Host Patrick Gelesh and Cohost Brian Harker begin the Last Word On Steelers week nine podcast by analyzing the Pittsburgh Steelers 20-15 victory over the Detroit Lions. They discuss the the gameplan and how the running game suffered with the absence of Vance McDonald. The breakdown continues by analyzing JuJu Smith-Schuster‘s break-out game and 97-yard touchdown reception. At the same time, they are quick to point out just how badly Martavis Bryant is needed with the lack-luster performances of Eli Rogers and Darrius Heyward-Bey, both whom dropped easy touchdown receptions.

The defense’s hot streak continued. They limited the Lions rushing attack, and had two big stops inside the five yard line to prevent touchdowns. No matter, there was still a lot to improve on. The Lions fielded a pair of backup tackles that T.J. Watt and Bud Dupree couldn’t beat all night. The Steelers constantly blitzed Matthew Stafford, but only sacked him twice. Consistency in their pass rush is something the defense will need to work on in the second half of the season.

Most importantly, Patrick and Brian concluded that the secondary is no where near as elite as top ranking entering week eight would imply. Stafford is an upper-echolon quarterback who knew his system well and was surrounded by play-makers. As a result, Stafford finished with 411 passing yards and four different Lions receivers had receptions of over 30 yards. Even so, the Steelers didn’t surrender a touchdown, which gives the defense something positive to build on during the bye.

Next they took a look at the rest of the NFL. Going division by division and discussing teams, records, schedules and trades that occurred at the trade deadline. It’s hard to believe given the Steelers uneven play but if the playoffs started today, they would have the one seed by way of tie-breaker. They have the ability to cement that home-field advantage throughout the playoffs by continuing to win. Keeping pace with the New England Patriots and Kansas City Chiefs. So is beating the Patriots when they come to town in week 15.

Lastly, our co-hosts touch on some story lines to watch in the second half of the season. Can Ben Roethlisberger stay healthy for all 16 games? Will Le’Veon Bell wilt under his massive work load? Was the defense’s lack of sound tackling against the Lions bad fundamentals, or was it due to their shifty receivers? They emphasized the importance of Stephon Tuitt‘s health when it comes to the defensive front seven. How much will James Harrison see the field in the second half of the season? Does Smith-Schuster’s breakout game mean that he’s going to be targeted more than Bryant? Will that cause more controversy in the locker room and the media? These are all questions that will play out in the second half of the season. Enjoy!

Patrick Gelesh–  A third generation Steelers fan with a Masters in sports management and leadership specializing in football. My mom was lucky enough to witness the immaculate reception live. To me, hard hitting defense is “the beautiful game.”

Brian Harker- Born and raised in Johnstown, Pa, Brian currently lives in Wheatfield, Indiana with his wife and two kids. He Has been writing about the Pittsburgh Steelers since 2007 for such entities as Pittsburgh Sports Tavern, Pittsburgh Sports Forum, and SteelerZone, which he created in 2015. He believes that Paige and Walter O’Brien make Team Scorpion the best it can be.

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