Tim Benz: An airing of grievances after Steelers’ debacle vs. Chiefs
When is Festivus? Dec. 23?
I guess I’m a little early, then. But I’ve got some grievances to air about the Pittsburgh Steelers.
The Festivus “airing of the grievances” is supposed to be an opportunity to announce how you have been disappointed in the last year. Well, dating to the debacle in Chicago almost 365 days ago, there isn’t enough column space on this page for me to air all of those gripes. So I’ll just stick to airing my grievances about Sunday’s 42-37 loss to the Chiefs.
Where do I start?
I counted at least five occasions on Sunday when the defense was scrambling with noticeable confusion as to who was supposed to stay on the field and who was supposed to leave. The pre-snap communication often looked random and frenetic. No one ever appeared to be lined up properly.
Once the ball was snapped, Patrick Mahomes had zero problems finding open receivers to hit. The first-year starter went 23 for 28 for 326 yards and six touchdowns. He wasn’t intercepted. Mahomes was only sacked once in 33 dropbacks.
The tackling was dreadful. Just look at some efforts from Terrell Edmunds and Mike Hilton. Morgan Burnett has added nothing to this point. There was no answer for Travis Kelce, who had 109 yards and two touchdowns on seven catches.
T.J. Watt made a nice play to force the Kansas City safety. Aside from that, he had little impact on the heels of his defensive player of the week performance in Cleveland. Bud Dupree had as many penalties as he did tackles (two).
Dan McCullers’ sack was the best play by the Steelers defensive line. That should frighten you. The secondary was torched so badly that Tyreek Hill’s 90 receiving yards were only third-best on the team.
As the Chiefs were merely looking to run out the clock with one first down, against a stacked Steelers front, they picked up 9 yards on first down.
All week long, Steelers apologists had been telling me that’s impossible to do, and that’s why the Steelers couldn’t run effectively against Cleveland in the fourth quarter the previous week.
They gave up big plays, too, as the Chiefs hit five of them, over 30 yards apiece.
The special teams
The airing of these grievances here could take a while based on the fiasco turned in by Danny Smith’s unit.
After missing a potential game-winning kick last week, Chris Boswell shanked an extra point and a field goal Sunday. No rain to blame this time, either. Ever since he signed his contract extension, Boswell can’t seem to make a significant kick.
The coverage units allowed a 48-yard punt return by De’Anthony Thomas. Jordan Berry had one great punt to set up that safety. Aside from that, he wasn’t great, even if he was trying to avoid kicking to Hill.
The Steelers were also guilty of five special teams penalties, none bigger than the Tyler Matakevich flag for roughing the punter after the Steelers managed to earn the ball back with less than a minute left to go in the game.
Sticking with the penalties, this wildly undisciplined team committed 12 overall. That’s on top of 12 last week. Unlike last week, I can’t complain about a lot of them as most were well earned and deserved.
Aside from the substitution issues mentioned above, why were Cameron Heyward and Stephon Tuitt off the field as often as they were? Why did Mike Tomlin decide to punt down 42-30 with 9:16 left at their own 44-yard line? I understand that the Steelers defense hadn’t stopped the Chiefs the whole game, but the Chiefs defense had done little to stop the Steelers.
Even though the Steelers eventually got a fumble, 4:13 came off the clock in the process. They lost field position, too.
Also, why no onside-kick attempt after Ben Roethlisberger’s scramble touchdown?
I know the offense put up 37 points. But that unit had some bad moments of its own.
It couldn’t run, totaling just 33 yards. Its first two possessions went without a first down. A ghastly 3-and-out featuring two plays to Stevan Ridley and a pass to Ryan Switzer burned a possession while trailing 35-28 in the second half.
Roethlisberger misfired on numerous deep balls. After Jesse James’ 46-yard catch-and-run to the Kansas City 20-yard line, it took eight snaps and 3:04 to finish off the drive. That’s extreme inefficiency given that they were trailing by 12.
Oh, and Antonio Brown was caught yapping at offensive coordinator Randy Fichtner on the sideline. I guess those 17 targets weren’t enough for him.
Let’s hope the Steelers have some “feats of strength” on “Monday Night Football.” If not, my list of grievances may be even longer after the game in Tampa.
Tim Benz is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Tim at [email protected] or via Twitter @TimBenzPGH. All tweets could be reposted. All emails are subject to publication unless specified otherwise.