Well, that’s not a great way to put folks in the Christmas spirit.
Sunday’s frustrating 31-28 loss by the Pittsburgh Steelers to the New Orleans Saints on the road puts the playoff hopes in peril for the Steelers, who need to rely on the Cleveland Browns beating the Baltimore Ravens, and a Steelers win over the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 17 for the black and gold to win the AFC North.
My, oh my how the tables have turned since early November.
Against a high-powered Saints attack, the Steelers defense did okay on the afternoon, realistically holding the Saints to 17 points if it weren’t for gift-wrapped penalties that set up 14 points for New Orleans.
Once again, the tackling was pretty solid for the most part, which is a continuous trend for the Steelers during the 2018 season.
Total missed tackles at New Orleans – 7
Sean Davis – 3
Vince Williams – 1
Joe Haden – 1
TJ Watt – 1
Morgan Burnett – 1
Total missed tackles through 16 weeks (15 games) — 125 (8.42 misses per game)
Sean Davis – 20 (one on special teams)
TJ Watt – 12
Joe Haden – 12
Terrell Edmunds – 10
Mike Hilton – 8 (one on special teams)
Vince Williams – 8
Bud Dupree – 5 (two on sack attempts)
LJ Fort – 5
Stephon Tuitt — 4
Cam Sutton – 4 (one on special teams)
Coty Sensabaugh – 4
Tyler Matakevich – 4 (two on special teams)
Artie Burns — 3
Anthony Chickillo – 3 (one on special teams)
Jon Bostic – 3
Roosevelt Nix – 3 (all three on special teams)
Tyson Alualu – 3
Jordan Dangerfield – 3 (two on special teams)
Cam Heyward – 2
Darrius Heyward-Bey – 2 (both on special teams)
Daniel McCullers – 2
Nat Berhe – 1
Javon Hargrave – 1
Marcus Allen – 1
Brian Allen – 1 (special teams)
Morgan Burnett – 1
Yes, Sean Davis led the Steelers in missed tackles once again, but I don’t think he had a bad game by any stretch. Pittsburgh put him in a lot of tough situations in coverage, especially on Alvin Kamara. I didn’t give Davis a miss on Kamara’s 42-yard catch-and-run on the second play from scrimmage to start the second half because he had to cover so much ground on the swing route, and had to dip underneath a rub from Michael Thomas with Joe Haden in coverage.
That being said, Davis missed a tackle that lead directly to a rushing touchdown for Kamara, as did Vince Williams. Haden missed a big tackle in the open field late in the first half that let Kamara pick up a big chunk of yards, setting up a New Orleans field goal.
As for TJ Watt and Morgan Burnett, Watt missed a tackle on Thomas after dropping off of man coverage at the last second as the ball was in the air, and Burnett missed Mark Ingram in the backfield for a possible tackle for loss.
Let’s take a look.
Here’s Kamara’s first rushing touchdown of the game.
As you can see, Williams is late getting off of his block and goes for a high arm tackle on Kamara. That doesn’t even come close to slowing him down. Then, Davis comes flying in with some power behind his pads, but he’s too high and doesn’t wrap up, allowing Kamara to spin out of the hit for the touchdown.
This was such an egregious play call by the Steelers’ coaching staff. Why you’re cool with letting Kamara leak out into space freely like this with so little time left on the clock and the game tied at 14-14 is beyond me.
Anyway, Kamara makes the catch on the short dump-off and sets up Haden for a nasty cutback in space, causing Haden to flail at air as Kamara cruises by. Then, Davis misses the tackle on Kamara down the left sideline, allowing the second-year running back to pick up an additional 5 yards, leading to a 43-yard field goal from Wil Lutz that gave the Saints a 17-14 lead at the half.
On offense, the Steelers forced 4 misses against a red-hot defense that they dominated for long stretches on Sunday.
Total forced misses at Saints – 4
JuJu Smith-Schuster – 2
Jaylen Samuels – 1
Stevan Ridley – 1
Total forced misses through 15 weeks (14 games) – 138 (9.57 forced misses per game)
James Conner — 62
Antonio Brown — 15
Ryan Switzer — 15
Vance McDonald — 15
Jaylen Samuels – 12
JuJu Smith-Schuster – 7
Stevan Ridley – 5
Ben Roethlisberger — 3
James Washington — 2
Xavier Grimble — 1
Jesse James – 1
Despite the fumble on the final drive, JuJu Smith-Schuster was simply spectacular playing hobbled with a groin ailment. He even forced two missed tackles on Sunday afternoon.
On a play that he’s able to settle into the zone as Ben Roethlisberger scrambles, Smith-Schuster is somehow able to slip out of two tackle attempts here, picking up a couple of extra yards. He’s not the biggest or the fastest, but he runs hard after the catch and looks to dish out punishment like this when he can.
Jaylen Samuels also had a pretty solid game for the Steelers, and make his presence felt forcing missed tackles on this run in the fourth quarter, shoving Von Bell to the turf with a mean stiff arm in the open field.
If you remember during the broadcast, James Conner started talking smack on the sideline after the run at Bell and Eli Apple, hyping up his fellow backfield mate.