Over the past day and a half there have been plenty of game reports, report cards, and grades for the team's performance. Most of those have a Steelers team grading in the B+ to C range depending on the part of the game or position you are looking at.
Having a different take on this, I find those grades hard to believe if you look at the score, statistics, and momentum of the game. In other words, you didn't have to watch this game to know what happened.
Let's start with the final score, a 19-16 overtime win that by any reasonable measure should have been a loss. If Steve Johnson doesn't drop a gimme touchdown pass at the end of the game, we're not talking about B's and C's, we're looking at a total panic.
The Steelers led 13-0 at halftime, and yet let the Bills come back with 13 unanswered points. This game should never been this close. What does it tell us about Pittsburgh?
1.) The yet again passive defensive philosophy allowed Ryan Fitzpatrick 265 yards in the air while only being sacked twice—no end seems in sight for the three and four-man pass rushes.
2.) The Steelers averaged 4.6 yards per rush for a total of 206 yards on the ground. Ben Roethlisberger completed 20 of 33 pass attempts, and the Steelers dominated time of possession 45:23 to 27:23. Here is the kicker: one rushing touchdown, zero passing touchdowns, and only one trip to the red zone the entire game! That's right on 83 offensive plays, one trip into the red zone.
3.) Again with the penalties. Including this week's obligatory joke call on James Harrison, the Steelers racked up 10 penalties for 107 yards.
Rashard Mendenhall had 151 yards, and Troy Polamalu had an interception—big deal.
Even on paper this game is indicative of what we have seen all season. Horrible officiating, a defense playing not to lose, and offense that is too conservative, and players getting frustrated by the two and taking it out in penalties. Zero killer instinct. For all that are calling for coaching changes—guess what—13 weeks into the NFL season these things are not going to get corrected.
I don't think you needed to spend too much time in front of the television yesterday to figure this one out, and you aren't going to hear me dolling out any grades for this one because they would be ugly. Good luck next week when we face Baltimore because they are going to know how to finish a team when they get the chance.
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