The Pittsburgh Steelers finished the season today with an 11-5 record and winners of their last seven games. With the big three offensive stars not playing, the Steelers still managed to win a 27-24 overtime victory against the Cleveland Browns. That was the good news because based on what I saw, this team still has some work to do before the AFC Wild-Card game against Miami next week.
Much of what concerns me has to be taken with a grain of salt. I say this because the Steelers had absolutely nothing to play for and looked like it early. I also have to figure things were kept pretty simple on both sides of the ball
That said, the Steelers’ defense gave up way too many yards on the ground today and gave up too much through the air as well in terms of ‘easy’ completions. Isaiah Crowell had way too much room to run often getting to the second and third levels before being slowed. Crowell is a nice running back but he isn’t Jay Ajayi, the Dolphins’ excellent running back who torched the Steelers for over 200 yards earlier this season.
Last week, we were told the missed tackles were due to “the Ravens playing so hard.” What was the excuse today? Ajayi has a bad shoulder but that doesn’t mean the Steelers can tackle they way they have in recent weeks. This has been a problem all season and while it has had ups and downs, the tackling has been down of late. That has to improve.
The other area that needs attention to detail (stop me if you’ve heard this before) is special teams. The kick return unit has essentially been a waste of time and the mental errors accrued on special teams continue to confound me. Today, Cobi Hamilton bobbled a kick and was stopped at the ten yard line. No disrespect to him, but Hamilton isn’t a return guy in the NFL and shouldn’t even be back there. The team’s inability to get a true returner back there is troubling.
We can only assume at this point that the Dolphins will have Matt Moore starting at quarterback. The Steelers will prepare for both he and Ryan Tannehill. With a backup QB potentially starting, fans can’t get ahead of themselves. If the Steelers don’t do a better job of stopping the run, tackling better and being more mentally tough on special teams it won’t matter who is calling the signals.
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