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 11
Opponent – Cleveland Browns
1. Truly Offensive Line – The Steelers offensive line coming in to the season was supposed to be a strong point of this offense and they have struggled particularly in the run game. This game seemed to be the worst they have played all year. Myles Garrett was man handling Alejandro Villanueva most of the night. They allowed 4 sacks and 11 quarterback hits and at one point late in the fourth quarter had three OL blocking one defender while allowing Joe Schobert to run up the middle for an uncontested sack. You can’t run the ball or pass effectively when they play like that.
2. 30 + 1 = 2 – JuJu Smith-Schuster and Diontae Johnson were both knocked out of the game after taking helmet to helmet hits. Both plays were penalized and on the Johnson hit safety Damarious Randall’s hit was so egregious that he got ejected from the game. I am not accusing the Browns of headhunting but trading 30 yards in penalties and one ejection for two of the Steelers main offensive players definitely worked out in their favor. It neutered the offense.
3. Full Pockets – I don’t think I’ve seen a QB so often get his arm hit just as he releases the ball. Mason Rudolph stays in the pocket, has been slow to process and ends up having a lot of his throws truncated due to hitting defenders. It has happened far too often and in my opinion he was lucky to not have more turnovers up to this point and felt it would catch up to him at some point. There is a lot he needs to work on and pocket presence and processing is high on the list.
4. Holton Hears a Who – Johnny Holton coming into this game had been used about once a game this year to take a deep shot on a Go route and had never caught a pass as a Steeler. He was forced into action tonight due to injuries and played a lot and they used him often on Go routes. Prior to today and during this game my question was, “If you’re going to try and force the ball to Holton (for what reason I don’t know) then why not try a different route?” Throw a slant, a crossing route or something he can catch and run with. Seven targets tonight and 6 of them were deep throws. He finally did get his first catch and, surprise; it wasn’t on a Go route.
5. Substitution Issues – Maybe it happened due to injuries but there were too many times there were guys running on to the field late. Isaiah Buggs had to sprint in on one play and I thought I saw Joe Haden running in late on a couple of other plays. There may have been 10 players on a punt return as well. They had these issues on the defense in the pass and I hope this isn’t a bad sign of things to come.
6. Who’s Got Who? – The second touchdown scored by Cleveland, to Jarvis Landry, was a complete breakdown. Not only did they leave Landry uncovered crossing the field but there was a tight end as well that was wide open trailing him. Meanwhile, on the other side of the field, the Steelers had 5 guys over there to cover 2. Several mistakes had to be made to get this type of scenario. There haven’t been many plays like this recently and I’m hoping this was a fluke.
7. Jonesing for a Receiver – Nothing like being thrown into the fire. Tevin Jones got the call up from the practice squad earlier in the day and due to injuries was thrust into action. He ended up with 2 catches on 4 targets for 24 yards. He looked like he handled himself pretty well looking natural catching the ball and able to get himself open. It took him one game to get more receptions than Holton. Congratulations, Tevin.
8. Berry Good – That’s right I’m going to give some love to a punter. We all like to get on the punter when he is bad and as fans that’s what we get to do. This season Jordan Berry has been pretty impressive. He’s angling his punts well and has done a nice job of limiting the returns and flipping the field. He came into this game averaging 46.1 yards per punt and tonight averaged 49.6. Give him credit; he has done his job well.
9. They Were That Close – The defense overall played well again. If I told you they would give up less than 300 yards of total offense you’d think they’d have a good chance to win. Unfortunately, the opportunistic plays they had been making didn’t come to fruition against Cleveland. They were getting pressure early and often but they allowed Baker Mayfield to escape the pocket often and only had one sack. They made 10 tackles for a loss and 3 pass break up and Cam Heyward should have had another but a lineman caught the batted ball. The big plays just weren’t there tonight.
10. It Got Ugly Late – The Browns-Steelers rivalry has had their share of dust ups in their history but this one was ugly and very dangerous. I’m not sure why Rudolph was clawing at the helmet of Garrett but I can’t think of anything that would warrant Garrett pulling of Mason’s helmet and swinging like a weapon. And I can appreciate the Steelers OL particularly Maurkice Pouncey and David DeCastro coming to his defense but Pouncey throwing multiple punches and kicks was unacceptable as well. Everyone was lucky there weren’t major injuries. Garrett will be suspended and Pouncey may be as well.