Steelers Suffer YFL Setback [Steelers @ Colts]
By Homer J.
Many thanks to Homer for getting this to me. I had to wait all day to be able to watch the game on Gamepass, as I am currently languishing in a place where the Steelers game is not necessarily the one they broadcast. Obviously a backwater. And I don’t know what’s happening in that photo—I presume JuJu has heard the groans of the denizens of the Yinzer Football League and fainted dead away…
The Steelers suffered a major setback in the YFL competition due to lack of style point, but move to 7-2, one game closer to clinching the division title. Yinzer fans respond with weeping, wailing and gnashing of teeth…
GAME HIGHLIGHTS AND COMMENTARY [As usual I’m editing these]
Welcome to Indian-no-place, which is no place to take anything for granted. [Prescient words, Homer…]
Ben goes long for Bryant, who didn’t fight for it, and it was picked off by Desir. Ball was underthrown, and Bryant might have had trouble picking it up. Not a good start at all… [Fortunately the Steelers D forced a three and out, and AB fair caught the punt at the 25, so ironically they were right back where they started. And did nothing whatsoever with it. During the ensuing Indy possession:]
On 2nd and 10, Davis comes flying in on a blitz and upends Mack on a draw play for a five yard loss—Polamalu-style blitz and flying tackle!
3rd down pass short of first down. Indy will have to punt. Holding by Haden backs them up to PIT 10. [Sometimes you just have one of those days. It didn’t get better either. After three first downs in a row, the Steelers had to punt. Three times. After the first two punts holding penalties backed the kick up, and eventually Indy got the ball at the 32. As Homer said, “PIT looks very, very ragged.”]
Brissett fakes short, throws in right flat to Chester Rogers for 11 yards, with holding call taking it back. [And man, was the laundry flying today.] Haden hurt on play. Our extraordinary run of good luck seems to have ended. [It looked at first as if Haden might be able to return, but in fact he has a broken leg. Next man up…]
First quarter is mercifully over. What a mess. Zero-zero, and the Steelers really did dial up zero on offense and special teams. [If only the agony had ended with the first quarter. Wait for it…]
Play action to Gore, Moncrief burns Artie Burns for 60 yard bomb. Pump fake held Mitchell, and Burns was alone on the island, the loneliest man in Indy. 7-0 Indy. There’s your wake-up call.
JuJu takes short kick back to the 42. Vance McDonald rolls his ankle under James Conner. He’s walking slowly off the field. Outlaw (Jesse James) and Grimble in the game. Are we gonna run the damned ball? [Well, yes, as it happens. Bell gets 15. But then…]
Ben hits AB deep, but the ball goes through his hands. Ouch!
Ben gets time—tries to shovel it to Outlaw. Incomplete. The week off didn’t do these guys any good, did it?
During the next series:
Run gets nothing. Hands to face by Watt penalty gives them the first down.
Gay and Shazier fail to bring down Marlon Mack, who gets the first down at the Steeler 32. The entire team is a split second too late. The Yinzers have to be going nuts…Vinatieri field goal attempt is good. 10-0 Indy. This has gone from being annoying to being outright painful.
With 5:51 left in the first half, Steelers take over trailing 10-0. Bryant loses nine yards on a reverse. Bell gets only two. Ouch. Ben throws to nobody.
During Indy series:
Two Minute Warning. This has been simply awful. [But the worm turns, just a little…]
Steelers get the ball on their 38 with two time outs [1:48]
Ben hits Vance for 9. Ben hits JuJu for first down. Ben hits Bryant on screen for first down at Indy 25. [:50]
Bad snap. Ben falls on it. Loss of eight…Ben hits AB on sideline at 24 to set up 41 yard field goal attempt. It is good, leaving :30 in the half. Colts run out the clock.
As far as the first half was concerned, it looks like Tomlin and the Steelers are unleashing something in November—but it sure ain’t hell.
Forty years ago this week, the gales of November claimed the Good Ship Edmund Fitzgerarld. Homer covered that story as a young reporter and can tell you that the Steeler offense is listing badly. For those who say they’re holding their own, remember that was Captain McSorley’s final radio message. If they keep playing this way, they’re sunk.
Colts get the ball first:
After a touchback, Colts are 3rd and 6 from the 29. Chester Rogers gets the first down. Brissett hits Rogers on a blown coverage for a long TD. As bad as the first half was, the start of the second half has been disastrous. Hilton may have blown the coverage. 17-3. Welcome to Chapter Four of Mike Tomlin’s after-bye nightmare.
With the breakdowns in the secondary since Haden got hurt, it looks like Cam Sutton may have himself a job. [Interesting observation, since the general feeling was that Sutton would be returned to IR when the Steelers had to make a decision unless an injury opened a roster spot for him. And guess what…]
With 12:41 to go in the third quarter, there’s plenty of time to run the ball… [After the Steelers matriculate the ball down the field:]
Bell gets 1 to the (IND) 11. Big play here. Steelers 0/5 on 3rd down conversions.
Bell slices for first down at 7. Bell gets a yard to the 6. Bell is single back. Where is Nix? Quick pass to JuJu. Offensive pass interference called on Eli. Makes it 2nd and 18. But then, PI on INDY. First down and goal, back at the 7.
Ben hits JuJu for TD after play fake. 17-9.
Extra point attempt blocked. Jordan Berry and the Outlaw save two points. Great play by those two, especially James. But was it his guy who blocked the kick? This is starting to look like the Chicago game…and we didn’t like how that movie turned out, did we? Even a Steeler touchdown has become a cause for worry.
[The following Indy series should have been a 3-and-out, except that a holding call on Gay, deserved, gave them a first down. Then Gore fumbled and Vince Williams comes up with the ball, but the refs decide to keep things interesting and rule that it stayed Indy’s ball. Tomlin was not pleased. But the Steelers forced a punt, which was downed on the one yard line…]
Bell to the five. Personal foul on Indy brings it out to the 20. Thank you.
Three and out from the 20 after a huge hit on JuJu as he stretches for the pass. No way he can hold on to it. Lucky he didn’t get killed.
Indy also goes three and out.
AB fair catches punt at the 40. Ben goes long for AB, who gets called for pass interference. Makes it 2nd and 15. Ben hits Bryant with screen for 10. 3rd and 5.
End of third quarter. Last Sunday, Homer went shopping at the outlet mall. That was better than this. At least Yankee Candle had a sale on donut-scented candles. After three: Indy 17, PIT 9.
After the Steelers are forced to punt:
On 2nd and long, Dupree makes a good play to tackle for loss. Dupree is playing well today. Brissett passes to Doyle, who juggles it. Shazier intercepts it at the IND 10. Fantastic play by Shazier.
Ben gets all day. Hits McDonald wide open in the end zone. He caught it. He caught it!!! 17-15. Gotta go for 2.
After calling a time out, Ben takes a delay of game because they didn’t have the right personnel in there. Now they’re back to the seven yard line. Ben hits Bryant on crossing pattern to tie it up: 17-17.
Ivan points out that they had a brilliant interception, scored a touchdown, got a two-point conversion, and everyone is complaining. 11:52 to go here.
Next Indy series:
On 2nd and 10, Brissett is sacked by Vince Williams for a 4 yard loss. 3rd and 14. Tuitt with the sack on Brissett, who is hobbling badly. 4th and 24.
AB returns punt to PIT 47.
Bell loses 2 on first down. Ben pass tipped incomplete. Ben hits JuJu on the seam for a big first down. James Conner on power sweep to the left side for a first down. Fine block by McDonald. Gets 12, to IND 24. [And eventually:]
Field goal attempt hits the upright. No good. [It was that sort of a day.]
[Indy has to punt…]
If one thing has been clear for the past quarter and a half, it’s that Ben and the Steelers have the poise and experience, and Brissett is a talented but inexperienced quarterback. The last 20 minutes of this game have been all Ben and no Jacoby.
End around to Rogers gets the first down. Indy challenges. [Two minute warning.] Ruling on the field stands. Then Bell loses seven yards. On second down, Bell gets 13. On third down, a crossing pattern to Bryant gets a big first down to midfield. 45 seconds left, two time outs.
Ben evades a tackle in the backfield and with Mingo hanging on his jersey, he hits AB, who runs it down to the 18. AB does a great job following his blocking, and JuJu is throwing a big block. This was an outstanding effort by vintage Ben.
Bell runs behind Nix for two yards on the right side. Tomlin runs the clock down to 4 seconds, calls a time out. Boz is good from 33.
WE HAD ‘EM AAAAALLLL THE WAY.
Overall, not great. If Oprah were handing out grades, everybody gets a C or D.
This game was a disaster for the Steelers in the YFL—the Yinzer Football League—because they give style points. But since the NFL doesn’t give style points, in the NFL it was simply a victory, giving them a 7-2 record to move closer to clinching the division. Most importantly, it was a game they woulda/coulda/shoulda lost, but they didn’t. They didn’t panic when they were down 11 points in the second half.
Yeah, they played down to the competition, and that’s concerning. And so is the fact that they lost the week after the bye three straight years and almost did so this year.
Ben owned the last 27 minutes of this game, and Jacoby Brissett, who was terrific for the first 33 minutes, was not a factor down the stretch. As Harvey Weinstein once siad, “There’s no substitute for experience.” Or was it Judge Roy Moore who said that? Either way, it was Ben who led the team to a last-second victory.
QUARTERBACK: B+. Ben was terrible in the first half but quite good in the second half, and outstanding on the final drive. He was also outstanding on the two-point conversion, calling time out when it was clear that the Colts were in a defense that was the wrong look for the play they called, and then took the delay of game penalty when the wrong package was sent in for the second play call. He took the five yard penalty rather than screw up the play. He was a giant in how he handled that, and he was terrific in the final three minutes. When it really mattered, he was vintage Ben.
RUNNING BACK: C. Conner had a nice run. Bell looked really slow on the artificial turf and did not have a very good game. Is he that much better on grass than on the carpet???
OFFENSIVE LINE: B. They gave Ben an enormous amount of time. On his TD passes, he could have been reading comic books back there. On running plays, it’s hard to tell whether they were just average or whether it was Bell who had the subpar performance.
WIDE RECEIVERS: B+. AB had a big play at the end. JuJu was awesome and was the MVP on offense. Bryant had the 2 point conversion and several big plays. Rogers had a big first down on the final drive. All that made up for Brown having a long bomb slip through his fingers and Bryant not fighting for that first interception.
TIGHT ENDS: C. Vance McDonald ran all the way across the field to get open for the Steelers’ second touchdown. And he held on to the ball.
DEFENSIVE LINE: B+. Solid against the run, not great with the four man rush in the first half, but much more effective in the second half, when they shut down Brissett and had him running for his life.
LINEBACKERS: B. Biggest play in the game was Shazier’s pick. Dupree had his best game of the year, was quick as a cat on the turf against the run, and had some strong pressure up the middle.
DEFENSIVE BACKS: C-. They were poor for the first 33 minutes of the game, but really stepped it up. Hilton and Davis were excellent, and solid on the blitz. The loss of Haden for one to two months is a very, very serious setback.
SPECIAL TEAMS: D. Jesse James allowed his man to block that PAT, but he made a huge tackle to save a two point return. Boz may have kicked the game winner, but he missed another makeable field goal. Punting game was a wash. Kickoffs were all touchbacks.
COACHING: C. They came out flat. They weren’t ready. They were awful for 33 minutes. Their initial second half adjustment was a 60-yard TD pass by Indy. But they didn’t panic when they were down by 14 points.
They didn’t win this game because they were better coached. They won because they were a far better team that underperformed, but did just enough to win, even though they never led until the final gun.
FINAL THOUGHT: They’re 7-2 and coasting to the division title, and the schedule is breaking in their favor. The injury bug, which had been kept at bay all year long, finally bit them in a meaningful way at Indy. Fire Tomlin. Fire Haley. Fire Smith. And next man up!