PITTSBURGH — The Steelers won back-to-back games for the first time in the 2019 NFL season on Monday, beating the Miami Dolphins, 27-14 at Heinz Field.
But like so many times for the Steelers this season, the game came with significant loss of personnel due to injury. Offensive starters James Conner, Ramon Foster and Benny Snell were all unable to finish the game.
Foster left in the second quarter to be evaluated for a concussion. He was later diagnosed with a concussion and declared out for the rest of the game. Foster has entered the NFL’s concussion protocol. He was replaced by B.J. Finney.
Snell sought treatment in the team’s sideline medical tent for a knee issue in the second quarter and did not return to the game after initially being listed as questionable to return. He was later downgraded to out.
Conner played through nearly the entire game, before leaving on the Steelers’ penultimate offensive possession. Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said after the game that Conner injured the AC joint in his shoulder. With Snell and Conner out, Trey Edmunds finished the game at running back.
Quarterback Mason Rudolph (concussion), inside linebacker Mark Barron (hamstring) and wide receiver James Washington (shoulder) all returned from injuries while outside linebacker T.J. Watt was able to play through his abdominal injury.
“I felt pretty good,” Watt said. “Some moves, I felt limited, just because of my abdominal. I feel a lot better right now than I thought I would coming out of a full game. I didn’t think I was going to be able to play as much as I did. We’ll see how much soreness kicks in the next few days here.”
Tomlin also added that center Maurkice Pouncey played through a calf injury. Running back Jaylen Samuels (knee surgery) and inside linebacker Ulysees Gilbert III (back) did not dress.
The Steelers will have their depth tested at running back this week, though Samuels seemed near a return after being a full participant in practice all week coming out of the bye. They’ll enter the week with Edmunds and practice squad back Tony Brooks-James.
They also have one fewer day than usual for preparation coming off a Monday night game and looking ahead to next Sunday’s meeting with the 5-2 Indianapolis Colts.
“On a short week, we’ve got to prepare with an edge moving forward,” Tomlin said.
Highlights from Steelers Practice 9/25/20
It was all about wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster’s return and the Watt brothers at the final practice before the Steelers week 3 game against Houston.
Footage courtesy Pittsburgh Steelers
Highlights from Steelers Practice 9/24/20
While it’s odd to see referees standing out in a clip of highlights, Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin’s plan to incorporate actual refs into practice this week happened on Thursday.
Tomlin explained he is adding refs to practice to ensure his team is more disciplined, which hopefully leads to less penalties in their game this week compared to last week.
Wide receivers James Washington, Diontae Johnson and tight end Eric Ebron run routes and catch passes in this clip.
Footage courtesy Pittsburgh Steelers
Ben Roethlisberger Says Form, Mechanics Can Be Better Despite Hot Start
To hear Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger tell it, he can better than what he’s shown on the field in his first two weeks since returning from elbow surgery.
He’s not happy with his footwork, he thinks he’s dropping his arm a bit and needs a more consistent release point.
The statistics, however tell another story. They say Roethlisberger has been operating at a higher level of precision than ever before. So which is it? Maybe both.
“I do feel I got a little lazy with my feet, which then, in turn, translated to a lazy arm,” Roethlisberger said. “There were some throws that I kind of dropped my elbow, if you will. I don’t want to get too technical, but it became more of a three-quarter release instead of an over the top when I didn’t need to. There are obviously times you have to change your release point. There were too many throws, I felt looking back, that I just have to get my feet working better, and that will then translate, hopefully, to the rest of the body. Then, I won’t be guiding some of the throws.”
Here’s an example from the game Roethlisberger’s form getting a little sloppy. He throws this ball flat-footed and almost all with his right side, getting less power behind it than usual and resulting in a pass that ends up behind JuJu Smith-Shuster instead of allowing him to build a head of steam toward the defenders at the line of scrimmage.
Is this a big deal here? Not really. Smith-Schuster probably couldn’t have done much better than he did at bulling over the defender, anyway. But this is also a route into the flat on the near side of the field. Over longer distances, that can make a big difference.
“I’ve gotten away with it in the past being able to not necessarily be perfect from the ground up and just letting my arm kind of make up for a lot of things, a lot of imperfections if you talk to quarterback people,” Roethlisberger said. “I feel great. I just need to get it in my mind that I can still make the throws when I’m not in the perfect position to make them.”
All of that can be true, and yet, it’s hard to argue with the results. Through two games, Roethlisberger has a 68.5 completion percentage. His career season high was 68% in 2015. In a game and a half last year, it was 56.5%.
His passer rating, even with an interception against the Broncos, is 107.1. His career season-long high came in 2o07, when he finished with a 104.1 mark. Last season before his injury, it was 66.
Some of that can be explained by a passing scheme that has take fewer deep shots down the field than it has in years past. His yards per pass attempt sits at 7.4, lower than all but four of his other 16 seasons.
Mechanical inconsistency can certainly have a greater impact on longer throws, so the Steelers’ somewhat more methodical offensive approach could be helping Roethlisberger get into the swing of things.
“Maybe some of that just comes from not playing a lot of football,” he posited. “I played two games this year. I played a game and a half last year, so really, it’s about three and a half games in two years if you think about it. It’ll come. Like I said, if I’m having these issues and we are still winning football games, that’s a plus.”
If a 2-0 record with career highs in passer rating and completion percentage is what he looks like with mechanical issues, the NFL should be very worried about what might happen if he gets into a groove.