The Pittsburgh Steelers just lost their fourth consecutive game to dip below .500 beyond the midway point of the season, now owning a 4-5 record. And they lost a game that they obviously could have won. They held a one-point lead with under a minute to play, and whenever that is the case, there is always a good chance of winning.
They did not. But that does not mean that I am about to head into despair. Because I actually saw quite a bit that I liked from this game that I believe bodes well for the Steelers going forward, particularly on the offensive side of the ball, which in their first 30-point effort since their last victory finally looked formidable again.
Even considering that the Steelers were going up against a secondary that had some injuries to manage—to that point, Pittsburgh was also down two wide receivers due to injury, Pittsburgh stressed what is an above average Cowboys defense and put up about 450 yards of offense.
That comes with a bit of a caveat, of course, because a healthy chunk of that yardage came in ‘garbage’ time with nine seconds left after the Cowboys went up by five, but Ben Roethlisberger looked like Ben Roethlisberger today, throwing for over 400 yards and three touchdowns, and while he might not have stacked up the rushing yardage, Le’Veon Bell was very impressive at times on the ground.
With Dallas trying to nurse a late lead, the Steelers offense looked truly lethal, and I want to give special mention to second-year tight end Jesse James, who had perhaps easily what was his most impressive game as a receiver, catching four passes for 59 yards and multiple times showing well in picking up yards after the catch and after contact.
Ladarius Green is just getting himself started, but he did manage to contribute three receptions for 30 yards. Cobi Hamilton added a 39-yard reception and also drew a pass interference penalty for 36 yards, while Eli Rogers made some more fantastic receptions, including a touchdown.
Meanwhile, on the defensive side of the ball, I see a lot of the plan coming into place, but the big plays have to be eliminated, because that is what has killed them the past several games. The Cowboys had three explosive scoring plays on the day, and that was the difference.
But in between the explosive plays—which is in no way to minimize that as a huge issue—the defense did a lot of things well in a strategy that I believe is in an incubating stage as Keith Butler and the defensive brain trust figure out how they can safely get pressure.
The Steelers did not get the result that they were looking for today, and that hurts, especially when it was one that was very attainable. But even with the loss, I would say that I feel more confident about the second half of the season than I did coming into the game. I had the Cowboys game going for a loss anyway, but they were very competitive, only to shoot themselves in the foot, which I expect to be addressed.