3 Takeaways from Steelers' Week 10 Tie
A tie isn't as bad as a loss, but it was far from the result the Pittsburgh Steelers were seeking when they welcomed the winless Detroit Lions to Heinz Field on Sunday afternoon. Especially with the way that the Steelers had been playing of late.
Pittsburgh's four-game winning streak came to an end with a 16-16 tie, while Detroit ended its 12-game losing streak that dated back to last season. It was the first tie to occur in the NFL since a matchup between the Cincinnati Bengals and Philadelphia Eagles in Week 3 of the 2020 season.
The Steelers made a pair of costly mistakes in overtime, as they lost two fumbles. And their only other possession during the extra period was a three-and-out. The Lions had two punts and a missed field goal in OT before their lateral play to end the game came up short.
Here are three takeaways from Pittsburgh's Week 10 tie.
Rudolph Isn't Long-Term Answer at QB
Ben Roethlisberger has had some struggles this season, and the 39-year-old quarterback is likely nearing the end of his NFL career. He didn't play on Sunday after being placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list, which gave Mason Rudolph another opportunity to show what he could do leading the Steelers offense.
Rudolph has made sporadic appearances for Pittsburgh over the previous two seasons, but his first action of 2021 was uninspiring. He went 30-of-50 for 242 yards, one touchdown and one interception, with the TD pass coming on the Steelers' opening drive. After that, he had trouble leading the offense down the field.
What were Pittsburgh head coach Mike Tomlin's impressions of Rudolph's performance?
"He did what we expected him to do," Tomlin said, per Ron Cook of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. "We thought he gave us a chance to win."
But the 26-year-old Rudolph doesn't look like the type of quarterback who the Steelers should build around. So after the 2021 season, they're going to need to figure out the future at QB, as Roethlisberger, Rudolph and Dwayne Haskins Jr. isn't a group built for long-term success.
Injuries Could Hurt the Defense Moving Forward
The Steelers defense didn't have a bad showing against the Lions. However, it was still a bad day for the unit.
Pittsburgh may have allowed only 306 total yards and 17 first downs, but a pair of injuries overshadowed the positives that came from the defense. Linebacker T.J. Watt (hip/knee) and cornerback Joe Haden (foot) both left with injuries that prevented them from finishing the game.
Watt and Haden are two of the Steelers' top defensive players. And if either misses an extended period of time, it's going to be difficult for the unit to replace that production. Watt had five tackles and a sack before his departure, while Haden had one tackle and one pass deflection.
On the other side of the ball, Pittsburgh also lost a pair of offensive starters, as guards Kevin Dotson and Trai Turner both exited with ankle injuries. So it was an unlucky day for the Steelers on the injury front.
It's unclear how much time any of these players will miss, but more information should come later in the week. Until then, Pittsburgh fans will have to hope it won't be short-handed for long (if at all).
The AFC North Is Still There for the Taking
It's hard to feel good about the Steelers after they couldn't beat a team that had lost its first eight games of the season and is clearly in the bottom tier of the NFL. However, things around the AFC North went in Pittsburgh's favor this week.
While the Cincinnati Bengals were on a bye, the Baltimore Ravens and Cleveland Browns each took road losses, falling to the Miami Dolphins and New England Patriots, respectively. That means Pittsburgh, which is now 5-3-1, is right in the thick of the division race in second place, behind only Baltimore (6-3) and ahead of both Cincinnati (5-4) and Cleveland (5-5).
The Steelers still have four games to play against AFC North rivals, including both of their matchups against the Ravens. If Pittsburgh can correct some of its issues and get back to playing the way it was in recent weeks, it could still end up as the division champion this season.
If the season ended today, the Steelers would be the first AFC wild card and the No. 5 seed. So there's still reason to be optimistic regarding Pittsburgh's postseason chances, even if Sunday resulted in a disappointing performance.