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 – Kansas City
1. I Know How You Feel, Skip – There’s a moment in the movie Bull Durham where the skipper is giving the team a talking-too. He asks the assistant coach, “What is our record?” They were 8-16. To which Skip responds, “Eight… and sixteen. How’d we ever win eight?” That is what I have been asking myself lately. How did this Steelers team win 7 games and still be in the playoff hunt? No touchdowns in the first half the last five games. Hadn’t been done in eighty years. Can’t run the ball. Can’t stop the run. “It’s a miracle.”
2. Who Are You Fooling? – Fourth quarter you’re down thirty and you run a play action fake not only to the running back but on an end around as well? Do you think the defense cares if you run the ball? There are calls that can be questioned every week but that may be the worst all season. I’ve been trying to give Matt Canada the benefit of the doubt this year. Maybe his results would be better with an improvement in personnel. But that call shows me you don’t know what you’re doing.
3. Followed the Book – The defensive game plan was sound. It is what other teams have done keeping the safeties deep, don’t blitz and keep everything in front of you. The Steelers just don’t have the defensive pieces to handle the speed and athleticism of the Chiefs and that was with Tyreek Hill making just two receptions and Travis Kelce out. Not having Chris Wormley, Devin Bush and others didn’t help but it probably wouldn’t have made much of difference.
4. Good Highlights – These takes will mostly be negative so let’s point out a few positives. Robert Spillane set a career high for tackles in a game with 13. Isaiahh Loudermilk after setting a new high in tackles last week did it again with 6. Zach Gentry (4) and Cody White (3) with a career high in receptions. Corliss Waitman made his NFL debut and had two punts that averaged 60.5 yards. Gusting winds may have helped but that’s pretty good.
5. He’s Learning – I have to give Chase Claypool some credit. After some selfish moments on the field he said he needed to do better. Over the last two games I don’t believe he has celebrated making a normal reception. He gets up and heads back to the huddle. This leads to the next fix. I’m pretty sure he fell down after every target that came has way. I’ve seen him get yards after the catch on some slants but the majority of the time there’s nothing. He needs to stay upright and add after the catch.
6. Methodical, Not Timely – Down 33 points the Steelers finally had a touchdown drive. A six minute and forty-seven second drive that started with five running plays and had no passes longer than six yards until the actual touchdown pass that was against Man zero coverage. No effort whatsoever to push the ball at all. At that point, there was no way Ben Roethlisberger was going to take another hit so that is what they provided. If you don’t want to get hit, get some rest. Let someone else try.
7. More Matt Mistakes – Fourth and one on the two minute drive and you call for a running play to the outside? Clearly he has not watched this offense all season. Again, you’re pressed for time and you want to move the ball quickly downfield, right? I mean that’s what the two minute offense is supposed to do. The running game has been BAD all year. If (and it’s a big IF) you’re going to run it, it should be the shortest distance to the first down.
8. Four-gotten Wides – Remember back to former offenses and think back to the fun times when the Steelers would use four wide receivers at the same time. I enjoyed that. It was a nice wrinkle to use. I don’t think they tried it in this game and through the first fourteen games they haven’t use it at all. For a team that is setting the standards for offensive futility wouldn’t you literally try everything?
9. Bad Ben Was Back – He started the season slowly but played better during the middle. Now he has been reverting back to the guy who hurries the ball and lacks footwork. At least a couple times a week he looks to be flustered and rushing the ball. Last week he had a two handed chest pass. The week he rushed a throw, didn’t set his feet and threw an interception. In the red zone on two consecutive out passes, he threw it behind the receivers. The end is near and I will appreciate everything he has done as a professional but it’s hard to watch sometimes. I hope he can finish on a high note.
10. Mess In The Middle – The offensive line as a whole has been subpar. Improvement is needed across the board but the interior has been the weakest link each week. The loss of the promising Kevin Dotson was a rough one. They have used six different players at that position leading to lack of consistency. Kendrick Green has really struggled but rookies will do that. He’s still learning how to play the position at the NFL level. I can hope he will get better. Trai Turner has been the worst of the bunch. He has been a liability all season and it’s worse lately. Who would have guessed Chukwuma Okorafor would be the most consistent lineman every week?