In spite of the fact that the Pittsburgh Steelers are tied for the best record in the AFC, and own the second-best record in all of football, I would certainly say that we—the fan base, and even our staff—have found more than our fair share of things to criticize that have gotten us to this promising 5-2 start.
Now that will always come with the territory when that 2 figure represents some ugly losses like the Bears and Jaguars games. Bad performances are bad performances, and no amount of subsequent wins will change the fact that they were bad.
All you can do, of course, is work on reversing the things that were bad in those games, and largely, they have. The run defense has been better—not great, as a whole—the turnovers have been reduced, and, not really mentioned a whole lot, but the Steelers have been playing much more disciplined football, which I believe deserves some recognition.
By disciplined football in this instance at least I refer specifically to penalties. Early in the season, they were seeing double-digit penalties in single games, and egregious penalties that would knock them out of scoring position and sabotage drives.
Now, they still ended up having six penalties against the Chiefs, which lost them 57 yards in total, though it awarded Kansas City only one first down, but let’s look at that.
The first penalty drawn was against rookie wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster for holding, his fourth blocking penalty of the year. That negated a seven-yard run on second and three, but it was a spot foul, so it only made it second and nine. They got a first down on the next play and scored three more plays after that.
The next penalty came against Le’Veon Bell, a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for using the goal post as a punching bag after he scored the aforementioned touchdown. I mean…I’m not even going to comment on this beyond saying it’s dumb that that is a penalty.
At the end of the first half, Bud Dupree had a roughing the passer penalty that was offset by intentional grounding. The roughing the passer penalties need to be avoided, to be sure, but at least this one didn’t cost them.
Other than a holding call on B.J. Finney, the backup left guard, the only other penalties were delay of games on punts that they had no problem taking. On the second, they were trying to confuse the Chiefs by motioning into an offensive set.
Oh, and the Mike Mitchell penalty. I still don’t have a problem with the penalty, or really the fine—frankly it’s not my money—but I still don’t think it was intentional, and Alex Smith was fading backward toward where he was falling.
Oh, but against the Bengals on Sunday? Just one defensive holding penalty for a whopping five yards. That’s it. The Steelers drew Cincinnati into jumping offsides three times, for first downs twice, during that game.