It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.
For the Steelers, the best times came on Sunday afternoon, when they snatched their first playoff game in three years, thanks to the Chiefs’ win over Miami.
The worst of times came Sunday evening, after losing 15-26 to Buffalo at Bills Stadium.
It was Pittsburgh’s second straight loss after an 11-0 start, but that wasn’t the really disappointing part. The truly insane narrative of Sunday’s loss was that it was a continuation of the offensive struggles that have plagued this team since before Halloween.
Despite the offensive problems, the first 28 minutes of Sunday’s game looked promising, as the Steelers’ 7-3 lead on a defensive force forced two first-half turns – including a recovering stumble by Cam Sutton who set up a 19-yard touchdown from quarterback Ben Rothlisberger to greet James Washington to give Pittsburgh a 7-0 lead.
But as if the Steelers were about to add more points before the first half and firmly dominated the rivals’ battle in the AFC, Taron Johnson intercepted JuJu Smith-Schuster’s Roethlisberger pass and brought it back 51 yards for a score.
This way, the Steelers seemed to collapse.
The defense definitely did, when he allowed the Bills to quickly score two goals to start the third quarter and get a 23-7 lead.
It wasn’t over at this point, but it might be over, too. That’s how bad this crime is right now. This is how much anticipation this crime is at the moment.
After everyone with a special interest in the Steelers – including players, coaches, fans, and the media – spent the bulk of the past week discussing what changes crime could make to improve things, it was the same old story Sunday night.
Roethlisberger completed 21 of 37 passes for 187 yards and averaged 5.1 yards per attempt. After all the talk of making a change and possibly opening things up, it looks as though the Steelers will keep riding with the game of short passes until maybe they die with it? The recipients were definitely intent on making it happen, especially Deontay Johnson, who shot down two early and was put on the bench later, a result that at least cheers those who have been keen to see coach Mike Tomlin not live in his idle threats.
As for the running game, I gained 47 yards in 17 attempts. Was the number 17 enough? I would say they were very little.
Realize you really can’t blame the defense for Sunday night’s disaster. Yes, the unit was exhausted to hit. Yes, I only conceded 19 points, but who cares?
What we’ve seen in the last few weeks is the kind of thing we’ve seen last year, good to great defense that carries an unfortunate attack. Only, instead of Mason Rudolph or Devlin Hodges, the Steelers’ lean attack is led by a future Hall of Fame midfielder, a man who was not so long ago a written candidate for the NFL MVP. Now, people are starting to write off his 38-year-old elbow after another match in which he appeared to lack the ability to do anything but sink and dip – his second objection was the result of Washington being poorly subjugated to a late fourth quarter stage fly style.
The Steelers won’t ultimately win an impressive defense in 2020, though that certainly helps. They will win the arm of Roethlisberger and the Steelers’ Crime.
Unfortunately, this crime is either unwilling or unable to make the necessary changes to become the type of unit that can lead the team in the Super Bowl.
The Steelers may have qualified to the playoffs on Sunday, but if they can’t put their role together for the last three weeks, the worst times may still be yet to come.