The Acceptable, the Objectionable, and the Appalling: Vikings @ Steelers
photo via Steelers.com
I guess I’m going to have to stick with this format until the Steelers start impressing on both sides of the ball. Once again I’m not too cheesed off, because the Steelers won. But, due to no fault of their own, the Steelers’ defense is still going to be questioned until they have to face a more formidable quarterback, and the offense is going to get questions about when they are going to start producing like it seems reasonable to expect of them. So let’s get started:
There were still a lot of penalties, but less of them were on the Steelers this week. In the end the Vikings were penalized 11 times for 131 yards, which almost matches the Steelers’ breathtaking total from last week. The Steelers, while they were penalized 10 times, had a rather more modest total of 72 yards, with none of the annoying and expensive Personal Foul variety.
And while I’m sure the coaches would say that a single penalty yard is one too many (except, I suppose, when the choice is holding a defender as opposed to having him decapitate your quarterback) nonetheless the penalties were improved from last week, and we always like to see improvements.
The Watt Swat. I’m hoping we see a lot more of those in the days to come…
The Vikings’ defense managed two sacks of Ben Roethlisberger, but at least one of them was on Ben in my opinion. And given how respected their defensive front is, that’s more evidence that the offensive line is doing a great job in pass protection for the most part.
It looks like Martavis Bryant shook off most of the rust last week. He only had three catches (although he also drew a 51-yard pass interference penalty, I think it was) but those three were for 91 yards and a touchdown. That is definitely acceptable.
As was JuJu Smith-Schuster’s very first touch in the NFL resulting in a touchdown. And speaking of JJSS, he threw a block that had to have Hines Ward smiling…
James Conner made the most of his one carry—for nine yards. Nice average so far : ) And Eli Rogers is continuing to be a very nice safety valve for Ben.
While the Steelers’ defense only managed two sacks of Keenum, this seemed to me to be in large part because he was quick to chuck away the ball when things got hot in the backfield. He got hit anyhow—seven times.
Sticking with the defense, the number which jumped out at me was six pass defenses, all six by different players. That’s very heartening. And while the defense didn’t get an interception, Artie Burns grabbed a fumble to end the game.
Ben’s first touchdown pass gives him a streak of 45 home games with a touchdown. This still puts him in third place, behind Tom Brady and Drew Brees. Ben also managed to be interception-free, and in fact there wasn’t even much in the way of near-misses. There were no fumbles, either, despite some nefarious activity by the opposition at times.
Tyler Matakevich seems determined to make a weekly appearance in this portion of the write-up, and did so today by sniffing out a fake punt and knocking the ball away from the receiver.
Terrell Watson returned a kick, which had to be returned because it was a bit shy of the end zone, and got 25 yards. That’s a start.
Chris Boswell was four for four on field goals, thanks to a really stupid penalty by the Vikings. He got to take a mulligan on his missed 51-yard kick, and nailed it nicely from 46 yards out. Thank you very much to whichever Viking was lined up on the wrong side of the formation, and thank you to the officiating crew for catching it.
And finally, the most obvious thing—the Steelers won the game quite handily. At the end of the first half the Vikings had considerably more penalty yards (86) than offensive ones (67.)
In fact, the Steelers won by a score more consistent with what we expected to see against Cleveland last week. It was Case Keenum they shut down, but they did. And the Vikings’ rushing attack, so potent against the New Orleans defense last week, didn’t crack 100 yards, quite.
I’m finding the rotating cast of injured defensive stars to be annoying—today it was T.J. Watt going out with a groin injury. Apparently he doesn’t think it is serious. Happily, Anthony Chickillo seemed to fill in more than adequately.
Ben blocking is not something I really ever want to see again. I hope someone gives him the memo. Okay, maybe in the Super Bowl, when it might be the difference between a win and a loss. And if so, I hope he will execute it rather more handily than the two blocks he threw in today’s game…
I complimented the O-line on their pass protection, but now let’s bring up the run blocking. It was definitely improved this week, or so it would seem, but still the team just cracked 100 yards and was just over a 3 yard average per carry (even if we eliminate the two “runs” by Ben that lost two yards.) Given that they are one of the very highest-paid lines in the league, I would like to see them get their run-blocking act together…
And now to start whining about the offensive production. With the “Killer B’s” all on the field we surely shouldn’t be seeing four-field-goal games, especially when one of the field-goal-ending drives began at the MINNESOTA 35 yard line! C’mon, guys, you can do better than that.
Early in the fourth quarter it was third and two, and while Bell had admittedly been tripped up on second and two for no gain, they went empty backfield, and I wrote “Ivan is probably screaming right now.” And of course Ben’s pass was deflected. However, a defensive holding penalty made all right with the world again. But really, you can’t get two yards on the ground on third down?
Now that the NFL allows more than one player to participate in a touchdown celebration, Martavis, AB, and Bell, I think it was, had a good time with a mimed crap game in the end zone after Bryant’s touchdown. The Objectionable part of it was, they messed about long enough that the Steelers couldn’t get lined up in time for the two-point conversion attempt and had a Delay of Game penalty, thus moving the line back to the seven and forcing the Steelers to just take the extra point kick. Had the Steelers lost the game by one point, there would have been a lot said about this…
And speaking of Ben once again, he’s got to quit trying to draw the offsides penalty on 4th down, at least if you’ve already fooled them once. In the end they had to burn a time out. If that is going to work very often you have to actually snap the ball now and again.
And in fact after that was a very stupid penalty on the field goal attempt which moved the attempt from the 48 to the 53, and Tomlin elected to punt. (This should probably be in the Appalling category, but as has just become a tradition by my doing it twice in a row, I won’t put anyone in the doghouse after a win, unless the circumstances truly warrant it.)
Some Random Stuff
Did you all hear the “HEEATH” calls for a couple of Jesse James’ catches? Fortunately he doesn’t appear to mind, and indeed he should take it as a compliment.
I enjoyed Ronde Barber (who is now a Fox broadcaster) talking about what it was like to have Mike Tomlin as a coach (when Tomlin was the defensive backs coach for the Vikings.) It was Barber’s best year statistically, and here’s what he said about MT—this isn’t quotes but a summary:
Tomlin is “the smartest guy in the room.” He loves that while Tomlin has his hand in everything, he’s not a micromanager. He also mentioned how well he relates to his players and how much they like playing for him.