Report Card: Grading the Steelers’ 24-21 loss to the Raiders in Week 14

BTSC breaks out the red pen and assigns grades to the Steelers after their head-scratching loss in Oaktown.

The Steelers were attempting to get back on track against a 2-10 opponent on the road and it’s time to see if they made the grade or if a letter is going home to their parents, Spoiler alert…they didn’t and one will.

Despite my less than prestigious BTSC teaching certificate, I have to issue the necessary disclaimer. You know the story; of course, I’m not a football coach, or a teacher, but I play one in blogs and podcasts. All week, I found myself noticing just how equal the two teams actually are and that shows in their respective records. And then I realized that these teams both usually battle fiercely in tight contests. Then the game happened and judgments followed.

Grading games is an extremely difficult and somewhat thankless task. While the coaches’ grades, of course, are what count the most, the media and fans can’t help but evaluate as well.

So let’s take a look at BTSC’s early perceptions:

Offense: C-

Ben Roethlisberger was 25/29 with 2 TDs and it doesn’t matter that his stat line was prettier than his actual play on the field, because he was great when he came back in late in the game. Why Josh Dobbs (a pitiful 4/9 for 24 yards and an interception) stayed in so long even after Ben was medically cleared is a mystery that can’t be answered with the ridiculousness of Mike Tomlin’s explanation, “We were in the flow of the game”.

Ben couldn’t account for the paltry running game either. James Conner’s absence was glaring. Stevan Ridley had four yards on five carries, while rookie Jaylen Samuels was a little better with 92 total yards (28 yards on 11 carries and 64 yards receiving), but not much. The offensive line was pretty good pass blocking, but couldn’t open holes against a team ranked 22nd in run defense.

AB had only five catches on seven targets. He should have been called upon more. The best performance on offense was put in by JuJu Smith-Schuster. No. 19 had eight catches for 130 yards and 2 scores.

Defense: F

The defensive line continues to play well with Cam Heyward, Javon Hargrave and Stephon Tuitt put pressure on Derek Carr and engulfed ball carriers. TJ Watt and Bud Dupree were very good as well. Then there was the inside linebackers and the secondary. Simply put…Horrendous. They were dominated by TEs that went for 108 yards against them. When you continue to blow leads, it’s a problem that isn’t being addressed properly. This team folds when it needs a big stop.

Special Teams: D-

Not special at all. Berry had a decent first punt, but was poor after that. They weren’t getting penalized, that’s good. But Boswell cost the team another game. That’s unacceptable.

Overall Grade: F

While a lot of suspects could be pointed ar for losing to a 2-10 team, Mike Tomlin gets the lion’s share of the blame. Call timeouts and play your franchise quarterback. It’s that simple. This was a huge opportunity lost and it isn’t acceptable.

Mike Tomlin’s coaching on Sunday was a fireable offense

Mike Tomlin’s coaching performance was a disaster.

I really have tried to stay off the fire Tomlin train. It’s tough to not be on it now, though. The Steelers lost on Sunday not because of the players, but because of three people: Mike Tomlin, Keith Butler, and Chris Boswell.

First off, Boswell should be cut. I don’t care what he has done in the past, he has struggled this season to the point where he has cost the Steelers games. If he is on his game today, the Steelers are walking out with the ‘W’. He slipped because he extended his plant too far, which caused his balance to go off kilter. So, should he have stayed upright, that ball was heading far left. Time to cut your losses with Boswell.

Second, Keith Butler and Mike Tomlin have been running one of the worst schemes in football since Butler took over as Defensive Coordinator. It is time for Butler to get the axe for his incompetence, and he should have been shown the door with Todd Haley anyways. It is time to overhaul this scheme, and more importantly, time to actually let this defense’s talent show through. This defense has more than enough talent, but schematically, they simply suck.

However, let’s talk about Mike Tomlin. Tomlin’s teams for years have been criticized for losing and playing down to inferior teams, and before today we never really knew if that was a byproduct of Tomlin himself, but it is clear it is now.

Tomlin noted that Ben Roethlisberger could have come back into the game far before he actually did, and that he didn’t because it didn’t fit the “flow of the game”. My folks, that is a straight up fireable offense. I am sorry to all Steelers fans, because Mike Tomlin cost us the game by not letting the franchise QB come back in when he could have.

Mike Tomlin came across as cowardly and timid today in his press conference, likely because he knew he screwed up. Tomlin clearly pins this one on himself, point blank. That is what I got from the press conference, and I saw that his mindset is that the Steelers can beat any bad team due to having top tier talent. Thus, that mindset has permeated itself throughout the locker room it seems.

Tomlin’s decision to stick with the currently incompetent Dobbs when Ben came back in and drove the field easily is a terrible decision, and just as bad was his clock management. It seemed that he trusted his defense, but if he had used his timeouts, the Steelers could have had near a minute to go and more time to score the winning TD. And I have to tell you, I think Ben would have done it.

Regardless, this was a brutal coaching performance by the whole coaching staff. Mike Tomlin has a big shot to redeem himself. Beat the Patriots and do what you could never do. If you do that, I will gain some faith in you, because, Coach Tomlin, right now, there is no faith in this team, or you, whatsoever.

And, bluntly, that is a shame.

Chris Boswell has no answers on, and off, the field for poor performances

Chris Boswell was the recipient of a brand new contract before the 2018 season, and this year has been memorable for all the wrong reason.

The Pittsburgh Steelers and Oakland Raiders participated in one of the uglier NFL contests of the season, but nothing was uglier than Chris Boswell’s performance.

Boswell finished the game 3/3 on extra points, although one bounced in off the right upright, and 0/2 on field goals. If missing two kicks on the day wasn’t bad enough, the team lost by three points, and with a chance to send the team to overtime Boswell slipped and had his kick blocked to end the game.

The season for Boswell has gone from bad, to worse, and now fans want answers. The problem is — Boswell doesn’t have any answers.

This is what Boswell had to say after the game in Week 14:

The general consensus surrounding the Steelers is they should just part ways with the kicker, but this isn’t a simple decision. Cutting Boswell, after giving him a hefty contract prior to the 2018 regular season, would have salary cap implications next year.

This per Ray Fittipaldo of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:

While the Steelers will have a larger than usual amount of salary cap space next year, thanks to Le’Veon Bell not playing, the last thing they want to do is have over $4 million of that tied up in paying a kicker who isn’t currently employed by the team.

The truly troubling situation with Boswell isn’t the dead money cap hit, or the fact he is missing some kicks, but how he seems as if he is searching for answers why. If he were able to say there is an alignment issue, or a follow-through problem, it would at least shine the light on the fact he realizes the issue and what needs to be rectified to get it straightened out.

To his credit, he didn’t blame the turf, but considers to look more like a golfer with the ‘yips’, than a Pro Bowl kicker. The next 48 hours for Boswell will be huge when it comes to his future with the Steelers.

Podcast: Steelers experience inexcusable loss to Oakland — again

In the latest episode of “The Steelers Post-Game” show, we break down all the news you need to know surrounding the Black-and-gold from the game that was.

The Pittsburgh Steelers are now in the home stretch of their 2018 season. With a surge of Steelers news, it’s time to get back on the airwaves and discuss the Black-and-gold.

Take a look at the rundown for the latest episode of the BTSC podcast The Steelers Post-Game Show. On this show Jeff Hartman and co-host Lance Williams break down all things Steelers from the game that was!

Check out the rundown of the show:

  • News and Notes
  • Injuries
  • What is up with the turnovers this season?
  • What does this tell us about the Steelers?
  • Talking what’s ahead
  • and MUCH MORE!

Jeff Hartman, editor of BTSC, and Lance Williams walk you through everything you need to know regarding the Black-and-gold.

If you haven’t heard, we have a YouTube channel, and the main reason for this is to increase the sound quality on our shows. But if you’re a visual learner you can watch the show below. Be sure to subscribe to our channel!

If you missed the live show, be sure to check out all episodes on the following platforms:

Apple Users: CLICK HERE
Google Play: CLICK HERE

If you’re old-school and just want the audio, you can listen to it in the player below.

Black and Gold Links: The Steelers potentially missing the postseason is not an overreaction

Time to check on the latest news surrounding the Pittsburgh Steelers.

The Pittsburgh Steelers have seen better days than they are currently experiencing. The black-and-gold have dropped three straight games, after losing to the Broncos, Chargers and Raiders in consecutive weeks. Now they turn their attention to another AFC opponent, the New England Patriots, in Week 15.

Today in the Black-and-gold links article, we take a look at how the thought of the Steelers not just missing out on an AFC North crown, but even a playoff berth, isn’t out of the realm of possibility. In fact, it might be more of a reality after their latest loss.

Let’s get to the news:

Week 14 overreactions: Has Tom Brady won his last Super Bowl?

By: Dan Graziano, ESPN

I mean … did you SEE the final play of the Dolphins-Patriots game?

If you didn’t, please, go watch it. I’ll wait right here.

Greatest play ever, AMIRITE??

OK, so maybe that’s a little bit much. Tough to rank it with plays like the Music City Miracle and the Minneapolis Miracle, which won playoff games. Or even plays like the David Tyree helmet catch, which helped keep alive an all-time Super Bowl upset. Context matters, and this Week 14 regular-season magic trick didn’t crush the Patriots’ hopes or ensure the Dolphins of anything.

It was just amazing, is all. How often do you see the multi-lateral end-of-game desperation play work? Ever? All that was missing was a commentator yelling, “The band is out on the field!!!”

Besides, it’s OVERREACTION MONDAY, after all, so why not open up by wondering if that play was the greatest of all time. It probably wasn’t, but it had the kind of epic feel we look for in this weekly breathless exercise. And it leads nicely into our first reaction of the week:

The Steelers will miss the playoffs

Pittsburgh lost to the Raiders on Sunday. The Raiders. The team that’s spent the past eight months looking as if it wanted to get rid of enough players so it wouldn’t even have 11 to start on game day. Pittsburgh has lost three games in a row now and is playing without James Conner, who was helping them forget about Le’Veon Bell. They hold a one-half game lead over Baltimore in the AFC North, and there are three teams that have the same record as Baltimore and are out for a wild-card berth. Pittsburgh’s final three games are at home to the Patriots, in New Orleans and at home to rival Cincinnati. And did I mention they just lost to the Raiders? The Raiders!?

Graziano’s verdict: . If the Steelers lose their next two very losable games, they would be 7-7-1 and could need a Week 17 victory over Cincinnati to even have a chance of getting in. Remember the Bengals knocking the Ravens out of the postseason in Week 17 last year? Think they wouldn’t just LOVE doing that to the Steelers? Pittsburgh has to come up with a way of beating the Patriots and/or the Saints if it wants to avoid an embarrassing collapse.

Kevin Gorman’s Take 5: Steelers defense crumbles again

By: Kevin Gorman, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

The Steelers had a perfect opportunity to position themselves for the AFC playoffs, as the New England Patriots, Houston Texans and Baltimore Ravens all lost Sunday afternoon.

The Steelers knew beforehand that they would have to beat the Oakland Raiders without James Conner, a test for their running game. The surprise came when they had to start the second half without Ben Roethlisberger, who injured his ribs late in the first half.

Big Ben would rally the Steelers to another fourth-quarter comeback.

But the outcome would depend on the defense.

And the Steelers came up short.

1. Nowhere to run: Other than handing off to Jaylen Samuels on first down on their first two possessions, the Steelers did little to establish the run game.

Samuels got his first NFL start and had six carries for 11 yards in the first half – an average of 1.8 yards per – and added four receptions for 22 yards. The Steelers had 10 rushes for 6 yards, an average of 0.6 yards per carry.

They were bailed out by the Raiders, who had three facemask penalties for 45 yards. Two came on the same second-quarter drive: Samuels was pulled down on a run by linebacker Tahir Whitehead and on a pass by defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins.

But the Steelers failed to take advantage, as Roethlisberger was sacked by Clinton McDonald for a 7-yard loss and Chris Boswell missed a 39-yard field goal wide right.

2. Toe-tap JuJu: The Steelers have seen their share of toe-tap catches, from Santonio Holmes to Antonio Brown.

JuJu Smith-Schuster’s touchdown in the back of the end zone just before halftime has to rank among the best.

Roethlisberger nearly had a pass picked off in the end zone, as his throw to Smith-Schuster was broken up by safety Karl Joseph. On the next play, Roethlisberger found Vance McDonald for a 10-yard gain to the Raiders’ 2. But Samuels ran for no gain, and a short pass to Ryan Switzer left the Steelers a yard short of the goal line.

On third-and-goal at the 1, Roethlisberger threw a high pass in the back of the end zone. Smith-Schuster leapt high, tipped the ball to himself and touched both toes down.

The play was initially ruled incomplete, but reversed after a video review for a touchdown that gave the Steelers a 14-10 halftime lead.

It wasn’t picture-perfect but it was pretty.

(For the rest of the takes, click the link in the headline above…)

Steelers falter late, again fall to Raiders in Oakland

By: Joe Rutter, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

On a day when the Pittsburgh Steelers got help in other stadiums around the country, they couldn’t get a favorable outcome in the one that mattered the most.

Derek Carr stole the late heroics from an injured Ben Roethlisberger by leading the Oakland Raiders to a 24-21 victory at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum that handed the Steelers their third consecutive defeat.

Carr threw a 6-yard touchdown pass with 21 seconds remaining, and the Steelers missed a chance to force overtime when Chris Boswell slipped on a 40-yard field-goal attempt, and his kick was blocked at the buzzer. It was his second miss of the day.

In the past three games, the Steelers had their fate sealed in the waning moments: an interception in the end zone at Denver, a last-second field goal by the Los Angeles Chargers and the comeback Sunday that gave the Raiders their third win in 13 tries this season.

The three losses for the 7-5-1 Steelers have been decided by seven, three and three points — each defeat more deflating than the one prior.

“We’ll see what this team is made of, you know,” guard David DeCastro said. “We really will.”

When the Steelers took the field, they had a chance to catch several of the conference’s higher-seeded teams and also put some distance between themselves and the Baltimore Ravens in the AFC North. In addition to the Ravens, the New England Patriots and Houston Texans lost Sunday.

Instead, the Steelers remain perched in the No. 4 seed and maintain just a one-half game edge over the Ravens (7-6).

“Frustration is definitely setting in. You can see it,” DeCastro said. “You put a lot of energy into the sport and a lot of work into it. Losing games like this … it’s tough, man. There is still a lot ahead of us.”

It doesn’t get any easier for the Steelers, who play the 9-4 Patriots on Sunday at Heinz Field before traveling to New Orleans to face the 11-2 Saints.

“We all need to look in the mirror and figure out what is going on,” said Roethlisberger, who returned from a rib injury in the fourth quarter to give the Steelers a 21-17 lead with 2 minutes, 55 seconds left on a 1-yard touchdown pass to JuJu Smith-Schuster. “It starts with each individual. We have to look inside first.”

San Francisco 49ers Long Snaper Kyle Nelson Suspended 10 Games for PEDs

Keep reading this article on NFL Gridiron Gab.

49ers long snapper Kyle Nelson has been suspended 10 games for violating the league’s policy on performance-enhancing substances, the Associated Press reports.

Nelson will miss the final four games of this season and the first six in 2019 under the suspension handed out Tuesday. He will be able to participate in the offseason program and preseason games before resuming his suspension.

Nelson says he believes the positive test came from a legal supplement. He says he is looking into what supplement caused the positive test and says he will seek legal action against the manufacturer when he finds out.

Marvin Lewis Hasn’t Been Given Any Assurances He’ll Last the Season as Coach for Bengals

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One year after two late wins against Detroit and Baltimore went a long way to sway Bengals owner Mike Brown to retain Marvin Lewis for a 16th season, it would be hard to see a premature move before the traditional meeting between the two the day after the season ends.

Lewis said on Monday he has been given no assurances that the team would wait until the end of the year, Paul Dehner of the Cincinnati Enquirer reports.

“No, and I wouldn’t expect any or ask for any,” Lewis said. “The least of my worries.”

When Lewis was asked if he wants to coach next season, he merely stated, “my job is to coach the football team.”

Last year, Brown admitted after retaining Lewis his preference to letting the season conclude.

“I chose not to make a decision on what we were going to do going forward until all the evidence had been submitted,” Brown told The Enquirer in January. “And that meant playing through the full season and not making a call prematurely.”

Four weeks of evidence remain, starting with a game at the streaking Los Angeles Chargers (9-3) this Sunday. Technically, the Bengals (5-7) have not been mathematically eliminated from the playoffs though their chances of making it are almost impossibly slim. They would need to finish 4-0 as well as get some help from across the league.

Brown admitted before the season started, those half-empty stadiums do leave a mark on him.

“Of course I worry about attendance figures,” Brown said in July. “I’ve been able to add and subtract for a long time. I can look out there. I see what you see. Does it bother me? It bothers me to my core. I don’t like it, and I dearly want to get us back to where we have the enthusiasm and the support that I think we want. That’s a big goal.”

“The only way we win back the fans is to win football games,” Lewis said. “It’s been true the whole time we have been here. We have to win games to get people to come out and enjoy it on Sunday. That’s what the goal is. The players can’t be affected by that. They just have to go play. I tell them they have to bring their own energy. It’s got to be up to them. It’s us, that’s what counts.”

Washington Redskins Chat About QB Colin Kaepernick; Not Likely to Sign Him

Keep reading this article on NFL Gridiron Gab.

Redskins coach Jay Gruden says the team “talked about and discussed” bringing in quarterback Colin Kaepernick for a tryout “but we will probably go in a different direction,” the Associated Press reports.

Gruden told reporters during a conference call Tuesday that would there have been “a greater possibility” of considering Kaepernick if the Redskins were in need of a QB in Week 1 rather than at this stage of the season now.

Washington lost Colt McCoy to a broken right leg in a 28-13 loss at the Philadelphia Eagles on Monday night that dropped the Redskins’ record to 6-6. McCoy had replaced Alex Smith as the starting quarterback after Smith broke his right leg last month.

Kaepernick hasn’t played since the 2016 season, when he began kneeling during the national anthem as a way to protest police brutality and social and racial injustice.

He filed a grievance against the NFL last year, saying team owners colluded to keep him off rosters.

New York Giants Safety Landon Collins Out for Sunday’s Game with Shoulder Injury

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Giants safety Landon Collins has been ruled out for Sunday with a left shoulder injury, Pat Leonard of the New York Daily News has confirmed.

And after Collins underwent further testing on his shoulder Monday, surgery is considered a possibility and he could miss the rest of the season.

This comes despite Collins saying after Sunday’s overtime win over the Bears that initial X-Rays had shown no fracture in the shoulder he injured on a hit of Chicago running back Tarik Cohen.

Collins said Sunday he was just “real sore” after the second-quarter hit on Cohen.

The two-time Pro Bowler missed snaps after the injury, explaining it’s tough to tackle with a bum shoulder.

Green Bay Packers Fire Longtime Assistant Coach Winston Moss

Keep reading this article on NFL Gridiron Gab.

The changes to the Packers coaching staff continued on Tuesday, as reports say the team has parted ways with longtime Mike McCarthy assistant coach Winston Moss.

Moss himself took to twitter with the news

Packers interim head coach Joe Philbin confirmed minutes after Moss tweeted, both on social media and in a press release.

“We thank Winston for his contributions to the Packers over the past 13 years,” said Philbin. “We hope for the best for Winston and his family moving forward.”