Things certainly got dicey there for a while at the back end of the secondary. And now, I’m not talking about what the Detroit Lions were able to do against the entirety of the Pittsburgh Steelers’ defense through the air.
Matthew Stafford completed 27 of 45 passes against them yesterday night for 423 yards, which was by far the most they have allowed against any opponent—though they also did not allow a touchdown, which certainly has to count for something.
Three different Lions targets had at least 85 yards receiving on the night, while five different targets had at least one explosive play. At least a couple of them had more than one, as the defense was at times ransacked, allowing far more explosive plays than they have been used to.
But the ugliest thing about the entire performance is the fact that they took a beating at the back end of the secondary. There was even a point in the game in which the Steelers had to have both of their starting safeties on the sideline, Mike Mitchell having already been sidelined for a while, and Sean Davis needing to come out for a play.
That play? first and 10 from the Steelers’ 11-yard line. A pretty big one. And on the back end were Robert Golden, who had already replaced Mitchell, and J.J. Wilcox, who came in for that one snap for Davis. The second-year safety was able to return after that snap for the final three plays, fortunately.
Had he not—well, who knows what might have happened differently on the Lions’ final three plays of the game. Detroit was only down by five points, and had 11 yards to go to cash in across the goal line to take the lead at home.
It’s not clear exactly when Mitchell suffered his injury, but it is possible that it occurred in the first half and that he toughed it out into the second. But he completed all three plays of a three-and-out, then could be seen visibly hobbling on third down away from the ball or any contact.
The Steelers had to go the rest of the game with Golden filling in for him, and then even seeing one snap with the Golden-Wilcox pairing at the back end. For those who have already been decrying a lack of quality and depth at safety, that is not a pretty picture.
The team is fortunate that they are now heading into their bye week with the opportunity to finally get healthy, and perhaps after that they might even be able to start all 22 starters for the first time in about three and a half years.
Mitchell has already had a rough year on the health front, a hamstring injury robbing him of pretty much the summer. He even missed his first game ever as a Steeler, and now has yet another ailment to contend with. Sometimes no matter how well you take care of your body, it’s not enough.