Though certainly not by choice, the Pittsburgh Steelers just passed up what was likely to be their easiest opportunity for a win yesterday when they drew even with the winless Detroit Lions. Having your starting quarterback be diagnosed with COVID-19 the day before the game certainly doesn’t help, but the special teams and defense had plenty of issues on their own.
Even though they only held the Lions to 16 points, the defense in particular was often appalling, which I would expect that every member of the defense could see for themselves. They allowed over 200 yards on the ground, for example, including some truly awful defense on two long touchdown runs of more than 25 yards.
“It’s not a switch. I know I’m beating a dead horse, but it goes back to practicing”, defensive captain Cameron Heyward said of what it takes to get up to playing at the requisite level, particularly in defending the run. “Getting off blocks, fundamentals, technique, driving your feet on contact. I know they sound like small things, but they really do make the defense”.
The good news, from his perspective, is that they have already been down the road this season, and were able to right the ship. They were run over by the Seattle Seahawks just a few weeks ago, with backup running backs, a game that also went to overtime, but the defense was ultimately able to set the table for the win.
“Yeah, and we’re gonna need that”, Heyward said when he asked if he did see those corrections made after the Seahawks game. “I know we’ve got the Chargers coming up. You’d be a fool to think the Chargers aren’t gonna do some of that. I will be looking at this film a lot—starting tonight”.
Los Angeles certainly looks like a good team this year, though they just lost yesterday, 27-20, to the Minnesota Vikings—whom the Steelers will also have to play later on in the season. The Chargers are now 5-4 on the season, largely due to a defense giving up more than 25 points per game, but they have talent.
And after the Chargers, in L.A., they get to fly back east to play the Cincinnati Bengals in Ohio. The Bengals already came to Pittsburgh and embarrassed them earlier this season, and even beat them last year with a backup quarterback, so they would have no business taking them lightly.
If that were not enough, following the two-game road trip against quality opponents, they get to come home to host the AFC North-leading Baltimore Ravens, who, if nothing else, have shown this season that they are capable of coming back from deficits to win ball games. Getting Lamar Jackson to play from behind is no longer the key to a win.