After every game in the Steelers’ 2022 season, I’ll give you my 10 takes. These will not be hot shots and destined to shock the world. These will be instant reactions to the written game while you are still in that period right after the game when emotions are high and ideas are fresh. Thoughts, observations, queries and reasons that led me to yell at television will be included.
Game 15 – Las Vegas Raiders
1. Outstanding performance goes to… – The defense. On a night where the offense struggled. On a night where Chris Boswell, who is as good as he gets, missed twice. The defense came to play. Shutting down the Raiders offense in the second half. Taking three passes in the second half. It’s not a surprise that Cameron Heyward led the way. When they needed a stop, he was there. He had two sacks. Three tackles for loss. The guy was a monster all night.
2. Soccer without flags – Games are much more enjoyable when the referees are not constantly throwing flags. In the NFL, the average number of flags in a game is usually in the teens. There were only five penalties accepted in the game. None in the first half. Did these two teams magically execute so well that there was no reason to throw a flag? I doubt it. Did the weather have something to do with it? Is it possible that the refs decided that with the weather so cold, there was no reason to prolong the game? Or was it just a Christmas miracle? Whatever the reason, I’ll take it.
3. K.P. Doody – Ups and downs are going to happen for newbies. Kenny Pickett seemed very shaky in this game. He seemed indecisive and unwilling to pull the trigger at times. At least half a dozen times he came out of the pocket too early, and half of them ended with him throwing the ball out of bounds. When he threw the ball, the vast majority were out of numbers. The two drops probably didn’t help his confidence. The final drive was adequate. Seven of the nine passes from him were checks, so they were solid decisions. I would expect to see more of him this late in the season.
4. Game Lane Fill– His season high before this game was seven. He did it three times. He finished this game with 12. Twelve tackles in this game and he was doing it by attacking the run. Half of those tackles were for a gain of three yards or less and one for a loss of four. Much like Cam Heyward, it seemed like Robert Spillane was playing a little Grinch in this game. In the passing game, I’d like to see him focus more on tackling than trying to punch the ball out. This generally gives more yards. He’s doing it because linebackers haven’t been making splash plays, but just focused on taking the guy down and limiting the gain. Good performance from Spillane.
5. Throw them the ball D*$% – It’s not just me, right? You expect more from this offensive, right? Pat Freiermuth, Diontae Johnson and George Pickens combined for 17 receptions on 20 targets. Two of those three incompletes were drops. So 19 out of 20 balls should have been caught. The other incompletion went to a wide-open Johnson thrown high and behind him. These guys can make plays. Why does it take 20 minutes of playing time for Freiermuth to get the ball? Why does it take 23 minutes to give Pickens the ball? Let them make plays. Canada needs to worry less about movement and more about potion to make this offense work.
6. Can you get one of those? – The slot wide receiver has been a mess since JuJu Smith-Schuster left. They get almost nothing from those players. They need a Hunter Renfrow. A player who excels at running routes, opening up and catching the ball. Renfrow is not that fast. He ran a 4.59 40 coming out of college. He’s not big at 5’10”, 185 pounds. He doesn’t produce big numbers, but he does produce first downs. He moves the chains and keeps the transmissions running. As a bonus, he also returns punts. The Steelers need to find them a Renfrow.
7. Maximum effort? – I’d love to know what the offensive coaches thought when they decided not to worry about blocking the Raiders’ best defender. Maxx Crosby is an exceptional edge defender. The Steelers thought, “We don’t need to block him all the time.” And if we do, we’ll just use a tight end. He was in the backfield on several running plays. He recorded four hits over the quarterback. What were they thinking? I wish other teams would do that to TJ Watt.
8. Milk 2% – After this victory, the Steelers now have a two percent chance of making the playoffs. In the spirit of the season, he invokes the image of Lloyd Christmas by saying, “So you’re telling me there’s a chance. YES!” In the middle of the season you tell me there are two weeks left before they have a shot at the playoffs and I would have committed you. But there is a chance, albeit a very small one. So are you buying the milk or has this season thrown lose your taste this season? They play almost everyone hard. I’d love to see them do it.
9. Confident and husky – There is no emotion in this offense. It’s really hard to watch and enjoy. You turn on the Red Zone earlier in the day and see a lot of the same plays Pittsburgh runs. They just don’t repeat it as your favorite song in high school. When Steeler had Chase Claypool, he was thrown downfield a lot. And he couldn’t catch it! Johnson and Pickens can catch him. We saw more downfield shots from Mitch Trubisky than from Pickett. Why doesn’t Pickett take the shots from him? Did the interceptions earlier in the season crush his confidence? I don’t understand his hesitation.
10. See double – I only saw it once but tell me if you’ve seen it more. On one of tonight’s punt returns, the Steelers had both Steven Sims and Gunner Olszewski to return. The Sims ended up making a nice catch on the play. Did they have some kind of hoax planned? A setback? A setback? Has it come to this that the offense is so mediocre that they’re trying to rely on special teams to create a big play? It’s possible. I’m not sure about such a play, but we’ll see.