Following each game in the 2021 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.
Opponent – Los Angeles Chargers
1. Are You Not Entertained? – If nothing else, this team plays interesting if not bizarre games. Last week it was gross; ugly across the board and we got to see a tie. That’s a fairly rare occurrence. This game we had a preseason type defense give up four of the easiest touchdowns to a running back you’ll see and 90 yards rushing to a quarterback while giving up 41 points and they had the ball with a chance to win the game. This game went from this could get ugly to this could be crazy in a half; a quarter really. To have a chance to win while missing so many defensive starters was unforeseen but it kept you glued to the game.
2. Apparently, I Don’t Like Any Of It – I complained about the lack of run plays in the red zone so I should be happy the second drive had running plays. They run a formation that the league has seen them do in the red zone over the last two years. The formation that brings the entire defense to the middle of the field. I don’t like it but at least they ran it. Then a low percentage fade to the right corner when a slant inside letting Chase Claypool use his body to box out might have been better. Then and pass into the middle of the line where all the big guys are located (see also garbage red zone series in the fourth quarter). The red zone play calling is baffling and after the first three plays I would have taken the points.
3. Well Rested? – Was it just me or did Ben Roethlisberger look a little rejuvenated after a week off? He had a bounce in his step; he was pushing the ball downfield early and was even throwing to the middle of the field. Covid is no joke and it really wears you down so to see him bounce back this week was a welcomed surprise. I loathe the red zone fade route but the one he threw to Diontae Johnson was perfectly placed. He played really well.
4. Green: As In Inexperienced – To be asked to come in and replace Maurkice Pouncey is no easy task for any rookie. Kendrick Green was thrown into the fire from the get go and you had to like the toughness and nasty streak he showed to finish blocks. The problem appears when the name plate on his jersey is too often facing the defense. He has had some bright spots along the way but is consistency is severely lacking. And now the last two weeks there have been snap issues. A former coach of mine use to say the best thing about freshmen is they become sophomores. We can hope he’ll be better in his second season.
5. The Butler Didn’t Do It – So many players missing on the defensive side of the ball so they had to get creative. They mixed things up with blitzes and coverage to try to create pressure and stymie the defense. They tried just about all options. All but one. Justin Herbert had 117 yards rushing coming into the game and he ran for 90 in this game. When the Steelers played Man coverage they never had anyone spy Herbert. The broadcast knew they should do it. The fans new it. Everyone on Twitter knew they should do it. Why didn’t Butler do it?
6. Kyzir Soze – “The greatest trick the devil linebacker ever pulled was convincing the world referees he didn’t exist elbow Najee Harris in the head.” Every week we have to watch the referees throw flags for “roughness” that are love taps but when a player is in a position where they can’t protect themselves takes a flying elbow from Kyzir White to the head and there is no flag. And later Cam Sutton took a shot to the head with no flag. Some will be fines coming to Los Angeles this week and maybe the referees should get some too.
7. Ordinary Joe – This take was going to be about Joe Haeg and how he has been a valuable player for the offensive line. Against the Chargers he was forced into action at left guard due to an injury. He has now logged snaps at every position along the line except center. For most of the game he seemed to do okay. But late in the game he was beat twice on consecutive plays for sacks. So I guess all those that were recommending they should bench Dan Moore and start Haeg may need to reconsider. By the way, what happened to B.J. Finney? He’s been passed by J.C. Hassenauer and Haeg from snaps. Not good for him.
8. Defensive Stars – Alex Highsmith’s run defense has been really good this season but the sacks have not been plentiful. Just 1.5 coming into the game and he equaled that number tonight. He may have missed out on another also due to a defensive holding call. Both sacks he was involved in came from the left side where T.J. Watt usually plays. He has six tackles and a tackle for a loss as well. Sutton finished with ten tackles, an interception, a pass break up and a tackle for a loss. The defense gave up a ton of yards and point but they were bright spots.
9. Habit Formed – Claypool was wide open on three plays. On two of those plays he ended up on the ground when he probably didn’t need to be. On the second drive he caught a deep ball that he jumped for that he caught at his sternum. If he stays on his feet I think he could have scored. Later in the game he was wide open on the sideline and caught the ball falling back. Maybe he is used to contact coming and expecting to be hit but he and the team are losing out on yards because he is on the ground too much after the catch.
10. Cheat Off Your Neighbors Paper – I’m still wondering how to fix the red zone issues. This has been going on for too long. My suggestion is to throw out all the stuff they have now and steal from someone else. Have someone go through all the tape of the other teams from the last few weeks and find all the successful plays and run those. It really can’t be any worse. Put them all in a bowl and when they get into the red zone just pull one out and run it.