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 13
Opponent – Cleveland Browns
1. Let’s Kick Things Off – Coming into this game the Steelers kick coverage hasn’t been good. They were third in the league in return yards allowed with 713 on 30 returns (23.8 per return). Using the strategy of kicking it high to keep it out of the end zone and force a return is good in theory if you can cover. That hadn’t been the case until today. Chris Boswell was able to place the ball and the coverage team was able to get away from blocks and hold the Browns to 36 yards on 3 returns. Hopefully the beginnings of better special teams play.
2. Déjà vu All Over Again – After a big return by Kerrith Whyte on the kickoff the Steelers offense continued is ineffectiveness on their first drive. Solid run on first down, a run on second down where the Browns had 9 players within 4 yards of the line of scrimmage and then Matt Feiler got beat by and inside out move for a sack. The offense and staff have yet to figure why they’re so sluggish out of the gate. Maybe run a contest and the winner gets to pick the first 3 plays. Couldn’t hurt.
3. Getting Off The Field – Cleveland converted their first two third down plays on their first drive including a third and 14 on a great catch by Jarvis Landry. I was hoping it wasn’t going to be one of those games. Credit to Keith Butler and the defense as they put that to a halt the rest of the way. The Steelers D only allowed 2 more conversion on 12 chances the rest of the way. Important part of the comeback and the victory.
4. It Was On Two – Penalties are going to happen in every game but the pre snap penalties have got to stop. Diontae Johnson, Devlin Hodges, Vance McDonald (twice) Feiler and James Washington all were called for false starts. The one on Hodges was a phantom call but the others were legit. There was also an illegal formation penalty called. That’s 35 yards you’re adding. This offense isn’t dynamic enough to continually overcome these issues.
5. Where Was Diontae’s Head – Mentally this was the worst game Johnson has had this year. He had a false start penalty (his third this year) and an unnecessary roughness penalty retaliating when a defender smacked his helmet. On the interception there was some kind of miscommunication which happens but he gave up on the play for a couple of seconds that cost the team 28 yards when he could have had an opportunity to touch the player down. Then late in the game on third down play he ran out of bounds stopping the clock. He didn’t seem to be there mentally today.
6. Let The Duck Fly – There wasn’t a lot of opportunities for the first quarter and a half for Hodges to get going with Cleveland controlling the time of possession. The offensive calls had a play it safe feel until they got a free play. When Cleveland jumped offside Hodges took advantage and lofted a perfect pass to Washington on 3RD and nine. This jumpstarted the offense and led to their first points of the game. The offense seemed to open up after the free play. I like the trust he has in his receivers; willing to give them chances to make plays on the ball. For the rest of the day his wings were unclipped and he was allowed to let it fly. Was this coincidence or did the staff gain some confidence in him after that play?
7. Wash What I Can Do – My goodness James Washington was impressive today. Tracking the ball over both shoulders with concentration to make difficult catches. He used one hand while being interfered with to make his touchdown catch. Three of his 4 catches were for at least 30 yards. He’s really hitting his stride. Over his last four games he has 16 receptions for 348 yards and 3 TD’s. Someone had to take over the reins with JuJu Smith-Schuster out and Washington has become that guy.
8. Bringing Everybody –Butler has done a great job when it comes to creating pressure this year and today he was really mixing it up. Besides the usual suspects he was blitzing anybody he could from any direction. Devin Bush, Vince Williams, Cameron Sutton and Terrell Edmunds were some that come to mind with Sutton even getting one of the teams 5 sacks on the day which was the first in his career. There were able to do a better job of clogging the pocket and not let Baker Mayfield I love aggressive defenses.
9. Screen Savers – The defense of the WR screen play by the DB’s has been good this year. Today Joe Haden made a great play to attempt to avoid the block of the offensive lineman and made the tackle despite being held. Earlier in the game Mike Hilton made a similar play that he didn’t quite finish, but was able to slow that receiver. Screens have become such a big part of offenses and defending them is about recognition and being quicker than the blocker. The Steelers DB’s have been up to the task this year.
10. Benny Snell Football – James Conner’s injury along with ineffective play from other backs has given Snell a chance to show why he had 3,873 yards in 3 years at Kentucky. He’s a smart, physical runner. In his three games were he has at least 16 carries he 236 yards good for a 4.37 average. He’s not going to impress with his speed but for situations like today when you want to grind the clock, he is your man. In the preseason, I stated that if Conner were to get injured I would use Snell as the feature back over Jaylen Samuels and I got a lot flack for that take. I wonder if people still disagree with me.