It looked as though the Pittsburgh Steelers offense was finally picking up some steam, some momentum, turning the corner, whatever you want to call it during the fourth quarter of Sunday’s game. If they had indeed, then they’d lost every ounce of it somewhere between Pittsburgh and Minneapolis.
While they ended up with 28 points before all was said and done, the offense put up a goose egg in the first half—although they did attempt a 49-yard field goal that Chris Boswell uncharacteristically missed. And they were down 29-0.
The first half was particularly brutal for the offensive line, which repeatedly allowed Najee Harris to get hit in the backfield and could not protect Ben Roethlisberger. The Vikings’ zone blitz approach continually fooled their protection scheme, blitzing to the weak side whenever they slid.
More than that, however, they were simply manhandled in the trenches for most of the game, a message head coach Mike Tomlin relayed to both them and to the media. “I don’t think that there’s any other way but to take it personally”, rookie left tackle Dan Moore Jr. said. “This is a reflection of us, so if we don’t respond to that, then that shows our character”.
A fourth-round pick out of Texas A&M, Moore has started every game this season along with fellow rookie center Kendrick Green. They have probably had more downs than ups, but they have played well enough, typically, to keep their jobs, albeit in large part due to a lack of quality competition.
This offensive line lost four starters from last season, two of whom are retired or potentially retired. The other two they have played in recent weeks with their new teams. With two rookie starters, one veteran free agent, and one second-year player stepping into a full-time role, the whole season has been growing pains.
They have played well in spurts, and typically better as the game moves along. They have had some good fourth quarters in recent weeks, though that is partly due to the game circumstances. Yesterday’s game, specifically the first half, however, was probably the worst they have looked all year.
There are only four games left in the regular season, and the Steelers are now 6-6-1, a game and a half out of a Wildcard spot, with the Chiefs, the Ravens, and the Titans still to play. The odds of them turning the corner before next season are close to nil.
It’s an unfortunate reality. But there may be something to build from going into next season, and late-game showings like today are somewhat encouraging. It’s about “just guys coming together”, Moore said. “We came together in the second half; I just think we need to start faster, and start faster on the road, specifically”.
Too little, too late, unfortunately. They at least took it down to the wire, and even had a touchdown ball in a receiver’s hands as time expired in a one-possession game.