By Jeremy Hritz
Another disappointing loss, another gut-punch in the chances of the Steelers chances for a playoff season. There isn’t much good to discuss in the week’s Honor Roll, but I give it my best shot, though there is no shortage of players who find their way on the Needs Improvement list this week. Though the Steelers have dropped 3 in a row, be cognizant of the fact there are still 13 games left to go and anything can happen. But before we can shift our attention to Denver, let’s take a look at those Steelers who made the Honor Roll and those in need of improvement.
Harris continues to be the primary source of the Steelers offense, and he is getting better with each game. He had his best rushing output this weekend against Green Bay, and you have to wonder what his production would have been had he actually be utilized more. I’ve been saying it now for weeks, prioritized Harris, build the offense around him, and compliment him with the passing game and the talented receivers. This is the passage to salvaging (somewhat) the season, though it is becoming more and more questionable as to whether or not this team can be anything more than average, and even that’s pushing it.
Johnson is the team’s best receiver, and his 45-yard touchdown reception was spectacular. He continually gets open and is elusive in space, and the drops problems of a year ago seem to be rectified. I expect to see his role continue to expand in the coming weeks as he is more than gaining the confidence of Ben Roethlisberger and the coaching staff.
In a defensive game that was putrid, Schobert did some quality work. His angles and pursuit were excellent, and he made a big play in the end zone to stop what would have been a touchdown. While he hasn’t been tremendously dynamic, he was the lone bright spot in the defensive darkness yesterday.
It wasn’t outstanding. It wasn’t electric. But the General got the job done in place of Chuks Okorafor. While not gifted athletically, Haeg was steady and offered some stability in what was the best performance of the offensive line all year (yes, I know it wasn’t great, but hey, small improvements!).
Sure, Ben threw a beautiful deep ball to get the party started on an early score to Johnson, but after that, it was more of the erratic same we have witnessed over the first three games of the season. Bill Cowher used to talk about the fine line between winning and losing, and in Roethlisberger’s case, a few of inches on 2 passes to JuJu Smith-Schuster crushed amazing opportunities for scores. Ben continues to look skittish, uncomfortable, and just, well, off. Even when there are receivers open, he is opting for the quick throw rather than take the risk and allow the play to develop. This offense will go as he goes, and what he needs most of all is confidence in his line and a fearlessness to stand in the pocket and deliver the ball. While he is decisive in the short game, he is not when going down the field, and in turn, it is plaguing the entire offense. Hope this isn’t the way he goes out, but his game just does not look good.
You can argue that the two deep passes from Ben were overthrown. But you can also argue that Smith-Schuster didn’t give every ounce of effort to make the play. Sure, he was coming off of an injury, but good receivers and good teams make those plays. JuJu and the Steelers are neither of those at this juncture.
Dan Moore, Jr.
Looked like a turnstile out there. Moore is a young guy, and growing pains are to be expected, but his performance yesterday was probably his worst of this young season. On too many occasions, he looked late to the party, and as a result, Roethlisberger was pressured, and the aftermath on his QB was hesitation and a lack of trust in the protection. Moore will be a good tackle, but he took his lumps against the Pack.
Why—-WHY? Is Bennie Snell getting the football, or even worse, being the target of a pass? Get Kalen Ballage in there, or even Jaylen Samuels. Nonsensical move by the coaching staff.
Sure, 3 sacks, but none game-changing, and one was illegal. TJ Watt looks to still be recovering from his injury, and did not seem himself, while the other OLBs were easily handled by a suspect Packers offensive line. What looked like a strength against the Bills now looks soft. Have to do better, especially against high-caliber QBs.
131 yards, 4 yards per carry, and the Steelers run defense had no answers. Had the Packers stuck with the run, they would have approached 2 bills. With their successful run rate, they kept the Steelers defense on its heels and opened everything up for Aaron Rodgers and company. Not Steelers football.
That was a legal blocked field goal returned for a touchdown. That also was a trip that caused the Rodgers sack. Terrible officiating, and calls that affected the outcome of the game.
Inconsistent. 3 punts for a 34 yard average. Doesn’t this guy have the nickname Thunderleg? He’s still a rookie, but another sad showing from Harvin against the Packers.
How many more passing routes short of the chains will this offense run when a conversion is needed? How many more times will your best player get pulled off of the field for Bennie Snell football? How many more times will they get away from the running game and not prioritize punishing defenses? This all falls on Canada who has not shown anything of promise in these first 4 weeks.
I’m hesitant to be critical of the head coach, but when there are 3 consecutive weeks as such, it’s time to call into question the preparation and readiness of this unit, from special teams, through the defense and offense. The post-game refrains of “we don’t’ like it but we will address it,” are not resulting in improvements, and losing is becoming a habit for a team that showed much promise. While I’m not calling for Tomlin to be fired because he is a good head coach, what he is currently doing, and what he did to
Navigate the losing streak at the end of last year, isn’t working. Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. Coaching is the art of looking at the evidence, determining what needs corrected, applying adjustments, and facilitating improvements. This is not the cycle being led by the long-tenured head coach.