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Tom’s Ten Takes: Steelers Vs Titans

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.

Week 15

Opponent – Tennessee Titans

1. Twelve Solo Tackles – How much worse would this defense be without Minkah Fitzpatrick? As the back end or the defense he needs to make the biggest tackles keep big plays from being touchdowns. Fourteen tackles overall versus Tennessee and twelve solo. That’s not easy to do.  In the last four games he has 38 tackles, 27 solo tackles and two interceptions.  He may have had some struggles early in the season but he’s the most consistent tackler on the back of the defense. Big time players step up when it’s really needed.

2. Eleven Underperforming – This year has been up and down. Heck, each game has been up and down but today’s offense might take the cake. They managed just 133 yards in the passing game and 35 on the ground. They were 2 for 11 on third down conversions. They gave up three more sacks. Twenty-five percent of their first downs came on penalties. It’s been a season long struggle on offense that has just gotten worse as the season progressed.

3. Ten DB’s Tackling – I wonder how many fewer yards the other teams would gain if all of the defensive backs tackled low. Tackling is a lost art in today’s game. Pretty much everyone aims above the waste and they get dragged by just about any runner. Mike Hilton did it well tackling low. Just commit to it for the next three weeks and we’ll see how it goes. Also, if they would concentrate on make the stop instead of worrying about jumping up quickly and signaling its fourth down that would be great. Yeah.

4. Nine First Down Runs – Starting at 3:04 left in the third quarter the Titans ran the ball nine times on first down. They gained 73 yards on those runs for and 8.1 yards average. In the game they gave up 201 rushing yards total. However, I felt the run defense looked better in the first half but a combination of the Titans controlling the ball for two thirds of the game and the defense not being able to get off the field led to the late numbers. It’s a baby step of improvement but I’ll take it.

5. Eight Loudermilk-ing – For the Rookie Report, I get to watch every rookie snap closely and the improvement from Isaiahh Loudermilk is starting to pour through. The best part of his game right now is his run defense and that is obviously sorely needed. He had a career high four tackles in this game using strength and agility to shed blockers and to make plays.  If he can develop a pass rush he could become an impressive draft find.

6. Seven Takes A Beating – I think at times Ben Roethlisberger has to be thinking I should have retired last year. He is as tough as they come at the position but he has been getting pummeled the last two weeks.  He has been sacked eight times, got shoved down unnecessarily by a defensive tackle and then took a shot to his knee late in the game. And probably for the first time since the NFL formed he has two quarterback sneaks.  Fill the ice tub, fellas.

7. Six Possible Turnovers – Let’s be honest. The five fumbles and interception where what kept the Steelers in this game. The one forced by Arthur Maulet set up Chris Boswell’s first field goal. The one forced by Cam Sutton led to a field goal that tied the game. In season addition Taco Charlton deflects a pass that Joe Schobert intercepts and leads to a field goal. Then Ryan Tannehill gift wrapped one when he mishandled the snap.  The result a go ahead field goal. Then Derek Tuszka made his biggest play of the season with a late fourth quarter strip that helped the final drive. It is the season of giving and the Titans were generous.

8. Five Guys Not Blocking – One of things I liked about this team last year was the effort and effectiveness of the blocking of the wide receivers. All that is gone.  On the majority of the plays when someone else has the ball the entire wide receiver group is standing around watching. They aren’t hustling to try and help with a block downfield.  They aren’t executing run blocks. That is part of the reason why Najee Harris and Pat Freiermuth are hit by four and five guys every time they touch the ball. The play doesn’t end if you don’t get the ball. Don’t be a receiver, be a football player.

9. Four Second Down Runs – A quick look at the play-by-play and I see the Steelers with four second down runs all in the second half. Second and three they got two. Second and goal, no gain. Second and two, minus three yards. Second and four, minus five yards. I’m sure you can do worse but four carries for minus six yards is completely unacceptable. Could they be tipping their hand? Whether through air or on the ground the always seem to be short of the line to gain.

10. Three Plays To Score, Two Quarterback Sneaks, One Darn Yard – C’mon, Man. We’re talking about one yard.  Three feet.  The red zone offense has had its issues whether they are trying to run or when the offensive coordinator refuses to run it.  Execution is lacking throughout the offense but when they need to get one yard it should be a little bit easier.  I’ve suggested using other teams plays in the past but I didn’t think they would copy the Titans using the quarterback sneak.

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