I’m not going to act like the Steelers are pretenders or anything because I definitely think they’re the kind of team that plays to the level of their competition. However I think everyone has to remember that they are still riding fresh off of their bye two weeks ago. They’ll be playing a physical Titans team right before playing a Ravens team that should be well rested. I say this because the Browns while riding high going on were also becoming quite banged up, while they themselves were rather fresh. They won’t be against us come our matchup and in fact will be the ones with less fresh bodies.
So can we lose the game absolutely, but I don’t see anything more than two evenly matched squads that should push each other. They have the more clutch offense, so it’ll be important for us to cultivate a lead early, but their receivers aren’t ones that scare me like the Chiefs. They can out physical most any team but with Jimmy Smith and Marlon Humphrey in tow, we have the size and physicality to matchup with their WRs.
The bye week should hopefully help get some of the young guys further up to speed such as Queen with his play recognition and Madubuike with getting more opportunities to activate again as a pass rusher.
Best result might be the Steelers taking us to the brink and forcing Lamar to lead a GWD so this offense can build confidence in each other in late game situations that will come in handy come playoff time. They have confidence in the 2 min warning going into the half, so now they just need more confidence in other game situations. Hopefully rest allows Lamar to get back to throwing the tight spirals from early in the season.
Another thing I think will help is this bye week will be HUUUGEE for Lamar. He’s had his knee a little sore and his hamstring issue from earlier in the year. The bye week should definitely help him as a runner. I was thinking how on that last possession, it looked like Lamar COULD HAVE went into another level speed wise but didn’t. He had the ability to separate and get the TD but just let himself be caught and ended the game. It’s possible he’s not pushing himself on that front. Get him fully healthy and those hamstrings back to elite juiced up status and plays like that will end in a TD more often than not.
Also in terms of this game, yeah it was clear that the refs were providing some home cooking. There’s no excuse for so many pre-snap penalties. Killed some big completions we had made, kept the offense behind schedule, and kept the offense from playing with any level of confidence the rest of the game.
The defense was mostly dominant outside of a few coverage busts here and there. Which leads me to a huge concern. How is it as far into the tenure with these defensive coaches and yet this defense is still as terrible as it is in zone coverage? I get it, we’re probably the best man coverage corner set in the league, however great defense’s need to be able to switch up looks against great QBs/OCs. Our defense is far too one dimensional in that regard. They need to stop practicing all these exotic blitzes and practicing more how to be consistent in their zone defense responsibilities when we have to go to those looks.
The other issue is Judon is largely becoming the next Tony Jefferson. Always trash talking opposing players to give them life and motivation while providing little of actual substance on the field. He’s nothing but a barking chihuahua. Sure against TEs or unblocked he’s godly, but this defense will never take the next step until he’s no longer being relied upon to take the high amount of snaps that he does. Heck his idiotic tendency to go for the absolute latest QB hits is festering to the rest of this defense too. He’s such a waste of money, annoys me that we could’ve had Clowney for the money Judon has been getting. Everyone complained about how Clowney isn’t a pass rusher, but Clowney would be able to dominate in untouched and against TEs as well... only he’d be able to occasionally shred actual OL while being a force against the run.
Marcus Peters needs to play better. He’s not trash Peters, but too much of his value comes from his interceptions, the TD fumble recovery by JJAW probably looks a little differently if Peter’s isn’t letting him block him all the way up the field and then just give up once he thinks his teammate is going to make the tackle. If he actually believed in all hats to the ball, he sheds the block once his teammate is there and we perhaps get a fumble recovery there for the defense. If the interceptions aren’t coming he’s got to do a better job being valuable elsewhere. It’s clear that once his contract is up we’ll have to have a drafted corner in place to cultivate taking his place... as Peters is the forever mercenary type. No way we’re going to be paying this guy for his efforts once his coverage begins to slip from 8/10 down to a 6-7/10 due to age.
That said shoutout to Jimmy Smith, Marlon Humphrey, Calais Campbell, Chuck Clark, and Justin Madubuike for standing out. Patrick Queen for being in coverage as much as he was today also didn’t get particularly toasted so I’m here for it. Wasn’t his best game, but his value comes in his elite run stopping ability and he did have a crucial run stuff on that 4th and 1 situation with Wentz and had another big tackle on a play where Judon broke contain.