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.
Game 15 – Las Vegas Raiders
1. Outstanding Performance Goes To… – The defense. On a night where the offense struggled. On a night where Chris Boswell, who’s as good as it comes, missed twice. The defense came to play. Shutting out the Raiders offense in the second half. Picking off three passes in the second half. It’s not a surprise that Cameron Heyward led the way. When they needed a stop he was there. He had two sacks. Three tackles for a loss. The dude was a monster the entire night.
2. Flag Free Football – Games are much more enjoyable when the referees aren’t throwing flags constantly. In the NFL, the average number of flags in a game is usually in the teens. There were only five accepted penalties in the game. None in the first half. Did these two teams magically execute so well that there was no reason to throw a flag? I doubt it. Did the weather have something to do with it? Is it possible the referees decided that with the weather being so cold, there was no reason to make the game any longer? Or was it just a Christmas miracle? Whatever the reason, I’ll take it.
3. KP Doody – Ups and downs are going to happen for rookies. Kenny Pickett looked very shaky in this game. He looked indecisive and unwilling to pull the trigger at times. At least a half a dozen times he left the pocket too early, with half of those ending up with him throwing the ball out of bounds. When he did throw the ball the vast majority was outside the numbers. The two drops probably didn’t help his confidence. The final drive was adequate. Seven of his nine passes were check downs so those were solid decisions. I would expect to see more from him this late in the season.
4. Spil-Lane Filler– His season high coming into this game was seven. He did that three times. He finished this game with 12. Twelve tackles in this game and he was doing it by attacking the run. Half of those tackle were for a gain of three yards or less and one for a loss of four. Much like Cam Heyward it seemed like Robert Spillane was playing with a little Grinch in this game. In the passing game I would like to see him focus more on the tackle than trying to punch the ball out. This usually gives up more yards. He’s doing it because the linebackers have not been making splash plays but just concentrate on getting the guy down and limit the gain. Good showing by Spillane.
5. Throw Them the D*$% Ball – It’s not just me, right? You expect more from this offense, right? Pat Freiermuth, Diontae Johnson and George Pickens combined for 17 receptions on 20 targets. Two of those three incompletions were drops. So 19 of 20 balls should have been caught. The other incompletion was to a wide open Johnson thrown high and behind him. These guys can make plays. Why does it take 20 minutes of game time to get Freiermuth the ball? Why does it take 23 minutes to get Pickens the ball? Let them make plays. Canada needs to worry less about motion and more about the potion to get this offense clicking.
6. Can They Get One of Those? – The slot wide receiver has been a mess since JuJu Smith-Schuster left. They are getting next to nothing out of those players. They need a Hunter Renfrow. A player who excels at route running, getting open and catching the ball. Renfrow isn’t that fast. He ran a 4.59 40 coming out of college. He’s not big at 5’10”, 185 pounds. He doesn’t produce big numbers but he does produce first downs. He moves the chains and keeps drives going. As a bonus he returns punts too. The Steelers need to find them a Renfrow.
7. Maxximum Effort? – I would love to know what the thinking was by the offensive coaches when they decided to not worry about blocking the Raiders best defender. Maxx Crosby is an outstanding edge defender. The Steelers thought, “We don’t need to block him all the time”. And if we do, we’ll just use a tight end. He was in the backfield on several running plays. He recorded four hits on the quarterback. What were they thinking? I wish other teams would do that to T.J. Watt.
8. 2% Milk – After this win, the Steelers now have a two percent chance of making the playoffs. In the spirit of the season, it invokes the image of Lloyd Christmas saying, “So you’re telling me there’s a chance. YEAH!” Midway through the season you tell me with two weeks left they would have a chance at the playoffs I would have had you committed. But there is a chance albeit very small. So are you buying the milk or has this season spoiled your taste on this season? They play just about everyone tough. I would love to see them make it.
9. Safe and Snore – There is no excitement to this offense. It is really difficult to watch and enjoy. You turn on the Red Zone earlier in the day and see a lot of the same plays Pittsburgh runs. They just don’t run it on repeat like your favorite song in middle school. When the Steeler had Chase Claypool they threw it downfield often. And he couldn’t catch it! Johnson and Pickens can catch it. We saw more shots downfield from Mitch Trubisky than Pickett. Why won’t Pickett take his shots? Did the early season interceptions squash his confidence? I don’t understand his hesitation.
10. Seeing Double – I only saw it once but tell me if you’ve seen it more. On one of the punt returns tonight, the Steelers had both Steven Sims and Gunner Olszewski back to return. Sims ended up making a fair catch on the play. Did they have some kind of trickeration planned? A reverse? A throwback? Has it come to this this that the offense is so lackluster that they are trying to rely on special teams to create a big play? It’s possible. I don’t feel confident of such a play but we shall see.