By Danny Cox
The Pittsburgh Steelers knew that achieving a victory against the New England Patriots wouldn’t be an easy task when the NFL schedule was released earlier this year. Having the injuries pile up and now, without quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, they knew it would be next to impossible; but they certainly weren’t going to just give up and let it happen.
For the first half of the game, it was actually a good contest and it became even more so in the second quarter when the Steelers pulled within 14-10 at halftime. From that point on, the offense just sputtered out in the final two quarters and led to a 27-16 loss to Tom Brady and the Patriots.
It was their second straight loss and it dropped them to 4-3 on the season, but the day certainly wasn’t a total loss. A lot of positives can be taken from Sunday’s game and that is what the Steelers need to build on.
Landry Jones really didn’t do a bad job at filling in for Roethlisberger as he finished the day with 281 yards and one touchdown on 29-of-47 passing. The Steelers finally got wide receiver Antonio Brown back into the offense with seven receptions for 106 yards, but he could never find the end zone.
The offense was a very balanced attack as Le’Veon Bell ran for 81 yards, but there needed to be something more. Bell also had 68 receiving yards on 10 receptions and it was obvious that the Steelers were focusing on just a few players while everyone else was just kind of there.
On this side of the ball, the Steelers were able to do a very good job of containing Tom Brady as well as anyone can actually contain the future Hall of Famer. He had just 222 yards passing and two touchdowns, but it was obvious that this was not a typical day for him on the field.
Unfortunately, the Steelers didn’t account as much for running back LeGarrette Blount who had a breakout game for this season and ran for 127 yards and two touchdowns.
Special Teams: C-
There was no punt return yardage, but the kick return game did a nice job of setting up the Steelers’ offense well on the field. Both Fitzgerald Toussaint and Justin Gilbert were able to get the offense into good positions with some decent returns. Jordan Berry helped the Steelers defense by pinning the Patriots back inside their own 20 yard-line once and having a decent day punting the ball.
Second-year kicker Chris Boswell did not have a great day for the special teams of Pittsburgh. He hit his lone extra point attempt, but he ended up missing two of his five field goal attempts. Those drives stalling with no points were real momentum killers for the Steelers which brought about some hard work and nothing to show for it.
Mike Tomlin had a good game plan in place and it was to get Antonio Brown more involved on offense but have a balanced attack so some of the pressure was taken off of Landry Jones. He did that with Le’Veon Bell’s running and it worked, but only for a while. Defensively, the Steelers were able to put the brakes on Tom Brady, but it appears as if they didn’t account for LeGarrette Blount and it ended up getting the best of them.
Ben Roethlisberger could end up being out for another four or five weeks and the Steelers are going to have to figure out to play better with him on the sidelines. Some things worked well against the Patriots, but there just wasn’t enough there to get them through a full 60 minutes. If those issues aren’t corrected soon, their playoff race could end before Big Ben even returns.