly encouraging):

  1. DeAngelo Williams is better than we thought.
  2. Or else the Patriot’s run defense is worse.
  3. Marcus Wheaton, after losing a ball he should have held on to, looked very good.
  4. Did I mention DeAngelo Williams is a stud?
  5. Heath Miller is also a stud, although not quite as stud-ly as he was before the finger of Father Time began tapping him on the shoulder…
  6. He still knows how to draw a PI in the end zone, though. So occasionally old age and treachery beats youth and enthusiasm, even in football.
  7. The offensive line looked about as good as we hoped, despite the loss of Maurkice Pouncey—only two sacks for Ben, and a couple of 5+ second looks down the field.
  8. No offensive linemen were injured, as far as I know.
  9. In fact, no Steelers were injured, unless Will Allen was leaving the field late in the game because of one.
  10. The defense didn’t completely suck all the time. In fact…
  11. …for the most part the run defense was much better than anything we had reason to expect from watching the preseason games.
  12. Ryan Shazier is showing flashes of brilliance.
  13. Mike Mitchell knocked out a ball, temporarily saving a touchdown. Unfortunately, one of his teammates didn’t get to it first…
  14. Lawrence Timmons batted down a ball. It’s a start, and hopefully indicates the turf toe isn’t a problem.
  15. One more I just thought of, thanks to a comment on the opponent preview:

Homer can’t see NE scoring less than 34 points….and thinks 42 is more like it.

As they say, “Better than expected.”

What We Hope We Didn’t Learn (Or the Possibly Not Just Temporarily Bad)

  1. Josh Scobee’s 2014 season with Jacksonville, featuring a 76.9% made field goal rate, may be the new normal. Let us fervently hope not. One miss was disappointing—two misses were pretty scary.
  2. Oh, and what was up with the short kickoff? Not at the end of the game, but right after the Steelers made it a 21-14 game. It didn’t hurt much, as the ball ended up at the 22 yard line, but I thought one thing we were excited about was knowing we would always get a touchback.
  3. Communication continues to be a problem in the defense, despite getting Lawrence Timmons back.
  4. And speaking of communication issues, it probably works better to have 11 men on the field on defense…
  5. …although admittedly some of them seemed to be only taking up space. Which is not good.
  6. The end game clock management still leaves something to be desired.
  7. If Ben gets in too much of a hurry he frequently throws a pick. 
  8. Last year’s red zone woes are not entirely expunged. Those missed field goals would have looked a lot better if they were touchdowns in the first place.
  9. Dri Archer doesn’t seem to have taken any giant steps forward in the kick return game.
  10. The “splash plays” Mike Tomlin was looking for were pretty thin on the ground.
  11. I hate, hate, hate seeing Antonio Brown on punt returns. Just accept that you aren’t going to get any yards on a punt for the nonce and move on to someone with reliable hands who knows how to signal for a fair catch, if that’s the best you can do. The score would have been even lower last night if Brown had been injured.
  12. And, as they say in garage sale ads, too many things to mention.

What  We Were Pretty Sure We Knew Already (or the Not Unexpected)

  1. Antonio Brown is just as much of a stud as we thought. That seriously contested catch along the sideline would have been an incompletion with almost any other receiver, at least any other receiver under about 6’4”. 
  2. Ben Roethlisberger is mostly a stud. (But see No. 7 above.)
  3. Darrius Heyward-Bey isn’t Martavis Bryant.
  4. Sammie Coates apparently isn’t ready to be either, or even to get the opportunity to try.
  5. If you don’t cover Rob Gronkowski he is going to get a touchdown.
  6. If you say you are going to jam him at the line, you probably should actually do so.
  7. Tom Brady is one of the most irritating people on the planet.
  8. Gadget plays are doomed to fail against a cheater. Speaking of which:
  9. Headphonegate  proved decisively, once a cheater, always a cheater.
  10. Ok, just kidding about No. 9. Sort of. [Update: Mike Tomlin claims this always happens at Gillette Stadium. Other coaches have complained about this as well. Hmm…]
  11. The announcing crews are still going to lick Tom Brady’s cleats. However, I noted they avoided saying much about Bill Belichick.
  12. If you watch a game with a massive sinus headache, it does not make the headache better when the announcing crew licks Tom Brady’s cleats. Or the Steelers lose.

Odds and Ends

Heath Miller passed John Stallworth for second-most receptions in Steelers history. He is still very long way behind Hines Ward. I’m guessing Heath would have traded this for a win.

I hope I don’t sound bitter about the Patriots. Much. After all, when the League front office enables you, you come to the conclusion that you can do whatever you want.

Which still doesn’t excuse you cheating.

This just in

Ivan’s comments on the game. I thought perhaps he, Bill, and Homer J. were still drowning their sorrows. Here they are:

Some of us thought the Steelers could win, but no one was thinking of it as an expectation. In spite of that, the game unfolded in a manner that left all of us frustrated at certain points. My greatest frustration was that had the Steelers just taken care of business the game was winnable. 

Safe to say that we all found the pregame spectacle, both the on the field activities as well as the network narrative, to be nauseating. And the validation came with the communications ‘problems’ that came up.

It is as though the Pats organization and their fan base is just giving the rest of the world the middle finger. By the singing of the national anthem I was utterly disgusted. A number of those present took to questioning the breeding, talent and moral foundations of the young woman who was singing. 

[Note to all of us—supposedly the headphones weren’t working properly for the Patriots coaches either. Does anyone believe this? Also, I don’t blame the young woman for taking the gig, although I do blame her for singing the first phrase flat…]


DeAngelo Williams: Really the only bad news in this regard is that his touches and opportunities will go down dramatically once Bell returns and Williams clearly deserves better than that.

Antonio Brown: The catch he made in the first half will insure that he will remain in the conversation regarding the best receiver in football.

Offensive line: Solid job from them.

Will Johnson: Got a moment in the sun and proved that he can be a real solid asset.

Ryan Shazier. Heath Miller.

Mixed results:

Ben, Markus Wheaton, Darrius Heyward-Bey, Mike Mitchell, Todd Haley, Bud Dupree, Cortez Allen


Josh Scobee, Antwon Blake. Just to mention one instance, Scobee’s makable misses and a two point conversion would have made it a tie game at the end. Blake missed tackles and couldn’t cover effectively.

Didn’t like Haley’s play calling though the offense was good enough to overcome it sometimes. The defense was flawed but its problems are fixable with time and some player development.

Where were Timmons, Heyward and Tuitt?

Bottom Line: Steelers lost this game more than the Pats won it, which can be infuriating on one level, but hopefully encouraging on others because the solution is in their control. This can be a really good team in about a month, if the panic can be held off. 

All right, folks, that’s it. Feel free to add your own observations in the comments. Try to avoid profanity. It makes my headache worse…


  • I thought the gadget play was a really questionable call. Even if it worked I would have still questioned that play call. Way to many missed tackles for a Steelers defense. No injuries is a great thing. Lots of mistakes by the Steelers in just about every facet of the game but they still hung around for the most part. I agree that the team could look pretty darn good in a month and things should only get better for the D as the year progresses.


  • With Bell and Bryant our red-zone offense would have been much better. I feel better this morning than usual after a Steelers loss. I saw a lot this team can build upon.


  • The gadget play was a bad play call, but the ensuing holding penalty killed the drive. Random thoughts:

    Timmons seemed largely absent. Could be he was dropping in coverage. All in all, run defense was passable, which is a lot better than I thought it would be.

    DHB was not good. While there were flashes of decent play, being OB, nullifying the touchdown was worse than a rookie mistake. I think Sammie catches that ball in bounds. There is a reason why The Raiders didn’t keep him.

    DeAngelo was fantastic. Should keep Bell fresh when he returns..

    Blake is a train wreck and Butler and Lake need to work Boykin into a larger role. That said, Brady, Edelman and Gronk are pretty much unstoppable. Even so, if Scobee makes the FGs, DHB scores a TD and/or no penalty after the trick play blew up and we have a decent shot at winning.

    Why is clock management a problem for this team?

    AB is unstoppable and is pretty much the greatest WR ever not named Jerry Rice. If he continues to play like this into his mid thirties, he may be the GOAT. Seriously.

    This team will be very good by season’s end and I would love to play Satan’s Horde in the playoffs. I fail to see the value of Archer to this team. Give Sammie a hat. Jessie James, too. He may wash out, but there’s potential there.

    I think we win ten games, something I was not sure of before last night.


  • The only thing that really bothered me about this game is how bad the back 4 are. Also, if you’re going to play man on the slot receiver…might want to put a hand on him, at some point, before letting him torch you with short gainers.


    • ” if you’re going to play man on the slot receiver…might want to put a hand on him, at some point, before letting him torch you with short gainers”

      Is that allowed? Someone needs to get the memo to the defensive coaching staff…

      And I think it was the back three—William Gay made some quality plays, including reading a pass and dropping the receiver for a 6-yard loss. And I’m guessing most of those times he was chasing a receiver was someone else’s screw-up.

      I suppose we should also acknowledge that Tom Brady has made a lot of DBs look bad over the past 12 years, at least if the front seven don’t get to him early and often.

      So thanks for your comment, which allowed me to rationalize my way into feeling better : )


      • You’re welcome!

        No front 7 was going to get him often though, that ball was out too quickly…usually because the receivers were open right away.


  • Defense was out of sorts all game. Not knowing assignments, failing to line up, etc….this is fixable with coaching though.


  • thoughts in no particular order

    * I also noticed the first phrase of the anthem being flat – must be a genetic thing…
    * the gadget play was confusing, but we would of course gone nuts if it had worked out
    * I was amused at collinsworth and michaels dancing around talking about the Steelers covering at the end of the game
    * the game was overall frustrating but less demoralizing than I thought it might be…
    * nice to see Dupree show up


    • Agreed. I’m not that demoralized by it. The game went about how I expected it to go. Actually, it was closer than expected and if it hadn’t been for several fixable issues, it might have really been a white-knuckle affair.


    • “I also noticed the first phrase of the anthem being flat – must be a genetic thing”

      Are you trying to imply that there is some sort of relationship between us? How rude! (Love, mom)


  • The headset fiasco is tentatively being named CommuniGate. I like it…

    Liked by 1 person

  • I have reluctantly come to the conclusion that Dri Archer has no value to the Steelers. I still have visions of his kickoff run backs at KSU. Show him the door.


    • I’m still hoping Dri will figure it out, but hope fades after each unimpressive attempt. I really want him to succeed, but strangely that hasn’t helped out some of my previous favorites either…


      • I haven’t give up on Dri, the Steelers need to give the kid more opportunities on offense. IMO, he isn’t, not because he doesn’t have the talent, rather because so many talented players with experience are ahead of him. If they weren’t going to play him, they shouldn’t have drafted him. When I do see him get opportunities on offense he has generally done well.

        Archer’s Arrows Unite : )


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  • OMG! a great post dude. Many thanks for sharing it.


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