The Pittsburgh Steelers now have a couple of really ugly losses to their name this season. They rebounded nicely from the first one — almost incredibly so.
But following their 30-15 thrashing by the, ahem, Miami Dolphins, it’s fair to ask if the Steelers can bounce back as easily next week. The New England Patriots await them in a game many say will dictate early AFC supremacy. Especially if the reports are true that quarterback Ben Roethlisberger could be out for a while.
The Steelers were gashed by Dolphins running back Jay Ajayi, making his second NFL start. He ran for 204 yards and two scores, including the knife-in-back 62-yarder in the final minute. The 204 yards were more than the entire Dolphins team rushed for in its previous 10 quarters. Not having Cam Heyward and Ryan Shazier clearly hurt the Steelers, but that’s still way, way too generous.
Very little supremacy in that stat.
If the Steelers can turn the page the way they did following the 34-3 thrashing the Philadelphia Eagles handed them in Week 3, then fine. Beating the Kansas City Chiefs 43-14, taking a 22-zip lead after one quarter, sent a loud message.
But the Chiefs are good … and the Patriots might be great. This game will be in Pittsburgh, but Tom Brady and Co. are not going to be that easy a mark. Especially if it’s Landry Jones and not Big Ben throwing the ball.
How good are the Steelers? It was a weird game and a tough one for Roethlisberger and Antonio Brown overall. Prior to a 97-yard drive in the waning minutes, they had accrued a mere 200 yards of offense — against a Dolphins defense that was allowing more than double that (401 per game) coming in. This is where Le’Veon Bell must become an assertive force. He’s been very good since returning from a suspension, and he likely needs to elevate his game to an even higher level.
The Steelers just feel very streaky right now, and somewhat unreliable. It won’t be hard to get up for the Patriots game next Sunday with a bye to follow. But in a week where Roethlisberger surprisingly called out the toughness of the team’s practices, it might be worth asking how mentally steely this team is right now.
There’s some tension in the air, and the Roethlisberger injury clouds everything. That and a defense that doesn’t dominate often.
On their best days, the Steelers can beat almost anyone. On their worst? They can pull an effort like they did Sunday. They missed assignments on both sides of the ball against a shaky Dolphins team and could have lost by a far bigger margin had it been a stronger opponent.
One such as, oh, maybe the Patriots?
– – – – – – –