Following each game in the 2019 Pittsburgh Steelers season I will be giving you my 10 takes. These aren’t going to be hot takes and meant to shock the world. This will be instant reactions to the game written while still in that period just following the game when the emotions are high and the ideas are fresh. Included will be thoughts, observations, queries and reasons that caused me to yell at the television.
Week – Regular Season Week 3
Opponent – San Francisco 49ers
1. No Change in the Offense – When you lose your starting quarterback and you have to bring in the backup, you’d like the change to be seamless and not have to change a lot of your offense. I believe Mason Rudolph can handle Ben Roethlisbergers The issue I have is that they had a chance to make changes, positive changes, and they didn’t. I wanted to see Rudolph under center more often using the mobility that Ben doesn’t have anymore. There are fewer chances to be deceptive from the shotgun. I expected more of a variance in what the offense would do and it just didn’t show up.
2. Run Defense was Pourous – San Francisco ran the ball, they ran it often and ran it right at the defense. 34 carries for 168 yards and at times the holes were wide and clean. Devin Bush is not progressing through three games. It hasn’t “clicked” for him yet and I hope it does soon. He’s not reacting downhill and is yards off the line of scrimmage before he’s making contact with the ball carrier. They need to have someone who can diagnose the run without Vince Williams in there. This performance had me asking for Tyler Matakevich to play today. He is a liability in the passing game but he diagnoses the run very well. Bush isn’t the only one at fault here but the mental processing has to speed up.
3. 3, 3, 0, 0, 0 – Those numbers represent the score the Steelers put up after turnovers. The forced 2 interceptions and 1 fumble, were gifted two other fumbles by miscues by the opponent and that was all they can muster. Yes, Rudolph was making his first start and that is part of it but where is the run game? Where is the tenacity, the nastiness, up front that used to be able to take over a game and run it the length of the field? If they score one touchdown on one of those first two takeaways it makes a big difference. Must capitalize going forward.
4. Gunners Missing the Target – There were a variety of players used as the gunners on punts and none of them performed particularly well. They helped allow 53 yards on punt returns. Johnny Holton missed a tackle early in the game. They had the returner cornered a couple of times and missed tackles and allowed yards. Jordan Berry had maybe his best game averaging over 52 yards per punt. They can’t give up yards in those situations. Richie James came into the game with 79 career punt return yards on 12 returns for a 6.3 yard average. He averaged 10.6 today.
5. I Suffer from Why-Can’tism – Many of you may suffer from this affliction as well. The symptoms are saying things like, “Why can’t we run the ball?”, ”Why can’t our receivers get wide open like the (insert team) do”, “Why can’t the referees see that holding call” and “Why can’t we cover a receiver inside the red zone without reaching out and grabbing him when you don’t need to”. It’s only been 3 games but they have been really frustrating so far. I can’t remember as season where they Steelers had weaknesses in so many areas.
6. Will the really Defensive Coordinator Please Stand Up? – It sure looked like Mike Tomlin was making the defensive calls today. To be honest, he had me just as confused as when Keith Butler is making the decisions. Twice I remember seeing Tomlin taking Javon Hargrave out of the game to put in Mike Hilton while near the end zone? I know for sure one of those instances the 49ers had 22 personnel in the game. Those coaches obviously know what more than me, but why would you need your nickel corner in the game against 22 personnel?
7. RB Screens – Maybe I should be giving the defense of the opponents more credit than I am in this scenario but why do the Steelers run a RB screen where the RB sets up right next to the LT who is engaged with a defender? Don’t you want to get them in space to give them room to operate? This is forcing to the QB to throw and awkward dart to a player who has a defender right next to him for a play that has a low percentage of being successful. This offense continues to baffle me week in and week out.
8. Attack the Weakness – One instance where I wasn’t baffled was on the 3 play series leading to the touchdown to Diontae Johnson. Before this drive we saw starting corner Ahkello Witherspoon being carted back to the locker room with an injury. After a 10 yard run by James Conner they went after Witherspoon’s replacement twice. Jason Verrett was a promising corner with the Chargers that couldn’t stay healthy. The offense went right at him twice. One play got a 32 yards pass interference call and the next play resulted in a 39 yard touchdown. This was an excellent in game adjustment and was a bit surprising to be honest.
9. Missed Him by that Much – The Steelers have been doing a nice job the last two games to create pressure. They only had one sack by Stephon Tuitt but they had 8 other quarterback hits (per ESPN). Six different Steelers were able to get a lick on Jimmy Garopollo and give him credit for hanging in back there. They were just a blink of eye late on so many opportunities. So close to being really a really dominant pass rush.
10. Losing Time – So far through three games the Steelers are losing the time of possession battle. In game one they had the ball for 27:27, game two 24:14 and today 23:43. Trending in the wrong direction. The offense had one series in the GAME that last more than two minutes and 41 seconds. In the first three games the Steelers have been outscored in every second half by a 55 to 33 margin. The offense needs to find ways to sustain drives so the defense can get some rest.