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 11
Opponent – Jacksonville Jaguars
1. You Good, Bro? – I hope I was just seeing things. Just my mind trying to create something out of nothing. Ben Roethlisberger looked to be throwing the ball differently against the Jaguars. He looked to be dropping down to the side a bit more than usual. It looked to be more of three quarter arm angle and a couple sidearm even when he wasn’t trying to throw around people. When pitchers do that it’s usually due to a sore elbow. Early in the game he had two more deflected passes and two near interceptions. The interception he did throw was Kent Tekulve-like. Hopefully it’s just some expected soreness as part of the recovery process.
2. Just For Kicks – Onside kicks have lost some of their excitement due to rule changes but surprise onside kicks can still work. The Jaguars did it in this game and had a wide receiver doing the kicking. I don’t think I’ve seen that before. Give a ton of credit to Marcus Allen for making the play. He didn’t leave his position too early; he was aggressive to the ball and went up to get it while taking the hit. Well done.
3. Conner’s Creativity – The severely lacking run game got a good performance but I don’t think it was exactly the improvement we were hoping to see. Review of the game will show how much of an improvement the offensive line made this week but a lot of credit needs to go to James Conner. He showed some elusiveness avoiding defenders in the backfield, was able to break tackles and find open areas particularly to the outside. A positive performance based on result but maybe not by execution of design.
4. Road Woes Lead to Offensive Slows – Sluggishness is an all too common trait of this offense on road games. This game had a similar slow start with no points in the first quarter. That is the third time in five road games the offense hasn’t scored in the first quarter. In the other two games they scored in the final minute of the first quarter against the Giants and with 5:42 left against the Titans. It’s almost gotten to the point where I expect them to be playing from behind early no matter who they’re playing.
5. They’ve Got it Covered – A properly run screen can be a big gainer for the offense but the Steelers defense was able to sniff them out no matter how the Jaguars tried. They attempted the running back screen to the right side and it was covered forcing a throw in the dirt. They tried a throwback screen and Bud Dupree put the pressure on while Cam Heyward made a beeline to the receiver resulting in an incomplete pass. There was a wide receiver screen that was also handled before it could get going. Understanding what the offense is trying to do and being able to prevent it is a great sign of preparation and advance scouting.
6. Be Quick But Not Too Quick – If I remember correctly pre snap penalties were a bit of bugaboo last year on both sides of the ball. False starts on the offense and coming across too early on the defense were commonplace. This season that has not been the case and I thought about mentioning it a few weeks ago but didn’t want to jinx them. They had three this week with Matt Feiler and Chukwuma Okorafor with the false starts and Dupree coming unabated to the QB. Hopefully just an off week and not reverting to last year’s pattern.
7. E. for Two – The celebration by his teammates on the sideline after the second one made me smile. To see them so happy for him was great to see. Yes, they are happy after every turnover but there seemed to be a little extra love on this one. It was a long time coming for Terrell Edmunds to record another interception with his first happening in week 3 of his rookie year. He went thirty-eight games without an interception and got two today. Sure the first was an overthrow but the second he made an athletic play to get it. Good to see him making more plays this year.
8. Something New From 22 – Last week I asked for the offense to mix it up out of 22 personnel (2 RB, 2 TE) as it seemed they only ran four different plays out of it. In 43 snaps before this game they had thrown the ball 9 times (21%). Five throws to a running back, three to Chase Claypool and one short pass to Eric Ebron. Just one of those passes went more than five air yards. They showed more from the 22 playbook and hit Ebron with the final touchdown of the day. The more creative they can be the harder it will be for opponents to key on formations and personnel groups.
9. Bumpy Landing – This game didn’t seem to be overly physical. There was some chippy action between the Steelers DB’s and Jaguars receivers but guys weren’t getting blown up. Throughout the game and especially in the second half it seemed like someone was banged up or injured on every other play. Lots of guys getting up slow after plays. There were plenty of injury scares with Joe Haden, Cam Heyward and JuJu Smith-Schuster and what sounds like a significant injury to Zach Gentry but sometimes the ground hits back harder than you expect. It’ll be interesting to see how they respond on the short week.
10. The Energy of Youth – Two relatively easy wins in back to back weeks has led to the younger Steelers getting more action on the field. On the last drive we got to see James Pierre make quick stop on a pass his way. Alex Highsmith showed great hustle making two plays near the sideline. Justin Layne got some extended playing time with Haden resting and missed a tackle. They were all flying to the ball trying to make plays. I feel like I say it every week but the contributions are coming from everywhere on this team.