7 gut reactions from the Pittsburgh Steelers Week 7 loss to the New England Patriots:
1 – The Steelers’ offense left too many points on the field to come away with a win. The Patriots had two turnovers that gave the Steelers offensive unit great field position. The results? Landry Jones was intercepted in the end zone by Malcolm Butler, and Chris Boswell missed a 54-yard field goal. Tack on a holding penalty by Chris Hubbard that wiped out a potential Darrius Heyward-Bey touchdown, and the missed field goal that followed, and the Steelers left between 14-17 points out on the field.
2 – I liked the way Cobi Hamilton stepped up with all the injuries to the wide receiver group. He’s a big body and made some tough catches. I thought he competed throughout the game and made some tough catches. He almost had a big play downfield but the Patriots defensive back that was in coverage grabbed Hamilton’s wrist, preventing him from using both hands to make the catch. The referees missed an obvious pass interference call.
3 – The defense faced a kind of “pick your poison” when it came to facing Patriots Quarterback Tom Brady and his plethora of receivers. The Steelers front four was unable to generate a pass rush. If the defense sat back in zone coverage, Brady exploited crossing routes that matched his quick receivers against the Steelers inside linebackers. When the defense switched it up and gave the Patriots offense a man-coverage look Brady immediately attacked down field to tight end Rob Gronkowski. This strategy played a big role in the Patriots going 7 of 12 on 3rd down conversions. The Steelers finished the first half on a 10-point run, but don’t be fooled, drops by open Patriots receivers ended those drives, not the Steelers’ defense. The soft zone coverages that the Steelers defense plays can frustrate some quarterbacks, we’ve all heard the “bend but don’t break” mantra, but Brady isn’t your average quarterback. He had no problem chipping away at the defense. This was evident in the first half as both Patriots’ touchdown drives were over 80 yards with the biggest gain being a 19-yard touchdown pass from Brady to running back James White. I don’t know what Keith Butler is going to do with the defense, hopefully he finds some answers over the bye week.
4 – The Steelers offensive line had great pass protection throughout the game. Landry Jones attempted 47 passes without getting sacked and looked comfortable in the pocket. The line helped Jones get into a rhythm and turn in an above average performance. Hopefully this trend continues in Jones’ future starts because when he gets flustered he stares down receivers and tends to throw interceptions. But if the offensive line provides protection like it did Sunday it will give Jones a chance to operate the offense efficiently.
5 – It was no secret that with Ben Roethlisberger on the sideline, Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell was going touch the ball a lot Sunday. True to form, Bell had his biggest workload of the season, finishing the game with 21 rushes and 10 receptions. He ran hard and was a reliable receiver but was unable to break the big run or get into the end zone. His 21 rushing attempts amounted to only 81 yards. The offensive line must regroup over the bye week and work on getting a better push at the point of attack to help Bell assert the running game.
6 – The defense’s issues with missed tackles were on display again on Sunday. Patriots running back LeGarrette Blount gashed the defense to the tune of 24 carries for 127 yards and two touchdowns. As hard as the poor tackling can be watch, it’s equally frustrating to see the defense’s inability to shed blocks. Everyone on the Steelers’ defensive front seven seemed to get blocked easily by the Patriots line. This opened large rushing lanes for Blount to exploit and he did just that. Also, I know Blount is a big back but the Steelers’ defensive backs struggled in run support. Artie Burns, William Gay and Ross Cockrell finished with a combined 11 tackles but most of them were after the catch. As a group they were a non-factor when it came to stopping the run.
7 – Perhaps the most frustrating part of the game came after Patriots receiver/punt returner Julian Edelman muffed a punt and Steelers long-snapper Greg Warren hustled down field to make the recovery. The Steelers seemed to get a badly needed momentum swing after the defense surrendered two big plays to Gronkowski that resulted in touchdowns. The offense started with the ball in Patriots’ territory and Landry Jones seemed comfortable in the pocket, but just couldn’t get anything going. The Steelers went three and out. Then on fourth and three, instead of attempting to get a first down, the Steelers brought out Chris Boswell for a 54-yard field goal attempt. I love Boswell as a kicker but it was a poor coaching decision, especially when you consider Boswell had already missed a field goal earlier in the game.
What were your gut reactions to the week 7 loss?