Steelers Report Card for Win over Browns – Who Didn’t Get an A Edition?

Taken from the grade book of a teacher who is proud to see his student diligently working until the bell, here is the Pittsburgh Steelers Report Card for the 2020 home win over the Cleveland Browns.

James Washington, Steelers vs Browns

James Washington catches a touchdown against the Browns. Photo Credit: Karl Roser,

Ben Roethlisberger struggled a bit early with the RPOs. But once he settled down he played efficient football and continued to take care of the ball completing 14 of 22 for one touchdown and, most importantly, no interceptions and no fumbles. Mason Rudolph competed his 1 pass in mop up duty. Grade: A-Steelers, Report Card, grades,

Running Backs
James Conner hit the holes hard putting the Browns on notice that this was a going to be a physical game. He finished the day with 101 yards on 20 carries while adding in another catch. Benny Snell only got 17 yards, but he helped close the game. Anthony McFarland had 3 carries and 1 catch. Grade: A

Tight Ends
Eric Ebron had quiet day with two catches for 9 yards and Vance McDonald was not targeted. Cleveland’s front seven is a stout group and Ben Roethlisberger was clean and running backs had room to run and the tight ends certainly contributed to that. Grade: B

Wide Receivers
Chase Claypool followed up on his breakout game with a 36 yard reception that set up one touchdown and a run that scored another touchdown. The Browns decided they didn’t need to worry about James Washington, and Washington made them pay with 4 catches including a 28 yard touchdown reception. JuJu Smith-Schuster had 2 catches for 6 yards. Grade: A

Offensive Line
5.1 yards rushing, 4 quarterback hits and 2 sacks – all against one of the NFL’s best front seven groupings and with their best player, David DeCastro, out injured. An excellent day for the Steelers offensive line. Grade: A

Bud Dupree, Stephon Tuitt, Baker Mayfield, Steelers vs Browns

Bud Dupree and Stephon Tuitt sack Baker Mayfield. Photo Credit: Karl Roser,

Defensive Line
He might not get ink that some of the other players on this unit get, but Stephon Tuitt is quietly piecing together a monster season. Against the Browns he had a half sack, two and half tackles behind the line of scrimmage 2 QB hits and a forced fumble. Cam Heyward led the team in tackles and pushed more than one pile back to deny conversions. Officially Tyson Alualu had one half of tackle behind scrimmage, but the Browns inept rushing numbers tell a different tale. Chris Wormley only had one tackle, but he stuffed his man. Grade: A

Vince Williams was next with 6 and 1 for a loss. Devin Bush only played a half before tearing his ACL, but that was enough for half of a sack, a QB hit and a five tackles. Bud Dupree had two sacks while T.J. Watt clocked in with 1.5 tackles behind scrimmage. Grade: A

Minkah Fitzpatrick started the game with a tone setting pick six that the Cleveland offense never really overcame. Terrell Edmunds name wasn’t heard much, which is a good thing, but he did bat away a pass. How good were Joe Haden and Steven Nelson? Jarvis Landry and Odell Beckham Jr. combined for 5 catches for 65 yards. Cam Sutton had an interception. That Browns were 1-12 on third down. Grade: A

Special Teams
Ray-Ray McCloud and one kick return for 28 yards and 3 punt returns that averaged 12 yards. The Browns averaged 3 yards on two punt returns and 20 yards on kick returns, due in no small part to Chris Boswell pinning the Browns inside their own 20. Dustin Colquitt averaged 41. Yards on 5 punts. Grade: A-

Throughout his tenure Mike Tomlin has responded to challenges about the lack of balance on his offices by explaining that balance on offense for him is the offense becoming what it needs to be.

  • In the win against the Browns Randy Ficthner’s offense achieved that goal.

The Steelers dominated time of possession, established a rhythm rushing the ball effectively, pivoted away from RPOs that weren’t working, converted turnovers and used deep passing to set up two touchdowns. They also kept their quarterback clean when they were down a lineman.

Joe Haden, Jarvis Landry, Steelers vs Browns

Joe Haden bats a pass away from Jarvis Landry. Photo Credit: Chaz Palla, Tribune-Review

The Steelers defense has been a step behind the offense thus far in 2020, but against the Browns Keith Butler‘s boys virtually eliminated 3rd down conversions correcting a major flaw. The defense must sustain this against stiffer competition, but it stands as clear positive.

The 2020 season is still young and tough tests await them, but the Pittsburgh Steelers played their toughest opponent thus far in the Cleveland Browns and they delivered their best performance. They started out decisively on defense, refused to blink when things didn’t go right on offense and even when they were up by 31 points they play as if the game could still be decided by a field goal – all to Mike Tomlin’s credit.

Unsung Hero Award
“We don’t have backups, just starters in waiting.” There’s another cliché that became true with two minutes left to play in the 2nd half against the Browns when Devin Bush went down. His replacement stepped in and actually led the linebackers in tackles, registering 6, including 1 for a loss. Teams will certainly start targeting him early and often, but he answered the call against Cleveland and for that Robert Spillane wins the Unsung Hero Award for the win over the Browns.

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Steelers Report Card for Win over Eagles – Pulling it Out with All Nighter’s Edition

Taken from the grade book of teacher who worries his defense students are getting too comfortable pulling things out with all nighters, here is the Pittsburgh Steelers Report Card for the win over the Eagles.

T.J. Watt, Carson Wentz, Steelers vs Eagles

T.J. Watt sacks Carson Wentz. Photo Credit: Don Wright, AP via PennLive

Ben Roethlisberger went threw 34 passes for 27 completions for 239 yards and 3 touchdowns. The Steelers converted 11 of 15 third downs and Roethlisberger took care of the ball. His audible on 3rd and 8 in the 4th quarter with the game in the balance was a veteran move that sealed the win. Grade: ASteelers, Report Card, grades,

Running Backs
The Eagles have ones of the strongest front 7s in the league so it figured this would be tough sledding. And it was. None of the Steelers running back’s rushing averages impress. But if you look beyond the numbers and at the tape, you’ll see that James Conner  and Anthony McFarland all had some respectable runs. Benny Snell gained tough yards to kill the clock at the end. Conner also added 3 carries and scored the go ahead touchdown. Grade: C+

Tight Ends
Eric Ebron was having a nice day for himself with a 5 catches for 43 yards but he coughed up the ball at a critical time. He also failed to pull in a pass that was incorrectly ruled as an interception. Vance McDonald had one catch for 4 yards, but was an asset in the blocking game. Grade: C

Wide Receivers
JuJu Smith-Schuster and James Washington had pedestrian games with 4 and 3 catches for 28 and 25 yards respectively. Ray-Ray McCloud had 3 catches but did his damage on two “Jet Sweeps” one of which went for 58 yards. But that wasn’t the big story of the day.

After looking solid in the first 3 games Chase Claypool announced his presence to the NFL with a bang with 7 catches for 110 yards and 3 touchdowns in the air plus another touchdown on the ground. Grade: A

Offensive Line
The only team that had sacked the quarterback more than the Steelers coming into this game was the Eagles. Yet Ben Roethlisberger was only dropped once the entire afternoon and he was only hit two more times per ESPN’s statistics. Run blocking could have been a little stronger, but overall it was a good day for the line, especially considering that David DeCastro was lost for most of the game. Grade: B

Defensive Line
Cam Heyward had two sacks, defensed a pass and logged another quarterback hit while Tyson Alualu added another two tackles. Take away Miles Sanders 74 yard run and the Eagles managed 1.33 yard per carry, and that starts with the defensive line. Grade: B+

T.J. Watt had another “quiet” day with “only” 3 tackles for losses in between a sack early on and a key pressure that helped force an interception. Bud Dupree also came up big with a half sack on the Eagles final drive. Vince Williams and Devin Bush had 2 and 3 tackles apiece. Steelers linebackers made their plays, but also must shoulder the blame for the long run given up along with the Eagles ease with 3rd down conversions. Grade: B

Travis Fulgham, Mike Hilton, Steelers vs Eagles

Travis Fulgham used and abused the Steelers all day. Photo Credit: Keil Leggere,

Who is Travis Fulgham? Mike Tomlin claims the fellow Virginian was on his radar but can the same be said for anyone else? Who knows? We do know is that smoked the Steelers for 10 catches and 152 yards and a touchdown. Steven Nelson, Mike Hilton and Joe Haden all had their issues with the kid. Hilton also missed a tackle on Miles’ touchdown run. Minkah Fitzpatrick also missed a tackle because he failed to rap, leading to a 3rd down conversion. The Steelers pass defense did secure two turnovers, but it is allowing just under 13 yards per pass catch – far too much. Grade: C-

Special Teams
Ray-Ray McCloud averaged 24 both his punt returns and Diontae Johnson had 6 yards on two punt returns. The Steelers punt and kick coverage was excellent, helping secure excellent field position. Chris Boswell was perfect, while Dustin Colquitt was OK. Overall a good day for special teams. Grade: B+


Steven Nelson, Mike Hilton, Steelers vs Eagles, John Hightowewr

Steven Nelson 2nd interception of the day. Photo Credit: Chaz Palla, Tribune Review.

Whether it is because of Matt Canada’s influence or not, Randy Fichtner continues to find ways to innovate, as the Steelers neutralized the Eagle’s stout front seven with bunch formations and Jet Sweeps. The Steelers offense scored 4 touchdowns on its own, converted another turnover into a touchdown, and killed the clock when it had to.

  • If all signs are encouraging on the Steelers offense and special teams, you cannot say the same about the defense.

The Steelers defense doesn’t lack for Splash plays, as their 5 sacks, 2 interceptions, 11 quarterback hits and eight tackles for losses testify. But four games into the season opponents are converted third downs with relative ease, the Steelers are regularly giving up long passes and quick touchdown drives have been too common.

Whether that’s because Joe Haden is losing a step, Devin Bush isn’t developing fast enough or opponents are exploiting the Steelers love of the blitz, Keith Butler needs to take a hard look at his pass defense.

With that said, going 4-0 in the NFL is and accomplishment. It doesn’t happen by accident. The Steelers of late have been rusty coming off of their bye week, yet even if this bye came unexpected, no rust was evident, to Mike Tomlin’s credit. Grade: B

Unsung Hero Award
The Eagles had scored 15 unanswered points to cut a 17 point deficit to a 2 point deficit and the Steelers had JUST fumbled the ball back to Philadelphia. It was 1st and 10 at the Pittsburgh 44. Carson Wentz had a man open down field but didn’t quite have time to release because he was sacked for a 3 yard loss.

Sure, the Eagles made 8 of those yards back, but the sack meant Jake Elliot had to try a 57 yard field goal instead of a 54 yard one and those three yards might have been the difference. Stephon Tuitt made that sack and for that he wins the Unsung Hero Award for the Steelers win over the Eagles.

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Chase Claypool Arrives in Steelers 38-29 Win Over Eagles. Can He Off Set a Defensive Drop Off?

The Pittsburgh Steelers defeated the Philadelphia Eagles 38 to 29 to open their season with a 4-0 record. As commentators quickly noted, the last two times the Steelers opened 4-0, where 1978 and 1979 – seasons that ended with Lombardi Trophy presentations in Super Bowl XIII and Super Bowl XIV.

That’s an encouraging trend, but the way in which the Eagles game unfolded reveals that the 2020 Steelers still have much to improve upon if they’re to emulate the Super Steelers.

Chase Claypool, Chase Claypool 4 touchdowns, Steelers vs Eagles

Rookie Chase Claypool scores the first of four touchdowns vs the Eagles. Photo Credit: Chaz Palla, Tribune-Review

Steelers-Eagles First Half Shows Why You Play on the Field and Not Madden

There’s a reason why you play games on the field instead of simulating them in Madden, and Eagles game shows why. Pittsburgh and Philadelphia both brought aggressive, quarterback harassing defenses into the game.

  • So it follows that the game would be a low-scoring defensive slugfest. Right?

Nope. During the final 20 minutes of the first half, the Steelers and Eagles alternated between 5 straight scoring drives. Officially, the Steelers got in the last word with Chris Boswell’s field goal, but the Eagles reached Pittsburgh’s 12 with an impressive two minute drill and would have scored had time not expired.

The first half’s “expect the unexpected” theme carried over until the end of the 2nd half.

Knock Out Punch Eludes the Steelers. Again.

Even when Mike Tomlin’s Steelers have been at their best, they’ve still struggled to put teams away. To their credit, the Steelers began the 2nd half against the Eagles determined to land that knockout blow.

Ben Roethlisberger, Steelers vs Eagles

Ben Roethlisberger passes against the Eagles. Photo Credit: Chaz Palla, Tribune-Review.

After feigning with a few chink-and-dink passes, Randy Fitchner dove right into his bag of tricks with jet sweep to Ray-Ray McCloud who streaked for 58 yards down to the Philadelphia 5. Two plays later, Fitchner was at it again when bunched Vance McDonald, Trey Edmunds and James Conner to the weakside only to have the trio act as blockers instead of receivers as Ben Roethlisberger hooked up with Chase Claypool for his 2nd touchdown of the day.

Steven Nelson ended the Eagles next drive after just two plays when he reclaimed possession for Pittsburgh at Philly’s 23 by picking off Carson Wentz. A quick pass to JuJu Smith-Schuster brought the Steelers to the goal line where James Conner marched into the end zone behind Kevin Dotson.

The Steelers had gone up by 17 points by scoring a touchdown, securing a turnover, and transforming that turnover into another touchdown. Mike Hilton opened the next series by sacking Carson Wentz to put Philadelphia further behind the 8 ball and barely 5 minutes had elapsed in the first half.

Finally it seemed, Pittsburgh had landed a knockout blow….

Eagles Exploit Steelers Secondary, Claw Their Way Back

….Except they hadn’t. Two plays later, Carlton Wentz converted a third down by finding Travis Fulgham for a field flipping 31 yard gain. A pass interference penalty on Joe Haden put the Eagles in the Red Zone, setting a Philadelphia touchdown and two point conversion that was all too easy.

Carson Wentz and Travis Fulgham continued to use and abuse the Steelers secondary and scored on their next possession, cutting the Steelers lead to two. The Steelers responded with a workman like, clock consuming drive, but unfortunately Eric Ebron scuttled it by coughing up the ball to the Eagles at mid field with 6 minutes left.

Not only had the Steelers failed to knock out the Eagles, they appeared to be supplying them smelling salts….

Chase Claypool Closes It for Steelers, But Cleveland to Offer True Test

Fault the Steelers for letting the Eagles back into the game, but slamming the door shut with fantastic efforts on both sides of the ball. They also had help from Doug Pederson who tried a failed 57 yard field goal – towards Heinz Field’s open end no less – rather than punting to pin the Steelers inside their own 20.

Bud Dupree, Carson Wentz, Steelers vs Eagles

Bud Dupree sacks Carson Wentz in the 4th quarter. Photo Credit: Chaz Palla, Tribune-Review

Philadelphia seemed poised to get another shot as the Steelers quickly found themselves at 3rd and 8, but Ben Roethlisberger saw linebacker Nathan Gerry lined up over Chase Claypool in the slot, called an audible and watched Claypool slice through the middle of the Eagles secondary for a 35 yard touchdown that put the Steelers up 38 to 29.

Carson Wentz tried to rally the Eagles for one final last gasp, but the Steelers answered with a Bud Dupree sack, a T.J. Watt pressure and another Steven Nelson interception.

  • 4-0 is a very good place to be in the NFL and very rarely happens by accident.

But all is not rosy. Against the Eagles, the Steelers defense again proved it can end drives with Splash plays when necessary. But that same defense is also giving up just under 13 yards every time a pass is caught. As Jim Wexell points out on Steel City Insider, those are numbers characteristic of bottom feeders rather than championship contenders.

On the flip side, rookie Chase Claypool became the first Steeler since Roy Jefferson to score four touchdowns in one game, establishing himself as a difference maker. Can Claypool become a consistent enough weapon to make up for a drop off in defense?

Time will tell, the Steelers certainly cannot be complacent when Cleveland comes to town next Sunday.

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Looking @ the Steelers Thanksgiving Record – Can Pittsburgh Break the Turkey Day Curse?

The NFL is “honoring” the Pittsburgh Steelers for the 8th time by putting them in the national spotlight on Thanksgiving Day. Given the Steelers Thanksgiving record, one can imagine Art Rooney II saying a heartfelt “Thanks but no thanks” the next time the NFL offers them a turkey day slot.

  • Overall, the Steelers are 2-6 when playing on Thanksgiving.

Here is a look at the Steelers Thanksgiving record that has made for many a memorable turkey day that most of Steelers Nation Wish they could forget.

steelers thanksgiving record, steelers thanksgiving history, le'veon bell, le'veon bell concussion ravens, steelers ravens thanksgiving

Le’Veon Bell loses his helmet in the Steelers 2013 Thanksgiving loss at Baltimore. Photo Credit: Matt Hafley, Post-Gazette

Pre-Noll Era Steelers Thanksgiving Record 1-2

The Steelers played the Philadelphia Eagles on Thanksgiving Day in 1939 and 1940. The Pittsburgh Pirates, as they were still known then, lost to the Eagles on Thanksgiving in 1939 17-14. In 1940 the newly renamed Steelers had no better luck, losing to the Eagles 7-0.

The Steelers would have to wait another ten years, including their World War II stint as the Steagles, before playing on Thanksgiving Day. However, the NFL matched the Steelers up with the Chicago Cardinals on Thanksgiving day in 1950 and Pittsburgh prevailed led by Joe Geri’s 101 rushing yards, two touchdowns and 3 extra points.

1983 – The Thanksgiving Day Massacre

November 24th, 1983 @ The Pontiac Silverdome
Detroit 45, Pittsburgh 3

The 1983 Steelers had played the entire season without Terry Bradshaw, but despite that Cliff Stoudt combined with a defense that looked to be Super Bowl caliber had given the Steelers a 9-3 record and command of the AFC Central Division heading into their Thanksgiving Day game against Detroit. Detroit for its part was only 6-6.

As defensive coordinator Woody Widenhoffer admitted later, the Steelers weren’t prepared. And then some:

  • At the time, it was the Steelers worst loss in 36 years.

Cliff Stoudt threw 4 interceptions Mark Malone threw 1, Franco Harris gained 16 yards on 5 carries as both Harris and Walter Abercrombie’s combined totals were less than Frank Pollard’s. Meanwhile, Bill Sims looked like genetic fusion between Jim Brown and Barry Sanders, and Eric Hipple looked like Johnny Unitas.

The Steelers would lose the following week in Cincinnati. The week after it would take the last throws left in Terry Bradshaw’s arm to left them over the Jets as the Steelers stumbled into the playoffs where the LA Raiders quickly eliminated them.

1991 – Joe Walton Fails the Steelers. Again.

November 28th, 1991 @ Texas Stadium
Dallas 20, Pittsburgh 10

Considering that Dallas went to the playoffs and won a game and followed the next season with a Super Bowl Championship, one might wonder why this game was close at all. But it was.

  • And in many ways it symbolized all that was wrong with the Joe Walton era of the Steelers offense.

The Steelers still had a talented defense that had finished number 1 overall in 1990, led by players such as Rod Woodson, Greg Lloyd and Carnell Lake. It still had the offensive core that had led the rallies that fueled the 1989 Steelers improbable run. But unfortunately, Chuck Noll’s last hire was his worst one, as he’d name Joe Walton his offensive coordinator and gave him total control.

The Steelers defense kept the Dallas Cowboys to 13 points until late into the third quarter, when Warren Williams narrowed the score to three.

  • Alas, Steve Beuerlein to Michael Irvin pass put the gave the Cowboys a 10 point lead.

And under Joe Walton’s offense, Neil O’Donnell couldn’t muster more than 167 yards, and no other skill player could break the 60 yard mark. In other words, in those days 10 points was far too much to overcome in a quarter.

1998 – The Phil Luckett Coin Flip Thanksgiving Day Fiasco

November 26th @ the Pontiac Silverdome
Detroit 19, Pittsburgh 16

For as bad as 1983’s Thanksgiving Day Massacre was, the Thanksgiving Day Coin Toss Disaster is standard by which every disappointment on the Steelers Thanksgiving record will be judged because it signified the end of an era.

The 1998 Steelers had had their ups and downs. Without a doubt, this Steelers team was missing something and Kordell Stewart clearly lacked the mojo he’d shown in the season before. But these 1998 Steelers had authored enough Tease Games – convincing wins over serious contenders – to give fans legitimate hope Bill Cowher’s boys could pull it together for a deep playoff run.

The scenario for the 1998 Steelers Thanksgiving Day game had all the trimmings for one of The Chin’s late season surges. The Steelers were fresh off a win at home over the division leading Jacksonville Jaguars and took a 7-4 record to Detroit. Jerome Bettis’ parents even had the entire team over for Thanksgiving dinner the night before.

  • It was not to be.

The Steelers played a sloppy game filled with blown coverages and easily catchable balls that receivers dropped. Nonetheless they opened a 13-3 lead in the third quarter, only to see the Lions kick a field goal, followed by a Charlie Batch to Herman Moore hook up that tied the score. Jacksonville added another 3 and the Steelers had to fight to get into position for a Norm Johnson field goal to tie the game.

  • Carnell Lake and Jerome Bettis approached midfield, called tails, the coin landed on tails but referee Phil Luckett awarded the ball to the Lions as Detroit’s captains struggled to suppress their laughter.
Jerome Bettis, Steelers Thanksgiving Record, steelers thanksgiving coin flip, phil luckett

Jerome Bettis clearly called tails, but Phil Luckett said he heard “heads” in the infamous Thanksgiving Day Coin Flip. Photo Credit: USA Today For the Win

The Lions got into scoring position thanks to another Herman Moore reception that came at Carnell Lake’s expense. A ticky tacky face mask penalty gave Detroit even more yards as they kicked the overtime field goal for the win.

The loss knocked the wind out of the 1998 Steelers sails, who would go on to lose their next 4 games. The Pittsburgh Steelers had been contenders since Bill Cowher and Tom Donahoe began in 1992, but that era ended on Thanksgiving Day 1998 in Detroit.

2013 – The Tomlin Two-Step and the Failed 2 Pointer

November 28th @ M&T Bank Stadium
Baltimore 22, Pittsburgh 20

Outside of Pittsburgh, everyone remembers this game because of Mike Tomlin’s sideline two-step, but inside Steelers Nation this one was a heart breaker – not because the Steelers played poorly, but because they played so well. The 2013 Steelers had of course started at 0-4 and the 2-6 yet had clawed their way back to 5-6. A win vs. the Ravens would have restored the Steelers record to .500 and put Pittsburgh within striking distance of the AFC North title.

  • Alas, it was not to be.

The Ravens scored a quick touchdown, but the Steelers defense held Baltimore to field goals for the rest of the night. The Steelers offense stalled during the first half, but in the second half Le’Veon Bell and Emmanuel Sanders scored touchdowns, as Ben Roethlisberger connected with Heath Miller 9 times.

With time expiring the Steelers moved into scoring position:

  • Ben Roethlisberger hit Heath Miller for 19 yards and an apparent touchdown. Overturned on replay.
    Le’Veon Bell rammed it in from the one. Overturned on replay because his helmet slipped off as he was being concussed.
  • Two plays later Roethlisberger hit Jerricho Cotchery in the end zone…
  • ….but the two point conversion failed.

The Steelers tried an on-sides kick, but failed and the Ravens ran out the clock. While this loss was disappointing, it was Steelers-Ravens slugfest in the truest sense of the word.

Can the Steelers  break their Thanksgiving Day curse vs. the Colts in 2016? Time will tell.

2016 – Snapping the Turkey Day Curse

November 24th, 2016 @ Lucas Oil Stadium
Pittsburgh 28, Indianapolis 7

The Steelers snapped a 66 year Thanksgiving Day losing streak with a convincing win over the Indianapolis Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium.

The Steelers triplets, Ben Roethlisberger, Le’Veon Bell and Antonio Brown led the team to a quick 14 point first quarter lead. Indianapolis would score a touchdown early in the 2nd quarter to cut the Steelers lead to seven, but the Steelers would score before the half, before putting the game out of reach in the 4th quarter with another Antonio Brown touchdown.

  • While the Killer Bees were in fine form on this night, the story of the game came in the contributions from the supporting cast.

Eli Rogers set up the first score with a 30 yard reception, while Ladarius Green penned a good portion of his 15 minutes of fame with the Steelers by setting up Pittsburgh’s 3rd and 4th touchdowns with “field flipping” 32 and 35 yard receptions.

  • This is also the game where Keith Butler’s boys began turning into men.

2016 did not start well for the Steelers defense, culminating in a humiliating last-minute defeat at the hands of the Dallas Cowboys two weeks prior to this game.

However, William Gay and James Harrison helped force early punts with sacks, while Sean Davis, Mike Mitchell (no, that’s not a misprint) Lawrence Timmons, Ryan Shazier and Stephon Tuitt came up a combined 8 critical stops on the goal line as Colt’s coach Chuck Pagano went for all the marbles twice and came up short both times.

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4 Random Reflections on 2016 Steelers 4-1 Start + a Shout Out for a Steelers Nation Scribe

he boss is back with 4 random reflections on the 2016 Steelers 4-1 start, plus a shut out for a special Steelers Nation scribe.

Yes, after close to a month on the road my travels have finally brought me back to “home,” namely Buenos Aires, Argentina. One of the great ironies of the global economy is that a month long trip TO the United States kept me from writing about the Steelers, save for a rebuttal of Colin Cowherd’s Mike Tomlin bashing and reflections on Le’Veon Bell’s longevity.

Still, this excurision didn’t result in a full Steelers sabbatical, as followed the news as best I could, while taking in a couple of games on the fly.

2016 steelers 4-1 start, Lawrence Timmons, Artie Burns, Jordan Dangerfield, steelers vs. jets

Jordan Dangerfield, Lawrence Timmons, and Artie Burns gang up on Quincy Enunwa to help 2016 Steelers to 4-1 start. Photo Credit: Chaz Palla, Tribune-Review

1. Stats Mislead in Steelers Victory Over Bengals

The Steelers much anticipated re-match with the Bengals, sans Le’Veon Bell and Vontaze Burfict was easily on of the “Can’t Miss” games when the schedule was announced. Alas, booth set up responsibilities, paired with a corporate event at a baseball game meant there was NO WAY in HELL I was going to see the game.

  • When I finally got to grab lunch at 4:00 pm or so, the headline “Ben Roethlisberger throws 3 touchdowns as Steelers beat Bengals” pleased me.

And of course I thought that Roethlisberger had been on another rampage, similar to the one he led against the Redskins in week 1. Only later did I learn that Ben Roethlisberger had struggled for much of the day, and that the Cincinnati defense has managed to contain Antonio Brown fairly well. A win is a win, but this one reminds you of how misleading stats passed on the ESPN scroll can be.

2. Wife Wins + Steelers Loss = Husband’s Right Call on Philly Game

Week 2 brought my wife’s arrival in the US and by this time I was back in Maryland. And just as fate would have it, the Steelers-Eagles game was on national TV. No need to hike a Steelers bar, giving me my first chance to watch a Steelers game in my home state since 2008 and my first in my parents’ home since, what, 1991?

Ah, but it was a beautiful day, and my wife wanted to hit Georgetown. Good idea.

  • So I relented and slyly taped the Steelers game. Good decision.

Have the Pittsburgh Steelers ever performed so perfectly piss poorly as they did against Philadelphia during the Mike Tomlin era? Perhaps. The 2011 opening day Debacle at Baltimore would make as strong candidate. Outside of that you’d have to really search. The game started with a dropped touchdown pass followed by a blocked field goal. And things got worse from there.

In other words, it was the perfect time to take your wife down to Georgetown to do some shopping and site seeing.

3. Camerony Heyward, Steelers Clobber Kansas City

At some point we’ll have do a “Steelers history vs.” article on the Kansas City Chiefs, because those games often reveal a lot. But for now the Steelers Sunday Night Football victory over the Chiefs will remain something to relish.

Fortunately, I did get to see this one, and a shout out goes to Andrew Kipp who recommended the venue:

The Reservoir did turn out to be a good place to see the Steelers play. OK, it wasn’t the Purple Goose Saloon, but let’s not kid ourselves – they don’t make Steelers Bars like the Goose anymore. But the prices were great, there were plenty of TV’s to watch on, and the Steelers fans were friendly.

Most importantly, the Steelers bounced back from an ugly loss, and it was nice to see Jarvis Jones make a splash play and Markus Wheaton bounce back from a horrendous performance in Philly.

4. Still in NYC, but Can’t See the Steelers

My last weekend in the United States found me still in New York for the Steelers-Jets game, yet I was unable to watch the game! My wife might have been sold on this one (she was more than OK with me watching the KC game), but it was our last full day in Manhattan, and we had a number of things we wanted to do, and also some things we needed to do.

  • The Steelers won, despite an ever lengthening injury list, on a week that saw the Steelers stash not just Senquez Golson but also Ryan Harris on IR.

From what I read, it was a good game even if the Steelers didn’t start particularly strong, they closed out the game with a second half shut out. That got us to 4-1, and I will take a 4-1 start anytime I can get one.

5. Shout Out to a Special Steelers Nation Scribe

Running a truly independent Steelers blog can be a solitary experience. God knows you, my readers, give continue to come in increasing numbers and give me shout outs on Twitter and Facebook, but stark fact is that here in 2016 you can’t have a site go dark for 25% of a season and expect to be taken seriously.

  • Thanks to Tony Defeo, this was a non-issue during my month long trek.

As regular readers know, big Steelers news only breaks when yours truly is unable to write. The correlation has almost been scientifically verified. For the past several off seasons, Tony has been keeping an eye on the back door, and made sure that no important stories fall through the cracks while I’m away.

Earlier this year, Tony started contributing regular features, and I highly suggest you check out his pieces on Calvin Sweeny, Weegie Thompson, David Little, Harry Newsome, Mark Malone and/or Larry Brown. These profiles, in addition to his other features, have enriched this site in ways I could never do on my own.

  • Over the last month Tony has gone into “Above and beyond the call of duty” of a part-time contributor.

That’s to him, the updates kept coming, whether I was putting in 14 hour days at a tradeshow on the West Coast, scrambling to process leads by day and spending quality time with family at night in my stomping grounds in Maryland, or vacationing in the Big Apple.

  • I’ve thanked you in private, and now I’ll do it in public – Thanks Tony for your contributions to Steel Curtain Rising.

Tony will continue to contribute this season here, but he publishes several times a week on Behind the Steel Curtain and Cover 32. Regardless of the locale, Tony’s stuff is must read. Check him out and be sure to follow him on Twitter:

Thanks to you, readers, for continuing to read. The Steelers are off to a good start. Let’s see where they can take it.


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Steelers Report Card for the Loss to the Eagles

Taken from the grade book of a teacher who is sorely disappointed at his students’ decision to slack off for the substitute teacher, here is the Pittsburgh Steelers Report Card for the loss to the Eagles.


While it is true that he neither had help from his offensive line, the running game or even receivers not named Brown, Ben Roethlisberger did not play well. The late game interception might not have been Roethlisberger’s fault, but he did give up the ball at a critical period. Moreover, Ben threw several other passes which could have easily been Eagle’s interceptions. Ben Roethlisberger certainly isn’t to “blame” for the Steelers loss to the Eagles, but Pittsburgh needed its best from Number 7, and it didn’t get anything close to that. Grade: F

Running Backs
After week one it looked like Steelers Nation might be saying, “Le’Veon who?” at this stage of the season. No one is saying that following the loss to the Eagles. Once again, DeAngelo Williams should not be scapegoated for his 21 yard, 8 carry performance. Williams did have a long run of 13 yards, but otherwise was getting hammered at or behind the line of scrimmage. Daryl Richardson had one yard on one carry. An effective running game could have given the Steelers offense some stability against the Eagles. But the Steelers completely failed to establish the run. Grade: Fsteelers, report card, grades, steelers vs. eagles, coaching, special teams, unsung heros

Tight Ends
Again, following their fair showing in week 1, and their twin touchdown performance vs. the Bengals, Steelers Nation can be forgiven if they’d been ready to ask “Ladarius who?” as a way of embracing the concept of “Tight end by committee.” The landscape looks a little different this morning, as Jesse James managed just two catches on four targets. Worse yet, both the Steelers run and pass blocking were atrocious vs. the Eagles, and the tight ends could have been part of the solution. Instead, they were part of the problem. Grade: F

Wide Receivers
Antonio Brown’s numbers looked good and a cursory glance at the play-by-play breakdown suggests there’s less garbage time glory behind those statistics than one would expect during such a route. If Brown did turn in a solid game, then the same cannot be said for his counterparts. Steel Curtain Rising has been a big backer of Markus Wheaton since his sophomore season, but Wheaton failed miserably in his first game back, dropping a touchdown pass and another critical pass and otherwise looking lost. Sammie Coates logged another long catch but was hardly a “difference maker” there on the field. Eli Rogers made two catches on five targets. Darrius Heyward-Bey had a touchdown taken away from him in the end zone. Yes, the defensive back made a great play and Heyward-Bey fought for the ball but he failed to gain control or even prevent the interception.

To be fair, the wide receivers had to deal with a lot of balls that were too high, too low, or too wide, but those hardly explain all of the non-catches. Either way, Roethlisberger and his receivers didn’t get the job done. Grade: F

Offensive Line
Who said Ramon Foster is the dispensable member of the Steelers offensive line. Again, it would be grossly unfair to finger B.J. Finney for the fact that the Steelers offensive line getting totally dominated by the Eagles front seven. But that is what happened. The Steelers offensive line couldn’t open holes for its running backs and couldn’t protect Ben Roethlisberger as Ben’s fancy footwork saved a few interceptions. Holding penalties also contributed to more than one stalled drive. A very below the line performance for the offensive line. Grade: F

Defensive Line
Stephon Tuitt and Cameron Heyward were actually numbers 3 and 4 in tackles for the Steelers, which is somewhat of a surprise, given the lethal effectiveness of both the Eagle’s screen passes and the number of times Philly rushers reached the second level. Again, it would be unfair to single out Javon Hargrave, but the Eagles ran straight up the middle of the Steelers defense at will. Carson Wentz had plenty of time to throw…. Grade: F


Perhaps Steel Curtain Rising erred when extoling the depth of the Steelers linebacking corps. Lawrence Timmons would miss most of the game with an injury, and Ryan Shazier would spend a lot of time rotating out. Jarvis Jones was also reported to be nicked. This meant that L.J. Fort and Anthony Chickhillo got extended playing time.

  • The conclusion is the that Steelers linebacking depth isn’t as deep as we thought it was.

The linebackers must bear their share of the blame for the lack of pressure on Wentz, in ability to stop either the run or the screen passing game. Perhaps most ominously, the only linebacker to get any pressure of Wentz was 38 year old James Harrison. Grade: F

Robert Golden injured his hamstring and Mike Mitchell suffered from some sort of knee injury. Their misfortune gave more playing time to Sean Davis and Artie Burns and both looked to every bit the rookies that they are when neither seemed to be able to make a tackle on Darren Sproles 73 yard touchdown because both were waiting on the other to make a play. Going into the season, the Steelers secondary appeared to be the team’s only glaring liability. During the defensive backfield took several steps to dispel that notion in the first two games; they took several steps back vs. the Eagles. Grade: F

Special Teams
You know it is going to be a long afternoon when a dropped touchdown on 3rd down immediately precedes a blocked field goal. Chris Boswell made his other field goal attempt. But the Steelers return game failed to provide a spark on an afternoon when the team needed it to, and the coverage units, while not being a liability, gave up more yards than you’d like to see. It IS tempting to fail this until given all of the other F’s awarded, but ultimately, that would be unfair. Grade: D

En route to Super Bowl XIV, Chuck Noll’s Steelers dropped a 35-7 decision to the San Diego Chargers that was probably worse than the score indicated. Bill Cowher had Fog Bowl II and any number of other opening day debacles where the Chin’s Steelers played just as poorly across the board as they did vs. the Eagles.

  • One ugly loss does not a failed season make.

But neither does it inspire confidence for what is yet to come. NFL teams can make it to 0-2 “by accident” but improving to 3-0 is harder to do. The Eagles 3-0 record proves Philadelphia is for real. In contrast, the burden of proof is on Mike Tomlin.

The Pittsburgh Steelers did not appear to be physically or mentally prepared to face the Eagles. The misfires began on the very first drive, and continued until the end of the game. The Steelers couldn’t throw or catch well, protect the passer or open holes for rushers. The front seven failed to pressure the quarterback and couldn’t contain the run. The secondary functioned as a sieve.

If any positive is to come out of this, it is that Todd Haley should now know that he cannot simply have Ben Roethlisberger feed the ball to Antonio Brown. For Keith Butler, the equation is more complicated. For two games thus far, the Steelers defense has settled into the “Bend but don’t Break” mode. The sacks and turnovers that characterized the 2015 Steelers defense have been absent, but Butler’s boys got the job done.

  • They failed miserably vs. the Eagles, sliding into a “Bend, Bust” mode.

Mike Tomlin can and should stand behind his “The Standard is the Standard” mantra, but the fact that injuries to Robert Golden, Lawrence Timmons and Ryan Shaizer accompanied this defensive regression is discouraging.

Fortuantely the Pittsburgh Steelers are a team with a lot of institutional memory. This is, after all, a franchise that once lost its opening two games to the score of 92-10 and ended up upsetting a bitter rival in the playoffs. Tomlin need not feel pressured to “shake things up” for the sake of doing so. But clearly, Pittsburgh cannot perform so piss poorly again. Grade: F

Unsung Hero
As Tony Defeo reminded us when he wrote about former Steelers rookie of the year Harry Newsome, when your punter is winning awards, you know things are not going well. And so it is with the Eagles game. If you want to find one player who consistently delivered during the game, then Jordan Berry is your man, who boomed off 3 punts averaging 55 yards per kick, and for that he wins the Unsung Hero Award for the Eagles loss.

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Eagles Deal Steelers Worst Defeat in 27 Years, As Pittsburgh Loses to Philadelphia 34-3

Rookie quarterback Carson Wentz completed 23 of 31 passes for 301 yards and two touchdowns, as he and the rest of the Philadelphia Eagles outclassed the Pittsburgh Steelers in every facet of the game in a 34-3 beat-down, Sunday evening at Lincoln Financial Field.

Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger completed 24 of 44 passes for 257 yards, an interception and a lost fumble in one of his worst performances since the last time he played at Lincoln Financial Field back in Week 3 of the 2008 season. Much like that day eight years ago, when Roethlisberger’s sacks (eight) outnumbered Pittsburgh’s points (six), No. 7 was taken to the turf four times on Sunday, as he and the offensive line had trouble with the Eagles fierce and dominant front-seven.

Eagles deal steelers worst defeat, darrius heyward-bey, rodney mcleod

Rodney McLeod rips away a would-be touchdown pass from Darrius Heyward-Bey as Eagles spank Steelers. Photo Credit: David Maialetti, Philadelphia Inquirer

In-addition to the struggles in the passing game (222 yards after deducting the four sacks), the running back merely generated 29 yards on the day, led by DeAngelo Williams, who carried eight times for 21 yards.

  • For the day, the Eagles out-gained the Steelers, 426-251, and gained 21 first downs to Pittsburgh’s 13.

The defense, which excelled over the first two weeks at bending but not breaking, had no answers for Philadelphia on the day. The Eagles scored on six of their first seven offensive possessions and enjoyed their 34-3 margin before the start of the fourth quarter.

  • The only bright spot on the day was the play of receiver Antonio Brown, who caught 12 passes for 140 yards.

However, the rest of the Steelers receiving corps struggled, as Markus Wheaton dropped at least three passes, including one for a touchdown and another that could have converted a first down. Darrius Heyward-Bey also failed to secure a touchdown pass which Rodney McLeod ripped away for an interception.

In-addition to the overall dominance at the hands of the Eagles, Pittsburgh suffered some key injuries on the day, specifically inside linebacker Lawrence Timmons, who left the game in the first half with a shin injury and was rushed to a hospital at halftime. Robert Golden and Michael Mitchell were also listed as injured by head coach Mike Tomlin.

Receiver Eli Rogers also left Sunday’s game with a toe injury and didn’t return, while linebacker Ryan Shazier was in and out of the lineup all day battling various injuries.

For the Steelers, a team with huge Super Bowl aspirations, Week 3 was a huge dose of reality.

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Sorpresiva derrota de los Steelers ante los Eagles por 34 a 3

Los Steelers cayeron de manera estrepitosa y sorprendente ante los Eagles por un vergonzoso 34 a 3.

“Jugamos para ganar y si no ganamos, al menos perder competitivamente” fueron más o menos las palabras de Coach Mike Tomlin en la conferencia de prensa ni bien terminado el juego. Este no fue el caso. Ni cerca se estuvo de eso.

Los Pittsburgh Steelers llegaron al Lincoln Financial Field, en Filadelfia con marca de 2-0 para enfrentar a los locales, Philadelphia Eagles, con QB novato, quienes contaban con idéntica marca ganadora.

Los Acereros contaban con una ofensiva que se ubicaba en el Top 10 en puntos, en yardas totales y por tierra por partido. Por el lado de la defensiva, si bien permitieron yardas por toneladas, permitían pocos puntos y, lo más importante, habían permitido solo 1 TD desde la zona roja en los dos partidos anteriores. Como decimos habitualmente, una defensiva que se doblaba pero no se rompía…

  • Hasta hoy. Y se hizo añicos.

Y para empeorar las cosas, la ofensiva acerera nunca estuvo al mando del partido.

La primera serie ofensiva de los Steelers fue un presagio de lo estaba por venir: No se pudo acarrear ni una yarda, el reincorporado Markus Wheaton soltó un pase de sus manos en la zona de anotación y por último, Philadelphia bloqueó el gol de campo a Chris Boswell haciendo que la ofensiva visitante dejara la cancha con las manos vacías.

  • La respuesta de la ofensiva local dejó ver a la defensiva acerera tal como la conocemos: deteniendo a los rivales en la zona roja permitiendo sólo 3 puntos a través de un gol de campo.

Hasta aquí, todo iba como siempre.

A partir de aquí, se comenzó a jugar el juego que finalmente fue. Wheaton soltó su segundo pase y Ben Roethlisberger comenzó a sentir la presión de la línea defensiva local. El QB novato Carson Wentz comenzó a hacer su juego corto, detrás de la línea de golpeo, hacia las bandas, con play actions, sin sentir el acoso de Pittsburgh.

Como fue en las dos semanas anteriores, comenzaron a aparecer las fallas en el tackleo en todo el campo por parte de la defensiva acerera y Robert Golden y Ryan Shazier tuvieron que dejar el campo por lesiones. Finalmente no tardó en llegar el TD del número 81 Jordan Matthews al atrapar un pase de 12 yardas, lo cual cambió (para siempre, después lo sabríamos) el momentum del partido en favor de los Eagles.
La ofensiva de Big Ben mostraba algunos signos de que aún vivía, pero la efectividad que había mostrado en los juegos anteriores cuando pisaba la zona roja comenzaba a desvanecerse, ya que en 3er y 7 desde la 13, David de Castro fue arrasado y Ben capturado, debiendo Boswell anotar los primeros y únicos 3 puntos de la tarde.

  • Así finalizó la primera mitad con el marcador 13 a 3 para los locales. Los Steelers habían convertido sólo 3 de 7 intentos de 3er downs.

La primera serie ofensiva de la segunda mitad de los Eagles le cavó la tumba y reservó la lápida a las esperanzas de los hinchas de la Nación Steeler cuando el QB Wentz, puesto a correr por su vida fuera del bolsillo de protección conectó con Darren Sproles quien 73 yardas después accedió a la zona de anotación para estirar la diferencia a 17 irremontables puntos.

  • Tal vez prematura pero evidentemente los Steelers eran incapaces de volver a este juego.

Promediando el 3er cuarto, en la siguiente serie ofensiva de los locales, luego de 2 largos acarreos por el corazón de la línea defensiva acerera Wendell Smallwood ingresó como caminando a la end zone desde la yarda 1.
Esa defensiva estaba rendida. 27 a 3.

De allí en más, garbage time.

  • Habría otro TD más que pondría cifras definitivas al juego. Pudieron ser más. Pudo haber sido una derrota aún peor.

Las estadísticas del juego, esta vez no explican lo sucedido en el campo de juego porque el partido terminó y se desnaturalizó al promediar el 3er cuarto, luego del TD de Smallwood. O tal vez antes, luego de la anotación de Sproles. Quien sabe

Fue evidente que se falló en todas las líneas del equipo y en todas las fases del juego pero el partido se perdió en las trincheras.

Comenzando por la línea ofensiva. En general fueron actuaciones decepcionantes. David De Castro, Alejandro Villanueva y hasta Maurkice Pouncey fueron desplazados y movidos a voluntad, poniendo bajo presión a Ben, y permitiendo capturas en momentos claves del partido. Hubo dos capturas de mariscal en jugadas consecutivas que terminaron con Roethlisberger soltando el ovoide.
Para DeAngelo Williams no hubo por donde acarrear. Sólo acarreó para 21 yds, aunque es justo decir que promediando el 3er cuarto, los Steelers debieron enfrentar el hecho de que desde allí en más debían ser un equipo unidimensional, porque estaban acorralados entre el tanteador y el reloj.

  • La asociación receptores-QB funcionó sin consistencia. Con picos y valles. Los valles, muy bajos: tres pases soltados por Wheaton, uno de ellos para TD.

Tal vez por la natural atracción que Antonio Brown ejerce sobre las marca, Big Ben prefirió buscar inicialmente a otros receptores. Esto a veces funcionó muy bien (como con Sammie Coates) y otras no. Recién al final del partido, cuando todo estaba decidido, aparecieron las yardas “estadísticas” para Antonio Brown.

  • Big Ben siendo tal vez demasiado vertical, apareció por segundo partido consecutivo con algunas faltas de toque, volando a Eli Rogers y a Jesse James.
  • En la otra trinchera, la defensiva, fue donde se vió el panorama más desolador.

Durante lo que va de esta temporada, parece que el Coach Keith Butler decidió abandonar la carga. Pittsburgh parece ya no ser Blitzburgh.

No se capturó al mariscal ni una sola vez. Sólo el veterano James Harrison pareció tener el colmillo necesario para perseguir al joven Wentz en dos ocasiones, tarde en el partido y Anthony Chickillo presionando una vez en la cara de mariscal. Tres presiones. En 60 minutos.

Los linebackers lucieron ausentes en las jugadas de pase, las primeras 15 yardas detrás de la línea de golpeo eran tierra de nadie.
Hay que acentuar, para ser justos, que el novato Wentz, sea por defecto de la defensiva acerera o por propia virtud, o por virtud del plan de juego, estuvo casi perfecto. En 3 partidos no lanzó ni una sola intercepción. Y en gran medida, esta tarde tiene mucho que agradecer al plan defensivo de Keith Butler, que esa estadística siga siendo así.

No sé por qué razón los Steelers fallan tantos tackles. Verdaderamente es un misterio. Una cosa es segura: los defensivos de Philadelphia no fallaron tantos tackles como sus colegas acereros. Esto debe ser un problema central de coaching. Y no se vé progreso en esta área.

  • Fue uno de esos partidos que se van de la raya. Atípicos.

Ni antes de este juego los Steelers eran tan brillantes ni ahora son tan malos.

  • Saltaron algunas alarmas. Pero estamos muy lejos del pánico.

Estos que jugaron hoy en Filadelfia, no son los verdaderos Steelers.
El Dr. de Acero

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Steelers Eagles Preseason Game Ends in 17-0 Loss as Landry Jones Throws 4 Interceptions

It’s a good thing the Pittsburgh Steelers highly-touted offense has been missing several key members so far in the preseason, otherwise there might be cause for concern.

For the second week in a row, the Steelers, sans Ben Roethlisberger, Antonio Brown, Le’Veon Bell and DeAngelo Williams, failed to produce much on offense, as Pittsburgh fell to the Eagles, 17-0, in the second preseason game Thursday night at Heinz Field.

Backup quarterback Landry Jones threw four first half interceptions, and Philadelphia capitalized with 10 points–including a 38-yard interception return for a touchdown by cornerback Nolan Carroll II–to take a 10-0 lead into halftime.

pittsburgh steelers, steelers eagles preseason, landry jones,

Landry Jones gets KOed before throwing his 4th interception in Steelers preseason loss to Eagles. Photo credit: Philip G. Pavely, Tribune-Review

For the night, Jones completed 12 of 20 passes for 111 yards and those four interceptions and did little to instill confidence in his coaches, teammates and the fans that he really is the answer at backup quarterback for the Steelers.

The Eagles took the second half kickoff and marched 87 yards on fifteen plays and capped the drive with a five-yard touchdown run by running back Kenjon Barner to make it 17-0.

There weren’t many positives from there, as it was just another ugly preseason performance by the Steelers, which, for better or for worse, has become standard for the Steelers since 2013.

Positives to Come Out of the Philadelphia Preseason Loss?

If there was perhaps one positive to take from Thursday’s performance it was the first-team defense only allowing 10 points (three if you don’t count the pick-six) despite being handicapped with those four interceptions by Jones.

As far as individual performances are concerned, nothing much stood out on either side of the ball, but second-year receiver Eli Rogers took another step or two in cementing his spot on the roster as the team’s fifth receiver by catching four passes for 39 yards.

Dustin Vaughan, who played the entire second half at quarterback, was once again under siege, as he completed seven of 13 passes for just 67 yards and was sacked four times.

Reserve running back Daryl Richardson, who impressed a week ago by rushing for 44 yards on 11 carries against the Lions, totaled just 15 yards on 10 carries, while Fitzgerald Toussaint carried the ball eight times for 26 yards.

Next up for the Steelers is an 8 p.m. kickoff in New Orleans next Friday night, as they battle the Saints in the third preseason game.

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RIP Buddy Ryan: Buddy Ryan’s Record vs Steelers Shows Pittsburgh Struggling vs. 46 Defense

NFL defensive mastermind Buddy Ryan passed away this week as the league mourned one of its most creative, colorful and cantankerous personalities in a generation. The Pittsburgh Steelers only stood on opposite side lines to Buddy Ryan five times and perhaps Steelers Nation should give thanks for that..

  • Buddy Ryan’s record vs. the Steelers tells tale of one-sided domination.

This site prefers to celebrate and commemorate Steelers successes, but Buddy Ryan simply had the Pittsburgh Steelers number. Sure, Terry Bradshaw, Franco Harris, Bennie Cunningham and Jim Smith might have hung 38 points on Ryan when he was defensive coordinator of the 1980 Chicago Bears. But the Steelers were 4 time Super Bowl Champions and the Bears were 4 years away from a winning record.

  • Make no mistake about it, Buddy Ryan and his 46 defense owned Chuck Noll and Bill Cowher’s Steelers.

When Chuck Noll’s 1988 Steelers took their 2-8 record down the Turnpike to face Buddy Ryan’s Philadelphia Eagles, Ryan showed no mercy as his defenders sacked Bubby Brister 4 times and intercepted him another for good measure. The Steelers did hold a narrow lead going into the 4th quarter but the Eagles won 24 to 23.

Buddy Ryan Breifly Revives Steelers-Oilers Rivalry

Pittsburgh paid little mind when Houston Oiler’s named Buddy Ryan defensive coordinator early in’93 off season. They should have because Buddy Ryan was about to reignite a revival of the Steelers-Oilers rivalry that was as intense as it was brief.

buddy ryan, buddy ryan vs. steelers, 86 defense, 1993 steelers

Buddy Ryan and Michael Barrow during Ryan’s stint as Houston Oilers defensive coordinator; Photo Credit: John Makely, Houston Chronicle

In the late 80’s the Giants, Redskin and Eagles vied for supremacy in NFC East and interesting divisional dynamic emerged. Bill Parcell’s Giants had an edge on the Redskins, the Redskins had an edge on the Eagles, and the Eagles edge on the Giants. In other words, Buddy Ryan knew how to defend against Ron Erhardt, and Ron Erhardt was Bill Cowher’s first offensive coordinator.

  • The first matchup came on the Sunday after Thanksgiving in 1993 on Sunday Night Football.

The Steelers and Oilers were going toe-to-toe for AFC Central supremacy, and it wasn’t even close. Oiler’s “only” won 23 to 3, but that doesn’t even begin to detail their domination, as the Oilers sacked Neil O’Donnell 4 times and Mike Tomczak two more times. Houston limited Steelers running backs Leroy Thompson and Merril Hoge gained 38 yards on the ground.

  • The Steelers in fact pulled O’Donnell, put him back in the game, then pulled him again.

Ernie Mills, Jeff Graham, and Dwight Stone dropped multiple passes including one in the end zone that saw Jeff Graham have the ball hit him in the hands, bounce off his face mask, and then slip again through is hands. Late in the game a Houston defender removed Mike Tomczak’s helmet, put him in a headlock and punch him.

  • The Steelers rallied behind, “We play them again.”

Play them they did. Perhaps their best effort of the game was Gary Anderson’s deep kickoff. The 26 to 17 final score makes it look like the Steelers were competitive. Those 17 points were pure garbage time glory. The Oilers schooled the Steelers in every sense of the word.

Again Oilers defenders dropped O’Donnell and Tomczak 6 times, while O’Donnell threw a pick six. The Steelers lost Greg Lloyd in a game that had seen him deliver Gary Brown a full force hit that failed to even slow that one-season wonder.

After the game, Buddy Ryan boasted, “I thought Pittsburgh would play more physical than they did. All the talk they do, they just don’t walk the walk.”

Few Can Match Buddy Ryan’s Record vs Steelers

Steelers fans hoped in vain for a third shot at Buddy Ryan in the 1993 playoffs, but the Steelers would tangle with Buddy Ryan one final time in 1994 season on Ryan’s final NFL stop as head coach of the Arizona Cardinals.

Dan Rooney has stated that the Steelers trip to Arizona in 1994 was the first time he noticed an unusual number of Steelers fan in an opposing stadium. At the time however, the game was known for several bizarre plays. One was failed fake field goal that saw Gary Anderson gain his only 3 yards rushing in 23 NFL seasons — it fell short of the first down. Another was Eric Green running out of bounds with a clear shot at the end zone simply because he ran out of gas.

  • Those blunders, pared with some uncanny turnovers led to 20 to 17 Steelers over time loss.

Buddy Ryan’s 46 defense didn’t dominate the Steelers in that final match up as it had a season before, nonetheless, they did drop Neil O’Donnell to the turf 4 times. More importantly, they bettered Buddy Ryan’s lifetime record against the Steelers to 4-1.

  • There are not too many coaches who stood opposite Chuck Noll and Bill Cowher who can boast that kind of winning percentage, but Buddy Ryan can.

Buddy Ryan self-assuredness made Bill Parcells and Bill Belichick look humble by comparison. But when it came to confronting the Steelers, Buddy Ryan walked the walk, and talked the talk. May Buddy Ryan rest in peace as Steel Curtain Rising offers his sons Rob and Rex Ryan its sympathy and prayers.

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