*Pre-editor post (forgive any typos)
The Steelers deserve all the bad fortune happening to them right now. I shouldn’t say ‘fortune’, like it’s bad luck. The Steelers have earned this ‘bad team’ status, and I’ll get to two major examples why in a moment. I’m not sure I realized just how bad this Steelers’ season has been until looking at the whole season again, a closer look brought on by their sudden losing ways.
The Steelers are ‘Vikings good’…as in teams we all think are good but cannot beat any good teams this year to prove it. The Steelers have one quality win this season, kinda – they beat the Ravens, back when Baltimore was in their Joe Flacco-led midseason tailspin. Other than that, no real quality wins/wins over a team with a winning record. A fortuitous, easy schedule until recently…now, the whole thing is on the verge of collapse. Had the Steelers not had that miracle comeback win against Jacksonville Week 11, a game where they were destroyed for 55 minutes and somehow won last second – then the Steelers would not be rocking a three-game losing streak, it would be 4 games down…with NE and NO in their next two about to take them to six losses in-a-row and out of the playoffs.
This is a secretly bad football team (Steelers) that we have fond memories of…but our thoughts and emotions are leading us astray. They are now likely to finish 8-7-1 and out of the playoffs, unless that flimsy record wins the division…and it might.
I think Mike Tomlin is playing for his job this week, I really do. I don’t think he thinks that, but the entire Steelers nation will either rally to him if they defeat the hated Patriots…or they will take up pitchforks and torches and demand his ouster with another loss to NE, which would be followed by a loss at New Orleans…which could lead them right out of the playoffs and then lead to a total overhaul of the Steelers franchise. A complete franchise reboot and coach’s job, or not, are on the line this week against the Patriots.
Mike Tomlin deserves the blame for this team not being in a better position. The division has been giving him free wins with Hue Jackson and Marvin Lewis as opposing coaches intra-division. Kept the Steelers’ win totals propped up. Ben is great, but sloppy now. James Conner is an average/good RB. Antonio Brown has become a bit of a diva. They never addressed their middle linebacker situation this year. They tried to Ben-Antonio their way through an easy schedule…and they are running out of gas.
I blame Tomlin because of two situations that are below the radar, that no one in the mainstream football media will discuss…because none of them have a clue of player capabilities beyond the funny one’s dancing in ridiculous Pizza Hut commercials.
(1) The Steelers lost this Raiders game in part because Mike Tomlin failed to get Mason Rudolph, their 2018 drafted rookie QB, ready for such a moment. Ben is always getting hurt in-season. You have to be ready. They drafted a QB (Rudolph) who was a high flyer right alongside Patrick Mahomes and Baker Mayfield in the Big 12. Rudolph was one of the best pocket passers in the 2018 NFL Draft.
Instead of getting Rudolph ready, Tomlin favored Josh Dobbs…a guy who makes Lamar Jackson look like Joe Montana as a passer. Josh Dobbs should not be on an NFL roster. Mason Rudolph could already be starting for teams, if taken seriously. When trouble hit in this game…it was Josh Dobbs to the rescue, and whaddya know he’s 4-of-9 with a pick (and lucky it wasn’t worse) in his relief role.
Dobbs is not a pocket passer, he’s a runner and terrible passer. The entire offensive continuity goes right out the window with Dobbs vs. Ben…whereas Rudolph is a young Ben, only smarter and with 10x the character. How hard is that to see or work with for the past six months? Didn’t dawn on Tomlin.
(2) Nor did it dawn on Tomlin to get Jaylen Samuels ready for more action. In fact, it didn’t dawn on Tomlin to get Samuels ready for any action most of this season…until forced to.
Samuels was a TE/WR by trade in college, but also played a lot of tailback. He also played H-back and wildcat QB. Sometimes all five positions in the same game. He’s one of the most unique talents from the 2018 NFL Draft. He’s a weapon. I just watched the Bears use their entire defensive line on a goal line offensive play that ended up a TD pass to an offensive lineman – radical alignment, confused defense, deceptive, innovative…and a TD. The week before that their tail back threw a TD pass on 4th & goal with no time left to send a game to OT. On the other hand…Samuels, the jack of all trades, has never done anything but play traditional RB this year…not seeing a snap until halfway into the season. He should’ve been playing a role in Week 1. He should’ve been playing several roles…TE, WR, H-back, wildcat, etc., but he never saw the field until midseason, and then barely, and only as an RB.
Absolutely no vision by Mike Tomlin. He can get bug-eyed angry and defiant all he wants in post game press conferences…he’s no different than most every NFL head coach – limited and unimaginative. His best coaching attribute has been…let Ben-Antonio-Le’Veon do what they do (which is better than use them as decoys like 20+ other NFL coaches would). It looks like that Ben-Antonio-Le’Veon/Conner theory has run its course…it’s ‘peaked’ and has been in decline.
For all the reasons Mike McCarthy got bounced from Green Bay (good record, a Super Bowl, but should’ve been better with the talent provided), Tomlin is about to get dumped…IF the Steelers lose their next two games. And he deserves it…he authored it by lack of any planning besides – hope Ben-Antonio-Le’Veon pull this out every week/year.
If the Steelers beat New England, all will be forgotten. All will be celebrated…but it will be nothing but a head-fake, a temporary respite on what needs to happen – the Steelers need a top-to-bottom purge.
I have believed all year the Steelers would defeat New England this Week 15 game, until now. I say NE wins, sending the Steelers to 7-6-1. Then, the Steelers will lose to the Saints in Week 16, at New Orleans and fall to 7-7-1 and playing for their lives in Week 17 vs. Cincy – but the Ravens may have already won the division by then and the Steelers are completely shutout of the playoffs. Because of this loss and schedule ahead, the Steelers likely season ending status will be – missed the playoffs, based on the odds of things today.
If the Browns had not retained Hue Jackson and had any other head coach -- they would have won the AFC North walking away.
Oakland cannot even get obtaining the #1 draft pick right. The Raiders have won two of their last 4 and are on the verge of not getting the #1 overall pick. There’s still hope Oakland loses their next three and goes 3-13 to secure the top pick.
Fantasy Player Notes…
-- For whatever reason, down in the game, Mike Tomlin would insert Stevan Ridley (5-4-1) to throw cold water on the offense with 0 yard runs. Ridley should not be in the NFL, much less playing a key role. Every time Ridley touched the ball he was consumed at the line of scrimmage because he’s terrible.
Down in the game, Ben out…Tomlin turned to Dobbs-Ridley at times, two guys who couldn’t make it in the Canadian Football League. And you wonder why they lost?
Jaylen Samuels (11-28-0, 7-64-0/7), the true weapon, barely had any designed pass plays…no rhythm to his carries. It’s like they didn’t know what to do with him. Congrats on that! It only cost you a loss to Oakland and, probably, your job Mr. Tomlin. Hope the Stevan Ridley touches here and all season, ahead of Samuels, were worth it.
Samuels could be a star…should’ve been already. In Pittsburgh, he’s pigeon-holed as placeholder RB with no real plan to get unique touches to.
We’ll see if Samuels can save them this week, as I don’t think James Conner will play – but the sad thing is, if Conner is 50% able, Tomlin will push him out there and really drive home a pending loss to New England.
Samuels showed flashes of his talent here, but was put into a traditional, safe position and kept under wraps somewhat still. A lot of catches but more dump off/everyone else covered than planned events.
-- You know Derek Carr (25-34 for 322 yards, 2 TDs/0 INT) is on fire, somewhat, lately…right?
11 TDs/0 INTs his last 7 games. 2.0 TDs/0.0 INTs per game, his last four games. 280+ yards passing and 73%+ Comp. Pct. his last two games.
Carr is hot and his main WR to work with is Jordy Nelson (6-48-0/7). Jordy is back from his injury that hampered him midseason. 8.0 rec. (9.0 targets), 72.5 yards, 0.0 TDs per game the past two games.
Heating up Carr and Jordy – facing sad Cincy Week 15. I like Jordy as the shock WR of Week 15.
-- If you ignore Big Ben’s (25-29 for 282 yards, 2 TDs/0 INT) blowout of Carolina Week 10 (5 TD pass)…then from Week 6 on, Ben has tallied 12 TDs/7 INTs in 7 games. Good not ‘wow’ from Ben.
Against the top pass defenses he’s faced this season (DEN, JAX, LAC, CLE 2x, BAL 2x), Ben is 3-3-1 with 11 TDs/11 INTs.
We’ll see what Belichick conjures up this week.
-- Steelers LB L.J. Fort (4 tackles) was a monster in Week 13 vs. the Chargers with double-digit tackles and he seemed all over the place that game. Here, I barely noticed he was playing/did see him getting burned in coverage quite a bit.
The Steelers have a huge linebacker issue and they still haven’t fixed it.
-- Fantasy Playoff Notes from these two teams…
PIT should be in shootouts with NE and NO the next two weeks. Should be bigger numbers in the passing game, if not sloppy Ben turnovers along with it. Week 16 vs. NO/#1 run defense in the NFL is not good for James Conner’s likely return.
Carr-Jordy-Cook get at Cincy (cold but clear weather forecast) and Denver the next two weeks…and that’s more favorable than not. The only thing that could detract from this is if Carr is pulled Week 16 to see some Geno Smith/ensure the #1 draft pick.
Snap Counts of Interest:
48 = Samuels
08 = Ridley
41 = Ben
19 = Dobbs
33 = Richard
33 = Martin
01 = D Washington