After watching the Steelers hold on for dear life (again) in a heart-stopping game against the Vikings, I was left wondering whether the Steelers won with skill or luck. I'll take either as long as it results in a victory.
Although the defense stepped up and made two huge plays to cement the victory, the offense, defense and special teams have a lot of bolt-tightening to do during their bye week in order to get ready for another huge matchup against the Denver Broncos in two weeks.
The offense continued to look listless through long stretches of the game. There was no rhythm to the play-calling and Arians still gets much too pass happy especially in critical situations.
Mendenhall was averaging nearly seven yards per carry but only had 10 carries THE ENTIRE GAME! If the running game is working, stick with it early and then use the play-action pass to burn the defense as they cheat up to the line of scrimmage.
The Steelers got 1st-and-goal and called three straight pass plays after Mendy ran them all the way down there. At least TRY a running play, please!
Dick Lebeau continued his strange play-calling philosophy of playing a soft zone and allowing opposing quarterbacks to pick the secondary apart. The Steelers allowed too many long drives and they continued to fail to get off the field on third downs. Especially frustrating is their inability to stop 3rd-and-long.
At one point, Favre connected on a first down pass to Rice on a 3rd-and-18. Please, call some tighter coverages on those long down and distances because allowing a receiver to catch the ball past the line of gain makes no sense.
Mendenhall must hold onto the ball. He may be running, catching and blocking brilliantly, but as great as his play has been, it's all for naught if he continues to turn the ball over. He might have endangered his current role as starting running back with that last fumble.
Mike Tomlin better hold a very one-sided meeting with the special teams unit during the bye week. Although I have serious questions about Tomlin's decision-making for kicking off to Joshua Cribbs and Percy Harvin the past two weeks after gaining the momentum, it is still the responsibility of the special teams unit to make tackles.
I do think that Tomlin should also look in the mirror and ask himself why he decided to put the ball into the hands of one of the Vikings' most dangerous play-makers with a 10-point lead late in the fourth quarter.
The good news for Steelers nation is that all of these issues are easily correctable. As a matter of fact, I would contend that 90 percent of the problems are due to a lack of mental discipline on the part of the players and the decision-making of the coaches. At least we are no longer talking about the ineptitude of the offensive line.
I thought they played another brilliant game today against a very aggressive Vikings defense.
The Steelers have placed themselves in playoff contention with a 5-2 record going into their bye and they have a ton of momentum after beating the previously undefeated Vikings. If they just fine-tune some areas of concern and convince Arians that there is no rule in the NFL against calling two running plays in a row, I think they will come out of their bye as one of the favorites in the AFC.