Four weeks ago, I wrote an article about how the 11-0 Pittsburgh Steelers knew how to win games. It might not always be pretty, but we shouldn’t discount their undefeated record as a product of good fortune and a weak schedule. I wrote this on December 6th.
On December 7th, they lost their first game of the season, and to a sub .500 team in Washington. They lost to the Bills the following week. The Bengals handled them the week after that. A former 11-0 team lost three straight games, two of them to teams with losing records.
So, obviously, I was wrong. I’ll eat the crow.
HOWEVER, I’m not eating that whole fucking bird, pal. No sir. The Steelers seemed to have discovered something in their improbable comeback victory against the Colts yesterday. Are they back to being Super Bowl contenders?
We’ve missed you, Big Ben
It’s become abundantly clear that Randy Fichtner’s short passing game is not going to work. Perhaps it’s not all on him; Ben Roethlisberger has mostly not looked good driving passes down the field this season, necessitating a dink-and-dunk offense. It never helps a passing game when the running game is stuck in neutral, another issue the Steelers have been dealing with.
Defenses know all of these things, and took full advantage over Pittsburgh’s three-game losing streak. DBs gave receivers little room at the line of scrimmage, anticipating quick slants, screens, curls, etc. They averaged just 16 PPG in those losses, and their defense just wasn’t quite good enough to overcome such an anemic offense.
Things looked awfully familiar for the first half of the Colts game. The Steelers punted four times and scored one touchdown, which came after the defense caused a fumble and returned it to the Colts’ three yard line. 21-7 Indy at the half. Well on their way to a four-game skid.
Then things changed. Like a boxer letting his hands go, Big Ben started taking shots down the field. The Steelers’ no huddle offense put Roethlisberger back in control, and it resulted in three TD passes and a 28-24 victory.
Funny how good things happen when your Hall of Fame QB is running the show.
The Steelers need #7
The fate of the Pittsburgh Steelers 2020 season has to rest on Big Ben’s shoulders. There is no other way. Fichtner has proven time and time again that his play-calling is predictable and exploitable. Is Roethlisberger as physically gifted as he once was? Of course not. But the threat of downfield passing plays has to be there in order for the offense to function properly. Fichtner doesn’t seem willing to create this threat to keep the defense honest, but Roethlisberger clearly is. #7 is always ready to call his own number.
So, like I said, I’ll eat crow for saying the Steelers, in their previous iteration, could survive based on experience and a winning mentality. They couldn’t. But they seem to have re-discovered their formula for success in the Week 16 win over the Colts. Time will tell if this will translate into playoff success, but until then, you can save a bit of that crow.