Kevin Gorman’s Take 5: Five thoughts on Steelers, Penguins, Pitt
1.Blame everyone: Steelers fans are fired up and want to fire everyone from Mike Tomlin and Todd Haley to Keith Butler and Joey Porter after the 45-42 AFC playoff loss to Jacksonville.
They won’t stop until they get Steely McBeam.
But no one wants to blame No. 7.
While hosting on 93.7 The Fan Sunday and Thursday nights, I started to hear a theme from outraged Steelers fans: You can’t blame Ben Roethlisberger because he passed for 469 yards and five touchdowns…
Roethlisberger also threw a first-quarter interception by Myles Jack at the Jacksonville 18, setting up Leonard Fournette’s touchdown run on the ensuing play for a 14-0 Jaguars lead.
Roethlisberger also was responsible for a second-quarter fumble (on a strip sack) that resulted in a 50-yard touchdown by Telvin Smith that made it 28-7.
But Big Ben wasn’t at his best on the final drive, either.
The Steelers got the ball back at their own 25, trailing 45-35, with 1:45 remaining. His first three pass attempts were incomplete before he hit Vance McDonald for gains of 12 and 16 yards and Martavis Bryant for 42 yards.
The Steelers had the ball at the Jacksonville 5 with 47 seconds left, but Roethlisberger was called for intentional grounding. That drew a 10-yard penalty, loss of down and 10-second runoff. Antonio Brown caught a 4-yard pass but failed to get out of bounds, and a pass to Xavier Grimble in the end zone was incomplete.
By the time Roethlisberger hit JuJu Smith-Schuster for a touchdown, the Steelers were out of time.
Big Ben certainly deserves credit for the comeback from a 21-point deficit, but he shouldn’t be absolved of any blame.
2.Blame Bell, too: It’s hard to imagine the Steelers without All-Pro running back Le’Veon Bell, who had a game-high 155 yards from scrimmage and scored touchdowns by run and reception against the Jaguars.
But Bell did more of his damage as a receiver (nine catches for 88 yards) than as a runner (16 carries for 67 yards). His 4.2 yards per carry average was bloated by runs of 20 and 21 yards. On the other 14 carries, Bell averaged 2.2 yards per carry.
Not only did Bell provide unnecessary distractions during the week by talking about sitting out or retiring next season if the Steelers placed the franchise tag on him again and back-to-back rematches before the Steelers played the Jaguars but it’s also been reported that he showed up late to both the walk-through and the game.
As good as Bell is – and he’s arguably the game’s best back – he wasn’t effective in short-yardage situations against the Jaguars. He was dropped for a 4-yard loss on a fourth-and-1 toss and stopped short on a third-and-1 in the fourth quarter.
3.Replacing Ryan Shazier: While signing Bell remains the Steelers’ top priority this offseason – they will likely place the franchise tag on him again and attempt to negotiate a long-term deal – finding Ryan Shazier’s replacement at inside linebacker isn’t far behind.
While some mock drafts have projected the Steelers to pick Alabama linebacker Rashaan Evans with the 28th pick, you have to wonder whether the Steelers want to invest another first-rounder on a linebacker after selecting Jarvis Jones (2013), Shazier (’14), Bud Dupree (’15) and T.J. Watt (’17).
A team with Super Bowl-or-bust aspirations might want to test the free-agent market, looking for a leader the way it did with James Farrior. Despite his injury history, NaVorro Bowman might be a good choice after boosting the Oakland Raiders’ run defense.
4.Dirty deed, Dustin: There’s no place in sports – not just hockey – for cheap shots like the one the L.A. Kings’ Dustin Brown dished out on Penguins defenseman Justin Schultz Thursday night.
Schultz was on his knees, vulnerable and defenseless when Brown checked his stick across Schultz’s back to send him head-first into the dasher boards. It drew a game misconduct and should be followed with a fine and suspension from the NHL.
The league needs to send a message that it won’t be tolerated.
5.Say hello to Shocky: If his play on the field at all resembles how he handles interviews, Pitt got a good one in freshman receiver Shocky Jacque-Louis.
Jacques-Louis, whose given name is Shyheem, explained that his grandmother gave he and twin brother, Rahkeem – who is older by 45 minutes and will play defensive end at Florida International – the nicknames Shocky and Rocky because they were going to shock and rock the world, respectively.
“My grandma has a brilliant mind,” Shocky said, “because I love the name.”
Not only is the mid-year enrollee charismatic but confident.
Shocky said he wants to join Antonio Bryant (2000) and Larry Fitzgerald (2003) as Panthers to win the Biletnikoff Award, presented to the nation’s top wide receiver.
“Dreamers gotta dream,” Shocky said.
Might as well dream big and shock the world.