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Analyzing the Steelers’ Week 13 loss to the Chargers, by the numbers

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 12/05/2018 - 11:18am

Just when statistics show what the Steelers need to do to assure victory, they manage to lose regardless of the numbers.

10-3

Coming in to Sunday night, the Steelers were 10-3 in their last 13 home prime-time games. The Steelers are 2-3 in those games against the Baltimore Ravens. So in prime-time home games not against the Ravens dating back to 2013, the Steelers were 8-0. Now they are 8-1.

13

The Steelers managed to score two touchdowns for a total of 13 points in the first quarter Sunday night. The Steelers were 2–0 when scoring multiple times in the first quarter in 2018 with a margin on victory over 20 points. Additionally, the Steelers were 4-0 when scoring at all in the first period. Now they are 2-1 and 4-1.

10-154-1

Antonio Brown had his largest yardage output of the season with 154 yards on 10 receptions with one touchdown. Brown also came close to matching his total yards in the first quarter in 2018 with 75 receiving yards on four catches. Unfortunately, these nice stats were in a losing effort.

1

The Chargers longest run in the first half was one yard, achieved five times. With one play of -3 yards, Los Angeles managed only 2 total yards on 9 attempts. Unfortunately they added 83 yards on 13 attempts in the second half. Even after being unsuccessful and trailing by multiple scores, the Chargers made sure they didn’t abandon the run.

5.59

The Steelers held the Chargers to 5.59 yards on first down. Although this number might seem high at first glance, they were averaging 7.05 yards on first down coming into the game, which was second in the league only behind the Los Angeles Rams. The Chargers managed to move the chains yet again on the first-down plays six times in the game, which was 20.7% of their chances to do so. Once again, this might seem high, but their average for the season of getting another first down on a first-down play was 29.9%.

5

Not only did the Steelers’ special teams unit give up a punt return for a touchdown, they were penalized 5 times for 39 yards. It’s not just the yardage assessed from the penalties, it’s the problem of penalties negating 31 return yards. The offense only had two untimely holding penalties, while the defense did not have an accepted penalty enforced against them.

3/4

There are many cases in professional sports where going three out of four is a good thing. Extra point kicks in the NFL is not one of the cases. Although he connected on three attempts, Chris Boswell’s missed PAT was a major factor as the game progressed. When leading by 16 points in the second half, one more point would have made it a three-score game rather than two.

17

Even playing with the lead into the fourth quarter, the Steelers only ran the ball 17 times against the Chargers. James Conner rushed 15 times for 60 yards while Jaylen Samuels rushed twice for five yards. Even though Conner had an average of 4 yards per carry, the Steelers still didn’t give him the ball for more than 15 rushes before he was injured with just over five minutes left in the game. The Steelers are 1-4 in games where they do not rush the ball at least 20 times, with the only win being the come -from-behind victory in Jacksonville.

Dear Steelers fans, please stop starting fights in the stands

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 12/05/2018 - 9:53am

Pittsburgh’s most recent loss was marred by violence in the stands.

Sunday night, what began as a disagreement between two Steelers fans over play-calling, bad officiating, and, I kid you not, Mike Tomlin’s job status, escalated to physical violence, with one fan stonewalling the other with brutal headbutt. Behold, in all its wanton glory:

Let’s Go Steelers!! pic.twitter.com/nvsMVgNVCR

— Kate (@katebrendel) December 3, 2018

(Some context: According to Kate, the hero that captured the above footage, the recipient of the headbutt—who, it should be noted, apparently has a jaw composed of titanium—was the aggressor, for whatever that’s worth. Regardless of who instigated the fight, the Paul Rudd-looking nonbelligerent who delivered the headbutt will forever be know as...well, the Paul Rudd-looking guy who headbutted an old man during a football game).

Steelers fans, not unlike most sports fans, are an inherently fervent and impassioned lot, so that, coupled with a handful of contentious officiating decisions, negligent second-half play-call by the home team, and 13 or 14 beers, will of course stir any feelings of discontent or, in this case, exacerbate any feelings of hostility. Repress those feelings! Yes, the Fahrrrr Tawm-lin guy sitting behind you is deeply irritating, but is he deserving of your unbridled rage? He is not. Please do not headbutt other people.

Despite having watched this video at least 200 times over the past two days, I don’t mean to make light of the situation. The football aspect of football is quite violent enough; the last thing it needs is a pair of fussy, aggro buttholes quarreling in the stands over coaching and officiating. Important, too, is that this kind of behavior is a major turnoff for fans, particularly families. The fact that Heinz Field is populated by thousands of loud, temperamental drunk people—people who, oftentimes, could not possibly care less about the ages of the surrounding attendees—on Steelers game days means that watching a home game with children in tow is already a dubious proposition, and the prospect of potentially having to explain to an elementary-aged kid what caused two Steelers fans to fight each other is enough to keep any rational person away.

While the headbutt video is at least amusing, the following is not:

Seen here is a Steelers fan engaged in fisticuffs with Chargers fan; when the Chargers fan’s girlfriend intervenes, she is briefly but forcefully choked by the Steelers fan (it was later revealed that the girlfriend is actually the Chargers fan’s wife, and that she is pregnant; her husband, identified as Daniel Minshew of San Diego, stated that the couple plans to press charges).

A great way to earn a reputation as the dumbest fanbase in the NFL is to have two separate fights from the same game go viral. Though the aforementioned videos depict the two highest profile altercations, I am certain there were other, less severe skirmishes elsewhere. In fact, I attended this game, and a situation that I was positive would result in punches being thrown was thankfully deescalated by security (and by “deescalated,” I mean the belligerents were forcibly removed from the stadium). Now, I say all this knowing full well that 99.999999999% of Steelers fans are not ill-tempered perma-frats, so let’s do better next week. Yeeeeeeesh.

After two straight losses, the Steelers are unlikely to get a postseason bye

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 12/05/2018 - 8:46am

The Steelers may have lost out on a realistic chance at a bye, thanks to their 33-30 defeat at the hands of the Chargers on Sunday Night Football—their second-straight. But if they they keep playing sloppy football in December, they may not play anyone anywhere in the month of January.

And it’s GONE!!!!!!!!

At least it sure seems that way. I’m referring to the 2018 Pittsburgh Steelers and their chance at capturing one of the top two seeds in the AFC.

The disheartening 33-30 come-from-ahead loss to the Chargers at Heinz Field on Sunday night was Pittsburgh’s second-straight. After holding the AFC’s second seed just two weeks ago, following a dramatic come-from-behind victory in Jacksonville, the Steelers (7-4-1) are now in the fourth seed, two-and-a-half games behind the 10-2 Chiefs and one-and-a-half games behind both the 9-3 Texans and 9-3 Patriots.

As they say during baseball pennant races: that’s a lot of ground to make up and a lot of teams to catch.

In other words, it may be time to start worrying about other things, namely just hanging on to an AFC North Division title that seemed like a lock two weeks ago after Ben Roethlisberger dived over the goal line and crushed whatever playoff hopes remained in the Jaguars hearts.

Now, with just a half-game lead over the surging Ravens, Pittsburgh has to up its urgency a lot, even with a whole month still to go in the 2018 regular season. Sure, Baltimore plays at the Chiefs and at the Chargers—two teams that are clearly superior—down the stretch, but the Steelers have dates with the Patriots and Saints remaining over the final four weeks.

There’s no room to wiggle. This isn’t the time of year to start playing sloppy football, yet the Steelers have gone ahead and done it anyway—and, again, are now losers of two-straight games.

This isn’t the time of year to lose two-straight games.

And by the looks of it, a bye and division title may not be the only things the Steelers could lose if they continue on with their sloppy ways. The Dolphins, Broncos, Titans and Colts all sit at 6-6, and are sniffing around at the final wildcard spot. Sure, the likelihood of all of them winning out is low—impossible in the case of Tennessee and/or Indianapolis since the two teams will meet down the stretch—but some team could.

No, tiebreakers won’t matter, but a 9-6-1 record won’t help if someone finishes at 10-6.

The way things sit right now, the Steelers seem destined for either the fourth or the sixth seed, which means they’ll either start the playoffs at home against Los Angeles in a rematch of Sunday night’s debacle or on the road against either the Texans or Patriots.

Do any of those scenarios seem even remotely more appealing than watching other teams slug it out on Wildcard Weekend? No, they do not. But unlike last season, 2018’s playoff field isn’t top-heavy—as you saw Sunday night, it’s actually quite deep—which means a bye is even more important to obtain.

But it doesn’t look like the Steelers have much of a chance to obtain one.

No, the Steelers probably won’t get a week off this January, but if they keep playing the way they have the past two games, they may be able to skip the whole month.

Mike Tomlin addresses the next man up at wide receiver

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 12/05/2018 - 7:44am

With Justin Hunter headed to injured reserve, James Washington looks to take advantage of yet another opportunity.

At his weekly press conference on Tuesday, Coach Mike Tomlin addressed the different personnel moves that were made earlier in the day. In ruling James Conner out for this Sunday, the team promoted running back Trey Edmunds from the practice squad and placed Justin Hunter on injured reserve.

When Coach Tomlin was asked if Eli Rogers was a possibility to return with Hunter going on the IR, he initially asked if anyone had tweeted about it, making light of the situation when Ola Adeniyi tweeted about his return to practice. Rather then address the issue of Rogers, Tomlin went on to speak of James Washington and the chance he will be given to re-emerge as the Steelers’ third wide receiver..

“It’s also an opportunity for things to boomerang back around for James Washington and I’m kinda excited about that to be quite honest with you. Such is life in this game at this level.”

Coach Tomlin went on to describe what needs to take place for Washington to get back on the moving train that is the NFL.

“You know sometimes you get knocked down. You’ve got to get in the lab and work. And, often times, it’s done in obscurity, if you will, and you wait for your opportunity to get back on and to ride again and to show what you’re are capable of.”

Tomlin continued to express his excitement to see how James Washington responds after another stent of being inactive.

“Not a lot of time on the shelf for James and so it’s going to be exciting to watch him get back on this week and take advantage of someone else’s misfortune and be a positive contributor efforts. Excited about the potential inclusion of him again as well.”

The Steelers are hopeful Ryan Switzer will be ready to play on Sunday, as he is currently in the concussion protocol. If he is unable to go, the Steelers will be left with only four healthy wide receivers-Antonio Brown, JuJu Smith–Schuster, James Washington, and Darius Heyward–Bey- unless a roster move is made.

10 Things I Think I Thought while watching the Steelers get struck by lightning

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 12/05/2018 - 6:41am

A recollection of thoughts I think I thought while watching the Steelers lose in heartbreaking fashion to the San Diego...I mean...Los Angeles Chargers.

I don’t know how many people attended Sunday night’s game but I know one person that was there — Murphy. Everything that could go wrong did. Here are ten thoughts I had along the way.

  1. It must have happened while I made a run to the john. Surely some time during the game a giant Acme anvil must have fallen from the sky on the Steelers. If not it was the sole thing that could have gone wrong that managed not to go wrong. Every ball, and every call bounced the wrong way. I’m still seeing Keenan Lewis running by saying “meep, meep.”
  2. Take, for instance, Haden’s non-interception. How many of you remember a game against the Colts that ended when two of our DB’s collided at midfield, the ball popped up and some horseshoe headed guy ran it in from there? How many of you remember Hines Ward falling down, kicking the ball twenty feet in the air? I’m starting to think Frenchy Fuqua must have touched that ball and karma is continuing to pay us back.
  3. When Boz missed that PAT I felt the specter of last week’s game breathe his icy breath down my neck. By game’s end the ghost of football future was pointing a bony finger at this season’s gravestone- dying in December. (This week’s gratuitous literary reference.)
  4. Seriously, how many more games can we not win and still think we have a legitimate shot at winning it all? It has been wisely said that good luck, if you cut it, bleeds hard work. This team has more talent than a team with a good amount of talent. But they lack the focus, the determination, the discipline to a. take advantage of their opportunities b. put the final nails in the coffin and c. overcome adversity.
  5. Did the ref think the right tackle was going in motion?
  6. I’ve just been handed this bulletin- Sean Davis has been flagged for offsides for Oakland’s first field goal attempt this coming Sunday.
  7. #4 is not an argument for getting rid of Coach Tomlin. He’s not perfect, but he remains another great decision made by the Rooneys. When I hear anyone say, “Tomlin must go” I auto-correct it into “I say rash, emotional things that expose my folly to the world.”
  8. All I can figure on Ben’s pick is that it was supposed to be some kind of trick shot gone awry. I literally have no idea what he was thinking. I get overlooking a defender. I get jumped routes. I get tipped balls. I get missing a tiny window. I don’t get lofting an airball into a sea of white jerseys.
  9. If we do not win out in the regular season, I’m persuaded there is not a chance we will win out in the post season. I wouldn’t be surprised if there are men on the roster who are already thinking about next year. I’m not, but I may be soon.
  10. As awful as it was, and as awful as I was in my grouchiness, all is still right with the world. My dear wife still loves me.

Cameron Sutton explains his absence from the Week 13 Chargers game

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 12/05/2018 - 5:31am

The Pittsburgh Steelers were missing several players on Sunday night, and one of those missing was Cameron Sutton.

The Pittsburgh Steelers are a team dealing with a very serious set of problems, and the absence of several key players would certainly find its way on the list of issues heading into the final quarter of the regular season.

In the Week 13 loss to the Los Angeles Chargers, the team was without several key members of the defense, most notably Morgan Burnett (back) and Cameron Sutton (personal) were both absent on Sunday Night Football.

Burnett’s absence was obvious, but fans were wondering what was going on with Sutton which resulted in his absence. Not that he has to explain himself, and a personal matter, to the media, but Jacob Klinger of Pennlive.com spoke to Sutton during the media availability Monday and shed some light on the situation.

Cameron Sutton left Pittsburgh twice last week to attend to a hospitalized family member.

It was why he was not in practice on Friday and ultimately did not play against the Los Angeles Chargers.

“Obviously any time something’s going on, not just even your family member or anybody that’s really closely attached to you it’s definitely going to be very emotional and obviously a lot of that is out of your control,” Sutton said. “So like I said you just got tend to ‘em and be with ‘em any chance you can and try to find a balance in everything that you do, that it’s not affected toward you in what you do and just move forward from that.”

Sutton did say, per Klinger, he is planning on practicing this week and has plans on playing in the Week 14 game against the Oakland Raiders on the west coast this week, barring nothing drastic changing in the health of his family. He is just happy to have the support of his teammates and the organization during this tough time.

“Got the support of everybody in this locker room and obviously everyone upstairs as well and there was no hesitation on their end,” Sutton said.

Stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the Pittsburgh Steelers as they prepare for the Raiders this Sunday at 4:25 p.m. ET.

Black and Gold Links: Mike Tomlin is excited about James Washington, should fans be excited too?

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 12/05/2018 - 4:37am

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 back-to-back games for the first time since 2016, after losing to the Broncos and Chargers in consecutive weeks. Now they turn their attention to another AFC West opponent, the Oakland Raiders, in Week 14.

Today in the Black-and-gold links article, we take a look at the injury, and Injured Reserve designation, of Justin Hunter re-opens the door for James Washington to get more snaps on game days. Mike Tomlin talked about this in his weekly press conference, and described it as being “excited” for Washington.

Should fans buy, or sell, what Tomlin is selling here?

Let’s get to the news:

Mike Tomlin ‘excited’ for WR James Washington to seize opportunity

By: Pittsburgh Tribune-Review Staff

Justin Hunter’s shoulder injury has opened the door for wide receiver James Washington to salvage something of his rookie season with the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Coach Mike Tomlin said Tuesday that Washington, the team’s second-round draft pick, will return to the roster after being inactive Sunday against the Los Angeles Chargers. It coincides with the Steelers placing Hunter on injured reserve.

Tomlin said Hunter’s injury provides “an opportunity for things to boomerang back around” for Washington.

“I’m kind of excited about that, to be quite honest with you,” Tomlin said.

Before Sunday, Washington had three catches on 14 targets over his previous six games. He was benched after leaving his feet and dropping a deep pass from Ben Roethlisberger in a 24-17 loss to the Denver Broncos.

“Such is life in this game at this level,” Tomlin said. “Sometimes you get knocked down, you’ve got to get in the lab and work and oftentimes that is done in obscurity. You wait for your opportunity to get back on and ride again and show what you are capable of.

“It wasn’t a lot of time on the shelf for James, so it’s going to be exciting to watch him get back on this week and take advantage of someone else’s misfortune and be a positive contributor of our efforts.”

Washington has eight catches for 77 yards and a touchdown in 10 games this season.

Hunter replaced Washington as the No. 3 receiver against the Chargers and didn’t have a catch on three targets. He played 18 snaps before he landed awkwardly on his shoulder in the end zone while attempting to catch an overthrown pass from Roethlisberger.

Hunter will finish the year with three catches for 21 yards in five games.

War Room: Chargers, Allen exposed this defense

By: Chris Carter, DKPittsburghSports

While officiating issues were rampant in the Steelers’ 33-30 loss to the Chargers, there were plenty of factors in their control they failed to grasp.

Let’s dig deep …

TWO-MINUTE DRILL

Where scheme beat team: The Steelers had to know the Chargers’ offensive plan, especially with their star running back, Melvin Gordon, injured. Even if Gordon was active, a study of the Chargers’ offense shows that it runs through its star receiver, Keenan Allen. Allen currently has 996 receiving yards this season after his 148-yard night against the Steelers, and that’s 543 yards more than their next highest player, both being running backs.

This was the prime opportunity for Keith Butler to find a way to force the Chargers to win with a different player and showcase how he could adjust for the many ways Ken Whisenhunt, former Steelers’ offensive coordinator, would scheme to get Allen open.

That didn’t happen.

Allen is a receiver who can line up anywhere on the field and find success, but he’s at his best in the slot. He likes his matchups there and flashes great footwork to get open. His skills bring a challenge for defenses to either assign their best cornerback to him no matter where he lines up, or pass the duties around between interior defenders, including slot cornerbacks, safeties and linebackers.

The Steelers went with the latter approach, as Allen caught 14 passes on 19 targets, gaining 10 first downs and converting three-of-six when targeted on third downs.

Even when the Steelers assigned cornerbacks to guard Allen, he was getting open. Here’s a big third-down conversion that kept the Chargers’ first second-half touchdown drive alive. The Steelers are in man coverage and put Mike Hilton on Allen, but Allen is lined up behind Mike Williams, who is being guarded by Coty Sensabaugh.

Similarly to how the Steelers have used Antonio Brown to get open behind other receivers, the Chargers had Allen run a zig route behind Williams, who ran right at Hilton, to spring him open. The zig is a route that starts to the inside and then works outside, forcing the defender to display elite footwork. Hilton never has the chance to test his footwork against Allen because he gets cut off by Williams and loses sight of Allen on his zig.

(For more...click the link in the title.)

Mark Madden: Stupidity, stubbornness undoing Steelers season

By: Mark Madden, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

Boy, are the Steelers stupid.

A linebacker covered Keenan Allen on nine targets Sunday. He’s the Los Angeles Chargers’ No. 1 wide receiver. As a result, Allen had 14 catches. That’s stupid.

Joe Haden was about to snatch an interception. Sean Davis went for a big hit on Allen, the intended receiver. Instead, he jarred the ball from Haden’s hands and into Allen’s for a Chargers touchdown. Was Davis even aware Haden was there? What was Davis watching? That’s reminiscent of Mike Mitchell. That’s stupid.

The Steelers jumped offside three times on the Chargers’ game-winning field goal. That’s a rookie kicker. Let him miss. He did, the first time. But he kept getting do-overs. That’s stupid.

Don’t blame the officials. That’s stupid. Some decisions were egregiously bad, especially the noncall on the obvious false start that preceded Los Angeles’ first touchdown. But Franco Harris trapped the ball, and the Steelers got every call possible in their Super Bowl XL win.

So don’t whine, especially when the Steelers led 23-7 at halftime. Prior to Sunday, the Steelers had 220 wins and two ties when leading by 14 or more at home. They are now 220-1-2 in that situation.

It was the biggest choke in Steelers’ history. If it wasn’t born of stupidity, abject idiocy certainly suckled that disaster.

If stupid was the Steelers’ defining characteristic, weird wasn’t far behind.

Ben Roethlisberger played well, except for a couple throws. That’s becoming his defining characteristic this season. He served up an easy interception off a snap just outside the red zone, and he overthrew Justin Hunter when Hunter had broken free for what should have been a simple touchdown toss.

Hunter got hurt diving for that throw and had to leave the game. Weird.

The Steelers’ defense was rock solid in the first half. In the second half, the Chargers drove 88, 79 and 64 yards for two touchdowns and a field goal.

The Chargers got another touchdown on a punt return. (Aided by a block in the back that was not flagged.) But that wasn’t weird, because the Steelers’ special teams are too often ineffective, penalized (24 times, most in the NFL) and disorganized. Again, witness the chorus line of Steelers going offside on the Chargers’ game-ending field-goal tries.

So, can the Steelers fix it?

That depends on what you mean by “fix it.”

The Steelers lead over Baltimore in the AFC North is down to a half-game. The Steelers’ remaining schedule looks slightly tougher than the Ravens’, but going 2-2 to finish 9-6-1 likely wins the division.

Home field is out of the question. A bye is out of the question. Anything better than the No. 4 seed is unlikely.

That would almost certainly get a rematch with the Chargers at Heinz Field. Uh-oh.

It was going so well, and then it all turned so stupid. The Steelers won six straight, then lost two games they were favored to win.

That bounces back to coaching, except it can’t. Mike Tomlin will never get fired. (That’s your cue to scream his regular-season record at the top of your lungs.) Nor should Tomlin be, because his replacement would be inferior.

But that doesn’t mean the Steelers are up to snuff when it comes to structure and accountability. It doesn’t mean Tomlin coaches perfectly. (Not even close.)

Steelers left with little margin for error after loss to Chargers

By: Joe Rutter, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

The unseasonably warm temperatures that passed through the region Sunday are gone and with it went the Pittsburgh Steelers margin for error.

Once firmly in control of the AFC North and a first-round playoff bye, the Steelers are reeling from back-to-back losses that has put a fifth consecutive postseason trip and third straight division championship in jeopardy.

When their winning streak reached six games after that fourth-quarter comeback two weeks ago in Jacksonville, the Steelers had a two-and-a-half game edge on Baltimore for the division lead and the No. 2 spot in the AFC playoff race.

But after blowing second-half leads against Denver and the Los Angeles Chargers in a span of eight days, the Steelers (7-4-1) are just a half-game ahead of the Ravens (7-5), winners of three in a row. With four games to play, the Steelers also have two fewer wins that division leaders New England and Houston and three fewer than Kansas City, meaning they are ticketed to play on wild-card weekend — if they get into the playoffs at all.

“We’re not panicking,” cornerback Joe Haden said. “We’re not worried. We still have got four games left. We still can control our destiny.”

Trouble is, games against New England (9-3) at home and New Orleans (10-2) on the road remain on the schedule. Another 2-2 stretch like the one the Steelers just completed is a distinct possibility. That would leave the Steelers at 9-6-1, which could be enough to get into the postseason as a wild-card provided one of the four 6-6 teams — Miami, Indianapolis, Tennessee and Denver — doesn’t run the table.

A 9-6-1 record also might be enough to secure the AFC North title provided the Ravens don’t go 3-1 or better the rest of the way. Baltimore has Kansas City (10-2) and the Chargers (9-3) left on its schedule, and both games are on the road for the Ravens.

“It’s a quarter left of football,” wide receiver Antonio Brown said. “We’ve got to continue to figure out a way to win and get ourselves a chance to get to the dance.”

The Steelers won’t dance unless they end their losing streak Sunday at Oakland. The Raiders have a 2-10 record but are a historically bothersome opponent at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum. The Steelers have lost their past three trips to Oakland, falling to teams that finished 2-14 in 2006, 4-12 in ‘12 and 4-12 in ‘13.

To compound matters, the Steelers head into the stretch run with some glaring weaknesses and at least one potentially significant injury.

NFL Power Rankings, Week 14: Second straight loss has the Steelers almost out of the Top 10

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 12/04/2018 - 2:07pm

The Pittsburgh Steelers were a unanimous Top 5 team heading into the regular season, and after a rough start to the season they were heading back to the front of the pack until recently.

The only consistent aspect of the Pittsburgh Steelers early in the season were their inconsistencies.

After an opening week tie with the Cleveland Browns, followed by a loss to the Kansas City Chiefs, the Steelers had shown it all — amazing offense, head-scratching play calling and shoddy defense, among others.

Needless to say, the Steelers experienced a precipitous drop in the weekly NFL Power Rankings because of their poor play which resulted in a 0-1-1 record heading into Week 3. However, a 30-27 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Monday Night Football had the Steelers on the rise. Right on cue, the next week they suffered a 26-14 loss to the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday Night Football, the Pittsburgh roller coaster was again on the decline.

Have no fear Steelers fans, a dominant performance in Week 5 vs. the Atlanta Falcons in followed by a big win over the Cincinnati Bengals had the team continuing on their upward trend. Or as Mike Tomlin would say, “The arrow is pointing up.”

Inconsistent was the theme early with this team, but they seemed to have rectified this after beating the Baltimore Ravens in Week 9 and the Carolina Panthers in Week 10, extending their winning streak to five straight games. A narrow victory in Jacksonville over the Jaguars moved the Steelers’ win streak to six games, and continued their ascent in the weekly rankings.

If fans were thinking things were too good to be true, the Denver Broncos slapped a big fat ‘L’ on the Steelers’ schedule in Week 12 — dropping the team down the rankings in the process. After the Week 13 Los Angeles Chargers came into Heinz Field and gave the Steelers their second straight loss.

In reality, these power rankings mean nothing, but they’re great for conversation and debate. This week, the Steelers barely stayed in the Top 10.

Check out the rankings, and let us know what you think in the comment section below!

ESPN

1. Los Angeles Rams
2. New Orleans Saints
3. Kansas City Chiefs
4. New England Patriots
5. Los Angeles Chargers
6. Houston Texans
7. Pittsburgh Steelers
“We’re No. 1 in: Sacks. The Steelers remain the league leaders, with 39. The defense is predicated on sacks and turnovers, and though Pittsburgh is one of the league’s worst in turnover ratio, five Steelers have at least 4.5 sacks, with T.J. Watt tied for ninth in the NFL with 10.”
8. Chicago Bears
9. Seattle Seahawks
10. Baltimore Ravens

CBS Sports

1. Los Angeles Rams
2. Kansas City Chiefs
3. New England Patriots
4. New Orleans Saints
5. Houston Texans
6 .Dallas Cowboys
7. Seattle Seahawks
8. Chicago Bears
9. Los Angeles Chargers
10. Pittsburgh Steelers
“That was not a good home loss to the Chargers. Why didn’t they run the ball with the lead?”

NFL.com

1. New Orleans Saints
2. Los Angeles Rams
3. New England Patriots
4. Kansas City Chiefs
5. Los Angeles Chargers
6. Houston Texans
7. Pittsburgh Steelers
“Not sure what happened in the second half on Sunday night against the Chargers, but the Steelers fell apart, as did their hopes for home-field advantage or a bye in the AFC playoffs. Pittsburgh now trails the Chiefs by 2.5 games and is behind the Texans by 1.5, with only four games left to play and Houston eyeing a (quite) favorable schedule going forward. Back to Sunday: The Steelers came out flat on offense in the second half, couldn’t get to Philip Rivers, then stunk up the joint on special teams. Artie Burns jumped three times while this blurb was being typed.”
8. Chicago Bears
9. Seattle Seahawks
10. Dallas Cowboys

SB Nation

1. Los Angeles Rams
2. Los Angeles Chargers
3. Houston Texans
4. Chicago Bears
5. New England Patriots
6. Kansas City Chiefs
7. New Orleans Saints
8. Seattle Seahawks
9. Baltimore Ravens
10. Dallas Cowboys
11. Cleveland Browns
12. Pittsburgh Steelers

Steelers sign RB Ralph Webb to their practice squad

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 12/04/2018 - 1:21pm

Pittsburgh filled the vacant slot on their practice squad on Tuesday afternoon when they added former Patriots and Buccaneers running back Ralph Webb.

When the Pittsburgh Steelers announced a series of roster moves on Tuesday morning, the observant among you should have noticed that the team still had a place on their practice squad to fill. By Tuesday afternoon, that slot had been taken by running back Ralph Webb.

We have signed RB Ralph Webb to the Practice Squad.

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) December 4, 2018

After Trey Edmunds was promoted to the active roster earlier in the day, it is perhaps no surprise to see the Steelers have opted to replace him with another running back. Originally signed by the New England Patriots as an undrafted free agent in May, Webb was released in the final round of cuts in September before being signed to their practice squad. Let go by New England in October, the former Vanderbilt running back was signed to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers practice squad in November before being released on Monday.

In four season at Vanderbilt, Webb rushed for a total of 4,178 yards, scoring 32 touchdowns and ending his career with the Commodores as the team’s all-time leading rusher. He also added 68 receptions for 572 yards and three touchdowns in the 49 games he appeared in. While he was commended for his work ethic and durability by scouts, his pre-draft evaluations suggest he might struggle at the professional level.

Given his limited experience in the Patriots system, he is unlikely to be able to offer Pittsburgh any insights that could help them during their game in Week 15, but that is unlikely to stop New England fans from believing that is why the Steelers signed him.

Steelers injury update: James Conner will miss game against Raiders as ankle injury is reclassified as a sprain

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 12/04/2018 - 12:00pm

The Steelers have a number of injured players to worry about as they prepare to face the Oakland Raiders and James Conner might not be the only one sidelined in Week 14.

Contrary to a report from Ian Rapoport on Monday suggesting that the injury to James Conner was rather minor, Mike Tomlin announced that the running back would be forced to miss the upcoming game against the Oakland Raiders with an ankle issue that is much more significant than first believed.

When speaking to the media at his weekly press conference on Tuesday, Tomlin confirmed that Conner had actually suffered a sprained ankle rather than a contusion.

“James Conner’s injury is probably a little bit more significant than we initially thought. He’s got an ankle sprain, not a contusion, so he’ll be out this week.”

While Conner is not the only player the medical staff will be monitoring this week, Tomlin seemed to be somewhat confident that most of the names carrying injuries would be able to suit up in Week 14.

“Kam Canaday went down in the game with a knee, he was able to return. It’s probably going to slow his preparation here at the early stages of the week, but we are hopeful that he’ll be a participant. Chickillo sustained an ankle in the game, it may limit his preparation during the course of the week and we’ll see where that leads us. Marcus Gilbert’s still working his way back from injury, hadn’t checked in on his status. I think he’s downstairs right now working. We’ll see where his participation is and where that participation might lead us. He’s got to be getting closer.”

“A couple of other guys had nicks and so forth in the game. Rosie Nix had a shoulder. I don’t think that’s going to stop him from being available to us. Ryan Switzer’s in the protocol, part of getting out of the protocol is physical labor, so he’ll be given an opportunity to do some of those things. Optimistic about his inclusion, but we’ll let that process run its course.”

Jaylen Samuels will get the start at running back with Conner sidelined and the newly promoted Trey Edmunds will provide depth at the position behind Stevan Ridley. Although the loss of Conner might not be so acutely felt against Oakland, his potential absence in Week 15 would be a major concern with Pittsburgh set to face the New England Patriots.

#LIVE: Coach Tomlin recaps Week 13, and looks ahead to our Week 14 matchup vs. the Raiders. https://t.co/qzQN7y5V5N

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) December 4, 2018

The play which changed everything in the Steelers’ loss to the Chargers

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 12/04/2018 - 11:38am

Momentum is a tangible thing in the NFL, and the Steelers seemed to lose theirs early in the second half.

When experiencing a defeat like the Pittsburgh Steelers suffered Sunday night at the hands of the Los Angeles Chargers, it’s quite common to look back at what went wrong and analyze individual plays to death. In this case, there are so many of such plays which led to the loss, I was having flashbacks of Josh Scobee kicks from a Thursday night in 2015. Much like the infamous game against Baltimore, there are a plethora of plays in which, if they had gone Pittsburgh’s way, Steelers Nation would be celebrating a victory Monday.

Whether it be bad decisions, dumb luck, or complete ineptitude by the officials, there is one particular play that really seemed to turn the tide which led to the Steelers loss. The plays I am NOT referring to are:

  1. The missed PAT
  2. The obvious offsides on the Charger’s first TD
  3. The bad INT when the Steelers were in field-goal range
  4. The missed TD pass to Justin Hunter
  5. Sean Davis blowing up Joe Hayden‘s interception in the end zone, resulting in a TD catch
  6. Artie Burns’ only defensive snap, which resulted in 2 points
  7. The punt return TD and the missed penalty
  8. The offsides on the field goal miss
  9. The offsides on the field goal block
  10. The offsides on the field goal make
  11. The questionable ball movement by the long snapper on all the field goals

Wow. Those are a lot of plays. And it’s still not to play that I am referring to. The play in which the tide turned against the Steelers came 3:20 into the third quarter. On their opening drive of the second-half, the Steelers has just moved the ball across midfield. On 2nd & 4 from the Chargers 48 yard line, James Conner ripped off a 20-yard run down to the 28 yard line which was called back on a holding penalty against Ramon Foster.

Before getting into the legitimacy of the penalty, let’s look at how the call changed the course of the game. The Steelers went from a 1st & 10 just outside the red zone on the 28 yard line to having a 2nd & 14 at their own 42. So instead of already being in field-goal range to add another score, the Steelers gained 11 yards on the next two plays and were forced to punt.

It is important to note that the Steelers scored a touchdown with 17 seconds left in the first half to take it 23–7 advantage. By adding any kind of points to start the third quarter would have been devastating to the comeback efforts of the Chargers by stretching it to a three-score lead. Instead, the Chargers were able to drive the length of the field for a touchdown and two point conversion in order to make it a one-score game.

As for the legitimacy the penalty, you can judge for yourself :

For anyone watching the television broadcast, Foster was very upset about the call. Additionally, the commentators seemed to take Foster’s side. Even the Steeler antagonist Chris Collinsworth said, “We’ve seen a lot of offensive lineman get away with that over the course of the season, so I’m not sure why that was called.”

Al Michaels followed the statement by asking, “The course of the season or the course of history?”

It’s also quite uncommon for Ramon Foster to draw a holding penalty. With the exception of Matt Feiler who has yet to be flagged for anything in his 13 career games, Ramon Foster has the least number of holding penalties per game of any player on the Steelers offensive line. In 142 games, Foster has only been called for holding 11 times, including the most recent infraction, averaging one call every 12.9 games.

It is been said many times by NFL analysts that officials could throw a penalty for offensive holding on pretty much every play of every game. But for some reason, an official chose to throw the flag on this particular play while letting much more egregious infractions go uncalled throughout the game.

We’ll never know how the game would have played out if Conner’s run would have been allowed to stand. I do have the feeling this was one of the many instances which made Mike Tomlin choose to keep his mouth shut after the game in order to protect his wallet. It’s a shame the people on the field not wearing helmets are so much of the discussion after the game is over.

Steelers Stock Report: See whose stock is rising, and falling, after the loss to the Chargers

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 12/04/2018 - 10:46am

Time to check in on the Pittsburgh Steelers’ Stock Report after Week 13.

Before we get around to giving the officials that presided over the Steelers’ come-from-ahead loss to the Chargers Sunday night their requisite skewing, it’s important to remember that human error is an element that’s woven inextricably into football’s DNA: players make bad plays or commit dumb penalties, coaches design and implement ineffective game plans, and officials occasionally make incorrect judgement calls. That last one’s worthy of further consideration, because the ambiance of the home viewing experience makes it so easy to criticize officials for throwing bogus flags or not throwing warranted ones. Like, yeah, it’s generally pretty obvious when a fumble is a fumble, but that’s because you, the viewer, are watching the replay on a 4k television transmitting the game-feed—in slow motion, no less—from a EFP camera that’s powerful enough to film blackheads forming on the quarterback’s nose. The human eye unfortunately does not possess such innovative capabilities (not yet, anyway).

With that said, blasting the refs always provides catharsis, especially when their performance is directly attributable to—but not entirely attributable to, this part is critical—to a loss. Sunday night, the officials who oversaw Pittsburgh’s 33-30 painted a vivid mosaic of incompetence. For one, they missed as conspicuous of a false start as you’ll ever see, seen below:

WHO PAID da Refs Sam Tevi CLEARLY OFFSIDE ‍♂️ Philip Rivers TD should NOT have counted ‍♂️pic.twitter.com/2jiUN38gez

— VERSACEBOYENT (@VersaceBoyEnt2) December 3, 2018

I was at this game, so writing this story is actually the first time I’m seeing a replay of the play in question. My beefy guy took three little shuffle-steps before the ball was even snapped! This is ten times worse than I thought it was. Good grief.

Later, on a 73-yard punt return touchdown by Desmond King, it sure looked like Steelers gunner Brian Allen was blocked in the back, and Joe Haden emphatically believes that he was not offsides on a game-ending field goal that Michael Badgley missed. I thought the block in the back maybe could’ve gone either way—and let’s be real, that touchdown was less the result of a botched penalty than it was customarily bad special teams play by the Steelers—but Haden’s offsides declaration is interesting. I don’t know. You guys/gals can be the judge of that:

Are we sure the Steelers were offsides on the 1st kick? pic.twitter.com/gPCaEK6JWp

— Steve Frederick (@_SteveFrederick) December 3, 2018

I don’t want to waste too much space opining the particulars of plays that may or may not have been called incorrectly, but, man, that missed false start was brutal. It’s a little absurd to credit Sunday’s outcome to anything more than negligence—there are a great many dark inequities imbuing our world, but the NFL fixing games against the Pittsburgh Steelers is not one of them (and I think we, as an unbiased fanbase, should be able to freely admit that the Steelers have most certainly been beneficiaries of a non-zero number of officiating errors)—but, yeah, the refs really crapped the bed on that one. Here’s to hoping the Steelers get a more discerning crew next week. Stock report!

Stock down: The Steelers human elements

Let’s say that the 46-yard touchdown strike from Philip Rivers to Travis Benjamin was completely beyond Pittsburgh’s control. That’s fine.

What the Steelers could control, however, was their game-plan, which was thoroughly abominable. Keenan Allen—who is easily among the top 10 receivers in the NFL and arguably among the top five—had 14 catches Sunday, largely because the Steelers steadfastly refused to deploy cornerbacks against him. This from Chris Adamski of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review:

And according to the NFL’s Next Gen Stats, a linebacker was the man closest to Allen on almost half of those 19 targets (nine) — the most a receiver has worked against a linebacker in a game since the service began tracking such metrics in 2016.

This was by design. L.J. Fort, ostensibly a poor man’s Ryan Shazier, played 52 snaps on Sunday—his previous single-game high was 27, and he hadn’t played more than 17 snaps since Week 8—while Jon Bostic, ostensibly a Pro Bowl-caliber linebacker, played 11 snaps—Bostic had played at least 30 snaps in every game this season before Sunday. The Steelers very clearly intended to use some combination of Fort and Bud Dupree to shadow Allen for the duration on Sunday’s proceedings.

The matter of why is subject to some conjecture (depending on when this story is published, Mike Tomlin’s weekly press conference may or may not have already yielded an illuminative response). It’s possible that, with Morgan Burnett and Cameron Sutton unavailable, Tomlin took one look at his bench, saw Artie Burns sitting there and thought, “Aww hell, might as well try putting a linebacker on Allen.” Possible, too, is that the decision to put a linebacker on Allen was more about defining Allen’s physical traits than his abilities as a receiver. To be clear, Keenan Allen is an remarkable, multi-talented receiver, but he isn’t particularly speedy, so maybe Tomlin et al. thought that spying him with a fast linebacker could be an effective strategy. Alas, it was not, as Allen had nearly 150 receiving yards, a touchdown, a two-point conversion, and gained 10 first downs.

Stock down: Big Ben

Ben threw a gruesome interception in scoring range and later overthrew Justin Hunter on a play in which Hunter could not possibly have been more wide-open. I deeply appreciate the immense success Ben Roethlisberger has brought to the Steelers and I am very cognizant of the fact that, without him, the Steelers are canonically, like, the Falcons, but Big Ben has this singular ability to blend unconstrained sorcery with woeful inadequacy. One week, he’s zipping pinpoint laserbeam throws to every receiver on the roster and metronomically orchestrating scoring drives and the next he’s behaving like the part of his brain that regulates his object permanence doesn’t exist. He sometimes occupies both extremes during a single game! It sure looked like we were gonna get Good Ben Sunday, as his second passing attempt of the game was a perfectly-placed 46-yard bomb to Antonio Brown, but two drives later he tossed the aforementioned interception and never really settled into any kind of rhythm.

Stock down: Defense. Just all of it.

Statistically, the Steelers have one of the top 10 run defenses in the league. That, coupled with the fact that they held the Chargers to two (2) rushing yards in the first half, should’ve been enough to inspire confidence about their run-stopping prospects in the second half. Alas, it was not. LA’s rushing attack, which gained 83 total yards in the second frame, allowed the Chargers to maintain a well-balanced and highly-efficient offensive identity during the second half, which played no smart part in them scoring 23 unanswered points and, ultimately, winning the game. This is a good time to mention that, in two weeks, the Steelers will face the Saints, whose backfield, composed of Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram, is the best in the league. Should be very fun!

I think what’s most discouraging about the Steelers defense isn’t their powerlessness against the run or the poor game management, but their stunning and inexplicable inability to force turnovers. On the season, the Steelers have forced only 12 turnovers, which puts them in a five-way tie with a slew of non-playoff teams for 23rd in the league in that category. Creating takeaways can certainly be a useful strategy for masking other defensive deficiencies (the Dolphins and Broncos, for instance, are both among the 10 worst defenses in yards allowed per game but are in the top six in takeaways, which has enabled both squads to potentially make a run at the AFC’s no. 6 seed), so the lack of turnovers being forced by Pittsburgh’s defense is really exacerbating the negative aspects of otherwise mediocre defensive showings.

Also, everyone commenting on Artie Burns being offsides on back-to-back game-ending field goal attempts seems to be forgetting that, earlier in the very same game, Burns was absolutely torched on a two-point conversation by the lumbering, plodding corpse of Antonio Gates. Artie Burns is the answer to “What if Nathan Peterman played cornerback?” I’ve never seen a position player in any sport with a more apt and fitting surname.

At this point, Joe Haden is to the defense what Ben Roethlisberger is to the offense, so Sean Davis, apparently channeling his inner Mike Mitchell, nearly ended the Steelers season by assassinating Haden.

Sean Davis just lit up Joe Hayden. Damn bruh. pic.twitter.com/y25doB6Qth

— Lenny Ciccarone (@LennyCiccarone9) December 3, 2018

Thanks to Davis opting to headhunt instead of playing the ball, the Steelers allowed a fluke, game-altering touchdown instead of what could have been a game-sealing interception.

Stock up: Receiving corps

JuJu Smith-Schuster and Antonio Brown are the first Steelers teammates to each record 1,000 yards in a season since Brown and Mike Wallace did so back in 2011. That’s a fun fact.

Also, Antonio Brown looks absolutely unstoppable, which should bode well for the Steelers’ playoff hopes (provided that Ben stops throwing picks and the defense stays off the field).

Playoff hopes: meh

Winning two of these final four games should be enough to get the Steelers into the postseason, whether that’s by way of the AFC North title or the Wild Card. However, the Ravens, utilizing an antiquated but effective game plan that’s run-heavy and designed to keep opposing offenses on the sideline, look unbeatable with Lamar Jackson at quarterback, and suddenly they’re right in the Steelers’ rearview and there’s a whole gaggle of teams, including the Dolphins, Titans, Colts, and Broncos, pining for that no. 6 seed. With games against New England and N’awlins awaiting, Sunday’s upcoming game in Oakland is very frankly something of a must-win. Thankfully, the Steelers have a sterling track record on the road against sub-.500 teams, and they are particularly adept at beating the Raiders. [thumbs up emoji].

Steelers place Justin Hunter on injured reserve and sign Matthew Thomas to the practice squad

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 12/04/2018 - 10:17am

The Steelers made several roster moves on Tuesday that also included promoting running back Trey Edmunds to the 53-man roster.

The Pittsburgh Steelers made a series of roster moves on Tuesday that appears to have begun with placing Justin Hunter on injured reserve, ending his season for 2018. As is always the way, one man’s misfortune is another man’s opportunity, and he has been replaced on the active roster by running back Trey Edmunds from the practice squad.

We have promoted RB Trey Edmunds to our 53-man roster, and placed WR Justin Hunter on the Reserve/Injured List.

We have also signed LB Matthew Thomas to the Practice Squad, and released LB Farrington Huguenin from the Practice Squad.

MORE: https://t.co/2x3FZRXxE4 pic.twitter.com/pfdwJTkmZH

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) December 4, 2018

The Steelers also announced the signing of Matthew Thomas to the practice squad, who was released on Saturday to make room for Ola Adeniyi and confirmed the release of fellow linebacker Farrington Huguenin.

Having picked up a shoulder injury in the loss to the Los Angeles Chargers, Hunter will end the year with just 3 receptions for 21-yards and another season of missed opportunities. His loss should also be James Washington’s gain.

The promotion of Edmunds, the older brother of rookie safety Terrell Edmunds, suggests the Steelers might have concerns about the availability of James Conner in Week 14 and he might even see some snaps on Sunday if Conner cannot play.

After clearing waivers on Monday, it was no surprise to see the Steelers move quickly to re-sign Thomas and he may yet return to the active roster before the year is out if there are injuries to any of the names ahead of him.

Pre-snap ball movement by Chargers’ long snapper may have caused Steelers to jump offside

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 12/04/2018 - 8:45am

Among the myriad of penalties missed on Sunday night, the officials may have also overlooked one that led to the Steelers jumping offside at the end of the game.

The Pittsburgh Steelers implosion against the Los Angeles Chargers on Sunday night ended in diabolical fashion when the special teams unit was flagged for three offside penalty that gifted Los Angeles the win. Although it would be short-sighted to suggest that blown calls by the referees were solely to blame for the Steelers defeat in Week 13, it would appear that Pittsburgh was at least deprived the opportunity of overtime thanks to some questionable tactics from Chargers’ long snapper Mike Windt that went unnoticed by the officials.

While some fans will rightfully question if Joe Haden was even offside in the first place, no one should be in any doubt about who was attempting to induce the Steelers to jump. Rather than a lack of discipline by Pittsburgh, it turns out it might have been the intentional pre-snap movement of the ball by Windt that caused players to move early.

Thanks to a detailed breakdown by Warren Sharp of Sharp Football Analysis, you can see exactly what the center did to inspire Pittsburgh to jump offside.

Wondered why there was no analysis of the 3 offsides on the game winning FG last night from the broadcast. Here you go. The simulated snap from the Chargers long snapper drew the Steelers offsides pic.twitter.com/syJR9GitSN

— Warren Sharp (@SharpFootball) December 3, 2018

This is far from the first time Windt had done this in a game, according to Cleveland Browns linebacker Joe Schobert, but inexplicably, it seems to be something the officials are willing to let slide.

Chargers long snapper is notorious for twitching and moving the ball before he snaps. Pointed it out to refs during our game and was told “he’s been doing it his whole career” it’s not gonna get called. https://t.co/wZTFRJxTx3

— Joe Schobert (@TheSchoGoesOn53) December 3, 2018

If Windt has done this before, you would have hoped that Danny Smith had highlighted the issue with his players, and even if he hadn’t, it is disappointing to see the Steelers might have fallen for it three times in a row. Pittsburgh will hope to rebound against the Oakland Raiders in week 14

Steelers open as 11.5-point favorites over Raiders in Week 14

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 12/04/2018 - 7:30am

Despite consecutive losses for the first time since Week 10 of 2016 season, the Steelers still opened as double digit favorites for their game against the Oakland Raiders on Sunday,

Coming off back-to-back losses, the Pittsburgh Steelers have on opportunity to return to winning ways on Sunday with a game against the worst team in the NFL. However, while a matchup with a team sporting a 2-10 record should seem like a gift for the Steelers in Week 14, the fact that it comes on the road against the Oakland Raiders is far from inspiring.

Although an opening line of 11.5-points suggests the contest should be an easy win for Pittsburgh, trips to face teams on the West Coast have rarely gone well for Steelers as of late. Mike Tomlin is 1-3 in the Pacific time Zone, a record that includes two defeats against the Raiders in Oakland and both coming in years when the Raiders would end the season with a 4-12 record. Dating back to 2003, the Steelers are 2-7 on the West Coast and have not won a game in Oakland in since 1995.

As of Tuesday, most sportsbook are now offering a spread of 11-points and it is hard to recommend backing Pittsburgh at this level. Those looking to take the Raiders and the points are advised to bet early with the spread likely to fall as the week progresses.

An initial totals position of 49.5-points has quickly been replaced by a consensus line of 51.5-points at the time of writing and the over could be good value for this matchup with Oakland giving up an average of 30.6-points a game. From on early moneyline offering of -588, the best price currently available is -750. An unbackable price and not even worth adding to parlays given the history of these contests.

While a loss to Oakland should be unthinkable on Sunday, the fact that the Raiders own a 15-13 lifetime record over the Steelers and are 3-2 against them since Tomlin took charge in 2007 suggests otherwise. Cautious wagering on this game is advised.

No excuses exist for Steelers 33-30 loss to the Chargers Sunday night

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 12/04/2018 - 6:38am

You want to blame someone for the Steelers 33-30 loss to the Chargers at Heinz Field on Sunday night? Don’t blame the officials. Blame the Steelers.

Perhaps Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin will take solace in the fact that his head won’t be the only one fans will want this week after his team blew a 23-7 third quarter lead and fell to the Chargers, 33-30, Sunday night before a shocked and dismayed crowd at Heinz Field.

The other heads belong to the game-day officials, who apparently forgot to pack their eyes, considering they missed two blatant penalties on plays that went for Los Angeles touchdowns.

If that’s going to be the narrative this week—”The refs cost us the game!”—you better get Morgan Freeman to narrate because that’s the only way I will buy it.

Yes, Chargers right tackle Sam Tevi got an early jump and absolutely should have been flagged for a false start on a play that went for a 46-yard touchdown pass from Philip Rivers to Travis Benjamin in the first quarter (Tevi actually got quite a few early jumps on the night). Yes, what’s his face blocked Brian Allen in the back on a punt that was returned for a 73-yard touchdown by Desmond King in the fourth quarter.

Yes, that’s 15 points practically gift-wrapped by the officials to the Chargers in a game that was decided by an untimed field goal.

But had the Steelers handled their own business, those 15 points would have been as damaging as a funnel cloud in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean.

If quarterback Ben Roethlisberger didn’t throw his weekly red zone/end zone interception in the second quarter—he could have thrown that pass with his left hand, and it wouldn’t have looked any worse—Pittsburgh likely would have turned its 13-7 lead into a 16-7 or 20-7 advantage.

Later in the second quarter, if Big Ben didn’t turn into September Ben by overthrowing a wide-open Justin Hunter on a play that should have gone for a 34-yard touchdown, the Steelers would have turned their 13-7 lead into a 20-7 lead. And the lead would have quickly grown to a 27-7 halftime advantage following Roethlisberger’s spectacular touchdown pass to Antonio Brown, who was, you guessed it, covered by a lot of people. (And, to reiterate, the lead likely would have been even bigger, if not for the aforementioned left-handed interception by Santa Ben earlier in the quarter.)

That’s anywhere from three to 11 points that were left on the field, thanks to two terrible throws by the franchise quarterback.

Speaking of Roethlisberger’s head-scratching interception, it once again left the Steelers on the negative side of the plus/minus turnover ratio. Why? Because their defense failed to leave a stadium with one for the umpteenth time in 2018. But the team could have broke even—and prevented a touchdown, in the process—had safety Sean Davis not done his best Donnie Shell impression (it was Steelers Alumni Weekend) by bashing into cornerback Joe Haden and turning his end zone interception into a deflection that fell into the waiting arms of receiver Keenan Allen late in the third quarter.

If you’re still scoring at home, that’s anywhere from three to 19 points the Steelers either could have scored or prevented in a game that was decided by an untimed field goal.

And I would be remiss if I didn't mention Chris Boswell's miss of an extra point (again) following James Conner's second touchdown, a miss that likely would have changed many scenarios in the second half.

So, the final tally: anywhere from four to 19 that could have been scored or prevented in a game that was decided by an untimed field goal.

So, yes, my friend, the officials gift-wrapped Los Angeles a lot of points, but the Steelers were also in quite the giving mood (for the second week in a row, actually), and that, more than anything else, is why they lost.

Podcast: Are the Steelers now pretenders instead of contenders?

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 12/04/2018 - 5:31am

Time to check in on all things black-and-gold after the Steelers collapse to the Chargers on the podcast ‘Steelers Hangover’.

The Pittsburgh Steelers saw their 23-7 lead vanish against the L.A. Chargers last night I at Heinz Field. To add injury to insult, James Conner could miss a significant amount of time after getting injured late. Are championship aspirations a pipe dream at this point?

Join Bryan Davis and Anthony Defeo from BTSC for the day after extravaganza known as “Steelers Hangover”. The Steelers dropped their record to 7-4-1 and Tony and Bryan will discuss the game with help from Steeler Nation.

Check out a rundown of the show:

- Reactions

- Grades/Valedictorian and Honor Roll

- Calls

- Are the Steelers contenders or pretenders after a second straight L.

- Looking ahead to Oakland

- and MUCH MORE!

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

Apple Users: CLICK HERE

Spotify: 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: Steelers not hitting the panic button after two game skid

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 12/04/2018 - 4:39am

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

The Pittsburgh Steelers have seen better days than they currently are experiencing. The black-and-gold have dropped back-to-back games for the first time since 2016, after losing to the Broncos and Chargers in consecutive weeks. Now they turn their attention to another AFC West opponent, the Oakland Raiders, in Week 14.

Today in the Black-and-gold links article, we take a look at the team’s response to their most recent loss, and how as a collective group they still feel very strongly about their chances in this postseason push.

Let’s get to the news:

Steelers vow to ‘tighten back up’ after brutal two-game stretch

By: Jeremy Fowler, ESPN

The Pittsburgh Steelers were left to process a loss that checks virtually every bad-loss category.

In December.

At home.

Blowing a 16-point lead at home for the first time in franchise history.

Extending a losing streak.

In conference, thus negatively impacting playoff positioning.

The 33-30 loss to the Chargers cuts deep, but the Steelers know how to spin this forward with optimism. Asked about panic levels, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said “none.”

“It’s just two losses. We good,” cornerback Joe Haden said about back-to-back losses to Los Angeles and Denver. “We’re still on the path of what we need to do. We’ve still got four games left. We’ve just got to tighten back up.”

Even if all that’s true, the Steelers (7-4-1) are about to find out whether these recent gaffes are out of character or a byproduct of a pretty good -- but not great -- team.

They might face these concerns without James Conner (lower body contusion) and wide receiver Ryan Switzer (concussion protocol), who were injured Sunday night.

They definitely face these concerns with the Baltimore Ravens (7-5), winners of three straight, climbing to within a half-game of first place in the AFC North.

The miscues are glaring enough where questions must be answered starting Sunday in Oakland. The four turnovers in Denver might have been an aberration. But on this night, the offense looked rattled early in the second half when the Chargers turned up the pass rush. And Los Angeles’ offense went for 231 yards and 19 points on its final three drives. Receivers going for too many yards after the catch was an issue, and once that happened, the Chargers ran the ball effectively. The defense is predicated on sacks and turnovers, and with two sacks and no turnovers, it’s hard to beat top-shelf quarterbacks such as Philip Rivers.

”You can’t say anything about our offense -- our offense scored 30 points,” defensive end Cameron Heyward said. “As a defense, we’re not getting the job done.”

Mike Tomlin: Remarks on officiating ‘doesn’t change outcome’ of loss

By: Jeremy Fowler, ESPN

Pittsburgh Steelers coach Mike Tomlin stopped short of criticizing officiating after Sunday night’s controversial 33-30 loss to the Los Angeles Chargers.

”You know, I’ma keep my mouth shut. I’ma do that,” Tomlin said when discussing how penalties affected his team’s momentum. “‘Cause I’ve sent enough money to New York.”

In the first quarter, officials missed a clear offsides call on Chargers right tackle Sam Tevi that would have negated Philip Rivers’ 46-yard touchdown pass to Travis Benjamin. Tomlin called the miss “unfortunate.”

In the second half, Steelers cornerback Brian Allen appeared to get blocked in the back on Desmond King’s 73-yard punt return for a touchdown.

Cornerback Joe Haden said “hell, no,” he wasn’t offsides on kicker Michael Badgley’s missed field goal attempt in the final seconds. The Steelers were called offsides twice, and Badgley hit the game winner from 29 yards as time expired.

The NFL hit Tomlin with a $25,000 fine in October after he called some officiating calls a “joke” that are “costing people games and jobs.” Nearly two months later, Tomlin was mum.

”Hey guys, I’m not getting into the officiating elements of what transpired and how it was communicated,” he said from the podium. “I’m just not. It’s fruitless. It doesn’t change the outcome of the game.”

From the locker room, several players maintained that they can’t blame wins and losses on officiating.

”Nah, we’re not gonna put it into the refs’ hands. We need to play better football,” said quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who finished 29-of-45 passing for 281 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. “Like I said, we didn’t play well enough on offense.”

Chargers out-scheme Steelers, who ‘stick with what they do’ with LBs on WR Keenan Allen

By: Chris Adamski, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

On the very first snap of Sunday night’s game, star Los Angeles Chargers receiver Keenan Allen lined up in the slot, only to see a linebacker in Bud Dupree across from him.

Philip Rivers, of course, saw it too. And the veteran quarterback knew exactly where he was going with the ball.

It was a 14-yard completion, the first of 14 on the game for Allen, a reigning AFC Pro Bowl pick who is tied for the conference lead in receptions this season. Allen would be the target of a career-high 19 passes from Rivers – including three in what was the winning drive – during what ultimately was a 33-30 Chargers victory at Heinz Field.

And according to the NFL’s Next Gen Stats, a linebacker was the man closest to Allen on almost half of those 19 targets (nine) – the most that a receiver has been targeted against a linebacker in a game since the service began tracking such metrics in 2016.

“They were always looking for a matchup – every time I looked up, (Allen) was on me, (inside linebacker L.J.) Fort….” Dupree said, “guys who they knew they would get good matchups from. They were throwing him the ball and targeting him right away. We could have done a better job of covering him.”

Allen had seven catches on 10 targets in the first half and seven catches on nine targets (10, if you count his 2-point conversion) in the second half. And through it all, Los Angeles offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt and Rivers found it too easy to keep getting Allen against a linebacker – including even at least twice on the final winning drive.

“(The Steelers) kind of stuck with (their approach),” Rivers said. “That is what this team does, they stick with what they do and they do it very well. Keenan is a tough cover in the slot and inside.”

Rivers speculated that the Steelers were content to, in effect, allow Allen catches as long as he didn’t have any big plays. After that 14-yard gain on the first play and 18-yard gain to Allen on Rivers’ second pass, only one Allen catch all game went for longer than 14 yards and none went for longer than 21 yards.

That said, though, 10 of Allen’s receptions accounted for first downs – including a touchdown – and another for a two-point conversion. Allen averaged 10.6 yards per reception.

“We got caught in a lot of zone coverages that put our linebackers on Allen,” cornerback Mike Hilton said. “They took advantage of it. It was frustrating.”

Hilton also said he wasn’t covering Allen in the slot as often as he covers most receivers in that position.

“They schemed that well,” Dupree said. “I feel like they knew how we played our leverages today, so we need to make sure that when we have a real skilled athlete (in the slot) – because I am covering (slots), Fort is covering (slots) – we have to make sure we are on top of our game and instinctive about having help and making sure we identify the matchups ahead of time while we are on the field.”

The Steelers consider Fort to be their best coverage linebacker. The defensive coaches also take pride in having their outside linebackers be able to drop in coverage because it allows them to disguise blitzes better.

But, ideally, even the best linebackers in coverage are only excelling at that job against tight ends or running backs. In particular, the worst-case is matching up against a skilled, high-level wide receiver.

“(The Chargers) create matchups, and they did a good job,” Dupree said. “They do a lot of good coaching, and Philip is a great quarterback too. And he did a great job looking at us and seeing who was on Keenan and throwing him the ball.

“We’ve got to, as players go out and identify that so that matchup won’t be as significant.”

Podcast: ‘Steelers Hangover’ returns tonight at 9:30 p.m. EST

Behind the Steel Curtain - Mon, 12/03/2018 - 7:57pm

BTSC recaps the Steelers Mile-loss at home against the Chargers and opens the phones to you, the listener, to join in.

The Pittsburgh Steelers saw their 23-7 lead vanish against the L.A. Chargers last night at Heinz Field. To add injury to insult, James Conner could miss a significant amount of time after getting injured late. Are championship aspirations a pipe dream at this point?

Join Bryan Davis and Anthony Defeo from BTSC tonight at 9:30 PM EST for the day after extravaganza known as “Steelers Hangover”. The Steelers dropped their record to 7-4-1 and Tony and Bryan will discuss the game with help from Steeler Nation.

Check out a rundown of the show:

- Reactions

- Grades/Valedictorian and Honor Roll

- Calls

- Are the Steelers contenders or pretenders after a second straight L.

- Looking ahead to Oakland

- and MUCH MORE!

To be a part of the show go to our BlogTalkRadio page for all information needed to listen, and call in!

AFC North Roundup: Back-to-back Steelers losses opens door for Ravens in division race

Behind the Steel Curtain - Mon, 12/03/2018 - 1:47pm

Taking a look around the AFC North heading into Week 14.

With Week 13 of the NFL schedule nearly officially in the books, it’s time to take a look back at those teams who call the AFC North home to see how they fared and what the standings look like after this week’s action.

The first goal for each team in the NFL is to win its division. Doing so guarantees both a playoff spot and a home playoff game, so even early-season games are important when it comes to divisional rankings.

Let’s take a spin around the AFC North to check on the Baltimore Ravens, Cincinnati Bengals, Cleveland Browns and Pittsburgh Steelers.

Week 13 Results

Denver Broncos - 24
Cincinnati Bengals - 10

The Bengals lose again, without Andy Dalton and watching AJ Green get carted off the field with another foot injury, but the biggest question on everyone’s mind is — will this be the year Marvin Lewis actually gets fired? At 5-7 things are looking bleak, to say the least.

Houston Texans - 29
Cleveland Browns - 13

The Texans keep winning, and their latest win took some of the luster off the upstart Browns. Houston has a stranglehold on the AFC South, and is looking like they want more than just a division title, but maybe a first round bye.

Baltimore Ravens - 26
Atlanta Falcons - 16

Did this game say more about the Ravens and Lamar Jackson? Or just how bad the Falcons team is? Either way, the Ravens, and Jackson, keep on winning, and for the second straight game the defense has put points on the board to help buoy the rookie quarterback and a struggling offense.

Los Angeles Chargers - 33
Pittsburgh Steelers - 30

This was such a strange game. From the missed penalties to the second half collapse, this is a game which can send the Steelers into a tailspin. However, this game reminds me of the loss to the Dallas Cowboys at Heinz Field in 2016 when the defense allowed Ezekiel Elliot to run through them en route to a stunning win. That loss galvanized the team as they marched through the rest of their season to the AFC Championship game. I’m not suggesting this team will run the table, although they could, but rather get the team to play their best football when it matters most.

Week 14 Schedule

Cleveland Browns vs. Carolina Panthers - Sunday, 1 p.m. ET kickoff
Baltimore Ravens at Kansas City Chiefs - Sunday, 1 p.m. ET kickoff
Cincinnati Bengals at Los Angeles Chargers - Sunday, 4:05 p.m. ET kickoff
Pittsburgh Steelers at Oakland Raiders - Sunday, 4:05 p.m. ET kickoff

AFC North Standings

Pittsburgh Steelers - 7-4-1
Baltimore Ravens - 7-5
Cincinnati Bengals - 5-7
Cleveland Browns - 4-7-1

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Let us know what you think about the division after Week 13 in the comment section below. Do you see this being a powerhouse division? Which teams are contenders and which ones are nothing more than pretenders?

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