The Pittsburgh Steelers are not a good football team. It’s that simple. Even average football teams find ways to win games like the one they lost today 24-20 in San Francisco. They took the ball away from the 49ers five times, gave it back twice and still had a plus three margin. And lost.
After getting their fifth takeaway of the game, James Conner turned the ball back over on the very next play. San Francisco took advantage of a Mark Barron defensive holding call on third and 15 to score the game-winner. Conner’s turnover was the fourth such he’s had in his career.
Mason Rudolph was a respectable 14 of 27 for 174 yards, 2 touchdowns and one interception but he really never got into a groove. The 49ers’ defense is no joke; it’s that good. But the moral of today’s offensive woes started up from with the offensive line where they struggled with the Niners’ front seven. The running game was again largely non-existent as it was for the first two games. Three straight poor games in a row tells me there are problems up front. Some of the blame has to fall on the loss of Mike Munchak who left Pittsburgh faster than Antonio Brown drives on McKnight Road. Shaun Sarrett to this point has not proven to me anyway that he can successfully adjust in-game.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that James Conner seems to be struggling too and that was before his fumble which ultimately led to the winning touchdown. He just doesn’t seem to have the same spark he did last season.
Despite JuJu Smith-Schuster’s long touchdown reception, he was again held largely in check. There is still no one stepping up at the number two spot but there were a couple of flashes today from Diontae Johnson who caught three balls and had a score.
It’s hard to find fault with a defense that comes up with five turnovers and is left on the field way too much but there are still issues. The presence of Minkah Fitzpatrick seemed to settle things down a bit in the secondary but there were still too many receivers running free and WIDE open. Mark Barron was supposed to have been brought here to be the answer to all of these running backs and tight ends running free. That hasn’t happened and there was more evidence of that today.
The defensive line, while I know they had to be gassed in the second half, has to find more depth. Stephon Tuitt and Cam Heyward have both become non-factors in the second halves of games. Again, some of that is on the offense for not getting enough first downs but these guys need to be at their best for four quarters.
Fitzpatrick had an impressive debut with four tackles, an interception and a forced fumble but I have to wonder… We hear all the time about how difficult this defense is to learn yet he seems to have come to Pittsburgh and he learned enough in five days to play that much? He’s either really, really smart or the rest of our defense is far from it.
Tomlin In Flux
I hear a lot about how it’s the players’ fault when they don’t execute. There is definitely responsibility there but good execution is the result of proper planning. That starts with Tomlin and trickles down to his coaches. This is not working. His message is not being heard or is being ignored. Persistent errors in execution tell me this team has a (here comes that word again) communication problem. Somewhere, the message is breaking down.
It almost reminds me of the elementary game where you tell a student to repeat a sentence to another student and see if it can make it to all of the students without getting screwed up. Here’s a secret; it almost always gets screwed up and that’s what is happening with the teaching and coaching in Pittsburgh. Like it or not, that begins and ends with Mike Tomlin.
Is the season over after today? No it isn’t. With the Ravens losing they still remain two games behind in the division with all six divisional games left to play. The division schedule begins at Heinz Field next week against another 0-3 team in Cincinnati. Two of the Steelers’ three losses are to NFC opponents which should help in tie-breaker situations. But then reality has to set in doesn’t it? And the reality is that right now this isn’t a very good football team and there are plenty of reasons why.
Photo credit yourvalley.net