At Denver is never a fun experience. Never. It’s a game that brings back some bad memories for Steeler fans. Ryan Clark’s inactives due to sickle cell. The Tebow Game. They shot Joey Potter. But, with 6 straight wins under their belts, the black and gold were ready to leave these memories in the past and further solidify their spot in the AFC playoff picture.
Note: Moments before the game, the Steelers received the kiss of death:
I’m not exaggerating. This guy is incapable of being right.
Xavier Grimble’s fumble was atrocious. Big Ben’s two picks were just awful. Conner had an inexcusable fumble, himself. Over 500 yards of offense and only 17 points. Twice the Steelers turned the ball over in the Broncos endzone, in a game they only lost by one score. This was an ugly one, folks. But in a weird way, I’m okay with today. The Steelers were awful, and lost a road game to a solid team by one score. There have been greater abominations in this team’s history.
The part that hurts, is the Steelers position in the AFC playoffs dropping to 4th, pending the results of the Houston Texans’ Monday Night Football contest with the Tennessee Titans. However, it’s not the end of the world just yet. The Steelers have the tie in their record – almost a little buffer of sorts. So, wins against Los Angeles and New England in the next month (however likely/unlikely you may think that parlay is), would vault the Steelers back into a first round bye. So, whether this was a win or a loss today, the boys still had to have taken care of business in those two contests coming up. For that reason, it’s best to turn the page to Sunday night against the L.A. Chargers.
1. Ben Roethlisberger is a first-ballot Hall of Famer and the best quarterback to ever wear a Steelers’ uniform. He is arguably a top ten quarterback of all time, and more surely a top 15 quarterback of all time. BUT: Every now and then, Ben reminds us why he isn’t a top fiver; why he isn’t Brees, Peyton, Brady or Marino. And that reason is the mistakes. The best versions of Ben (versions we see a dozen or so times every year), can play quarterback as well as any quarterback to ever play. But, plays like his interception today to Chris Harris, Jr. or his game-sealing pick in the end zone are plays that we know a little to well for someone of Ben’s talent. They are the mistakes that keep #7 on the outside looking in, in regards to this generation’s Mount Rushmore of QBs, and they are what have kept him from being a multi-time MVP winner. I realize the critical tone of this paragraph, and I don’t want it to come off as me having any genuine complaints about our man under center. But in regards to being the best, or top 3 in the league, or top ten ever… bad mistakes like today don’t do Big Ben any favors.
2. What a weird day for the Steeler defense. Phillip Lindsay ran for 110 yards on only 14 carries. Case Keenum threw for just 197. It was weird honestly to watch our defense that had been playing lights out for weeks now, to allow Denver to run it on us so easily with the lack of a passing threat that they were showing. This was in part due to a set back on the performance of the big men upfront. Cam Heyward was in the backfield a handful of times, but those constant big pushes didn’t seem to be there. It would have been nice to force the ball into Keenum’s hands down the stretch or at least force them to get the ball to Lindsay in space. But, it was to no avail on this Sunday. Let’s hope this is corrected before next week, and (injured?) Melvin Gordon.
3. I have a bad feeling about Antonio Brown. I can’t put a finger on it, but it’s almost that he doesn’t seem happy. I don’t know if it’s because he isn’t getting targeted as much as he did last year, but something seem a bit off. Here’s hoping for a classic AB, 15 catches for 215 yards and 2 TDs performance next week, to restore the natural order off things.
4. It’s a BAD look for the special teams unit and coach Danny Smith to allow Justin Simmons to block a kick by going over the top exactly like he did a few weeks ago. That has to be seen on tape, and has to be accounted for. I realize this is easier said than done, but I’m the one with a keyboard. Would be surprised if Smith weren’t in for a reaming from Coach T for this one.
5. I would love to see a heavy rushing attack the next few weeks, followed up by play action and shots down field. There has been a lot of horizontal, short routes the past few weeks, and it seems to have broken a very nice rhythm we had working, especially with James Conner. Again, this isn’t time to jump of a bridge – but getting back to our running game helps everyone – #7, #84, #19; you name ’em.
6. Great uniforms, Denver!
Deep breaths. We’re going to be fine (mostly because I think the Ravens are meh and the BUNGALS lost to Cleveland). But, this was a slop-fest from horn to horn. Look for the black and gold to play an inspired brand of football next Sunday night, under the bright lights against a top tier team. Let’s hope some of these wrongs get righted, and we can climb back towards that first round bye.
Oh, yeah, and let’s pray that Fillipponi picks the Chargers in a rout.