Oct 5, 2014; Jacksonville, FL, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers cornerback Brice McCain (25) celebrates his interception return for a touchdown in the fourth quarter as the Pittsburgh Steelers beat the Jacksonville Jaguars 17-9 at EverBank Field. Mandatory Credit: David Manning-USA TODAY Sports
The Pittsburgh Steelers, despite themselves, were able to overcome more penalties, poor play calling, and turnovers on their way to defeating the Jacksonville Jaguars. Anyone else getting of this song and dance? I know I am.
A win is a win in the NFL. But, for Steeler fans this kind of win does not fill one with optimism and confidence moving forward. Anything but sheer dominance and a boat load of points against a winless team like the Jaguars – a team that has given up no LESS than 33 points in their first four games – would leave a sour taste in the mouth. I’m happy for the win, but it’s like eating an entire box of Sour Patch Kids all at once.
The Jags coming into this game had the worst passing defense in the entire league. Much like the way the Tampa Bay game went early, the Steelers offense did a whole lot of side to side and very little in the way of trying to stretch the field. The lack of killer instinct in Todd Haley and his play calling is essentially the story of the season in my book. How a coach can’t draw up a game plan that does nothing but destroy teams like the Bucs and the Jags is beyond me. The predictability. The lack of utilizing play makers. All of it will only add up to even worse results against the better teams in the league.
Oct 5, 2014; Jacksonville, FL, USA; Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles (5) runs past Pittsburgh Steelers outside linebacker Jason Worilds (93) for a first down in the first quarter of their game at EverBank Field. Mandatory Credit: Phil Sears-USA TODAY Sports
While lacking in the points, the offense did not lack in yards. The offense gained close to 400 yards in offense on Sunday. Le’Veon Bell set a team record for scrimmage yards through the first five games. Bettis had 610 yards through five back in 1996. Bell now has 688 yards from scrimmage, and Sunday was his fifth game of 100+ yards from scrimmage. Antonio Brown continued his streak of at least five catches and at least 50 yards for the 21st consecutive game. He also eclipsed the 500 yard mark in the first five games.
But, it’s the lack of points and Red Zone efficiency that continues to be the true achilles of this offense. Take away the Carolina game where the offense dominated and put up some serious points, and the Steelers offense in the second half this season has scored 13 points: 3+3+7+0. That’s simply awful, and is one of the major contributors to how teams such as the Browns, Bucs, and Jags are able to hang around and pull out wins.
The penalties continue to plague the Steelers. The team as a whole were guilty of seven infractions for 50 yards. Lance Moore was dinged with a 15 yard post whistle penalty. I could hardly blame him for his lack of ability to contain his excitement. After barely being a blip on this team, Moore had a nice snag and run that resulted in a big first down for the Steelers offense. The most annoying infractions? The two back to back offside penalties called on a kickoff. Looks like Tomlin still needs to work a little more on that discipline thing.
The defense finally showed up for a while today and decided to get a couple of sacks and interceptions while they were at the game. Jason Worilds either realized the season started or finally picked up a newspaper to see the level of criticism catapulted his way. Worilds had a solid first half with some pressures and a sack. He, however, put on his disappearing act in the second half. The Steelers desperately need more from this guy, but it’s unclear if we will ever see it. So far he’s been a waste of $10 million.
The biggest surprise and most pleasant of the day on defense happened after a Big Ben fumble deep in Jaguar territory. The Jags had a chance to march down the field and score to put a huge amount of pressure on the Steelers. At what was probably the turning point of the game, backup cornerback Brice McCain jumped a route, picked off the pass, and ran it back for a pick 6. The blitz and press by the other corners forced Jaguars QB Bortles to throw where McCain jumped on the pass.
Finally, the coaches were losing supporters right and left during game. Tweets were pouring in about DLB, Haley, and Tomlin. I think it’s incorrect to say that Steeler Nation is hitting the panic button. Instead they are close to going nuclear on a coaching staff has just about lost the confidence in its faithful. They have every right to be. It’s doubtful that Sunday’s result of a win would end up the same were this team playing the Ravens, Bengals, Colts, Chiefs, Saints – all teams the Steelers have yet to play at least once (Bengals twice).