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 – Detroit Lions
1. Ugly As It Gets – There was hope early after a very good drive to start the game. Against a team without a win you jump out to an early lead and the expectation, even with a backup quarterback, is you should be able to get a win at home. There was rain, injuries, extremely poor tackling, big returns given up on special teams, dropped passes, turnovers, dropped potential interceptions, bad snaps and bad penalties. I guess we should be happy the Lions missed an extra point to gift wrap the tie. Ties should be outlawed.
2. Fire Or Float – Mason Rudolph was forced to start this week and he was not good. There were several high throws, several near interceptions, nearly no movement in his feet and even a couple ducks thrown. He came to the game today with only two pitches in his arsenal. He either threw the fastball with too much velocity or he threw the change up that just floated like a child’s lost balloon. It was nice to see he trusted his receivers to make a play but he was trustworthy almost to a fault. The one good thing he did was scramble well.
3. Buggs In Your Teeth – Injuries have forced the defensive to use different players along the defensive line and Isaiah Buggs is starting to develop into a pretty good player against the run in year three. He has flashed a couple times in previous games and against Detroit he tied a career high with 5 tackles. He only had 11 total coming into the game. The run defense was pretty bad for most of the game but as Detroit ran the ball repeatedly into the teeth of the defense he made some plays.
4. Upping The Level Of Difficulty – Anytime you’re without your starting quarterback the game is going be more difficult to win. But how about without your quarterback and starting left guard. Quarterback, left guard and left corner. Quarterback, left guard, cornerback and right guard. Quarterback, left guard, cornerback, right guard and outside linebacker. Losing four starters in one game is ridiculously bad odds. Hard to win under those conditions. Hopefully none are serious or season ending.
5. History Repeating – For the second week in a row the Steelers had a first and goal situation and did not run the ball once. The team emphasized running the ball more this year and you get within twenty feet of the end zone and it’s all throws. They tried to run the ball every other place on the field. Najee Harris has proven himself to be adept at finding gaps and getting in the end zone. Hand it off, Man. Give it a try.
6. A Little Soft In The Middle – The defense came to play early in the game. They were fast and swarming to the ball and were pumped up celebrating every tackle. And then they weren’t. The run defense was gashed from that point to the end of the third quarter to the tune of over two hundred yards rushing. They stepped it up in the fourth quarter and after but what happened in the middle? Why so slow to adjust? Why were the linebackers not getting to their gaps and filling holes? Why was the tackling so bad? I miss Vince Williams.
7. You Knew It Was Coming – I was having flashbacks of last season. There were several snaps in this game that were fired back high and hot to Rudolph but he was able to handle most of them. Then in overtime it happened. The snap over the head of Rudolph. We have seen this far too many times over the last two and half years. Prior to this game the shotgun snaps was not an issue for Kendrick Green. What was the cause of his several misfires today? I really hope this was a fluke and we can blame it on the rain.
8. Need More From The Others – Cam Heyward and T.J. Watt make plays every week and today they combined for ten tackles, three sacks and four tackles for a loss. Others need to start contributing more and Terrell Edmunds made some plays today. He broke up a pass early in the game, had two tackles for a loss and sack in overtime to help set up the last drive. He’s quietly playing well and is third on the team in tackles. If Watt is out for a period of time they’re going to need Edmunds to make more plays.
9. Don’t Listen To Them – There will be growing pains with rookies and punters are not excluded. Pressley Harvin has had some consistency issues but he has done a very good job of putting the ball inside the twenty. He had 14 such punts coming in and three today. There was one punt that he landed inside the five that could have been downed with better play from the coverage team. Cody White got duped by the returner thinking the ball was falling behind him near the sideline rather than finding the ball and going to it. A similar play happened last week as well. They punt coverage team needs to take advantage to pin the other teams deep more consistently.
10. The One That Got Away – They needed this win. The schedule the rest of the way is not favorable. As of this writing the Steelers future opponents have a combined 43-29 record and five of those games are on the road. The four divisional games the rest of the way become huge. If they beat Detroit and get to six wins you could have hoped to go .500 and maybe make the playoffs. Now they may have to win the division with 12 teams with records above .500 in the AFC. Since I last wondered about where the wins would come from on the schedule the team went 4-0-1. Maybe it’ll work again.