These are some of my gut reactions after watching the Pittsburgh Steelers grasp defeat from the jaws of victory in Week 10 against the Dallas Cowboys.
– I’m a fan of going for 2-point conversions. Historically and statistically, Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers’ offense have been good at converting them. But, offensive coordinator Todd Haley didn’t have great play calls on any of the Steelers’ attempts. Neither Antonio Brown nor Le’Veon Bell were targeted on any of the four two-point conversions the Steelers attempted (even though Brown looked like the first option on the 2nd attempt). Essentially the offense left between 4 and 8 points on the field.
I felt the most disheartening of these attempts was the third two-point conversion attempt. The play broke down and Roethlisberger flipped the ball underhand to tight end Jesse James and backup running back Fitzgerald Toussaint dove in front of him, and even though he was untouched, failed to catch the football.
– The Steelers’ defense continued to be the team’s weak point in Week 10. Okay, so we know Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott leads the NFL in rushing and calling the Steelers rushing defense “weak” is perhaps being kind. But allowing Elliott to rush for two touchdowns completely untouched at the end of the game shows that there are deep seeded flaws at all three levels, as if that wasn’t already obvious by this point.
– Even more alarming than Elliott’s rushing onslaught were the big passing plays the Steelers defense gave up in obvious passing situations. First, they surrendered an 83-yard screen pass from Dak Prescott to Elliott for a touchdown on 2nd and 18. Then, in the 3rd quarter, Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant beat rookie cornerback Artie Burns on 3rd and 11 for a 50-yard touchdown. The down and distance of both of those situations screams “passing play,” and the fact that the Steelers defense couldn’t stop a rookie quarterback from slicing them up for big plays is just further proof that changes need to be implemented on the defensive side of the ball.
– As well as Bell played against the Cowboys, he still only ended up with 57 total rushing yards and a 3.4 average yards per carry. Those are pretty pedestrian numbers for how amazing Bell is when you watch the game film. I wish the Steelers wide receivers would make catches as difficult as the one Bell made for a touchdown in the first quarter.
While there’s no doubt that he’s a prolific weapon as a running back and receiver, he hasn’t been able to gash defenses for big plays like other backs of his talent level. I think some of the blame must be assigned to the offensive line. Bell is constantly trying to get positive yardage while the line gets a minimal push. I don’t know if there’s a quick fix, but there’s definitely a problem.
– The Steelers receivers underachieved again on Sunday. Brown had an impressive stat line; 14 catches for 154 yards and a touchdown. But four of those receptions, 77 yards and his lone touchdown, all came on the Steelers’ last two possessions. Also, Sammie Coates was a non-factor again. In the Steelers four wins this season Coates has 371 yards and two touchdowns. In Steelers losses, he has four receptions for 54 yards.
Also, it seems like at this point in the season, Cobi Hamilton has passed him on the depth-chart. I would have presumed both players would have seen more targets with Darrius Heyward-Bey injured. But both Coates and Hamilton were only targeted once a piece (not counting penalty plays), with the latter making the lone reception. The Steelers experiment to replace Martavis Bryant’s on-field production has failed miserably and it shows.
– The referees in this game were all over the place. They missed numerous calls on both sides of the ball and were wildly inconsistent when it came to calling both pass interference and holding. Receivers for both teams were pushing off against coverage and then occasionally a flag would appear. While the Steelers were only flagged four times for 40 yards, the face masking penalty on Steelers safety Sean Davis (which was legitimate) essentially put the final nail in the Steelers’ proverbial coffin. The old saying is that “refs” cannot be everything but at least they should be consistent. Today they were consistent, consistently bad.
What are your gut reactions?