I was very into this game Sunday night…a perfect 5-0 Blazing Five week was on the line and the Steelers kept taking the lead and letting the Lions sneak back in and move the ball down the field – but the Steelers defense bowed up every time and shut down the Lions to a bunch of field goals.
The Steelers are going to win the AFC and go to the Super Bowl…as of now. Subject to change. Remember when they lost to Jacksonville and world was collapsing? That’s the media not respecting Jacksonville, and probably the Steelers didn’t either.
The Steelers did something in this game that will fly under the radar because it worked…but if it hadn’t worked -- people would want Mike Tomlin fired. What he did at the end of this game is the reason why Tomlin is one of my favorite coaches…if not my favorite in-game coach. What they did was something championship teams do…and succeed at.
It was 20-15 Steelers with 1:54 left and the Lions with all three timeouts. What happens in 99.9% of games in this situation, backed up to their own 8-yard line, the Steelers should have run the ball three times (per the ‘norm’), expired all the Lions timeouts, punted away and tried to hold the Lions off from a late, game-winning TD.
Only, they would be punting to a dangerous return man (Jamal Agnew) around midfield or so. Even if he fair caught it, the Lions would have 1:40+ to try to score a TD…with no timeouts. Very doable…for the home team.
What do the Steelers do? Something that most NFL teams wouldn’t do and I’m sure something that face-painting Steelers fan watching was crying about right before it happened – after running on 1st down, the Steelers tried to get a 1st-down+ with a medium-deep shot to Antonio Brown on 2nd-down…the pass went incomplete…the clock stopped. The Lions didn’t have to use a timeout. Cris Collinsworth clutched his pearls at the notion. Steelers’ fans were probably irate. On 3rd-down, the Steelers took a shot through the air again…fortunately, an obvious DPI was called on the attempted throw to Eli Rogers and the Steelers got the first down. The clock had stopped though.
1:45 left and still two timeouts for the Lions. Plenty of hope if they stopped the Steelers and forced them to punt.
The Steelers ran the first play, and Lions burned a timeout. 2nd-down, run again…just short…3rd & 1, and the Lions burned their last timeout with 1:29 left. The 3rd-down play was brilliant. A fake pitch to Le’Veon Bell…with 11 Lions’ defenders chasing Bell, and then Ben pitched a shuttle pass to JuJu Smith-Schuster up the middle and they converted easily…ball game.
What if the Steelers had not converted on that 3rd-down attempt with an incomplete pass and thus not forcing the Lions to burn those timeouts or JuJu dropped the shuttle pass to stop the clock and set up a Steelers punt to Detroit with plenty of time? I’ll tell you what – Colin Cowherd would be calling for Mike Tomlin’s job, as would everyone in Steelers Nation. The decision would be debated and mocked all week. People would say it is further evidence of the dysfunction of this team. Yadda-yadda. It worked brilliantly and nary a peep...had it failed there would be a week of debate and venom.
Mike Tomlin took the road less traveled at the end of this game, and it was utterly brilliant and I don’t know if anyone is giving him the praise he deserves for it. He’ll do it again someday…and it won’t work and he’ll be crucified for it. When it did work, this week, no one noticed. We do that in fantasy – our good calls were ‘lucky’/forgotten, and our bad calls were because ‘we’re stupid’. Not me. I’m not going there.
Everyone thought the Steelers were dead after the Jags loss…they weren’t.
Almost no one in the NFL would do what Tomlin did at the end of this game…it worked, he won.
Enjoy the times you’re right on a decision and recall them when you start Marquise Goodwin in Week 8, and get a zero. It’s going to happen…probably every other week. Don’t assume the worst after a losing week…because it affects how you play waivers and choose sit/start the following week. Do like Mike Tomlin – play to win and not playing not to lose/not get criticized or laughed at.
2017 is the year to keep grinding in fantasy…don’t take anything for granted. Don’t give up until it’s obvious. You’re a week away from uncovering a gem off waivers out of nowhere or a ‘Hail Mary’ trade you make. The hot team in your league may get the bad injury news next. Keep fighting in this very odd 2017.
Where was I? Oh, the Steelers are going to the Super Bowl to face the Cowboys/Rams.
The Lions…the poor Lions. Not good enough to matter, but not bad enough to rebuild. They’re just floating out in limbo. Actually, this season is far from over. The Lions are 3-4 with at GB, CLE, at CHI, MIN ahead. If they can beat GB, and obviously they’ll beat CLE…and if they get starting LT Taylor Decker back…the Lions schedule is set up for them to be in the NFC Central hunt. If the Lions beat GB this week, I think the Lions could (COULD) win 10 games and get the division because Aaron Rodgers is gone and Case Keenum is not to be feared, and the Vikings schedule is about to amp up. Detroit seems dead…it’s not over.
Lions’ fans…you probably feel like Steelers fans a few weeks ago after the lost to the Jags. Stop. You’ve lost three games by less than a TD. You almost came back to beat the Saints down by a million at one point. You’re better than your record and the schedule ahead is your friend. Think positive not negative!
Think like Mike Tomlin.
Jim Caldwell is just like Mike Tomlin…if Tomlin had a special surgery that sucked all the life and personality out of him.
Fantasy Player Notes…
-- I now love JuJu Smith-Schuster (7-193-1/10), but don’t panic…it’s not what you think. Not a scouting reversal.
I have been ‘shoulder shrug’ on Smith-Schuster all fantasy season. I pointed out his rising trends a few weeks ago but always noted that I didn’t trust he’d get enough work in the offense to be a for-sure fantasy starter for us. Nothing against him, everything to do with the situation.
Well, a 97-yard TD and a nice game on a solo night game on TV…and now JSS is a superstar because that’s how these things work. If he was ‘Jim Smith’…not as many people care. ‘JuJu’ is memorable. It’s marketable. It’s a great name…and it feels ‘exciting’.
Smith-Schuster is a very solid WR, not a star. He’s being made into a star for all the reasons above + he’s a rookie + he went to USC. However, he is the talk of the town and will be the top waiver guy this week and everyone will go crazy because of this SNF game. He’s just a solid player who had a great night. Right across the field, Marvin Jones (a dull sounding name) had a fantastic game considering the coverage and the types of catches he was making – he had 6 catches for 128 yards on 11 targets but no one really cares. Marvin is not as cool a name as ‘JuJu’. Gimme Marvin over JuJu based on recent trends and this game, going forward, in redraft.
I love JuJu though because when you have one of these moments, you tend to develop a weird kinship with the player. You’ve all had something like this happen, I hope…
An hour before 1pm kickoff Sunday, I had to advise a client on whether to start Foreman or not for our BYE week-ravaged team. It was start Foreman to maintain him on the team in a 12-team/PPR/redraft in a league that hoards RBs or ditch Foreman and add the best available random something for this week.
I was pretty sure I was going Tyrell Williams off waivers to start for this one week. Then, I saw JuJu on the waiver WR projections and thought…”What the hell, I’ve got too many Tyrell one-week gambles as it is. Let me try my first JuJu.” Down big going into the SNF game, I thought – “Well, if Tyreek Hill can score 3 TDs again against Denver, and one of them a long one, I might have a shot if JuJu can get me like 10 points vs. DET as well.”
Needless to say, we’re up comfortably going into a Tyreek v. Hunt showdown on MNF.
So, I love JuJu now. I won’t say a bad word about him again…until it’s warranted.
I don’t think this pace keeps up for JuJu…and I’d be a seller on the hot name especially going into a BYE week.
-- I am probably seeing ghosts, but did anyone notice a little more prominent role for Dwayne Washington (6-12-0, 1-4-0/1) in this game? Life is begging him to take this job away from the highly ineffective Ameer Abdullah (11-27-0, 3-11-0/3). Washington is the best all-around back on the team…if he could pop just one, get a little momentum he could steal this job and become a 2nd-half sensation…or just keep getting 3-4-5 carries every other game and ramming into the O-Line for 0-2 yards each time.
I think the signal is in the sky…we’re back on Dwyane Washington watch.
…and if he ever hits…lookout.
I will say Washington looks more confident and in control on his carries. Last regular-season he was in a hurry on everything. This year, more controlled…but not effective yet. He really needed to take one of those goal-line score attempts in this game…but the Steelers D was just too much.
-- If Eric Ebron (2-58-0/6) is traded, and he should be, then Darren Fells (1-12-0/3) becomes a TE2, possible TE1 in nonPPR on BYE weeks. He might be a TD guy enough that he draws some PPR TE1 interest on BYE weeks. I can’t see enough targets going his way consistently for him to be an exciting, sleeper TE1.
-- Theo Riddick (4-21-0, 2-24-0/3) has gone from most important man for the Lions passing game to barely involved.
He’s not dead yet, just feels like it. You can’t start him or even roster him in 12-team, 15-man rosters, but he’s about due for a 5+ catch game with 50+ yards and a cheap TD any week now. He’s had four or more catches in a game in 4 of his 7 games, but hardly any yards and no TDs since opening day.
-- Marvin Jones (6-28-0/11) is on fire the past three weeks – exactly 6 catches in each of his last three games, 6.0 rec. (11.0 targets), 92.7 yards, 0.33 TDs per game the last three games.
-- The Steelers DST play keeps trucking along. They get a trio of mobile QBs ahead, but the Steelers front seven is so fast it won’t matter – Brissett-Mariota-Hundley after the BYE…all PIT DST starts. The Steelers DST starts with confidence until Week 15-16 and then you have to be ready for an audible with NE-HOU (if Watson still white hot) to finish the FF season.
-- Rookie DB Jamal Agnew (1-11-0/1) has been a fantastic return man…might be a Pro Bowl special teamer. He isn’t playing much on defense, but he did get in on offense – a little end-around flip pass. He looked terrific. He’s going to be a nice IDP DB when he gets his shot.
Snap Counts of Interest…
59 = Antonio
51 = JuJu
45 = Fells
34 = Ebron
19 = Roberts
68 = Marvin jones
52 = T.J. Jones
44 = Tate