GOING DEEP

Long passes, penalties enough for Steelers against mistake-prone Vikings

Blogger’s note: Sorry for the brevity but we are taking our 80’s-crazed wifey to see Adam Ant in Greensburg Sunday evening.

The score: Pittsburgh 26, Minnesota 9

The bottom line: Pittsburgh’s supposed high-powered offense was better, though nowhere near good, connecting on several long passes and capitalizing on several long pass interference flags to rather routinely rout Minnesota, who was hamstrung by the loss of their starting quarterback and a bunch of dumb penalties.

It was over when…: The Vikings were threatening to make a game of it near the end of the third quarter, trailing 23-9 and into Steelers territory when a holding penalty left them facing a 3rd-and-15. Backup Case Keenum, who was serviceable most of the afternoon in place of a gimpy Sam Bradford, then made the peculiar decision to dump off to third-string halfback Jerick McKinnon, assuring the team would be punting.

Play of the day: The Steelers offense looked like it was going to start the game with two harmless three-and-outs when an errant Ben Roethlisberger pass turned Antonio Brown around and left him a yard short on third down at their own 31. The Pittsburgh offense stayed on the field for the requisite “hut hut” routine that never, ever works in that situation… until it does. Somehow, Vikings linebacker Brian Robison fell for the Roethlisberger hard count giving Pittsburgh a gift and setting the tone for an afternoon of similar behavior. Seven plays later, Roethlisberger found Martavis Bryant for his first “wow” play of the year, a 27-yard dash to the end zone on a crossing route.

Player of the game: With Antonio Brown locked in an all-day duel with Xavier Rhodes, Martavis Bryant terrorized the other Vikings corners, Trae Waynes and Terence Newman to the tune of 91 yards receiving, including the aforementioned touchdown, a critical first down plus a huge, field-tilting 49-yard PI, drawn against Waynes, for good measure.

Hot topics:

+ Le’Veon Bell looked slightly better this week, showing some of his trademark patience but not really his eye-popping cutting. We’ll see if that comes back over the next few weeks. Ben Roethlisberger was shaky in the first half but found a much better rhythm in the second half when he started finding Eli Rogers on a regular basis.

+ A close runner up for “play of the day” would be Tyler Matakevich’s textbook snuffing of a Vikings fake punt attempt early in the third quarter. In a disjointed game like we saw Sunday, a successful trick play could have dramatically shifted the momentum, but Matakevich covered reserve tight end Blake Bell like a blanket on the play and you could almost see punter Ryan Quigley’s heart sink when he saw Matakevich wasn’t fooled.

+ Seeing the stud Xavier Rhodes has become, we would remiss in not reminder you all that while in desperate need of a corner Pittsburgh passed on him in 2013 to select Jarvis Jones.

+ The Steelers need a celebrations coach, apparently. With the league’s softened stance on the matter, Pittsburgh rolled out a dice/craps group pantomime for TDs and Bud Dupree could only muster a disturbing Val Venis-esque “Hello Ladies” pump jump after his sack. Be better.

Zebra hunting:

+ Just a terribly officiated game with all kinds of unnecessary flags, resulting in 21 called penalties for 203 (!!!!!!!) penalty yards. On top of that, Ol’ Blind Pete Morelli tried to put a touchback at the 20 and totally missed a critical flag on the field that eventually took a Chris Boswell missed FG off the board and replaced it with a made one. The NFL has a lot of problems with its product, but none are more impactful on the game day viewing experience than over-officiating.

+ Ronde Barber contended that Antonio Brown’s first-half toe tap was a play the official understandably missed in real time. We disagree. That guy is paid to make that call and he was in perfect position to make that call and he should correctly make that call.

+ That review was a lot less stressful, though, knowing Pete Morelli had not say in it all, eh?

+ We don’t understand how officials in New York overturned Dalvin Cook’s touchdown run without a goal-line angle. The standard “indisputable” is so clear, yet every week we see it bent needlessly.

Game mismanagement:

+ After a clean first half, the Steelers called all three of their PRECIOUS second-half timeouts in less than 20 minutes of clock time. Nevermind that the Steelers didn’t need those timeouts Sunday, they will another week and the habits they’ve established and never corrected in terms of needlessly burning clock stops are a real threat to detail their Super Bowl aspirations.

+ Mike Zimmer made a cardinal time management error at the end of the game, calling timeout with 2:02 remaining before a Steelers third down play. Let’s THINK about that, shall we? What did Zimmer save? He saved :09 on the clock, the :02 that would have run off and say :07 for the play being run on the other side of the two-minute warning. And what did he risk? Well, he risked losing the game on the spot because the 2:02 stoppage allowed the Steelers to throw on 3rd-and-7 with no clock risk as it was stopping after the play regardless. The fact that Mike Tomlin wasn’t smart enough to recognize that and go for the win on the next play doesn’t surprise us.

In the booth:

+ Ryan DeShazier? Martavious Bryant? Dynamicism? Ronde Barber clearly went to the Solly Wilcots School of Broadcasting – and apparently he didn’t pay attention as he was truly terrible throughout, capping it off by claiming the proper terminology is“shuffle” pass, not “shovel” pass. And if YOU are among those who believe “shuffle” is correct, please look up the definition of shuffle and get with the program.

+ We noticed a lot of people tweeting during the game that they thought FOX’s HD was not as good as CBS’s, so we compared on split screen and that appeared to be the case. Weird.

+ We don’t have much to say about Kenny Albert other than he needs to get custom-tailored shirts with a larger neck.

Sweet tweets: @Benstonium – Waiting for the camera to cut back to Big Ben to see if he gets up after a hit is the longest wait. (Blogger’s note: Play where Ben’s shin almost snapped was terrifying.)

Next week: The Steelers travel to Chicago next Sunday to face the already-beat up Bears, who’ve seen several key starters head to IR in recent weeks, and who were thumped 29-7 Sunday by the Buccaneers.

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