— The Pittsburgh Steelers know they squandered a tremendous opportunity last night and you could see it on Mike Tomlin’s face today during his weekly press conference. Tomlin is taking a lot of heat for poor clock management and how he didn’t step in and take Ben Roethlisberger out of the game in the 4th quarter when things were out of reach. “He’s a competitor and I’m not going to deny those guys those opportunities,” Tomlin said today on Roethlisberger’s gutsy performance. “I think his teammates have an appreciation for that and that’s how we’re built.” Tomlin said today that “he never considered” taking Roethlisberger out of the game.
— Offensively, the Steelers moved the ball against San Francisco but what’s been a common scene on the road is the inability to capitalize and put points on the board. The Steelers had drives of 51 yards, 43 yards and 81 yards in the first half, resulting in 0 points. Notable drives in the second half, theyÂ went 62 and 51 yards, managing just 3 points.
The Steelers play on the road this season, especially against good teams has been a major concern. On the road, the Steelers are 0-3 against teams with a .700 winning percentage or better. In all three losses to Baltimore, San Francisco and Houston, Pittsburgh failed to score more than 10 points, losing to Baltimore 35-7, Houston 17-10, and San Francisco last night, 20-3. In the three games combined, Pittsburgh committed 12 turnovers, while forcing 0 turnovers.
4-3 on the road this season, Pittsburgh has scored 13 points or less in four of seven road games.
— There’s been a notion around the Steelers of late that defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau over thinks his coverage schemes.
The 49ers are a running team that features a short quick passing game to move the chains and minimize the risk through the air. Logic says that the Steelers would clog the box and play tight man to man coverage. It didn’t happen.
Instead the Steelers played off San Francisco’s receivers giving them a good 7 to 10 yard cushion and Smith easily moved the chains. Defending the deep ball made no sense and Pittsburgh played with no aggressiveness, recording 0 sacks and just 1 sack.
— A question going around is whether the Steelers defense is still elite. Right now absolutely not as several star players are either injured or underachieving. The better question is whether this defense can be elite in the playoffs?
This is a defense that doesn’t get enough pressure or enough takeaways. However, the playmakers are there when healthy, this defense could surely play at an elite level in the playoffs.
The Steelers in a sense have not had LaMarr Woodley and James Harrison healthy and playing at an elite level together during any point this season. The first four games of the season, Harrison’s game was off as he was recovering from back surgery, while Woodley came out of the lockout out of shape and it took him more than four weeks to get back to par.
When Woodley’s game took off in October, Harrison was out of the lineup due to an eye fracture, and once Harrison returned on November 6th, Woodley hasn’t been close to full strength since.
Troy Polamalu has not been that dynamic game changer this season, most notably against the pass. That needs to change come playoff time.
— What is going on with Lawrence Timmons? He continues to miss tackles and overrun plays and the dynamic play in the past that landed him a $50 million contract has not been there all season. Something has been missing and that explosiveness to the ball Timmons used to have, has been gone this season and he’s regressed against the pass. It’s been stunning how slow he’s looked at times.
*Jerricho Cotchery should be the team’s no. 3 receiver, regardless of whether Emannuel Sanders is fully healthy again this season.
*When Hines Ward had 5 catches against the Bengals on Dec 5., and the Steelers were trying to go his way as he inched closer to 1,000 receptions, it appear to be a lock after that game Ward would hit the 1,000 mark this season. That hasn’t been the case at all. Since a costly fumble against the Browns, Ward has been luck to be on the field for 10 snaps and has just 1 reception in his last two games. With two games remaining, Ward needs 9 catches to reach 1,000.
*Antonio Brown (60 rec – 984 yards – 2 td) is 16 yards away from 1,000 receiving yards.
*Mewelde Moore will be sidelined for several weeks due to an MCL sprain. It’s a tough blow for the Steelers
*Head coach Mike Tomlin tried to downplay that LaMarr Woodley suffered any kind ofÂ setback in Monday nights game. He also pretty much said the same thing following the Bengals game.