The Pittsburgh Steelers entered Week 6 hoping to crack through the win column for the first time since December 30th of last year. The team was able to do ‘enough’ while also shaking off some demons in the process of defeating the Jets 19-6 in Jersey. Some things were good, some things were bad, and some things were ugly. Let’s get to it.
The W: At a time of fragility for the Steelers and their fans, a win is always a good thing – no matter how ugly things might get. The Steelers did ‘just enough’ in most areas to pull out a win. They took over control of the game in the second half and did not allow the Jets to score. Many players felt good after the game, and they should – it was a hard fought win, but there is certainly more work to be done.
First turnover(s): The Steelers went 18 quarters in the regular season this season without a turnover. They were the last team in the league to cause a defensive turnover, and by the end of the second half, it looked as if it could be another two quarters. However, the Steelers D put themselves in the right positions on the field and caused not one but TWO turnovers in the second half. Both turnovers were interceptions and were the result of pressure on Geno Smith forcing the ball/making poor throws. Ryan Clark (thanks for showing up with your play and not your mouth) snagged one in the third quarter with the Jets driving and looking to score, and Lawrence Timmons nabbed the other INT on a really poor throw from Smith after some good pressure from the OLB’s while again, the Jets were close to another score.
Health Miller: I think it is safe to say that Heath Miller is BACK. Miller caught six passes for 84 yards with his longest being for 31. Miller certainly is not holding back after catching the ball. He is running at full speed and makes no hesitation in lowering the shoulder and punishing anyone attempting to tackle the big TE. Miller may not have quite the season the Adrian Peterson had after a similar injury and subsequent recovery last season, but Steeler Nation should be heaving a collective sigh of relief knowing that HEEEEEEAAAAAAAATH can resume being Big Ben’s favorite and dependable target.
The running game: I guess we were all wrong when we thought that the O-line combo of a bunch of young guys and a new run blocking scheme would pay huge dividends. The running game continues to struggle even with the emergence of Le’Veon Bell. The team ran collectively for 73 yards staying on par with their dismal rank of 31st in the league. The blocking can’t open up lanes and with no bruiser of a back, the offense can’t even bowl forward for three yards. The offense averaged 2.8 yards per carry and only gained three first downs via rushing the ball. That kind of efficiency (or lack thereof) puts the offense in a bind on third down. This is something that needs to improve, but it looks foolish to expect an vast improvement this season.
The officials: I don’t like to be too critical of the refs. A game should never be won or lost due to the refs, and I’m always of the philosophy that a team should never put themselves in a position where the win or loss comes down to a call by the refs. However, when your team is 0-4, every call that gets botched really pisses me off. Firstly, the offensive line has a difficult time as it is in keeping Ben Roethlisberger protected in the pocket. And perhpas, they’ve garnered a reputation for that and refs look to call penalties because of that – is that such a thing even? There was a pretty ticky tack call on Beachum that stalled a drive and really got me peeved. If the refs are going to call that, then they sure as heck better call it on the other side… which they didn’t.
The other call that was really bad was the botched clock management at the end of the first half. With under a minute left, the Jets were driving down the field while dinking and dunking the ball and no timeouts with :17 left. However, Geno Smith hit Stephen Hill with a 20 yard pass near the sidelines. Troy Polamalu sent Hill into next week with a huge clean and legal hit. The clock stopped for two reasons: 1) Hill was down and out for a few seconds and 2) The booth, while under two minutes, wanted to review that catch again because it looked like he might have touched the sideline with his forearm before he was deemed ‘in bounds’ for the catch. Ok so here’s the deal, the catch had to be in bounds and then tackled by Polamalu. Any other interpretation would have meant that the pass was incomplete (the forearm hit out of bounds first). If the clock was stopped due to the review of the catch, then the clock should have started again once the ball was placed at the hash. It wasn’t. The clock did not start again until the ball was snapped. But, Craig? What if they clock was stopped for the ‘injury’ first? Isn’t there a ‘fourth timeout rule’? Indeed there is, and it says this:
A fourth time out is allowed without penalty for an injured player . . if the clock was running and the score is tied or the team in possession is losing, the ball cannot be put in play for at least 10 seconds on the fourth or more time out.
The clock was running (Hill tackled in bounds) AND the team in possession is losing. So, there should have been a ten second run off plus starting the clock once the ball was placed – which would have ended the half. Instead, Nick Folks came out and kicked a field goal, closing the gap to 9-6. Grant it, the turn of events did not effect the outcome of the game. However, the Steelers up to that point were struggling like crazy with their offense. Those three points could have been huge by the end of the game. Besides, it seems a fairly easy ruling that the refs should have gotten right. Even if the clock stopped due to the review, the refs should have started time again – thus putting pressure on the Jets to at least get the snap off quickly for the kick.
Antonio Brown fair catches: Hey for all those peopel that say AB is having a great season, I hope you just mean from a WR standpoint. And I hope you aren’t including all those times he wusses out and falls to the ground before being hit after a catch. As a return man, Brown is terrible right now. Brown was kicked to four times. He fair caught twice and ran one for 11 yards (meh) and one for 6 yards (bigger meh). It’s the fair catches that are UGLY. There was not a defender within 10 yards of him during the second fair catch, and I just about threw my Iron City at my TV. I understand needing to protect the ball and field position – but that’s when defenders are very close to you. He had a good shot at a decent run back and signaled for a fair catch. Collectively, he’s done that often this season. If he is going to be the Steelers return man, then he needs to get the cajones to catch that ball and run with it down the field. He’s a far cry from the return man he was a year ago. I know that he really shouldn’t be returning the ball anyways since he’s our ‘#1 receiver.’ But if the coaches put him out there to do it, then he needs to do his job.
Soft D at end of 1st half: The Jets offense at end of half with under a minute to go – 7 plays, 51 yards, 3 points. Enough said.
Ryan Clark’s mouth: Dejan Kovacevic of the StarTribLive wrote a nice little piece about yesterday’s game and said something everyone in Steeler Nation should be screaming to safety Ryan Clark: ‘…it’s probably most imperative that they simply shut up and keep progressing.’ I hope Clark takes that advice. His comments about Big Ben were divisive and stupid and simply wrong in his assessment. He didn’t say anything during the game, and he really didn’t say much after the game, but I wonder how our own little ‘media wench’ Clark felt after Big Ben made some big plays? A great pass to E. Sanders for a touchdown. His ability to scramble and avoid tackles saved a safety. More scrambling led to some good gains. So yeah, shut up Clark – even if you tried to walk back on your statements. Keep focusing on playing safety and picking off passes like you did on Sunday.