Steelers Turning Point: Slow Start Leaves Steelers With No Chance

JuJu Reaction

Following each game in the 2021 Steelers season, I will be highlighting the play or event in the game that is the turning point. These aren’t meant to be anything Earth-shattering, but meant to take a deeper look at how we arrived at the outcome of the game that may be hard to see during the first live watch.

The Steelers gave us a little hope Sunday night against the Kansas City Chiefs. Coming into the game, many had completely written off the 9-7-1 team from the Steel City going up against one of, if not, the hottest team in the NFL. Even after losing to the Chiefs a short three weeks prior, 36-10, many were still optimistic that the underdog mentality would light a fire underneath this Pittsburgh Steelers team.

Coming out of the gate, it certainly seemed like the stars may be aligning. However, those stars only aligned on one side of the football.

When the Steelers won the toss and chose to take the ball, one may assume that they had a new gameplan from what they’ve put on film the last 17 games. You know what they say about assuming, though.

The offense looked as discombobulated as it had the rest of the season, with no real identity or purpose (unless that identity is hopelessly throwing deep balls outside the numbers).

The defense, on the other hand, came out with their heads on fire. Playing against the league-leading first-quarter offense, it looked like the Steelers’ defense brought the ol’ steel curtain along with them to Arrowhead Stadium.

The Chiefs’ first five offensive drives resulted in the following:

  • 3 plays, 2 yards – PUNT
  • 4 plays, 29 yards – PUNT
  • 1 play, 0 yards, INTERCEPTION
  • 9 plays, 29 yards, PUNT
  • 2 plays, 12 yards, FUMBLE TOUCHDOWN

It was the perfect storm for this outmanned and outgunned Steelers team to get themselves into a grind-it-out game. The problem was they simply had zero, and I mean ZERO, bullets on offense.

Once the defense gave up its first touchdown directly after scoring one of their own, it was time for the offense to finally step up and do its job. Take a little pressure off of this defense carrying the weight of the entire team.

Narrator: “They would not.”

The drive would start off with a deep shot to Chase Claypool that was an equally poor throw as it was at an attempt of a catch.

Ben Roethlisberger was pressured off the edge as Najee Harris was bull-rushed into his QB’s lap, causing Roethlisberger to throw off his back foot.


Claypool got a decent inside release, and if Roethlisberger could get about 10 more yards behind this throw, they might be in business. Instead, Claypool has to slow down and try to come back to the ball.

However, Claypool isn’t completely innocent either in this. Below was my live reaction, and it still hasn’t changed after seeing all the different angles.

Claypool is a big-bodied receiver that plays like he is 5’9″ when the ball is in the air.

This is what Claypool looked like at the catch point. Simply put, you’re not going to catch many passes like this. As I said in the tweet, he has to time his jump and extend his hands away from his body attacking the ball at its highest point, but he isn’t confident enough in his ability to do so, leaving this as his natural reaction.

This not only adds distance to the throw allowing the defensive back all the room in the world to break up the pass, but completely eliminates the chance of a pass interference call.

Instead? You end up with nothing.

The next play, Najee Harris does what he does best, creating extra yardage when not much is there.


His eight-yard rumble would make it third and short for this offense.

The circus, that is this offense, was ready to pull off its final act, choosing to run an RPO look with Diontae Johnson on a slant.

The cover-2 corner lunges and whiffs at Johnson, and he’s able to slip underneath the over-expanding linebacker. Unfortunately, Johnson chose this as the time to pull out his second untimely drop of the game.

You could noticeably see and feel the momentum leave the entirety of the Steelers team after this play. Take a look at the reactions of the entire offense above and the reaction from JuJu Smith-Schuster below.

I’m not here to say Diontae Johnson was the reason they lost this game.

Who’s to say they even have another first down if he does catch this ball?

It was really a microcosm of the ineptitude of this team on the offensive side of the ball, not just this first half, but the entire season.

You’ll be hard-pressed to find many playoff wins, against one of the league’s best offenses, when your first half consists of seven drives and seven punts.

By the time they kicked it into gear, the game had already sprinted past them, literally and figuratively.

What did you feel was the turning point of the game? Leave your thoughts and comments below!

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