It would be unfair to sat that the Pittsburgh Steelers failed in every aspect of their week one game against New England in front of a national TV audience on Sunday night.
I mean, they did win the coin toss.
Beyond that, not much went right. Within the blink of an eye, New England was up 20-0 at the break. Pittsburgh had 87 total yards on 24 plays. The Patriots had run 40 plays and more than tripled the Steelers in yardage.
It didn’t get a lot better in the second half. So as not to continue the misery for the Steelers faithful, there’s no need to belabor the point with a play-by-play of what happened; you watched it. Unfortunately, so did the rest of the country.
Can the Steelers Fix All That Went Wrong Against the Patriots?
Perhaps the better way to go about it is to ask how and what. How does it get fixed? What does it mean going forward?
The answer to the first question may actually be simpler than you think. Pittsburgh ran the ball 13 times in the game. 13. Those rushes went for 32 yards. James Conner carried the ball 10 times. I get that the Steelers were playing from behind a lot, and so there should have been more passing in the second half as you need to get chunk yardage to try to come back, but there were only 10 rushing attempts in the first half. The run was all but abandoned in the second half as Conner ran twice. With no dynamic in the offense, you’re inviting New England’s defense past the line of scrimmage and basically asking if the Pats would like a cup of coffee since they’re going to be in your backfield so long.
A lot of this lies squarely on the shoulders of Roethlisberger. For as much as he’d like to think otherwise, the during his 15-year run as the starting QB for the black and gold, Pittsburgh has had its highest level of success when he has been supported by a strong run game and stellar defense. When he tries to take too much on his own, the results fall flat. In two of the three times the Steelers have been to the Super Bowl during Big Ben’s tenure, there has been a 1,000+ yard rusher and in the third season, an injury ended what would have been a 1K year. In all three SB seasons, the Steelers have ranked in the top three in fewest points allowed.
And then there’s this: In the two years Roethlisberger has led the NFL in passing yards, Pittsburgh has missed the playoffs. Simply put, he needs help. He needs to realize it, but Mike Tomlin does too.
Steelers Week 2 Odds Against the Seahawks
In the grand scheme of things though, as ugly as Sunday was, it doesn’t mean a whole lot if there can be a quick recovery. Three of the four teams in the AFC North lost yesterday and Baltimore played its best possible game while the Dolphins played their worst. The Steelers were also playing one of the top four teams in the NFL on the road. Their season projection of nine wins is still a very viable possibility and possibly could be enough to win the division.
First, they will have to take care of business at home against an always feisty Seahawks club. Seattle barely eked out a win at home against the Cincinnati Bengals, a team many thought would battle for title of Worst in the NFL (the current belt holders? The Miami Dolphins). Taking a look at the Steelers odds and Steelers spread for the Week 2 tilt, it appears the Seahawks win was less impressive than the Steelers loss was disheartening; the Steelers odds opened at -5 and the moneyline sits at Steelers -200, making Pittsburgh the favorite in Week 2.
That’s important because the toughest aspect of their year will be navigating the early season schedule. After Seattle comes to town, it’s then a cross country road trip to San Francisco, before leading to a Monday Night game at home against Cincinnati. Given that they play at home against the Seahawks and the Niners are a growing, but still have work to do team, it’s easy to see Pittsburgh at 2-1 after the first three games. Given that it’s the Seahawks and then a six-hour flight to SF, it’s also easy to see the Steelers at 0-3.
Let’s take the “glass half full” mindset and say it can only get better from here. A handoff here and there would help a lot.