Wild-Card Sunday: The Steelers begin their quest to Tampa
By Devan Penman
December of 2020 of Steelers lore should be forgotten about, mine included.
After defeating the Ravens in the longest week in Steelers and NFL history, they were just 5 wins away from a perfect season matching the 1972 Dolphins and the 2007 Patriots. But, a loss against a tough Washington opponent and the streak snapped. That began a soul and momentum-crushing streak of consecutive losses, even counting last Sunday’s loss against Cleveland despite a number of starters out of the game making it 4 out of the last 5.
I spoke about what the Steelers needed to fix in order to get back on track, especially when you lost to a then 2-12-1 Bengals team. Just watching the month’s worth of games saw glimpses of it, but even with a great performance and comeback in the second half against Indianapolis and against Cleveland, I still have my doubts.
Since the Washington loss, we haven’t been able to display a consistent 4 quarter game, and now since the Playoffs have arrived, you can’t have a mediocre performance and win ball-games. It’s a game of Chess and Battleship because when you give, they can take it away. Cleveland has that opportunity because their team is capable of completing sustainable drives and maintaining any lead that they have, much better than their teams in the past. Covid has been a big interruption in every team’s progress and it has shown up in this Wild-Card matchup, but every team has persevered throughout these troubled times.
The question will be who has been better prepared. It is not a worry for Pittsburgh because we have had struggles of our own, so let’s find out what has rung true that the Steelers still need to focus on in order to defeat the Browns in this chest matchup.
Attempted – Using the Option play
Playcalling has always been a difference-maker in how any Offense performs, but it becomes more difficult with the communication between the play-caller and the Quarterback if they agree or disagree. There have been moments of frustration that have spilled onto the sidelines, and for the last 3 seasons it has shown; heck there have been instances where Ben calls his own plays in the huddle. When things aren’t working though you need to try something new. Utilizing a new formation with a Quarterback that is losing mobility as he ages is not as easy as it looks, but it can be done (aka the Saints using a multi-talented Taysom Hill).
This past game against Cleveland was a test if the Steelers can fully execute the formation. Utilizing Joshua Dobbs in this scenario is what I recommended previously and it looked like they might’ve taken my advice. No, it wasn’t perfect on most of the plays, but we used it well into our Offensive scheme and gained any yards we can get out of it. And since the run game back then was struggling and if you’re using Pass about 90% of the time, the coaching staff on Defense is going to figure it out sooner or later and you will need to do something different. Speaking about the run game …