The saying goes “if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all,” so I’ll keep my thoughts brief on the Steelers’ 23-20 loss to the Titans last Thursday.
I won’t harp too much on Mike Tomlin’s late game decision making, because while his call to kick a 54-yard field goal rather than play to take the game to overtime, was frustrating, there’s no reason he should’ve been in the position to make it.
The Titans are one of the more universally recognized bad teams in the league this year, and while the game was on the road, theirs is absolutely, positively no reason for the Steelers to have lost this game.
The injuries were a big part of it- as I discussed a couple weeks ago, it seems that this team is doomed to have perpetually untimely and costly injuries. Between the previous struggles of Troy Polamalu and the current injuries to LaMarr Woodley, Maurkice Pouncey, Marcus Gilbert, Rashard Mendenhall and Isaac Redman, this team will seemingly never been fully healthy.
Even without these players, it’s still mystifying why this team lost. Ben continues to be brilliant, but when he doesn’t get any help from the running game, he can’t possibly be expected to be the offense’s lone savior.
I appreciate that injuries to runners Mendenhall and Redman played a role in their ineptitude, but it’s not like they were lighting the world on fire before they left the game. Mendenhall had a whopping six carries for six yards, and Redman had a terrible five carries for 14 yards. I like Barron Batch, but he isn’t anyone’s idea of a feature back, so it’s not surprising he could only total 10 carries for 22 yards.
Part of the fault for this lies on the line, which was undoubtedly affected by injuries as well, but it can’t be their entire fault. Mendenhall didn’t show any of the explosiveness he showed off against the Eagles, making me wonder if his return was too soon and he was feeling fatigue from the game with just a few days’ rest.
The receivers, while normally excellent, had a rough time out there too. Mike Wallace had the monster 82 yard score, but had just one other catch for 12 yards besides that. The typically brilliant Antonio Brown was almost completely neutralized as well, grabbing just four catches after being targeted 10 times.
The run defense was similarly reprehensible. The defense hasn’t put up the kind of incredible numbers against the run that fans are used to, but it’s still a top 10 group, and they let the previously horrific Chris Johnson run for 91 yards. With the Titans’ dismal passing game, it’s mindboggling that Johnson was allowed to do anything on the ground.
Part of the fault has to go to the cornerbacks as well. They let Matt Hasselbeck look like he should actually still be an NFL quarterback (which hasn’t been the case for much of the year), particularly Ike Taylor. I really thought the guy had turned a corner after last season’s Pro Bowl campaign, yet he’s suffered a steeper regression this season than anyone could’ve predicted.
The good news; players on the Ravens’ defense continue to drop like flies and the AFC looks like it’s bad enough to let some average teams sneak into the playoffs.
Baltimore may have a large enough lead to win the division, barring a major collapse, but Pittsburgh may still be a lock for the wildcard, assuming it can produce a .500 or slightly better season. Possible wild card teams include the like of San Diego and Miami, so as long as this type of loss doesn’t become the norm, this can still be a playoff team.
Many of the injures don’t seem to be major either, and they’ve had plenty of time to rest up in advance of traveling to Cincinnati on Sunday.
Here’s hoping the team’s struggles on the road don’t continue, and that this can be a 3-3 team come Monday.Back to the Pittsburgh Steelers Newsfeed