The Pittsburgh Steelers, so high off of last week’s win in Buffalo, returned to Earth with a 26-17 loss in the home opener to the Las Vegas Raiders. The game was marred by injuries, bad decisions and brutal play from an offensive line that is struggling to get out of its own way.
Friendly fire took down Tyson Alualu as T.J. Watt accidentally rolled up on Alualu’s leg. Reports from numerous outlets are that he suffered a broken ankle. I’m guessing he’s done for the season but I’m hopeful that isn’t true. As for Watt, he left not long after Alualu did with a groin injury that forced him to miss the remainder of the game.
The Steelers entered the game without both Joe Haden and Devin Bush who were nursing groin injuries as well. Later on, Isaiah Buggs left with a knee injury and then on the final, meaningless last play, Diontae Johnson went down clutching his knee. No word on that injury as of this writing.
Taking deep shots is part of every NFL offense. Constantly taking them when there is no need to do so is poor decision-making. Ben Roethlisberger went deep several times today in situations where four or five yards were needed for a first down. Not until late did he finally connect with Chase Claypool but by then the damage had been done. He and Matt Canada have to re-evaluate how they approach these situations especially now with the defense hurting so badly.
With less than nine minutes to go in the game and with his team down by nine, Mike Tomlin chose to punt on fourth and less than one. Talk about living in your fears… You drafted a first round running back exactly for these situations and yet you don’t even consider him. This was everything Mike Tomlin preaches he isn’t. He lived in his fears. Whether the team punted or went for it and didn’t get it the defense was still going to have to go back on the field. This decision was not the difference between winning and losing today but it was egregious in my opinion.
The Offensive Line
I mean this with the least bit of hyperbole as possible. Ben Roethlisberger is not going to make it much longer if things continue as they are. Rookie center Kendrick Green plays with heart and emotion and if his ability were to match those things he’d be an all-pro. Right now, he is overmatched more often than not. The Chuks Okorafor experiment needs to end. It’s been four seasons and his play has honestly not improved enough to keep warranting his play. Trai Turner, ejected and rightfully so for spitting on an opponent, is not nearly as athletic as he was previously.
This unit cannot run block and they struggle to pass block for any length of time. Roethlisberger was hit at least ten times by my count and it may have been more. I have no doubt that Big Ben will rank among the leaders again this week in “passes thrown the quickest after the snap.” It’s gone from being a strategic thing to being a life and death thing.
For all the issues today the Steelers still had chances in this game. But we can also say that last week came down to special teams and a play here and there offensively to match a dominant defense. When the defense is missing four guys and is gassed the offense has to step up and it failed miserably.