Bludgeoning Out A Win: Steelers @ Lions

567D76D4-BCDD-44BC-ACD4-50B800B02A50.jpegPhoto via Steelers.com

As I was getting set up to watch (and comment upon) the game, I found myself typing these words:

I hate it when there is a lot of buzz about the Steelers heading into a game. It make me even more nervous..

And I can’t say I got any less nervous until the final kneeldown. I suppose this ought to go in the Mildly Objectionable category, because my Tums bill is going through the roof. But enough about me—let’s get right to it.

The Acceptable:

JuJu Smith Shuster. My how acceptable he was tonight. Okay, he dropped a pass that would have been a first down but was instead a three-and-out, with almost six minutes left in the game and the Steelers clinging to a 5-point lead, but I forgive him, especially as he made up for it with that little shovel pass conversion that allowed the Steelers to kneel out the rest of the game.

Oh yeah, and he had a touchdown, didn’t he? You know, for a guy built a bit like Hines Ward, a guy no one ever accused of being fast, he did a pretty good job outrunning several defensive backs. And his touchdown “celebration” of chaining up the stationary bike was pretty funny. All in all, JJSS was more than acceptable. And in case you missed it, he’s also the first wide receiver in NFL history to have five touchdown catches before his 21st birthday. His 97-yard touchdown was also the longest touchdown reception in Steelers’ history

I’m thinking maybe people aren’t so upset about the Steelers drafting a wide receiver in the second round last spring after all. Good luck on your driving test, JuJu, and please be safe. The Steelers are going to need you, I’m thinking…

Jesse James actually broke a tackle or two for a 32-yard catch and run. It would sure be nice to get the tight ends going.

The O-line wasn’t making as much running room for Bell as we’re used to seeing, but even despite losing Chris Hubbard towards the end of the game the line didn’t give up a single sack.

The defense would be squarely in the Objectionable category if not for the amazing goal line stands. It would be easier on all of our hearts were they to make them unnecessary, but to be fair Stafford is a very good quarterback, and there’s a reason he’s the highest-paid player in the NFL. So let’s see how the defense did:

  • 1st DET drive: 48 yard FG
  • 2nd drive: 3 and out
  • 3rd drive: Punt
  • 4th drive: 37 yard FG
  • 5th drive: 51 yard FG
  • 6th drive: FG
  • 7th drive, 3 and out, Punt (shanked, as it turns out)
  • 8th drive: (The score at this point is PIT 13 DET 12, in case anyone is keeping track) 1/Goal from the 4 yard line, Lions were stopped four times by PIT defense.
  • 9th drive: 1/Goal at the 4 yard line, stopped three times, FG
  • 10th drive: pass to Golden Tate dropped and scooped up by Artie Burns
  • 11th drive: 1/Goal at the 11. Both Mike Mitchell and Sean Davis are out at this point. Once again the D makes four stops. Offense keeps ball long enough to win the game. Wow…

This is perhaps irrelevant, but place kicker Matt Prater, who made all of the Lions’ points in the game (and could possibly have won the game for them had he been given the extra two attempts) was the kicker for the Broncos for eight years, and seems to be practically automatic, including connecting on some seriously long field goals. Perhaps kicking all those years in the thin Denver air made him confident of long kicks. Whatever, he’s been money for them this year. Boswell is great, but I notice Tomlin doesn’t try anything over 50 yards with him…

But to return to the game, the defense didn’t have their best night statistically, but they made a lot of big plays when it counted, including tipped passes, a couple of sacks, Burns’ interception (which strangely doesn’t show up on the box score) and so on.

Special teams had a good night, all in all. The Lions’ kick/punt returner is very good at what he does, and special teams limited the damage. Berry had one of his best nights as a Steeler, I’m thinking. Chris Boswell made both of his field goal attempts, although one of them hit off the right upright and luckily went through anyhow. Altogether it was quite satisfactory.

Now let’s look at some of the things that were, if not actually Objectionable, at least somewhat less acceptable:

Ben Roethlisberger didn’t have his finest game. (I find myself wondering if we’ll ever see another of Ben’s finest games.) But he wasn’t getting as much help as he could have used.

Yes, I’m looking at you, Eli Rogers. Dude, there’s a reason you’ve been sitting on the bench. You and Justin Hunter. Hunter had a catch. Eli didn’t, including a perfectly well-thrown ball with nobody around him that he dropped. Martavis Bryant may have moved firmly into the third spot with JuJu’s big night but he’s certainly not being threatened by Rogers or Hunter. (“JuJu’s Big Night” would be a great name for a children’s book, BTW. Or a rock band…)

Le’Veon Bell didn’t have his greatest night either, including something very rare for Bell—a fumble. Which meant Detroit got the ball with a minute left in the first half, and managed to convert it to a field goal, thus taking the lead. Not optimal…

I’m not big on second-guessing the coaching staff, but I did wonder why Deebo was sitting on the bench when the left tackle was a guy with a known propensity for struggling with short pass-rushers. And given the known problems with the Detroit O-line, the total of two sacks was a bit disappointing. However, Detroit was just coming off their bye week, and obviously fixed some things. Which led me to write feelingly at one point in the game:

Why do other teams always seem to fix their problems just before they play the Steelers? Couldn’t they wait another week?

Well, it’s very late and I need to go to bed. I’m sure there will be more to say about the game. In the meantime, everybody gets a pass from me to sleep late tomorrow, because woohoo!!! It’s our bye week. Maybe at the end of it we will have Marcus Gilbert and Stephon Tuitt back. Vance McDonald will be most welcome too—I wonder if his absence was part of the reason for the relative ineffectiveness of the running game. Hopefully Mitchell’s injury is not a long-term thing, and the Steelers can reconvene rested and refreshed.

7 comments

  • I live in Ann Arbor and went to the game. I also hit a deer on the way back so my thinking might still be a little frazzled BUT some thoughts regardless —

    1.) It’s harder to understand what’s going on when you’re actually there. In a weird way it seems kind of like a reality show that’s stitched together to form a narrative for television.

    2.) Steelers fans comprised at least a third of the crowd. Some guy was even selling terrible towels in front of Ford Field.

    3.) It was Lions “homecoming,” so a lot of Lions “legends” were there, and it was a kick to see Barry Sanders, Billy Sims, Greg Landry, etc. It’s also nice to beat the home time at homecoming. The Veteran guest of honor was an old guy that had been on the USS Indianapolis of “Jaws” infamy.

    4.) The local slant on talk radio was that the Lions had the game in their grasp and left a lot on the table, but the same is true of the Steelers who had turnovers, dropped passes, costly penalties and missed opportunities galore. But they hardly ever blow a lead, bless ’em.

    5.) With both Flacco and Dalton in decline, Stafford is the best QB our D has faced and he carved them up, particularly, it seemed to me, Artie Burns. I was sitting in the end zone and saw one of the goal line stands and it was a thing of beauty. It was in the red zone that the Lions weak O-line really hurt them.

    6.) I liked seeing Jesse James catch some passes again and actually get some yards after catch. I didn’t believe it was him at first on that play. I’d rather have him than Ebron who is not exactly a fan favorite in the Motor City and is exactly the kind of draft pick that leads to constant Lions mediocrity.

    7.) I can’t say I would trade hitting a deer for a Steelers victory (it’s close) BUT the W made up for a lot. And at least I didn’t hit it on the way there!

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    • Glad you’re okay! I totally agree about the experience at the stadium—it’s why I don’t make an effort to go to games any more. Well, that and the breathtaking ticket prices and the immense amount of discomfort one generally suffers. And you’re right about the reality show thing—when you’re watching on TV the commercials just feel like the action is somehow continuing but they break it up with commercials (and of course if you record it and don’t start watching for an hour and a half you can fast forward through the commercials, which only feeds into this feeling.) When you’re at a game it’s very odd to see the players milling around during the commercial breaks. It seems wrong, somehow…

      Liked by 1 person

  • A few of my observations about the game.

    1. Zone Defense is always going to have problems with a highly accurate, strong armed QB. This is why playing zone is so problematic with the Patriots and why they beat us so regularly. Our weakness matches up with their strength. I don’t see why we should be surprised that zone defense has weak spots that Stafford simply took advantage of. It also helps partially explain why the D suddenly “got good” in the Red Zone.

    2. Ben is having problems this year and we may never know why. Maybe it’s an injury. Maybe it’s decline. Maybe it’s too many hot dogs with Phil Kessel. But he’s still world’s better than most QB’s in the league. And I’d still want him over almost anyone not named Tom Brady when everything was on the line. Yes I wish he was playing better but see point #3 below.

    3. Almost an entire generation of Steelers fans have never known anyone under center besides Big Ben. Some of the sky is falling attitude is surely a result of never watching a playoff game with Kordell Stewart or Neil O’Donnell under center.

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    • No. 3 is a point well taken. I’ve never seen anyone but Ben in his prime—I didn’t start watching until the end of the 2009 season. So that makes it even weirder…

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      • Some days I wake up in a cold sweat, having dreamed we went 16 games with Landry Jones (who I’m sure is a totally nice guy) under center – and that was the future of the franchise… *shudder* There are only ever a few franchise QB’s in the league at any one time. We’re lucky to have one.

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  • I agree about Ben as well. I was also at the infamous Thanksgiving “coin flip” game when then Lion Charlie Batch beat Crummy Kordell Stewart. Kordell wasted many years for this franchise.

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  • Artie recovered a fumble, which is why you aren’t seeing an interception in the box score.

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