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 1
Opponent – New England Patriots
1. Optimism was high – The preseason was good. Showed us a lot of positives. Rookies played well. Veterans looked lighter and quicker. I usually don’t have a positive feeling going into week one. I prefer to prepare for the worst and hope for the best. This preseason was different. I had a good feeling about this team and was expecting really great football from this team and the coaching staff.
2. Where is our #1 Running Back – I understand Jaylen Samuels had a great game last year against the Patriots. The Steelers didn’t have James Connor at that time. But answer me this. Who is the better player? Connor or Samuels? I vote Connor and to have Samuels in very early in the firsts quarter of the game, in my opinion, was over thinking the offense. Samuels can be a good back up but don’t force him in early. Let Connor play and get Samuels in to give him a breather.
3. Missed tackles – That ugly old girlfriend reared her ugly head. Missed tackles seemed to be a factor again early in the game. Joe Haden missed one early on the Josh Gordon. Not long after that Kameron Kelly didn’t wrap up on a crossing route shortly after leading to extra yards.
4. Burkhead Chips – The Patriots do a lot of things really well. They are probably the most disciplined team in the league. I would like to submit a video of how their running backs chip on the edge. Rex Burkhead was shown to throw a very good one at J. Watt. During the preseason I saw the Steeler RB’s go through the motion on these blocks. It’s a free shot to pop an edge rusher in the ribs. Get in there and get yourself a slab.
5. Kelly was good and not so good – Kameron Kelly got the start after Sean Davis was injured and played well in the preseason. His first NFL start was up and down to say the least. He seemed to play well moving forward against the run coming up to make several stops. Against the pass he didn’t have as much success. He got sucked up on a play in the third quarter that ended up an easy TD over the top. He was asked to do a lot I his first start so we couldn’t have expected a great game but there is some learning to do.
6. Moncrief Struggled – The Steelers brought in veteran Donte Moncrief to help fill the void in the wide receiver group. He was not up to the task in this game. He had a critical drop on third down and couldn’t win a contested situation in the end zone. It’s only one game, for him and for everyone, but he must cowboy up and start to make plays immediately or he will drop like a stone on the depth chart.
7. What is the personality of this team? –On the Steelers lone scoring drive they had a third and one at the one yard line. They lined up in 11 personnel and threw a fade to the left corner that went incomplete. I’m pretty sure that the Steelers have one of the best offensive lines in the NFL. So why don’t we line up in 22 or 23 personnel and ram it at the defense. This offense has no modus operandi, no MO. No personality. I yearn for the old school run in when you want to run it and smack defenders in the face. This team has the players and potential to be the type of team to smack you in the face. Do it!
8. Running out of Bounds – This is a ridiculously minor thing but on two instances I saw Steelers run out of bounds when they could have gotten a couple more yards. The first was a long pass to James Washington and I think the other was a good run by Connor. Following up on point 7, this team needs a personality. If you’re in the open field or on the sideline and you have a choice to bury your shoulder into a DB to get a couple extra yards, do it. That DB will remember that for the next time he sees you.
9. Play Action – So…the Steelers brought in guys to allow them to play Man coverage and brought in speed to help them be quicker on defense. So what did the Patriots do? Shockingly (not really) they were one step ahead and played a lot of play action. Suck up the linebackers and run WR’s on crosser right behind them. I have supported this coaching staff, all of them, for a long time but they do not see the big picture. They don’t seem to play the “what if” game when designing their strategies. They go with what they have seen and adjust to that and do not look forward to what might happen. Very disappointing.
10. Big Brother – To follow up on point 7 the Patriots versus Steelers is big brother beating up on little brother. When the little brother figures out one move the big brother adjusts and does something else the little brother can’t counter. It is something I never want to admit for a team that I route for but in this situation the Steelers are out smarted at every step. It doesn’t change my opinion about this team. I feel this team and this season can be really impressive. But when it comes to facing New England, it’s time to erase the playbook and embrace the dark side. What would Bill Belichick do?