The Steelers Finally Lose

The Washington Football Team has put an end to the Steelers’ undefeated season with a 23-17 win in Pittsburgh.

The Steelers looked like they were cruising to a win after they jumped out to a 14-0 lead in the second quarter. But after that point, Washington went on a 23-3 run to close out the game. They got a field goal before halftime to make it 14-3, and that was the momentum they needed to turn that game around.

Lately the Steelers have been getting a lot of hate and will probably be unfairly ripped for losing to a perceived “bad team.” This graphic has been going around on the internet to make the case that the Steelers are frauds:

I mean, these are all valid points. I don’t really know what they’re referring to with the “bailed out by refs vs. Titans,” though. I’m assuming they mean the intentional grounding call on Tannehill at the end of the game as the Titans were driving and trying to either tie it up or take the lead. But I didn’t think that call was too bad. I went and rewatched it; I didn’t see anything outrageous.

If you wanted to criticize the Steelers for the Titans game, it would be for nearly blowing a 27-7 lead and getting bailed out by Tennessee’s kicker missing the game tying field goal.

But it is true that the Steelers have had one of the easiest schedules in the league. And they’ve had some too-close-for-comfort wins against clearly inferior teams. I understand why people think the Steelers are frauds, although I don’t totally agree with that assessment.

Washington is a good team. Yes, they came into tonight with a 4-7 record and playing in the worst division in the league. But Washington has improved over the course of the season. They have a very good defense in just about every category. They have a great, proven head coach in Ron Rivera. And they’re starting to figure some things out on offense, even though they’re one of the worst-ranked offenses in the league. They’ve gotten better as the season has progressed.

It’s like the Seawhawks losing to the Giants: maybe the Giants were just better than people thought.

People are going to act like this is the end of the world for the Steelers, but they’re still one of the top 3 teams in the league. Every Super Bowl Champion since 1972 has lost a game. Everyone knows this.

Should the Steelers have kicked a field goal when they were faced with a 4th & 1 from the Washington 28 with the game tied at 17 with 4:53 left in the game? Maybe. But their normal kicker, Chris Boswell, was out and they were relying on a rookie who was playing in his first-ever game. It would’ve been hard to trust him in that situation, which would’ve been about a 45-yarder.

Maybe they should’ve run the ball for the first down. But they were not running the ball well at all up to that point. Pittsburgh finished the game with 14 rushing attempts for 21 yards. That’s terrible. They were without James Conner and were relying on a committee approach of Benny Snell, Jaylen Samuels and Anthony McFarland, and clearly those guys weren’t getting it done.

And the 4th down play call wasn’t all that bad. They sent the RB McFarland out and up the sideline and he actually got behind his man and open, but Big Ben just missed the pass. It was just a bad throw. The play call actually worked. The problem, as they say, was poor execution.

Ultimately, you’re not going to win many games in the NFL if you’re only scoring 17 points, as the Steelers did today. Maybe they’ve got serious problems on offense. After all, they only scored 19 against the Ravens last week. Or maybe Washington and Baltimore are just really good on defense, as all the stats indicate.

The Steelers still rank 6th in the league in points scored per game at 28.8. It’s not like their offense is dysfunctional.

And over their past 6 games prior to tonight, Washington was averaging 16.8 points allowed on defense. Yes, it was against some bad offenses–Giants and Cowboys twice each, Lions and Bengals–but Washington is a good defense. There’s no denying it now.

On top of this, we can’t omit the fact that the Steelers were playing on a short week and coming off the first-ever Wednesday NFL game. They were also missing James Conner. Regardless of what you might think of him, he’s still clearly the best running back on that team. Other teams don’t really sweat Snell, McFarland and Samuels. You have to figure their offense would’ve been in much better shape with him providing a legitimate running threat.

I’m not panicking on the Steelers after one loss. They’re still 11-1. They’re still the #1 seed in the AFC, holding the tiebreaker over Kansas City based on record against AFC opponents.

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