This game had EVERYTHING legendary upsets need to be successful:

1. a team that’s been terrible most of the year (but who has made some sneaky improvements to the lineup from their season nadir)
2. a replacement QB making his first start vs the #1 NFL Defense and playing opposite a HOF QB
3. undefeated team coming out flat after three emotional weeks and 4 straight against plahyoff teams
4. a quick lead for the underdogs and a slow start for the favorites
5. a no-call that would have been a big play for the favorites early and gotten them jumpstarted
6. a missed extra point
7. a blocked FG
8. a failure for the favorite to convert on several short yardage run plays
9.  a tipped pass that took away a huge play
10. a trick play/big special teams play for big yardage
11. Oh, and the leader of the free world––oh, wait, just the Steelers QB carrying ALL of their championship hopes and dream––was writhing in pain on the ground and holding his knee
I felt a great disturbance in the Force, as if millions of voices suddenly cried out in terror and were suddenly silenced.
The only things missing were a WTF turnover and a plague of locusts.
If this had been another year, the franchise QB would have been held out after injury, Steelers defense would have given up the goods on that last drive, and the Cowboys would have stormed the field while the dejected Steelers hung their heads in defeat. But it’s not some other year, and this is not that defense. Thankfully.

Oh, and there was one other thing this game had that undid the upset hopes: the guy wearing number 7 for the black and gold.

After falling behind by 13 and being 10 back at the start of the 4th quarter, two touchdown passes, three defensive stands to end the game, and a flying Eric Ebron sealed the team’s 8th straight victory to start the season.
Welcome to your 2020, UNDEFEATED Pittsburgh Steelers!
Earlier this week, two “expert analysts” from Pro Football Focus published a video where they discussed (in apparent seriousness) how the Steelers weren’t the best team in the NFL despite a great defense and a 7-0 record… becasue Big Ben was “holding them back”. They pointed out that Ben was “the 14th, no the 16th best QB in the NFL” and went on to talk about how the Steelers couldn’t be a real contender to win it all with Ben playing this way. They also noted that Kirk Cousins was a better QB than Ben this year. If you’ve read pretty much anything I’ve ever written, you know that I think:
A. Ben has played excellent football this year––so good in the handful of plays each game that are the difference between winning and losing
B. Pro Football Focus is extreme, brain-dead clickbait
C. Kirk Cousins suuuuucccccccccks
I’m number 2!
In the games that have actually been played on the field this season, Ben has been a huge reason the team is 8-0. Last week, he willed them to a victory of their biggest rival, This week? 7 was absurdly good in this game, made all the more incredible by the situation the team had put itself in when Ben essentally took over the game.
The Steelers slow starts this season have been as maddening as thier adjustments havd been decisive in turning those moribund starts into victories. Yes, some of it is square-peg-into-round-hole attempts to shoehorn impose-your-will football but a good part of it is lackluster execution. OL isn’t firing off the ball like they do in the 4th quarter. WRs not running sharp routes, QB not making precise throws, RB running tepidly. If I had to summarize it, the phrase would be: thinking too much. From the play calls to the players, they appear to be evaluating rather than attacking, which is a formula to give the other team some confidence early.
Because why let your HOF QB pass when you can run into 4 defenders?
And the Steelers’ decision-making in situational football is like a million times better in the second half of games than it is early. In particular, the decision to run the same run play three times in a row in an unsuccessful effort to pick up 2 yards and a first down was like Einstein’s quote about insanity being demonstrated in real life.  I don’t know how much of that is Ben deciding to stick with the handoff, how much is based on Dallas being the 29th-ranked rush defense, how much is Mike Tomlin, and how much is Randy Rustbelt… but it defies comprehension on a team where you have one fo the best to ever play QB taking the snap.  On the 3rd down, in particular, Dallas is playing two defenders on the top side of the formation, one tight and one off. A little throw to Diontae Johnson there is an easy 3 yards.
I notice we don’t blame Matt Canada for the failures of the run game, only credit him when it succeeds. Where was the misdirection motion on that short-yardage play? Start 3 wide with Claypool in the trips, bring him in motion to threaten the end around, either hand it off then to Conner or pull it back and toss to DJ back where Claypool came from, or hit Claypool with a running start the other way. Three dive plays in a row is still mind-boggling hours after the game.
Before you go ripping the effort of MT’s team in a game that “should have been a blowout”, take a look around. Green Bay lost to the previously 1-5 Minnesota Vikings. Kansas City survived a last second long FG attempt to beat 3-5 Carolina. Seattle just got blown out as a road favorite. Tennesse got waxed by lowly Cincinnati. Hell, Tampa Bay added Antonio Borwn, got Chris Godwin back, and laid an absoultely embarrassing egg in a 35-point loss to New Orleans. Welcome to the NFL!

A getting blown out by 35 Tom Brady is the best Tom Brady.
I am an avid listener to Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History podcast––unsolicitied plug for the best podcast ever––so pardon if I make a military weapons reference. The Steelers’ OL is a really effective weapon… but weapons all have their specific uses/strengths/weaknesses. It’s like RoShamBo: rock beats scissors, scissors beats paper, paper beats rock. The Pittsburgh OL is like the Air Force or the Navy, but they are not the Army (no offense to Alejandro Villanueva). Guys like Pouncey and Decastro are tremendous when they can work on the move or when they use their quickness to get an angle on defenders for a reach block. But those great qualities also leave them a little vulnerable to a full frontal attack. Neville Gallimore (only in Canada could you just normie name your kid Neville Gallimore) and Antwaun Woods in the Dallas interior DL walked back Pittsburgh’s IOL at times and it was really disruptive when he got Decastro and Pouncey in a phone booth. I’m going to propose a radical idea: could it be worthwhile to bring in Kevin Dotson in short-yardage situations? I mean, the primary obstacle to that is that it’d be Decastro or perhaps Pouncey who comes off the field in that scenario. Just going by memory, it sure seemed like the Pittsburgh straight-ahead run game was better with Dotson in there at RG, even vs some very good interior fronts.
Army! Navy! Air Force! Marines!


Speaking of the army, Pittsburgh’s defensive front really misses Tyson Alualu and the slot play of Mike Hilton, too. It’s tough to watch the run defense at the moment––Alualu and Mike Hilton were making so many plays vs the run. Isaiah Buggs, Henry Mondeaux, and now Carlos Davis are getting some nice on-the-job training, but Alualu in particular can’t get healthy fast enough. And although Spillane didn’t really do anything wrong in this game, I’m sure it will help to add Avery Williamson to the mix next week.
Oh, and for all those numbskulls complaining that the Cowboys got somehow jobbed by the officials in this game, have a look at the Dallas run game and see the holding at the point of attack. On the early long Pollard run, Vince Williams was grabbed on the outside of his pads and couldn’t get away to make the play. Or perhaps you’d like to see Dallas’ illegal presnap motion on their TD? I’d go as far as: the only obvious bad call that went against Dallas was the personal foul against VanderEsch, which looked a lot worse than it was.
On the trickeration, throwback across the field punt return, there was the good, the bad, and the ugly for the Steelers on that play.  The Bad was Benny Snell getting sucked in to the middle and losing his contain lane, the Ugly was that mistake costing 70 yards of field position, and the good was punter Jordan Berry being the first to understand what was happening and running so hard to get the contain that he actually overran the ball. Appreciate the effort, though, from the oft-maligned Berry.  But the biggest hat tip goes to Jordan Dangerfield, who––as the last line of defense––got back, got blocked in the back/knocked down, and still reached up and somehow tackled the guy running full speed over top of him. I see you, 3-7!



Bounce backs:  Cameron Sutton gave up a big slot fade on the first Dallas possession, but then punched out the ball from receiver CeeDee Lamb just before halftime, in a move that helped lead to the next bounce back from kicker Chris Boswell, who celebrated his return to his hometown with a missed extra point, then bounced back to make a franchise-record 59-yard FG just before halftime. Special shout out to Cam Heyward’s false start that gave Boz a second chance, the Dallas players who missed the 3 points because they idiotically went into the locker room too soon, and especially to the cheer that erupted when the kick went through the uprights. Steelers fans still taking over stadia during pandemics. We are legend.

Speaking of franchise records, I’m hard-pressed to think of a Steelers game where more franchise bests were set:
•  longest FG
•  8-0 start
•  first time ever scoring 24 points in every game this far into the season (I’m not sure they ever even did it in the first 6 games of any season)
•  At least 1 sack in 66 straight games
and then there are all the Ben franchise records…
• most 4th quarter comebacks
• most seasons without being on a losing team (NFL record)
•  most 2+ Passing TD games in first 8 games of a season (7)
• most games played, completions, attempts, passing yards, TD passes, etc.
About to hold his team back to 8-0.
Clearly, we should be enjoying this.
Diontae Johnson can be maddeningly inconsistent and oft injured, but you have to take the bad with the good, because the good can be terrific at times.  In this game, Johnson ran an out route about 3 yards too long on the opening possession, he didn’t look back for the ball on a short crosser, he seemed to be in the wrong place and confused in the no-huddle… and then he made a spectacular cut to turn a simple short route into a big gainer on what proved to be the game-winning drive. You need that guy out there to make plays, but the cost of it is there are going to be some tough ones to go along with it.
John James Jingleheimer Smith was already taken… so JuJu Smith-Schuster it is!
Probably should have mentioned John Smith last week, where his fight for extra yards was really factor in the second-half comeback against the Ravens. But JuJu’s efforts against Dallas were a substantial part of the win. He had 6 catches on 7 targets for 93 yards and capped it off with a TD grab on the first play of the 4th quarter, where he ran a great route that forced the defender into outside leverage, then broke it sharply back inside, caught the beautiful pass, and fought his way into the end zone with a determination that would have made Hines Ward proud. He’s quietly having an excellent season and making a strong case to be re-signed. Somehow.
Great thing about this team: I can’t think of s single free agent to be they have this year that I won’t be sorry to see go. If there were no cap, I’d be re-signing everybody. What a roster put together by Colbert and this team’s brain trust. No more Ryan Switzers.
Add it all up and you get 8-0 for the first time in team history. Think about how great they could be if only Ben wasn’t holding them back.