Bludgeoning Out A Win: Steelers @ Lions
Photo 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.
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.