Boy, the Steelers sucked last night at New England. These issues stood out:
* The Steelers played chicken football. The game plan wasn't aggressive: Endless sidecar handoffs to James Conner. On offense, they rarely broke tackles and often ran out of bounds to avoid contact. (What was James Washington thinking on that 45-yard catch down the sideline?) On defense, their tackles were broken constantly. Why kick a field goal at New England’s 1-yard-line down 20-0? #CHICKEN
* I thought Devin Bush was ready to play all the snaps. I was wrong. He made 11 tackles, but looked confused and tentative. So did Terrell Edmunds and Kam Kelly. (Turns out the NFL is tougher than the AAF.) Youth was not served.
* Lots of key players were invisible. JuJu Smith-Schuster was blanketed by New England CB Stephon Gilmore and did little until garbage time. T.J. Watt was mostly double-teamed and held to two tackles and no sacks. Smith-Schuster and Watt faced tough challenges. But big-time performers adapt and conquer. They don’t disappear.
* The receiving corps was horrible beyond Smith-Schuster. Donte Moncrief is supposed to be good in traffic, but any slight opposition touch prevented him from catching. Why was Vance McDonald so uninvolved? Why is Ryan Switzer even on the team, let alone tied for the team lead in receptions? When I learned Switzer had six catches last night, I thought it might be for negative yardage. (Close: Just 29 yards, with a long of 8.)
* Ben Roethlisberger’s touch was non-existent. That’s giving rise to the debate that he needs to play more in the exhibitions. But what if he does, and gets hurt? Anyway, Tom Brady also barely played in the preseason, and he looked OK. Bad night for Ben.
* Mike Tomlin said the Steelers “weren’t ready for prime-time football.” Well, only one man is truly accountable for that.
There’s a lot of complaining by the citizens because the Steelers so often get tortured by New England, particularly at Foxboro. But New England is defending Super Bowl champion, and has been dominant for two decades.
The Steelers need to play much better than they did last night. (Duh.)
But when fans pondered the 2019 schedule and penciled in Ws and Ls, nobody marked a W next to last night’s game. (Nobody thought the Steelers would lose 33-3, either.)
The Patriots are a great football team. When they get the upper hand, they are clinical and merciless. There’s no shame in losing to them.
But there is shame in rolling over and dying so easily.
Courtesy of Getty Images.