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):
- DeAngelo Williams is better than we thought.
- Or else the Patriot’s run defense is worse.
- Marcus Wheaton, after losing a ball he should have held on to, looked very good.
- Did I mention DeAngelo Williams is a stud?
- 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…
- 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.
- 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.
- No offensive linemen were injured, as far as I know.
- In fact, no Steelers were injured, unless Will Allen was leaving the field late in the game because of one.
- The defense didn’t completely suck all the time. In fact…
- …for the most part the run defense was much better than anything we had reason to expect from watching the preseason games.
- Ryan Shazier is showing flashes of brilliance.
- Mike Mitchell knocked out a ball, temporarily saving a touchdown. Unfortunately, one of his teammates didn’t get to it first…
- Lawrence Timmons batted down a ball. It’s a start, and hopefully indicates the turf toe isn’t a problem.
- 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)
- 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.
- 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.
- Communication continues to be a problem in the defense, despite getting Lawrence Timmons back.
- And speaking of communication issues, it probably works better to have 11 men on the field on defense…
- …although admittedly some of them seemed to be only taking up space. Which is not good.
- The end game clock management still leaves something to be desired.
- If Ben gets in too much of a hurry he frequently throws a pick.
- 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.
- Dri Archer doesn’t seem to have taken any giant steps forward in the kick return game.
- The “splash plays” Mike Tomlin was looking for were pretty thin on the ground.
- 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.
- 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)
- 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”.
- Ben Roethlisberger is mostly a stud. (But see No. 7 above.)
- Darrius Heyward-Bey isn’t Martavis Bryant.
- Sammie Coates apparently isn’t ready to be either, or even to get the opportunity to try.
- If you don’t cover Rob Gronkowski he is going to get a touchdown.
- If you say you are going to jam him at the line, you probably should actually do so.
- Tom Brady is one of the most irritating people on the planet.
- Gadget plays are doomed to fail against a cheater. Speaking of which:
- Headphonegate proved decisively, once a cheater, always a cheater.
- 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…]
- The announcing crews are still going to lick Tom Brady’s cleats. However, I noted they avoided saying much about Bill Belichick.
- 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.
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…