The Pittsburgh Steelers hosted the AFC South leading Tennessee Titans in primetime. Both teams put four game winning streaks on the line. But in the end, the Steelers never trailed, didn’t turn the ball over, pulled away late and won 40-17. The offense looked a lot like the offense that pundits expected the Steelers to exhibit all season. Not to mention the defense added four interceptions without Joe Haden or Mike Mitchell playing. Here are gut reactions.
Remedy For The Passing Game?
The Steelers week 10 game-winning drive against the Indianapolis Colts may have been the momentum needed to finally get the offense in gear. There’s a notable difference between when offensive coordinator Todd Haley calls the plays and when Ben Roethlisberger does. Roethlisberger does so when the offense is running their “no-huddle” package. The Steelers were in no huddle on their final drive against the Colts, leading to a game-winning field goal.
The Steelers also opened week 11 in no-huddle and promptly drove 75 yards for a touchdown on only six plays. In contrast the Steelers next drive, which was sparked by a Mike Hilton interception, Haley called the plays. The result? One yard on five plays and another Chris Boswell field goal. Granted the drive was crippled by a 15-yard penalty against Marcus Gilbert, but the point is evident. There’s a plethora of evidence that shows Haley has been a below average play caller this season. Expect to see the Steelers go no-huddle more often. Especially since most of their remaining games are at home and they won’t have to worry about crowd noise.
Ben Being Ben…
The person benefited from the play call shift most was Roethlisberger himself. He hit 30 completions for 45, 299 yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions. This was perhaps his best game of the season. Granted the deep passes downfield haven’t been there, Roethlisberger has led the offense and found ways to make plays. The Steelers scored on six of their final seven possessions.
Factor in that the Titans limited the Steelers rushing attack and made the offense one dimensional this may be Roethlisberger and the passing attack rounding into form. His accuracy looked improved, he spread the ball around, and as always Roethlisberger was unflappable in the pocket.
Business Is Booming!!!
Antonio Brown showed why he’s the best receiver in the NFL against the Titans. He had 10 receptions for 144 yards and three touchdowns on 13 targets. He’s at his best on a big stage having scored 12 touchdowns in his last six primetime games. The fact that he was targeted 13 times and only three of those passes weren’t completions is a testament to Brown’s consistency.
He bounced back from last week’s poor performance in Indianapolis, two of his three touchdown receptions came from within the red zone, a place that hasn’t been kind to the Steelers offense. He has both Haley and Roethlisberger’s trust. If he’s on the field, he has the potential to take over a game. Just ask the Titans.
Beyond The Box Score
The unsung hero of the Steelers win has to be Martavis Bryant. He is getting half the targets of JuJu Smith-Schuster. Bryant had four and Smith-Schuster had eight. He may be the team’s best deep threat, but he’s running shallow crosses for the majority of the game. Yes, he dropped one, and the boos came out. But focus on his contributions. When Brown fumbled, Bryant was there to quickly make the recovery. The fumble recovery was both important and timely. It allowed the drive to continue. ending with a field goal before the half, that stretched the Steelers lead to two scores at half time 16-7.
He also had a great reception on third and 10 for 20 yards. Roethlisberger threaded it between the corner and the safety in a cover two look and Bryant went up and effortlessly made the catch. That was the only third down conversion on a 12-play, 75 yard drive that ended with a Steelers touchdown. He’s obviously on a lot of people’s bad side, even the fans. But he’s an unsung hero, and his play in limited action speaks for itself. Come on, at least include him in the touchdown celebrations!
Next up, the Steelers host an Aaron Rodgers-less Green Bay Packers that are clawing to stay in the NFC wildcard race. Ironically, it’s another primetime game. This time the Steelers will be on Sunday Night Football. The Packers are starting a backup quarterback, they’re banged up at running back and have the 20th ranked pass defense. They surrender 243 passing yards per game.
Steelers fans should be rooting for the Packers in week 11 as they take on the Steelers AFC North rival Baltimore Ravens. With the Steelers win against the Titans, if the Packers can defeat the Ravens, the Steelers divisional lead will stretch to four games. With an offense that’s finding traction, and a four game lead in the AFC North, the Steelers attention should shift to locking up a first round bye and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.
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