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Perspective Of An Average Steelers Fan: Steelers Loosen Up The Titans

GAME PRELUDE

I made a last-minute decision to attend the game. The cheapest single ticket sold for $70. But my wallet lightened by $85.06 after Ticketmaster takes it’s cut of the action. Still worth it to see the Steelers play with their backs against the wall for a playoff spot.

Prior to kickoff, I met Kevin Dotson’s father who said he was hopeful his son would be ready to play against Kansas City.

I also met artist Fred Carrow from Oil City. He decided to drive down for the game and give away free prints he made from his lithograph called “Big Ben Godsend.” Hit his link to visit his website to read about him and see his work,

I love meeting folks at Steelers games. Always some interesting stories. Steve Harlow also known as the YinzerElvis on twitter. He got his first season ticket when he was just 14 years old. He wrote the Steelers who called him to say there was an opening. When he told his mom, she said she wasn’t paying for it. So, Steve saved his money from his paper route to buy his season ticket back in 1994. He attended every home game except one up to the 2020 season. That was to attend his mother’s funeral. Steve said it was torture missing games in 2020. He is back at his usual post in the rotunda with his D-Fence sign formed with Terrible Towels. He’s on a new streak.

STEELERS OFFENSE

# Quarter Time LOS Plays Length Net Yds Result
FIRST HALF
1 1 15:00 PIT 25 4 1:37 18 Punt
2 1 11:16 PIT 35 3 1:06 4 Punt
3 1 7:41 PIT 25 3 1:34 -4 Punt
4 1 1:13 PIT 28 4 1:55 17 Punt
5 2 12:46 TEN 36 5 2:11 18 Field Goal
6 2 0:18 PIT 22 4 0:18 40 Missed FG
SECOND HALF
7 3 11:26 PIT 23 3 1:16 1 Punt
8 3 7:07 PIT 37 8 3:59 63 Touchdown
9 3 0:50 TEN 41 7 2:26 31 Field Goal
10 4 9:16 TEN 31 4 1:56 4 Field Goal
11 4 6:36 TEN 35 4 2:07 5 Field Goal
12 4 0:27 PIT 10 1 0:27 -1 End of Game

 

The Steelers punted on their first four possessions. A four field goals came off defensive takeaways. The Steelers did score a touchdown following a 63-yard drive but the offense ineffective. The three plays in 17 seconds at the end of the first half were exciting. But Chris Boswell came up just a yard short on the 56-yard field goal attempt. I just wish there were a little more time to bring the ball closer so the Steelers could finish the first half down by just a touchdown.

The offensive line simply could not open holes. It took the Steelers three tries to score from the one-yard line. Najee up the middle for no gain. Ben no gain on a sneak but finally getting across on his second try. The offenses main contribution was not turning the ball over, though a Tennessee penalty negated one turnover.

This play shows more than Ben tagged by a cheap shot. Notice Kendrick Green has lower leverage yet pancaked by the defensive linemen as Najee Harris has nowhere to go but sideways:

STEELERS DEFENSE

# Quarter Time LOS Plays Length Net Yds Result
FIRST HALF
1 1 13:23 TEN 30 3 2:07 2 Punt
2 1 10:10 PIT 25 6 2:29 25 Touchdown
3 1 6:07 TEN 47 11 4:54 45 Field Goal
4 2 14:18 TEN 15 3 1:32 13 Fumble
5 2 10:35 TEN 22 19 10:17 64 Field Goal
SECOND HALF
6 3 15:00 TEN 25 5 3:34 24 Punt
7 3 10:10 TEN 20 5 3:03 0 Punt
8 3 3:08 TEN 25 6 2:18 16 Fumble
9 4 13:24 TEN 25 7 4:08 33 Interception
10 4 7:20 TEN 25 2 0:44 10 Fumble
11 4 4:29 TEN 25 13 4:02 65 Downs

 

The Steelers defense held the Titans to a three and out to start the game. But a huge 55-yard punt return with a penalty adding ten yards gave Tennessee a truly short field. The defense gave up a first down on third and eight and the Titans score on the next play. The Titans extended the score to 13-3, but the defense did an excellent job keeping them out of endzone. Heyward and Watt combined to sack Tannehill on a third and four play from the four that forced the field goal.

Three Straight Takeaways

The defense gouged by the Titans rushing attack and receivers got open on play-action plays. But it was takeaways that characterized the defensive performance. Arthur Maulet forced a fumble recovered by Minkah Fitzpatrick leading to the Steelers first points of the game. In the second half three more. First, near end of third quarter, Cameron Sutton tackled Racey McMath, and Joe Haden fully extended to snatch the ball in the air. Steelers score three more.

Then on Titans very next possession, Taco Charlton tipped a Tannehill pass intercepted by Joe Schobert and another Pittsburgh field goal. Heinz Field rocks to Renegade before the kickoff. And then, Tannehill fumbles a bad snap that T.J. Watt recovers. And the Steelers go ahead 19-13.

Derek Tuszka strip sacked Tannehill to help set up a final fourth down. Joe Haden tackles the receiver and does not allow him to extend the ball. NFL officials tried to monkey around but the video evidence too clear. Although the ball marked near the nine-yard line, Haden prevented the receiver from reaching the ten. Game over.

SPECIAL TEAMS

I believe special teams are an underappreciated facet of the game where one big play can shift momentum or even decide the game winner.

I break special teams play into three phases: Kickoffs, punting, and field goals including extra point attempts. Here is an overview of the special teams play during the game:

KICKOFFS

Chris Boswell kicked off six times. Chester Rogers returned two for 21 and 19 yards but never got past the 25. The rest were touchbacks. Titan’s average starting position was their own 24.5-yard line.

Former Steeler Randy Bullock kicked off four times. The first two were touchbacks. Bullock kicked short and Ray-Ray McCloud returned the first 20 yards to the 28-yard line. The second only returned 18 yards to the 22. The Steelers average starting position was their own 25.

Nothing stood out to me on kickoffs. Everyone did their job with no flags but no big plays either.

THE STATS

Kickoffs KOs RTN TB OB IN25 Start Avg
Chris Boswell 6 2 4 0 1 Ten 24.5
Randy Bullock 4 2 2 0 1 PGH 25

 

Kickoff Returns KR Yds AVG Long Pen TD
Ray-Ray McCloud 2 38 19.0 20 0 0
Chester Rogers 2 40 20.0 21 0 0

 

Advantage Even.

PUNTING

Pressley Harvin III punted five times. He had an atrocious day. What I didn’t’ know is that his father is dying of a terminal disease and brought to game because he may not last long.

His first went out of bounds after traveling just 27 yards. Instead of pinning the Titans deep they get the ball at the 30. His second sailed 51 yards but returned 55 yards. Ulysees Gilbert saved the touchdown. But officials called James Pierre for a rare kicking team block in the back.

Titans score after getting the ball at the 25-yard line. Harvin punted another ball out of bounds for only 32 yards around midfield. He did force a fair catch at the Tennessee 15. James Pierre made up for his penalty by tackling Chester Rogers for a negative seven-yard punt return by forcing a fumble.

Brett Kern punted three times. Ray-Ray McCloud returned all three. The first returned 17 yards to the 35-yard line. McCloud fielded the next at the 12-yard line. Narrowly escaping a defender, he returned it to the 23. McCloud returned another 11 yards to the 37.

I appreciate the Steelers organization showing patience as Pressley Harvin works under the shadow of his father’s death looming. Ray-Ray did an outstanding job returning but overshadowed by Chester Roger’s big return that led to the Titans only touchdown. James Pierre came back nicely on the final punt.

THE STATS

Punting Punts AVG Net TB IN20 Long
Pressley Harvin 5 39.8 30.2 0 1 51
Brett Kern 3 47.7 34.7 0 0 54

 

Punt Returns PR Yds AVG FC OB/D Pen Long TD
Ray-Ray McCloud 3 39 13.0 0 0 1 17 0
Chester Rogers 2 48 24.0 1 2 0 55 0

 

Advantage Titans.

FIELD GOALS and EXTRA POINTS

Chris Boswell missed a 56-yard attempt at the end of the first half. But just a yard short on a very chilly day. His four field goals off turnovers proved the difference in this game.

Randy Bullock perfect but had chip shots compared to Boswell.

THE STATS

FGs and PATs XPM XPA FGM FGA Long 2PTM 2PTA
Chris Boswell 1 1 4 5 48 0 0
Randy Bullock 1 1 2 2 32 0 0

 

Advantage Steelers

DAVE BRYAN’S VICTORY PUNCH LIST

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

  1. Take advantage of Chase Claypool’s size over Buster Skrine. Only two passes targeted Claypool. A third intercepted but negated by an offsides penalty Mission failure.
  2. Hold the Titans rushing attack to less than 125 yards. Titans gain 2021 yards on the ground including 108 by D’Onta Foreman. Mission failure.
  3. Defense exploits Titan’s offense on third and six or longer. Ten of Titans thirds downs required six or more yards for first down. Only three resulted in first down. Plus, Steelers had takeaway and a sack on two of the plays. Mission accomplished.
  4. Throw quick passes to avoid Ben getting sacked or hit. Ben sacked three times. Titan defenders recorded only three QB hits on passing plays. Plus, the cheap shot after Ben handed off the ball on a running play. Overall respectable job keeping Ben clean. Mission accomplished.
  5. Use inside run schemes against the inside linebackers. Najee ran up the middle or off the guard on eight of his 12 rush attempts. Only one run successful and he failed to score from the one-yard line. Mission failure.

The Steelers accomplished two of five keys to victory. The key to this game was the turnover battle.

YOUR HOT TAKES DURING THE GAME

FIRST HALF READER COMMENTS

Thank you, Ross McCorkle, for keeping us up to date on the game’s first half Live Update and Discussion Thread. Steelers Depot respondents fell short of the standard with 817 first half comments.

The comment that landed on top as the “best” contributed by Rab. “Tomlin is the worst game manager I have ever seen. That is an amazingly boneheaded job of clock management. Go away Tomlin. It’s time.”

Solsunforge expanded on the clock management theme. “Tomlin is wild with not calling timeouts. Does he have strokes on the sideline. I’ve been a Tomlin supporter but it’s like anything he had in years past is just gone. No emotion terrible challenges clock management horrible. This dude needs to go back to William and Mary and coach. I can’t stand inefficiency.”

Doc Ellis D observed, “Our opponents make football look easy.” Hard to disagree with the Steelers down 13-3 at the half as Chris Boswell’s 56-yard field attempt falls just short. If only they had a little more time to bring the ball closer.

SECOND HALF READER COMMENTS

Steelers Depot respondents delivered 1136 comments during the second half live discussion. Depot respondents following the pattern established by the Steelers by pouring it on in the second half after poor output in the first half.

TheBus36 liked the Steelers chances late in the game. “One more TO and FG, and we’re good 👍”

Pat Knotts stated a truism for this season against the Steelers. “I would run every time if I was Tennessee.”

Titans driving for a go-ahead touchdown on third and eight. Solsunforge describes Joe Haden’s play. “That tackle was clutch clutch. It was perfect flawless of a tackle. It needs to be shown in the locker room over and over and over.”

Tom – Steelers All the Way! Sums it up. Well, I think that everyone should thank Joe Haden for being in the game today! He was HUGE!!!!”

CONCLUSION

I’ll take an ugly win over a pretty loss every time. The problems on offense begin and end on the line. Early snaps, false starts, and defenses bullying them all over the field does not offer optimism when visiting a very loud Arrowhead Stadium next Sunday. A big opening drive will silence the Chiefs fans.

The defense gouged by the running game and susceptible to play-action. T.J. Watt, Joe Haden, Minkah Fitzpatrick, and Cam Heyward all made big plays. Just as important were contributions by role players like Taco Charlton, Joe Schobert, and Arthur Maulet to takeaway the ball from the opposition. The Steelers need more of those to win.

Pressley Harvin’s punting and coverage lapse hurt badly. With an impotent offense, the Steelers can’t afford for special teams to give opponents advantageous field position. Chris Boswell is money.

UP NEXT

The Chiefs are up next. No time to let down despite the odds. Kansas City has a dynamite offense and an improved defense.

YOUR MUSIC SELECTION

I always like to offer a music selection. During the Steelers postgame show, I heard Stan Savran mention the Bee Gees and the Steelers staying alive. So apropos. As Steelers fans we know what it’s like to be kicked around since we were born. The Steelers getting kicked around this season, but they are still around. Here is Staying Alive by the Bee Gees.

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