7 gut reactions from the Pittsburgh Steelers Week 5 win against the New York Jets.
1 – It looked like the Steelers offense was going to pick up where it left off last week after a 72-yard pass and catch for a touchdown from Ben Roethlisberger to Sammie Coates on their third offensive play from scrimmage, but for most of the first half the results were mixed.
Antonio Brown was his usual steady self, catching almost everything that was thrown his way but the other receivers as a whole struggled during certain stretches of the game. Coates had at least 3 drops including one that was a sure touchdown. Markus Wheaton had a different problem but with similar results. He made a catch on the ball thrown to him in the end zone, but couldn’t get two feet in bounds to come up with the touchdown. In contrast, tight end Jesse James is developing into a sure handed receiving target. It shows week in and week out and Ben continues to look his way in the red zone as their level of trust grows.
2 – The offensive line had an odd day. They were able to keep Roethlisberger relatively untouched throughout the game and gave him plenty of protection in the pocket. Ben had a legitimate four seconds to find an open Brown on his third touchdown pass of the game.
But the offensive line really struggled as a whole to get a push at the line of scrimmage in the running game. Running back Le’Veon Bell ran for only 66 yards on 20 opportunities, but he found other ways to contribute to the offense by asserting himself in the passing game. All in all, Bell had another productive day accounting for 154 total yards from scrimmage.
3 – Jordan Berry has turned into a great punter this year. Hopefully he’ll stick with that in the future. He tried his best to convert a fake field goal on 4th and 2 in the first half, but kicker Chris Boswell was more likely to make that kick than Berry was to run for those two yards. Play calls like these fakes are feast or famine.
If Berry converted the fake, pundits and fans alike would have applauded Mike Tomlin’s aggressiveness, but since Berry failed, Tomlin will bear the lion’s share of the blame for a poorly executed fake.
4 – Even though Ben had time in the pocket and the offense scored 31 points, there were still multiple squandered opportunities. One occurred when Antonio Brown had a great punt return deep into Jets territory but the offense could only convert it into three points. Another squandered opportunity occurred when left tackle Alejandro Villanueva was beaten by Jets defensive lineman Leonard Williams who caused Ben to fumble near the Jets red zone. If the offense is going to ascent to elite status against elite defenses, it needs to cash in on opportunities like these.
5 – The Steelers defense played admirably throughout the game. Sure, Jets receiver Brandon Marshall got his yards and a touchdown, but he was targeted 15 times and only had 8 receptions, not exactly what I would call making the most of his opportunities. In fact, if a Steelers receiver had that many targets and only 8 receptions, they would most likely be benched, or at least criticized.
6 – There continues to be progression on the defensive side of the ball. Hopefully Cameron Heyward’s injury isn’t serious because it seems like the defense is finally hitting its stride. They were led by inside linebackers Lawrence Timmons and Vince Williams who combined for 17 tackles. The defense was effective at pressuring the quarterback for the second straight week.
Any time a team can muster 10 hits on a quarterback it’s going to help the whole unit be effective. Also, Ross Cockrell, the Steelers corner who drew the matchup with Jets receiver Brandon Marshall for most of the game, had three passes defended to go with his four tackles as the Steelers pitched a shutout in the second half.
The individual performances were good, but the team tackling was strong again, something that the defense can really hang their hats on going forward.
7 – It’s hard to believe with all of the pressure the Steelers put on Jets quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, that the secondary STILL hasn’t had an interception five games into the season. Right now the defense’s outlook is bright. They haven’t reached their full potential, haven’t caused the turnovers that some of the other defensive units around the league have, but have held their last two opponents to a combined 27 points. If they can get healthy, the Steelers defense will continue to improve by leaps and bounds and eventually the turnovers will come.