The Pittsburgh Steelers are now into the regular season, following the most unique offseason in the NFL since at least World War II. While it didn’t involve a player lockout, teams still did not have physical access to their players, though they were at least able to meet with them virtually.
Even training camp looked much different from the norm, and a big part of that was the fact that there will be no games along the way to prepare for. Their first football game of the year was to be the opener against the New York Giants.
As the season progresses, however, there will be a number of questions that arise on a daily basis, and we will do our best to try to raise attention to them as they come along, in an effort to both point them out and to create discussion
Questions like, how will the players who are in new positions this year going to perform? Will the rookies be able to contribute significantly? How will Ben Roethlisberger look—and the other quarterbacks as well? Now, we even have questions about whether or not players will be in quarantine.
These are the sorts of questions among many others that we have been exploring on a daily basis and will continue to do so. Football has become a year-round pastime and there is always a question to be asked, though there is rarely a concrete answer, as I’ve learned in my years of doing this.
Question: Was the close game against the Dallas Cowboys a wake-up call or an aberration?
Over the first quarter of the season, the Steelers played four games against ‘bad’ teams. Overall, they didn’t have that much of a problem emerging victorious. They fell behind against the Houston Texans and Deshaun Watson, but we know this is a team with talent, and they stormed back in the second half.
Sunday’s game against the Cowboys is probably the game of 2020 for which Steelers fans are probably the most uncomfortable, and concerned. After all, it featured their largest deficit of the season at 13, and frankly their fourth-quarter comeback benefited from some penalties, including a roughing the passer call on an incomplete pass on 3rd and 10.
It’s one thing to have a close game against a good team. It’s another to have a close game against a bad team. And it’s another thing entirely when that bad team is down to its fourth-string quarterback making his first career start after having been drafted six years ago and never amounting to much.
Much of the game hinged upon the Cowboys’ running game with Pro Bowler Ezekiel Elliott against the Steelers’ weakened run defense without some of their best run defenders, however. While that obviously needs to be cleaned up, sometimes strength against weakness can make for competitive games, and Dallas really did genuinely play well—and benefited from a couple of outlier special teams plays as well.
So is this a wake-up call for the team to be more on their toes no matter the opponent—and to expect the unexpected against desperate teams? Are we overreacting to the result? They haven’t been blowing teams out regularly or necessarily winning pretty, but they really haven’t trailed all that often.