Why Must Sunday Nights Be So Stressful?: A Week 12 Analysis

The Steelers continued their winning ways last night in their 13-9 win over the Kansas City Chiefs, but they certainly had to work a little harder than they probably should have to do so.

It appears to be a trend with this team that they play to the level of their opponent. Whether that means that they’re struggling against teams like the Chiefs or dominating teams like the Patriots, it seems that they can only motivate themselves according to who is lining up across from them.

Not that there’s necessarily anything wrong with that. It has yet to hurt the team, and while there’s always the potential it could down the road, right now all it’s achieved is making Sunday nights a little more stressful than they should be.

With this game in particular, it’s hard to discount the role that the bye week played in things. The offense seemed out of sync, despite how locked in they’ve been for the last few weeks, so hopefully this is just a minor bump in the road due to some rust than any long term trend.

I didn’t have a lot of particularly strong feelings about this game, so there are just two performances I want to address.

  • Ben Roethlisberger: The numbers don’t look particularly pretty, but there was undoubtedly more to the game than just his stats, for good and bad. Among the positives was the fact that he continues to fight through injuries better than just about any quarterback that’s playing the game right now. Al Michaels said it on the telecast last night, and he couldn’t be more right: Ben could be in his coffin and still be listed as probable for the next Sunday. He continues to buy time behind a pretty rough offensive line, and his touchdown pass to Wes Saunders was one of the more athletic, yet subtle plays you’ll see in the league all year. However, he still had his share of problems. A growing issue this year has been his accuracy on deep throws. Time after time, Mike Wallace has gotten a few steps on his man, and Ben hasn’t been able to get him the ball. When they connect, it looks fantastic, but Wallace consistently finds himself open, only to have Roethlisberger under or over throw him to waste the opportunity. It’s starting to become an issue even on passes that aren’t thrown in Wallace’s direction, such as the interception as he under threw Antonio Brown or his near pick when he tried to hit Emmanuel Sanders on a long crossing route on 3rd and 29. Some of this can probably be chalked up to his various injuries, and a lack of a whole lot of time to set his feet behind that offensive line, but it’s still something the team needs to address. It’s holding the offense back, when they otherwise could be one of the most explosive in the league.

  • Ryan Mundy: I’ve normally been pretty down on Mundy, despite his increased prominence due to Troy’s frequent absences. However, he looked surprisingly good last night. Facing Tyler Palko probably played some role in his improved play, but he seemed to be all over the field in a way I’d never noticed before. Obviously the interception looks good on the stat sheet, even though Palko basically threw it to Mundy more than he did any of his receivers, but he played the run surprisingly well too. He led the team with 11 total tackles, and was a big part of the team holding the Chiefs to just 90 yards rushing on the game, despite their reliance on the ground game. The extent of Polamalu’s injury isn’t exactly clear at the time I’m typing this, but even if Mundy will be called on to replace Troy for any period of time, I feel slightly better about this substitution than I might have a week ago.

The Bengals will present a familiar challenge next week as the team takes them on at Heinz Field. It’s an important game for the division, and considering that Pittsburgh has beaten Cincinatti at home three of the last four times they’ve matched up there, I’m still feeling pretty confident.

The offense will need to play a little better, but hopefully this win will mark the beginning of a successful stretch run for the Steelers.

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