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Perspective Of An Average Steelers Fan: Now What?

STEELERS RECORD BLEMISHED

Few Steelers fans expected the Steelers to run the regular season table and go 16-0 this year. The Steelers went into week 13 as the last undefeated team. They emerge with a blemish on their record. Still, it does not ease the sting of a Steelers loss.

Living in the DC area, I wore my Black and Gold regalia on game day. I did not run into anyone wearing the Burgundy and Gold color scheme of the Washington Football team formerly called the Redskins. In fact, walking to a restaurant Monday morning to have breakfast with Steve S., another Steeler fan a car slowed in the parking lot. The driver rolled their window down and gave me a hearty “Go Steelers!” She wore a Steelers hat and saw my bumble bee Steelers jersey.

Following the game, it was different. Emails, text messages and phone calls from friends here in the DC area that root or formerly cheered for the Washington football team. One message, “What happened? I watched the first half of the game and decided the outcome was obvious. I was pretty shocked when … told the final score.” My answer to these messages was succinct. Washington played very well, and the Steelers fell flat.

FIRST HALF SO GOOD

FOR WANT OF AN INCH

The Steelers offense punted away their first three possessions. The Steelers finally sustained a 77-yard drive that ended with a touchdown. Ben’s pass to Diontae Johnson well-conceived. The defense stopped Washington on downs giving Pittsburgh excellent field position at the 31. The Steelers reached the five-yard line in three plays. An unnecessary roughness penalty made it first and inches for a touchdown. Three Benny Snell plunges up the middle and an incomplete pass to tackle eligible receiver Jerald Hawkins failed to gain the necessary “inch-age.” The Steelers activated Hawkins from the Reserve/Covid-19 list that morning so had not much practice with the team.

50 YARDS NO PROBLEM

James Washington erased the damage of the goal line failure with a 50-yard catch and run that included James breaking a couple tackles. Steelers up 14-0 with 3:54 to play in the half. The Steelers defense played a strong first half. Washington lost their main running back early in the game. The defense forced Washington to punt on five drives and stopped them on fourth down on another.

JuJu Smith Schuster was a yard short of a first down forcing the Steelers to punt their last possession away with less than a minute to play in the half. Jordan Berry hit a weak 40-yard punt that went out of bounds at the Washington 41. Alex Smith passed three times for 42 yards with Justin Layne tackling the receiver each time. T.J. Watt sacked Smith forcing Washington to use their final time out. Stephon Tuitt sacked Smith again and time should have expired. But officials stopped the clock to replace the ball that Alex Smith carried off the field. Washington scores the last points of the half with a field goal. Score 14-3.

Will the NFL discipline the referees for their miscue or fine Alex Smith for his unsportsmanlike conduct? I doubt it.

WOEFUL SECOND HALF

DEFENSE GIVES UP EARLY SCORE

The defense surrendered a touchdown on Washington’s opening drive of the second half. Three plays contributed to this defensive breakdown. First, Alex Smith connects with Cam Sims on third and 14. Second, Logan Thomas catches a 30-yard pass to the one-yard line. Finally, on fourth down, officials call T.J. Watt for defensive holding when it seemed like a turnover on downs. The irony is that offensive linemen hold Watt a lot with officials rarely blowing a whistle. Credit Alex Smith who lobbied for the call mid play. Washington scores and it is 14-10.

DEFENSE STUMBLES AGAIN

Matthew Wright kicks his first career field goal to start the fourth quarter. The Steelers offense goes three and out. Inexplicably, Benny Snell given ball to run on third and 10. Steelers punt after he loses two yards. Joe Haden tackles Peyton Barber on third and one but Washington gets first down. Worse, Haden hurt on play and does not return. J.D. McKissic gains 16 yards on pass play. Logan Thomas wide open for tying touchdown. Looks like Vince Williams tries to get there but miscommunication and it’s 17-17.

WRIGHT DECISION ON FOURTH DOWN?

Pittsburgh drives from their own 38 into Washington territory. But on fourth down at the 28, Mike Tomlin opts to go for it rather than Wright attempting a 46-yard field goal that would break the tie. Instead McFarland goes out on a wheel route, but Ben’s pass is out of reach as the running back stumbles and falls. The defense can’t stop Washington as they drive 45 yards and go ahead 20-17. The critical play is a 29-yard pass to Sims with Cam Sutton in defense on third and four.

NO COMEBACK VICTORY

The Steelers get the ball with 2:04 to go. Plenty of time for Ben to drive for a game tying field goal or better yet a comeback victory. Instead on first down Montez Sweat deflects Bern’s pass at the line of scrimmage. Former Steeler Jon Bostic intercepts the ball. Dustin Hopkins puts Washington up 23-17 with 17 seconds left. Ben throws incomplete for Chase Claypool. He completes his final pass to Eric Ebron, but time expires.

DAVE BRYAN’S VICTORY PUNCH LIST REVIEW

Dave Bryan provided five keys for a Steelers victory. Here is how the Steelers performed them:

  1. Don’t let Terry McLaurin beat you. McLaurin caught two of six passes thrown to him for 14 yards. Mission accomplished.
  2. Ben does not pass over 40 times. Ben passed 53 times. The Steelers rushed for 21 total yards and unable to score from one. Leaving Washington close and lack of running game forces Ben to pass although he avoided sacks. Mission failure.
  3. Receivers catch the balls thrown to them. Steelers dropped seven passes. Now have 31 for year to lead league. Mission failure.
  4. Have at least two more combined turnovers and explosive plays than Washington. The Steelers had three TOX plays to one for Washington in the first half. By games end, Washington edged Pittsburgh five to four. Mission failure.
  5. Matthew Wright makes a kick late in game if called upon. Wright kicked a 37-yard field goal to start fourth quarter. However, Mike Tomlin decided not to allow Wright to attempt a 46-yard field goal attempt with 4:57 to play. Instead of breaking tie, Washington went on to score two unanswered field goals of their own. Mission failure.

For second week in a row, Steelers accomplish only one of five of Dave Bryans leys to victory. This time the Steelers lose.

CONCLUSION

Where do the Steelers go from here? One possibility is they close out the season with four losses to finish 11 and 5. Or they win out to finish 15 and 1. With three of the next four opponents in playoff contention and the Steelers offense inconsistent, I suspect they will finish the regular season somewhere in-between. Then we plunge into the playoffs … a whole new single elimination tourney.

Three games in 12 days is taking its toll. The Steelers lost two defensive starters to injury. Joe Haden entered the concussion protocol. The medical staff evaluating Robert Spillane’s knee. The Steelers should be getting Maurkice Pouncey and James Conner back soon. Is it enough to rejuvenate the anemic running game? Receivers continue to drop balls. Ben should buy each receiver their personal Jugs machine as an early Christmas present.

All I know is that something needs to change or the Steelers next game in Buffalo will not be pretty.

YOUR MUSIC SELECTION

I always like to offer a music selection. The Steelers finally lose. Still four games to play in this bizarre regular season.  Here is Wrench and Numbers Theme composed by Jeff Russo for the bizarre series Fargo.

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