The Pittsburgh Steelers have one of the most talented rosters in the NFL. They boast a two-time Super Bowl winning quarterback and an all-time great in Ben Roethlisberger. They’ve got arguably the best running back in the league who can also catch out of the backfield in Le’Veon Bell. They have the best receiver in the league in Antonio Brown, a player who even injured can dazzle. They’ve got an offensive line sprinkled with All-Pro’s. The defense has young talent, and finished fifth in total defense this year despite obvious holes. And yet, Pittsburgh fell on their face at Heinz Field on Sunday, losing to the Jacksonville Jaguars 45-42.
Coaching Miscues Cost Pittsburgh Steelers
The issue Sunday was not the offense. The offense scored 42 points because of the amount of talent they possess. This was even against the Jaguars excellent defense that finished second in the NFL in total defense. From Pittsburgh’s side, you have to be happy with 42 points against that unit. That should win you a Divisional Round game (“should” is the key word here.) Were there some bad calls from Todd Haley that could have been avoided? Yes. On fourth and one you shouldn’t run a toss. But regardless, the offense did its job.
Keith Butler to Blame
The blame all falls on the defense, and to place it all on the players on the field would be unfair. Did the Pittsburgh defense get physically beat on Sunday? No. This is the 10th ranked run defense in the NFL, in a cold weather game. Pittsburgh’s defense was simply unprepared and out coached. And as much as no one wants to say it, Keith Butler has to take the blame. Jacksonville was not fooling anyone. Yes, they did come out throwing the ball unexpectedly. Still, that is only seven points, and Pittsburgh gave up 45.
Lack of Adjustments
What is so frustrating is Butler’s inability to make in game adjustments to mend clear holes. The run defense was terrible all day. That was evident throughout the game, and Pittsburgh did nothing to deter Jacksonville from the run. Leonard Fournette’s injury was the sole reason Jacksonville turned to the pass. The pass rush for Pittsburgh was terrible all game. Nothing changed. Zero sacks and only four quarterback hits is inexcusable when you have a quarterback prone to making mistakes. The bottom line is, the defense let the team down, and that is why Pittsburgh lost on Sunday.
Not All Negative
There were some positives from Sunday’s game. Roethlisberger threw for 469 yards and five touchdowns. Brown pulled in seven passes for 132 yards and two touchdowns on a bad calf. Bell scored two touchdowns. Players like Vance McDonald and Eli Rogers made a large contribution for the first time this season. Most importantly, the team battled. Down 21-0 early in the second quarter at home is a tough situation to be in. However, they continued to battle and almost pulled off the comeback. Unfortunately, these efforts were too little, too late.
Looking ahead to the off-season, Pittsburgh has several critical questions. Roethlisberger has stated he does not plan to retire, should Pittsburgh draft a quarterback? Who will replace Ryan Shazier as the nucleus of the defense? Will Pittsburgh pay Bell, and if not, will he really retire? Will there be a shakeup in the coaching staff? All of these questions will be answered in the off season, as the Steelers attempt to make 2018 as successful as 2017 and gear up for another run at the Super Bowl.