Tim Benz: An airing of grievances despite Steelers’ win over Patriots
Can we really do our usual “Airing of Grievances” after a game like that?
Finally, a Pittsburgh Steelers win over the hated New England Patriots. The first against them since 2011. Just the third against quarterback Tom Brady. Just the fourth in the Heinz Field era. All against 11 knife-twisting defeats since 2001.
So, it doesn’t seem appropriate to — as a certain head coach may say — “dwell in the minutiae” of went wrong after an exhilarating win.
But it is a weekly tradition, win or lose, to air our grievances about the Steelers game that has just been played. Plus, the “Airing of Grievances” is a Festivus tradition. And it is the Festivus season.
Let’s face it. There was plenty to gripe about. Look at how similar that game was to the Oakland loss.
I know. Suggesting any win against the Patriots is at all similar to a loss against the Raiders is blasphemous.
Truth be told, though, it came down to the same kind of moment defensively: the Steelers calling a timeout so they could set up the defense to stop a throw into the end zone on a game-deciding fourth down with seconds remaining.
Derek Carr found his tight end for a touchdown to win it. Shockingly, Brady couldn’t find his to do the same.
And his tight end is renowned Steeler-killer Rob Gronkowski.
If Brady completes a touchdown pass, dear Lord, would there have been an explosion of complaints.
Not to go all Bill Cowher on you, but that was a perfect example of his “fine line” refrain.
So instead of airing our grievances this week, let’s instead bask in the afterglow of the Steelers defeating the Patriots despite so many things that didn’t go right.
It would’ve been one thing to blow the Patriots’ doors off and control the game on offense for 39 or 42 minutes like the Steelers did in their only other victories against Brady back in 2004 and 2011.
Those were nearly perfect games for the Steelers. This one was flawed. Yet, they still won. Maybe that says more about the regression of the Patriots than it does about the awakening of the Steelers.
However, given that far better Steelers teams have played far better games against the Patriots and still lost, it is amazing that this fragile edition of the Black and Gold managed to withstand so many of their own missteps to eke out the win. For instance:
• Having needed that domination of possession time to get wins against the Patriots in the past, the Steelers won that by only 38 seconds Sunday. This margin could have been greater had the Steelers’ play calling yielded greater time of possession.
More on that to come.
• Ben Roethlisberger threw two more interceptions. He is tied for the league lead with 15.
• Chris Boswell missed another field goal. He’s now missed a dozen total kicks this season.
• Neither Antonio Brown nor JuJu Smith-Schuster exceeded 50 yards receiving.
• Boswell’s miss was set up, in part, because the Steelers refused to run on a second-and-goal from the 4-yard line. Instead, they went empty set with four receivers and a tight end. This, despite all their success this year running close to the goal line. The play resulted in an intentional grounding violation, losing yardage and the down.
• The Steelers also refused to run on a second-and-9 and a third-and-6 during their last offensive drive. Instead of staying on the ground to churn the clock — or at least throwing short and over the middle — they threw the ball deep twice for incompletions, giving the Patriots two free stoppages. On the first occasion, that may have delayed Bill Belichick from using his first timeout. The second stopped the clock after he had used his last one.
Even though Brady had no timeouts, he had 2 minutes, 30 seconds remaining. As we saw, that was plenty of time to get into scoring position.
• Mike Tomlin lost another challenge on a play he shouldn’t have challenged. He’s lost 10 challenges in a row.
Do you think any of those topics may have come up on a talk show or two this week if Brady leads his team to victory on that last drive as he so often has?
So, yes, there were plenty of mistakes to point out. They were plenty of errors made. However, they all pale when weighed against the outcome of the game.
Funny how that happens.
Fret not, though. For fans of the “Airing of Grievances” section, we may have a clearer reasons after that trip to New Orleans next Sunday.
On actual Festivus night.