On Second Thought: Homer’s Game Notes and Grades

photo via Steelers.com.

As I noted in yesterday’s post, nobody is in a big rush to write up an embarrassing loss. But Homer J bit the bullet, and here are his thoughts:

Last week we beat the jagoffs, now we have to beat the Jaguars. No hat again for Deebo. Maybe he should change uniform numbers to 37. We still don’t know who these teams are, from week to week, but this will be a step towards defining the Steelers. (In retrospect we can only hope this was a non-defining anomaly…)

Steelers kick off. Touchback. (I’m warning you, reader, there’s not a lot more good news. Most of it came in the early going, such as this:)

First string defense all out there. (And after they force a three-and-out:)

Boswell FG Good.  3-0 PIT (Continuing:)

On 3rd and 9, Bortles overthrows Lee. Punt formation. Northman’s punt downed on PIT 3. (This was one of the themes of the day. The Steelers were consistently playing from a very long field, because AB let punts bounce and they bounced in a manner favorable to Jacksonville. Maybe he had no choice, but it was sure frustrating to watch. And now a few more of the remaining bits of good news:)

On 3rd and 3, Ben thows shovel pass to Bell who jukes for first down at the 46. Le’veon is ringing the bell.

Ben dumps off pass at Conner’s feet when there’s nothing—good decision making. (Cue ominous music:)

Ben hit as he throws—Ramsey takes the ball away from Mcdonald for an interception. Mcdonald has become the bermuda triangle of receivers. He failed to down the defender, so the return to the PIT 47 stands. (Cue even more ominous music:)

Fournette hurdles and flies over the defense for the TD. This kid is every bit as good as advertised.

7-3 JAX

(After an unsuccessful Steelers series beginning at the 18:)

Gotta punt on 4th and 5. Jordan Berry with a booming kick—50 yard. Fair catch inside the JAX 10. (This was some of the remaining good news.

From JAX 8, false start makes it 1st and 114 at 4.

Fournette spins. Watt grabs a leg and won’t let go. Loss of two  Simply lovely.

Burns stops a receiver at the first down mark. Call is first down. PIT challenge.

Upheld. 1st down at JAX 40. (Mike Tomlin, who generally uses his challenges sparingly and well, was 0-for-2, in just another indication that it wasn’t the Steelers’ day. Nonetheless, the defense got a stop and forced another punt, eventually:)

Northman punts to the five yard line.  1:51 left in half

On 3rd and 6, Ben tries JuJu and Ramsey has great coverage. Punt formation. Ramsey is also every bit as advertised. They need to avoid him. (Great advice. Tough to actually do….)

Berry’s punt hits the ground in JAX territory and bounces backwards. Uh-oh, Really bad bounce and just the worst time. JAX has 1:06 left, at PIT 48.

Blake Bortles hits a receiver, who is hit by VWiilliams, but never touches the ground. Shazier steals the ball from him, and returns it into JAX territory. Play under review. Did Shazier have his knee on the gorund and receiver touched him?  Another complicated possession play. Ruled an interception, but ruled knee down, so ball is back to PIT 39. (And some of the only remaining good news, although it is somewhat modified rapture—Pittsburgh drives, but has to settle for a field goal, although in another overarching theme of the day, some extremely aggressive Jax DB play is, perhaps incorrectly, completely ignored by the officials. But the Steelers have narrowed the scoring gap to 1 point, and got the ball first in the second half. Thus Homer could make the following (presumably somewhat optimistic) statement:)

First half has been extremely well played by both sides. Two turnovers, leading to 10 of the 13 points scored. Bortles has shown good fiield awareness and has been half a second ahead of the Steelers’ rush in most cases.

2nd half kickoff to Steelers – touchback

Ben targets Brown on sideline. Great coverage by Ramsey. This is a remarkable battle between two superb competitors.

Boz 20 yd FGA – 9-7 PIT (Hold the champagne and cue the disturbing music:)

There’s a disturbing reality here: When JAX was at the PIT 5, there was never any doubt what they’d do. They ran the ball down the Steelers’ throat and imposed their will. When the Steelers had the ball at the JAX 5, they did NOT impose their will. Steelers six possessions, 3 FG’s. Two of those, they left points in the red zone.

(And after a short JAX series:)

[Rothlisberger] pass intercepted … Pass tipped at line of scrimmage. Intercepted by Smith and returned for TD.  JAX 13-7.

Jacksonville has been an incredibly opportunistic team this year, with over 50 points on turnovers. They have a very young defense, and they are young and hungry. They had 12 turnovers all last year, and have 13 already this year. (Ramp up disturbing music:)

Ben throws high to AB in triple coverage, Jalen Ramsey tips it, to Church who takes it back to the house for a TD that is entirely on Ben. Welcome to our nightmare. This is simply horrific, as was Ben’s decision to throw that pass.  20-9 JAX

Ben hits AB for 9. Ramsey all over him again. Jalen Ramsey has been the best player on the field today. By far.

End of Third Quarter….which was Ben’s worst quarter in a very long time.

—fourth quarter —- Steelers have 15 minutes to dig out of a huge hole—

They start by downing a Berry punt on the JAX 4…

Steelers throw them for a loss again. JAX will go for a FG. They did not put the ball in the air on that entire drive, ran more than seven minutes off the clock and left the Steelers with only 6:48 left to get two touchdowns.

47yd FGA by Jason Myers. Good, of course. When nothing goes right, nothing goes right.

Jax has 23 points, and 20 on turnovers. Steelers have 3 points on turnovers.

(And then, just shut the music off altogether, which makes it feel even creepier:)

Ben throws deep and into triple coverage for his fith interception of the day.  Ben 33 for 55, 312 yards, 5 INTERCEPTIONS.

Leonard Fournette runs 90 yards on 3rd and 2. Steelers sold out to stop the first down, Fournette broke through and no one was home. Took it to the house, so he went for 181 yards and two TD’s.   30-9. It’s pouring and, for Steeler fans, the heavens are weeping.


Quarterback: F. 5 INT’s and horrific decision making.

Running backs: C-. They never had a chance to show themselves. Especially in the red zone.

Wide receivers: C. Too much dependence on Brown.

Tight ends:  D. Vance McDonald had no hands. Ee-eye-EE-eye-OH.

Offensive line: C-. Had some good plays, some bad.

Defensive line: C-. They played great for three quarters, and wore down in the fourth. Jags called 20 consecutive running plays to end the game, and there wasn’t sweet diddly the DL could do to stop them. They gave up 230 yards rushing, even though 90 were on a single run where they sold out at the line to stop a short yardage third down run. They were simply dominated in the fourth quarter.

Linebackers: B. Shazier, Williams, and Watt all had big plays. That’s the plus. But they couldn’t always hold contain on stretch plays, which is this team’s achilles heel.

Defensive backs: B-. Did well on pass pro, did not contain all that well on runs.

Special teams: B. Three field goals, decent punts, one had a bad bounce.

Coaching: F. They went up against one of the best and most opportunistic secondaries in the game, and threw into their strength all day. They gave up 20 points on turnovers.

And, once again, left points on the field twice in the red zone, having to settle for field goals when they eschewed the running game on 1st and goal from the five. That’s when they lost the game, folks.

Some final thoughts: The Steelers are NOT who we thought they were. At least not at this point in the season. They were out-physicaled again on both sides of the line of scrimmage. The season is five games old and Ben hasn’t had a really good game yet. The running game lacks consistency. The play-calling has too many gimmicks and not enough power. They get into second and long or third and long too often, and their third down conversion rate is abysmal. Once again, they were below 50% in third down conversions, and you don’t win many championships if you can’t convert on third down.

In the fourth quarter, with 14:50 to play and the Steelers down by 11, Jacksonville called 12 consecutive running plays, moved the ball 67 yards, got five first downs, and ate up 8:07 off the clock, before kicking a field goal to go up by 14. The Steelers knew the Jaguars were going to run the ball, but they had no answers. None at all.

Granted this is the same young Jacksonville team that beat the Ravens 44-7, and they have some excellent players on defense and Ramsey was clearly the best player on the field, but the fact that the Steelers were not able to consistently run the ball against a team with awful stats against the run is more than troubling. And the fact that they couldn’t stop the running game at the end is a spirit crusher.

They let Jacksonville take them out of the running game and Ben spent the afternoon going against the Jaguar’s strength in their secondary. Everything about this game was awful.

The Steelers have the talent. They are still young, especially on defense. The defense was excellent for three quarters. They have a lot of playmakers on offense.

They are just not an elite team, and at times not even  a good team. This game, in some ways, reminded Homer of that awful game in the third week of the 2008 season against the Eagles when Ben was sacked eight times, fumbled twice, they scored zero touchdowns and were beaten up and humiliated by that team from the other end of the state, 15-6. They looked dead and hopeless.

They managed to rebound and finish that season relatively well, if you remember. (Hint: Lombardi) Hope is not lost, but it’s a good idea to bring out the Lysol spray. The stink from the Jaguars’ debacle is overwhelming.


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