If you can believe it, the Pittsburgh Steelers are in last place in the AFC North.
The Steelers are behind the Cleveland Browns due to the Browns victory over the New York Jets last Thursday night and the Cincinnati Bengals are alone at the top of the division at 2-0 followed by the Baltimore Ravens who are 1-1.
This season for Pittsburgh through the first two games has been plagued with inner turmoil as the Le’Veon Bell saga headlines the problems. Then there is Antonio Brown throwing his mini hissy fit and Bud Dupree having his way with fans via Twitter. Mike Tomlin has been scrutinized up and down for not taking the bull by the horns and rectifying the situation.
All this as the team heads to Florida to play the 2-0 Tampa Bay Buccaneers who have won the first two games as backup quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick has bee piling on the fantasy stats. After two games, Fitzpatrick has thrown for 819 yards, eight touchdowns, just one interception, and has been sacked just twice. His rating of 151.5 is through the roof.
To the outside for Tampa, Mike Evans is the primary weapon catching 19 balls in two games for 230 yards but DeSean Jackson has 275 yards on 10 less receptions. Tampa can go deep on a defense so Pittsburgh beware. Ben Roethlisberger on the other hand had sub-par opening day but was much better last Sunday. His rating is at 86.5, he has throw three picks, and he has been sacked five times.
Without Bell, James Conner is the man for now and he has 152 yards rushing to date. After a 135 yard effort running the ball in Cleveland, he became more of a receiver last weekend. Conner has 10 receptions as opposed to 39 carries on the ground. Monday night’s meeting will be the 11th in history for these two teams in a series that began with Tampa’s inaugural season of 1976 when like the 2017 Browns, the Bucs failed to win a game.
As for that first meeting in 1976, it became the only shutout in the history of the 10 games played between Pittsburgh and Tampa with the Steelers winning 42-0. In that game, Rocky Bleier scored twice as did Lynn Swann on a 35 and 23-yard passing from Terry Bradshaw. Interestingly enough, the starting quarterback for the Buccaneers was former University of Florida and South Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier. Bleier had 118 yards rushing that day as Franco Harris took a back seat with 55 of his own.
Tampa and the Steelers would not play again until four years later when in Tampa the Steelers won by three 24-21. Pittsburgh would win the next three through 1989 and finally on December 13, 1998, the Bucs got a win at home 16-3. In 2001, the Steelers began a winning streak over Tampa of four games that was broken four years ago in the last meeting between the two teams that saw Tampa edge Pittsburgh 17-14 at Heinz Field.
WHEN THE STEELERS HAVE THE BALL:
The offense is not the problem this season it’s the defense. So come Monday night, it will be interesting to see how involved in the game plan Antonio Brown gets given what has taken place between he and new Offensive Coordinator Randy Fichtner thus far. Pittsburgh could have its way because the Bucs are 21st overall on defense. How James Conner and other running backs behind him fair on this Tampa defense may be a difficult task given the Bucs through two games are averaging a yield of just 67 yards per game. However, that ‘D has also given up four rushing touchdowns.
In the air is where the Steelers should go as Tampa is 31st overall thus far in 2018 defending the pass. They are allowing an average of 376.5 yards passing to opposing quarterbacks and given up four scores. They have not had an interception yet and have sacked the other quarterback just four times.
A.B. wants the ball and look for Big Ben to get it to him but not in a heavy dose. Antonio Brown does not have that power where he can dictate changing game plans just to suit him. Roethlisberger will throw it around and use his arsenal of weapons to do so. James Conner will get his opportunities and he will get some nice chunks of yardage.
WHEN THE BUCCANEERS HAVE THE BALL:
Is Ryan Fitzpatrick that good or is he just on a fluky streak and has gotten lucky. The Conor McGregor look-a-alike is at the top of the QB head right now in the NFL leading the way with 819 yards passing. Right behind him? Big Ben with 787. A place where you usually find Antonio Brown is among receiving leaders but this week he is nowhere to be found. Instead, DeSean Jackson finds himself just behind Jarvis Landry for the league lead in yards receiving but Landry had his week 3 game last night.
Tampa’s highest rated runner is Peyton Barber who is 27th overall with just 91 yards, 61 yards behind Pittsburgh’s James Conner. The Bucs have been riding the hot hand of Fitzpatrick for the first two games and not just they but all future Steelers opponents are probably licking their chops after witnessing the disaster that was the Steelers secondary that showed up for the Kansas City Chiefs last Sunday.
Fitzpatrick and his receivers will test that secondary. Joe Haden should be back and that will be an upgrade over what we saw at Heinz Field in the home opener. You would think the defense HAS to be better than what we saw last weekend. Everything went wrong defensively for the Steelers in the loss to the Chiefs. The tackling was atrocious and the highest rated tackler Pittsburgh has right now among league leaders is newcomer Jonathan Bostic who goes into this game ranked 29th in the NFL for tackles.
Come Monday, it will be a true test of character, fortitude, and teamwork and commitment to success for the Pittsburgh Steelers. A must win? Some are calling it that. A crossroads game this early in the season? For sure. Even a loss would not hurt so much IF the Steelers play a solid game. After all, it would only be two losses with 13 games to go including five divisional games remaining. BUT, the best medicine here would be a victory and a domination of Tampa.
Of all the placekickers in the NFL, incredibly, only Chris Boswell has YET to make a field goal this season. That’s surprising given his 2017 campaign. While he has only attempted two, he’s missed both. Naturally with no field goals, he is dead last in the rankings. He’s been a little better on PATs having made six out of seven tries.
The punting is not much better for the Black and Gold either. Jordan Berry who beat out Matt Wile for a job in training camp has a net average of just 34.8 which is just three from the bottom of NFL punters. His overall average is not much better at 41.8 which comes in at the 28th position. He hasn’t had a punt blocked but guess who did? Matt Wile who went on to sign with Minnesota.
I said last week that the Steelers normally do not play two bad games in a row under Mike Tomlin. I ate my words BIG TIME. I certainly didn’t expect the poor showing as to how they performed. I have to believe this can’t happen for a third straight week. I’m going out on a limb and saying this team will play WAY better than the previous two weeks. If they don’t, the next time they play at Heinz Field a week from Sunday when Baltimore comes to the ‘Burgh, you will hear boo birds. But with the solid performance they will put on come Monday, that won’t happen.
I like to Steelers to rebound in a big way and come up with a win.
FINAL SCORE: Steelers 31 Bucs 17.
What do other professional writers think?
My Pittsburgh Steelers preview for their game in Florida on Monday
against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers is forthcoming but how will the
rest of the NFL fair in my little crystal ball?
Last week I improved just a tad scoring a 10-6 record and I’m above .500 for the season
now at 17-15.
In my opinion, Twitter is one of the worst developments in social media and on the internet ever. That is simply because it exposes people and especially athletes for poor character that they show on this social media tool.
The latest ridiculousness comes from the Pittsburgh Steelers’ Antonio Brown and Bud Dupree. A.B. has already established a reputation of using Twitter to say some pretty stupid things and also to boast about how great he is and his inflated ego many times becomes obvious when he hits the social media trail.
Brown’s latest idiocy stems from his response to a tweet from a former Pittsburgh Steelers employee, Ryan Scarpino who sent the simple declaration out on social media:
“AB needs to thank his lucky stars, because he was drafted by a team that had Ben. And Ben got AB paid. You know darn well he wouldn’t put up those numbers for other teams.”
“Trade me let’s find out.”
Well folks, it’s on. The argument that is. The discussion on this topic. Scarpino may be right to a degree. With a great quarterback, a receiver prospers. So if Brown was playing for a team with a poor quarterback, naturally his numbers would deflate. But it certainly has helped his career having one of the top five quarterbacks of this era throwing to him.
As expected, Brown’s teammates are behind him:
Cameron Heyward: “AB is a hell of a player, and I’m glad he plays for our team. It’s as simple as that. I wouldn’t trade him for anybody in the world.”
Even Las Vegas has gotten into the act putting odds on whether the Steelers deal Brown away or not. While A.B. has abused his social media privileges, now Bud Dupree has gotten in on the act but in a MUCH worse way. My message to the Steelers linebacker…GROW UP! Why do I say that? Because a fan tweeted at Dupree and gave him a hard time for not making plays in the Kansas City game.
The fan is Russ Dickson who “wondered where Dupree was all game?” Dupree’s response?
“I was at your girl house.. Wat u gone do.”
There was an innuendo included in that response tweet but it was not published publicly. I can only wonder what derogatory words those were. Either way, it was a completely childish and immature response by a man who is supposed to be a professional athlete. Social media and use of it has gotten way out of control. WAY OUT OF CONTROL. Some may find humor in the exchanges that are made public, some may see it as no big deal, and I don’t buy into that.
Football and professional sports have become a business. Just like the common man or woman who goes to work every day, these athletes don’t seem to understand that this may be a sport, but it’s their job. If any of us working a normal job pulled the stunts these men do, we’d be fired. Can you imagine if you are I didn’t like our salary (ala Le’Veon Bell) and refused to report to work until we got paid more would we still have a job? NO. So Le’Veon Bell should lose his job over what he is doing.
There are some Steelers who don’t care for the social media games.
David DeCastro: “Everyone thinks their opinion matters. And they get into fights with people. I don’t understand it. I really don’t. Maybe I’m just a weirdo. I think it’s just part of life in the NFL now. It’s like that added drama that has become kind of entertainment. It’s a weird deal. It almost feels a little bit like the entertainment has become bigger than the game in a sense, which is sad to me. I always thought the game was more important.”
The importance of football and other sports for that matter fell overboard and drifted off many years ago...unfortunately.
The Achilles Heal that has plagued the Pittsburgh Steelers for years reared its ugly head yesterday when the Kansas City Chiefs behind the passing of sophomore quarterback Patrick Mahomes, outscored the Black and Gold 42-37.
That weak link spoken above is the defensive secondary. With Mahomes throwing for six touchdowns against the Steelers at Heinz Field, the kid not only torched a combination of rookie Terrell Edmunds, Artie Burns, Mike Hilton, Morgan Burnett, Coty Sensabaugh, and Cameron Sutton, those players and the remainder of the defense allowed Travis Kelce to remain a “Steelers killer” as the Chiefs tight end caught seven passes for 109 yards and two touchdowns. But Kelce was not alone in the scoring onslaught.
Also grabbing a six-pointer in the end zone off the arm of Mahomes was Chris Conley, Kareem Hunt, Tyreek Hill, and Demarcus Robinson. Mahomes finished with 23 completions in 28 attempts for 326 yards and was sacked just once while not throwing a single interception. His quarterback rating of 154.8 was out of control. He made this look easy.
The Chiefs offensive performance comes a week after T.J. Watt was named Defensive Player of the Week for the AFC and he followed that up with a dismal outing on Sunday by scoring just one tackle and one assist. If this defensive performance is any indication of things to come, this Steelers team is in deep, deep trouble. They have tried for several seasons to win games by way of a shootout and it just doesn’t work.
Keith Butler’s defense failed in all facets. Not only was the secondary in a word … horrible, the defense also gave up 75 yards rushing to Kareem Hunt; allowed Sammy Watkins to run off a 31 yarder, and even Mahomes was solid on the ground with 18 yards on five carries including a 10 yard first down carry.
To make matters more embarrassing for this Joe Haden-less defense yesterday is the fact that it seems the Pittsburgh Steelers are always allowing opposing teams to set records on them. Yesterday was no exception. Mahomes tied the Kansas City Chiefs team record for most touchdowns passing in one game. The kid ties Len Dawson who did the same thing to the Denver Broncos in 1964 when both teams were in the AFL. Worse is that his 10 TD tosses in the first two games is now a new NFL record for the most in two games. He sets the mark against our Steelers. YOI.
One thing is for sure for Kansas City Chiefs fans…this kid IS for real. He is WAY better than Alex Smith so letting Smith go was absolutely the right decision. However, for Steelers fans, they have to have some very serious concerns about this defense. Now let me add a little more insult to injury. Those six touchdown passes allowed by Pittsburgh ties the mark for the most EVER by a Pittsburgh defense. Mahomes equals what Jim Kelly did in 1991.
To further break down the Steelers absence of a defense on Sunday, there were so many missed tackles, no pressure on the quarterback and worst of all, loose coverage on receivers. The Steelers offense is by no means the problem. After all, when you score 37 points (35 were on touchdowns and this includes a missed field goal opportunity by Chris Boswell) you expect to win. Had the defense shown up yesterday this game could have been a huge win by the Steelers.
Forget Le’Veon Bell. His absence again had nothing to do with the outcome. This loss is ENTIRELY on the defense. The Pittsburgh offense down by 21 valiantly fought back to tie the game before halftime but the defense kept putting them in a hole. There was a huge break for the Steelers when Ben Roethlisberger appeared to fumble the ball to Kansas City deep in his own territory but a penalty on the Chiefs reversed that play. A safety appeared to close the gap and give the Steelers a chance, but it was too little too late when the Steelers scored for the final time with just over two minutes to play.
Some other thoughts regarding the loss:
Some of my thoughts about the rest of the NFL
Now for final comments regarding yesterday’s ugly loss from the coach and players:
Mike Tomlin: “A disappointing performance. Just not good enough really in all three phases. Not enough detail, not enough big-play making or execution, winning those one-on-one downs. And we didn’t play penalty free enough. I thought penalties were an issue for us early on in terms of stopping us the first three possessions of the game. I thought penalties were a factor for us defensively in the second half. Not good enough today. We have a lot of work to do.”
Ben Roethlisberger: “We had to score points. When you get in a hole like that you have to score points and score quick. It makes you run the no-huddle and throw the ball every play pretty much. I am proud of the way the guys fought to the very end. It's not fun, but it's still early. It's kind of where are we going to go from here. It's kind of a mirror, gut check, whatever you want to call it. We'll see how everyone wants to respond.”
Sean Davis: “I don’t want to give him too much credit, when we don’t play well. I’m not gonna hate on him; just I can’t really give an honest assessment of Mahomes when we didn’t play our best against him.”
Terrell Edmunds: “Mahomes is a good player, but we just didn’t make the plays we were supposed to make.”
Vince Williams: “We’ve just got to make more plays, and we’ve got to play better. That’s really it.”
No shit Sherlock. Tell us something we don’t know. Even a former Steeler is chiming in with an opinion on this very suspect defense:
Tony Dungy: “It’s bad, and it has nothing to do with Le’Veon Bell not being there. The defensive side of the ball — missed tackle after missed tackle, blown coverages, guys running wide open, no discipline on defense. Mike Tomlin needs to get that fixed. I’m very concerned. I’m a former Pittsburgh defensive player, I’m a former Pittsburgh defensive coach, and I don’t like what I’m seeing from this defense.”
One final thought on Mike Tomlin, he might be this kind of “players coach” that most people know him as, but despite his success as coach and how many games he has won or will win this season, he needs to get more firm with the players. To allow Antonio Brown to act as he does with no discipline, it will never end and that’s on Tomlin to fix. He should also take my advice and make the decision with Kevin Colbert to tell Le’Veon Bell never to come back to the team.
A Kid Makes it Look Easy
Sunday, September 9
Steelers 21 Browns 21
Sunday, September 16
Chiefs 42 Steelers 37
Monday, September 24
@ Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Sunday, September 30
Sunday, October 7
Sunday, October 14
@ Cincinnati Bengals
Sunday, October 21
Sunday, October 28
Sunday, November 4
@ Baltimore Ravens
Thursday, November 8
Sunday, November 18
@ Jacksonville Jaguars
Sunday, November 25
@ Denver Broncos
Sunday, December 2
Los Angeles Chargers
Sunday, December 9
@ Oakland Raiders
Sunday, December 16
New England Patriots
Sunday, December 23
@ New Orleans Saints
Sunday, December 30