I shoulda stayed in bed.

I returned to my rock star roots last weekend… played some reunion shows in Colorado, which meant I’d be driving back towards LA on Sunday and hope to stay out of the Steelers’ news loop until I got into my hotel room in Utah and got to watch the game with fresh eyes.

That plan worked beautifully–right up until I checked into a motel in Panguitch run by the real-life version of the Little Miss Sunshine cast, and the Grandpa showing me to my room location (after hearing I was from Pittsburgh) said, “Well you guys got your ass kicked today.”

Thanks, bud.

So I watched with dread from the start. I noticed in the live shot Ben’s reaction to his elbow and thought “no good can come from this”. When he did it again on the next ball, I achieved damn near full acceptance. Had flashbacks to Bradshaw’s last game.

So, even though losing on Sunday was like the 5th worst thing about the game, let’s talk about the game and some key insights we can take from it:

  1. The offense started out laughably slow and predictable and Ben was slow and predictable, too.
  2. When they got behind, they opened up the gas a little and started moving the ball
  3. Ben’s last pump fake did him in, for the time being
  4. When Rudolph came in, the OC suddenly got imagination
  5. Rudolph wasn’t great (5.9 YPA) but he wasn’t Josh Dobbs or Landry Jones, either
  6. they used (gasp) PLAY ACTION
  7. it worked

What do we take from all this? They gear to what’s comfortable for Ben, which is neither bad nor good… just what it is. They geared to what Rudolph likes, too. It feels like Tomlin wants to play it close to the vest when Ben is in there, probably because he thinks his guy is great at finishing close games. Which he is. The OC has to do a better job of being creative while being conservative, if that makes sense. The QB has to mix up his own comfort zone, because that shit couldn’t be any staler before either he heats up or the run game blows people away. And the coach needs to take the governor off from the beginning and live with the results.

But those are mostly issues for 2020 and beyond. The issues for 2019 still showed up as little things–little things that added up to losing a game it would have been easy to win.:
a. Dan McCullers getting blocked into the long-snapper, which was a ridiculous call but somewhat inevitable, because Big Dan has been a wrecking crew on the A gap of every place kick attempt I’ve seen this year and it was only a matter of time before the ridiculous emphasis on long-snappers not being touched was called in it’s usual arbitrary manner. If they’re going to call it so arbitrarily, it’s better not do even try on the interior, unless the game is on the line.
b. Anthony Chickillo and Tyler Matakevich can never get defensive snaps. That should have been the standard from the get-go. Basically, those guys are on the field for defense, big plays are going to follow. Chickillo has been terrible on defense, invisible on STs, and keeping Adeniyi off the field. Now that he’s in a walkling boot, he’ll be taking up a roster spot for nothing.
c. Chris Carson is low-key a top 10 RB in the league, but Steelers’ ILBs without Vincenzo are not big/powerful enough to get him to go backwards. The DL got moved on that last 4th down play (Hargraves effort was especially un-Hargrave-like, and when that happens, our coverage LBs are not making that stop.
d. I’ll disagree with FC and franco to say I don’t think Edmunds is terrible this year. In fact, I think he’s made a lot of progress and some plays he’s been very good. But he’s still slow to react/see what he sees and playing next to a FS who doesn’t make his life easier isn’t helping. There are things to like about both Sean Davis (great character guy in the locker room) and Kam Kameron (upside as a ballhawk) but neither is a mistake eraser or field general at this point. The trade for Minkah is as much for Edmunds as anything. I’ll will make a bold statement, which could turn out to be cold soup: Edmunds will look like a 1st round pick with Fitzpatrick next to him.
e. That Fitzpatrick trade is also for Devin Bush. Bush isn’t ready to be in seam coverage yet, but the current safety play was so conservative and late that Bush was getting isolated in space with no help. I’ve been harping on it for years: Steelers safety play is the main reason teams shred them. Will Minkah help solve this problem? Not sure. He will help on 3rd downs and spread for sure. In package football, you can use him to play man or off-man in the slot– he’s very good at that and it takes away an easy completion

And can we cut Donte Moncrief already? Put him on IR with the possibility of return? Regular IR? A trade? All I know is: when Moncrief and Switzer were standing on the sideline together, the offense looked the best it has all season. Coincidence?

I haven’t David Todded the numbers but I’ll assume the clock management wasn’t by the book. Looked like they weren’t going to call the 1st TO but something happened that changed their mind. Without even looking back at it, I’m sure the idea was to have one TO in hand and the 2 min warning when Seattle faced 3rd down. Which they did. That’s what they always do. That made it all or nothing on the 4th and short (which shouldn’t even have been a 4th and short if the D simply contains Wilson a little better. He’s a slippery son of a gun, so I understand he’ll make a play or two, but coverage was good there–– just collapse the pocket and don’t let him run for 15 yards. Do that, and you’ve got an excellent chance to win the game. That play and the subsequent failure on 4th and short negated some excellent 1st half play.

Word from the Seattle locker room was that the Steelers D got gassed. I WONDER IF IT HAD ANYTHING TO DO WITH WEARING BLACK JERSEYS IN SEPTEMBER??? I know, I know… we do what we do… but honestly, it’s idiotic. There aren’t many teams in the NFL who play in home dark uniforms in September. Bad enough to suffer this fate when you’re playing in Miami; far worse when there was something you could have done about it.

Going forward, we’re going to find out a lot about Mason, the defense, the coaches. Maybe more than we want to know. Maybe enough to change some opinions and to solidify others. I’ll leave you with some numbers:

[b]Tomlin’s Steelers record:[/b]

When creating 2 or more Takeaways: 69-13
When turning it over only 1 time: 50-21
(both broke the trend on Sunday)

[b]Since 1972, Steelers record with BigBen or Bradshaw:[/b]

Regular Season: 243-109-1 (.690)
Playoffs: 27-13 (.675)
SB: 6-1 (.857)

Regular Season: 212-167-2 (.559)
Playoffs: 9-11 (.450)
Super Bowls 0-1 (.000)

Mike Tomlin with Ben Roethlisberger:
115-60-1 (.657)

Sean Payton without Drew Brees:
0-2-0 (.000)

Bill Belichick without Brady
54-63 (.462)

Mike Tomlin without Ben:
10-8-0 (.556)