Tom’s Ten Takes: Steelers vs Buccaneers

Following each game in the 2022 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.

Thank you to Joe Clark for covering for me last week.

Game 6 – Tampa Bay Buccaneers

1. I Was Feeling Deflated – When Tom Brady “unretired” I was not happy. I thought we were done losing to him. Living in New England and having to listen to how gawdlike Tawmy Brady was sickening. Nothing this season pointed to the Steelers winning this game. There were a lot of thinks that went well. There were a whole heap of bad things that continually gave Tampa extra chances. But a win is a win and it feels pretty good to see that losing streak end. You can retire now, Tommy.

2. Teryl-fic Game Plan – Who needs the Defensive Player of the Year? Who needs all the starting cornerbacks? Not Teryl Austin! This defense was put together with bubble gum and duct tape and played really well. It starts up front with the pressure they were able to get early. They had Brady rushing his process leading to multiple throws in the dirt. They perfected the “bend but don’t break” defense halting the Buccaneers in the red zone multiple times. Great job by the whole defensive staff.

3. I Dreamt They Scored On the First Drive – I must’ve dozed off because that can’t be true. Kenny Pickett was perfect on the first drive going five for five with a touchdown. Equally important were his decision making, getting the ball out quickly and beating the blitz a couple times keeping the drive moving. He also had a big scramble. The opening drive has been an Achilles heel for several years. It’s just one game but it is encouraging to see.

4. Canada Leads Team to Three Point Drive – Unfortunately, it was the wrong team. What the heck was he doing at the end of the first half? When you get the ball at the end of the half with nearly three minutes you’re looking to get the ball down the field and score. There was 2:42 left in the second quarter, Tampa having two time outs and the ball on the 26 yard line. He starts with a run. Really?! Throw the ball, Matt! No, they go three and out. Then with: 46 seconds and worse field position at the 14 he decides to throw. That is where you run out the clock. Baffling choices by Canada. That is an evergreen comment.

5. Yes, Waiter. I’ll Have the Crow, please. – I have done more than my share of Chase Claypool bashing. A couple weeks ago I suggested there should be competition for his job. He sure showed me. He had his most yards receiving since week five last year. Seven targets and seven receptions. Just the fifth time he has had seven or more receptions in his career. Two of those receptions were HUGE third down conversion on the final drive. Like the opening touchdown this is just one game but hopefully a step in the right direction.

6. This Offense Doesn’t Make You Want to YAC – The majority of the throws are outside the numbers. It was 67% last week and I’d expect similar numbers this week. Those routes are mostly Out and Comeback routes. When the receiver is moving toward the sideline or back toward the line of scrimmage it severely limits opportunities for yards after the catch. You rarely see routes going across the formation and even less likely to seen the ball throw there. Tampa adjusted about midway through the second quarter sitting on those Comeback routes. More variety is needed to improve.

7. Who Did You Expect? – On your explosive play bingo card if you had Steven Sims and Connor Heyward, you win! Sims is making the most of his opportunity on special teams finishing with 135 total return yards including and 89 yard kick return. Only Jamel Dean and his 4.30 speed along with Canada prevented a touchdown on that drive. On basically a free play for the offense Heyward was left wide open for a 45 yard gain. Of course it would be him with the big play. And he now has four catches the last two games. Watch for more three tight end sets when Pat Freiermuth comes back with throws out of those sets.

8. Eight Men Out – I’ve seen this a few times this year and I can say I’m not a fan. The Steelers will keep eight men in to protect the quarterback putting just two receivers in the route with no check down option. In this game it ended in a sack. Couple this with deeper routes and if the coverage is good, the quarterback has nowhere to go with the ball. If you’re going to use that protection run it with play action and hit the receiver quick with a slant or crossing route. Have either a tight end or back release after an initial block to create a third option.

9. 2.7 Barely Registers on the Richter Scale – This will be an overall running game take. A 2.7 yard per carry average isn’t gonna cut it. If I never see a wide receiver run a jet/fly/sweep/reverse again this season I will be a happy guy. Four receivers, five carries for 12 yards. Blech! Jaylen Warren who we were told would see a bigger role in the offense had 2 touches for 2 yards. They do seem to trust him on short yardage. Strange for a rookie but he’s having success. Too many runs to the outside for my liking. Lastly, I’m worried about Najee Harris. Maybe the toe is still bothering him but he has no burst. He is also a knee injury waiting to happen with how high he runs. There is so much twisting happening at the tackle point because he doesn’t go down.

10. Coverage Backers – With all the defensive back injuries someone had to make the plays. The Steelers linebackers collectively made some plays in the passing game. Myles Jack, Malik Reed, Robert Spillane and Alex Highsmith were all credited with pass break ups. The much maligned Devin Bush had the biggest one of them all breaking up the play on the two point conversion to avoid the tie score. They did a solid job on the tight ends and running backs forcing some small windows in which to throw.

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