Usually, they conduct the autopsy after death but last night it started with removing the vital organs from the very beginning.
Oh, I’m sure when they weighed the brain they’d pulled out it was all very interesting, but the only weight that really matters is the 21 grams that separate the living from the dead. Apparently, that’s the measured difference in weight of a human before and after they leave this mortal coil, and without getting into ideal gas law and PSI, suffice to say the Steelers uttered the famous last words of Pistol Pete Maravich who, just before collapsing during a pickup game said, “I feel great!”
In the immortal last words of Ben Franklin, “A dying man can do nothing easy.” and that about sums up the Steelers many trials and tribulations trying to win in Foxboro. The problem is so engrained and goes back so far that it’s almost impossible to unravel. I think the biggest problem is our expectations. We feel exactly the way most of the NFL has felt for years when coming to PIttsburgh. It seems like the Steelers get every break and get every call. Those cheaters! Sometimes, they’re just better than you. If the Steelers and Patriots played 10 games with no coaches and no preparation over the week… how many do you think Pittsburgh would win? Everyone thinks I’m a homer, right? I’d say no more than 3. Maybe with the coaches, the Steelers win 2. So, coaching may contribute, but it’s mainly jimmies and joes.
The Steelers’ defense added players to combat and match up with the Pats. They played man, they tried running around picks, they tried running through picks, they even tried anticipating to get a pick. They have 1st or 2nd round picks at 8 positions who got dominated by lesser-known but better performing supposed journeymen, led by their all-time-great 6th round QB (and soon to add their 6th round WR). The coaches tried everything last night and none of it made a dent. Oh, it might work for a series or a couple of plays but then NE countered and it required yet another adjustment that barely worked. You can knock the personnel and the coaching, but I’m not sure what else they were supposed to try last night. There was a lot of talk on the broadcast about how TJ Watt was double-teamed all night, which somewhat explains his disappearance, but what of Cam Heyward? Tuitt and Dupree were quiet as well, but at least they made a couple of plays here and there. Cam Heyward is really, really good… how can he be so completely taken away in a game where the other team has two very inexperienced starters and they’re also dedicating an extra blocker to Watt on every play? Maybe, like about-to-face-a-firing-squad murderer James W. Rodgers they should have used their final request to ask, “Bring me a bullet-proof vest.”
And, leave it to the Steelers on opening night to put the offensive back in offensive football. They played like the Comtesse de Vercellis who let one rip while she was dying and said, “Good. A woman who can fart is not dead.”, although the Pittsburgh performance was undoubtedly a less assertive outgassing than that of a dying Countess. Targeting Donte Moncrief and Ryan Switzer 16 times for 35 yards was almost enough to kill me. My last utterance would have paraphrased W.C Fields… “God damn the whole friggin’ world and everyone in it but you, Ben.”
Speaking of Ben, he didn’t force it and he tried to spread it around… but eventually, he looked like he always looks in NE: like he doesn’t totally believe in his supporting cast. It had to be a complete nightmare for him. It wasn’t really bad throws on his part that did them in, it was a lack of scheming to give him somebody to throw to who wasn’t 1 yard past the LOS or not open deep. He definitely missed the throw to Holton… a guy I’ll bet he’s barely ever thrown to… but the other deep misses were thrown early because someone up front got blown by like one of the robot blocking dummies and the receiver wasn’t open. Could Ben have forced some other throws to the intermediate range? Were there open receivers that he ignored or missed? I didn’t see much. JuJu had better than average success vs Gilmore but was often covered up. Moncrief was a waive-me-now disaster. Switzer can’t get open more than a couple of yards downfield and can’t get any YAC. Johnson barely played but looked worthy. And Washington played even less and was seemingly only tasked with running deep routes. And running out of bounds for no reason. Where was Vance McDonald? Did Xavier Grimble even play? Roosevelt Nix? Where was the cool stuff for an emerging Jalen Samuels? Again, 16 targets for Moncrief and Switzer.
Randy Fitchner was like a cross between the corpse of Todd Haley and the late great Johnny Ace, who died in 1954 while playing with a pistol during a break in his concert set. His last words were, “I’ll show you that it won’t shoot.”
In his defense, I will say you can’t call anything when your All-NFL OL is getting tooled as bad as in any game I can remember since they’ve been together. And not the new guy either. Alejandro Villanueva had a night to forget. he got blown onto his backside by John Simon, whipped by Chase Winovich, generally pushed around and beaten by what felt like a whole gang of guys Just Doing Their Jobs. The lack of TE blocking took away their favorite counter plays and the vulnerability of their IOL made running at them a crapshoot. So they ran wide and got obliterated.
As for coaching, I’ll quote a dying Steve Jobs, “Wow. Wow. Wow.” The plan on offense notwithstanding, the gameplan wasn’t hideous and the adjustments were valiant on defense… but this game was terminal before it started because of the choices for playing time and targets. The lineup and plans couldn’t be more stale on offense. The backups who should be used to generate some fresh energy and get things going are sitting on the sidelines or practice squad, while ST core stalwarts get quality snaps. If last night proved anything, it’s that the young talent needs to play more. Bush, Sutton, Hargrave, Ola, Skipper, Johnson, Washington. I honestly don’t need to see a whole lot more of Donte Coates Wheaton Justin Brown Hunter Sweed. I don’t think Ben does either.
Wherefore art thou, Randy Fitchner of last year? You know, the innovative guy who got the pieces moving and created great looks in the red zone and on 3rd down? Why such scaredy-cat playcalling? Why is every Steelers offensive coach and head coach of the last 27 years so afraid to loudly fail, even if it;’s the best chance to win? Maybe we need to hire that dying French heiress to make coaching decisions.
Speaking of fear of trying because it might mean failing… last night was a perfect storm for you Tomin haters. It was a (not quite) living embodiment of the worst traits you all think he has all the time. Go ahead and gloat, #FireTomin, you’ve earned it!
The choice to kick a FG that still leaves you down three scores is ridiculous on its face. Maybe… maybe if it’s late in Q2 and you feel like you got some bad breaks and just need some point to get things started I can at least see where you’re coming from, but in last night’s game? In that situation? Just GTFOH with that white flag.
However, the choice to not go for it on 4th and 3 inches was much, much worse. Your team is playing the World Champs, in their house where you never, ever do anything but Costanza. You have a huge QB and a solid OL (well, usually solid)… c’mon, man. What’s the downside? The Pats score more quickly rather than bleeding you dry with a living autopsy?
In brief, the Steelers looked dead on their feet and played like they’d been embalmed in warmups. The only good thing I have to say is that there is no way they’ll look this bad next week. They’ll correct course like an oil tanker under full load, but they will correct course with personnel and playcalling. They might never win again in Foxboro, but chances are we’ll be watching them in week 5 or 6 and collectively think, “How could this team I’m watching dismantle this opponent possibly have played so poorly in week 1?” Some of it is NE is that good and some of it is the Steelers were that bad and some of it is coaching and some it is the QB and some of it is the surrounding cast and some of it is the secondary and some is the pass rush and some is the, well, everything.
I just hope I live long enough to avoid being the Steelers’ fan version of physicist Richard Feynman, who exited with the line, “This dying is boring as hell.”