Tom’s Ten Takes: Steelers Vs Texans

Following each game in the 2020 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 – Houston Texans

1. Allen Wrenching His Way on Special Teams – So far in his career Marcus Allen has struggled to make an impact on the field. He has spent a lot of time the practice squad or inactive but there are signs of life. On Houston’s first returnable kick at the 8:55 mark of the first quarter kick returner DeAndre Carter had a head of steam and looked like he had a lane for a bigger return before Allen made the tackle. I’ll have to check the film but it looked like he had room. He was not done. He made another tackle on a kick off in the second quarter.  Maybe he has finally found his role.

2. Beginning of the Ends – It took three games but we finally got an idea of not only how the Steelers can use both tight end but also how effective it can be. The combo of Eric Ebron and Vance McDonald combined for 8 receptions for 87 yards and a touchdown.  Five of those receptions resulted in first down.  And McDonald also showed his blocking ability on the closing drive leading the way for Conner. Let’s hope we can get consistent production like this the rest of the way.

3. Vinnie Vidi Vici- A play on the Latin phrase meaning “I came. I saw. I conquered.” first uttered by Julius Caesar brings to mind the play of Vince Williams. He only had 2 tackles in this game but they were both for a loss now giving him 8 in 3 games. The first was a sack of Deshaun Watson on first down that led to a three and out. The next series he took down David Johnson for a two yard loss. He helped hold the Texans to 29 yards rushing on 15 carriers and he makes plays week after week.

4. McCloud’s Clearing on Punt Return – We may have seen the last of Diontae Johnson on punt return. Yes he has big play ability as a returner but he also makes a lot of mistakes back there.  Also he is very valuable to the offense so not putting him back there limits the risk of injury.  Ray-Ray McCloud has had a good start on kick returns and did well on punt return this week as well.  If his fumbling issues are gone he could be the returner the Steelers have been in search of for a long time.

5. 3rd and One Bad Call After Another – Executing plays in the NFL is hard, I get that. But it just seems easier for other teams. The third and short calls and execution is really frustrating.  I believe there were nine plays needing 3 yards or less on third down. They included an incomplete pass, 4 conversions and 4 plays gaining a total of 4 yards that didn’t convert.  The biggest conversion looked like a broken play with McDonald supposed to block and ended up getting the ball for a 14 yard gain. So the other 8 plays gained 13 yards.  They have to be better.

6. Speaking of Being Better – To continue on the third down discussion the Steelers third down defense was not bad looking of the stats holding the Texans to 5 conversions on 12 tries. However four of those conversions went for 20, 28, 20 and 34 yards. Watson is a mobile quarterback and can make plays out of the pocket but to allow 102 yards on those conversions is bad. The Steelers play a mobile quarterback just about every week and must tighten the screws here.

7. Challenge Conspiracy – I feel bad for Coach Tomlin on this one. His record in challenges has not been good and a lot of that is on him. He has challenged several plays in the past I thought were poor decisions and he ended up losing. Today’s challenge on a play were Ben Roethlisberger showed off his agility, speed and stiff arm and then stretching for a first down was a good one.  I think just about everyone thought it would be reversed but alas it was not.  I demand an investigation.

8. Play it Forward – I am going to make a request to Randy Fichtner to take the pages in the playbook that have passes to wide receivers at or behind the line of scrimmage and remove them. Tear them up and drop them in a volcano. Yes, I understand the “it’s an extension of the running game” idea but it seems to be unsuccessful way too often. Chase Claypool was successful with it this week so I’ll allow it to be thrown to him going forward until further notice. It just doesn’t seem to work enough.

9. McFarland of Opportunity – It took a few weeks but we finally got a look at the young running back and early returns looks good. Seven total touches for 49 yards in his debut and he showed the juice the rest of the RB’s lack. To be honest seven touches was much more than I expected so the staff must have been impressed too. Not good news for Jaylen Samuels who right now still has a role on special teams. He may be on the outside looking in on game day next week for someone like Ulysees Gilbert who’s a better special teamer.

10. All Things Being Equal – I’ll finish up this week with a question for you. Through three weeks the Steelers have a 100 yard rusher in each game (Conner twice, Snell once) yet I don’t see this offense as running offense. Through three games the Steelers have zero 100 yard receivers with Johnson having the high of 92 yards versus Denver. Roethlisberger has only topped 300 passing yards once and has 777 passing yards. Therefore I don’t see this as a passing offense. Could this truly be a balanced offense?

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