Despite what some people thought following last night’s heart-breaking loss to the Saints, the sun did rise this morning in Pittsburgh.
Maybe the Christmas season will allow some fans to concentrate on something else and forget what happened yesterday but I doubt it.
With so much on the line, the 31-28 loss to New Orleans was as painful a regular loss as anyone can endure. The harsh reality this morning is that the prospects of the Steelers qualifying for the 2018-19 NFL Playoffs are on life-support.
Aside from depression, the other emotion going through Steeler fans this morning is anger. Anytime you lose, it’s easy to start automaticly blaming someone and asking who cost them the game.
Mike Tomlin, the refs, Stevan Ridley, JuJu Smith-Schuster are the names receiving the most arrows but in reality that’s silly.
It’s not possible to fairly make a case that one person deserves more blame than another because of all the twists and turns that took place in the Super Dome.
Tomlin’s Call To Run Fake Punt
With 4:12 left in the game and the Steelers leading 28-24, Tomlin decides to run a fake punt on 4th and 5. While some might say it was gutsy, the reality is that is was an unnecessary, dumb risk to take that might have cost his team the playoffs. No reasonable person can defend that move. Considering the game situation, field position and the potential consequence, Tomlin blew it and it’s a move that Steelers fans will never let him forget about.
Stevan Ridley’s Fumble
With 10:21 left in the game and leading 28-24, the Steelers faced a 3rd and 2 from the New Orleans 34 yard line. Leading up to this situation, the offense faced a 3rd and short (4 yards or less), six times and each of those times decided to pass. On those six third downs, they converted five of them by putting the ball in the hands of their Hall of Fame quarterback. For some reason, in this situation that could potentially have put them up by two scores, not only did they not allow Roethlisberger to make a play, they gave it to a player who hadn’t touched the ball all game. It’s obvious to blame Ridley but I tend to place more fault on offensive coordinator Randy Fichtner and Tomlin for allowing that play-call to actually happen.
JuJu Smith-Schuster’s Fumble
Although this was the final nail in the coffin and it’s the final image that we take from the game, I put this way down on the “Blame Game” list. Smith-Schuster and Antonio Brown played their asses off and along with Roethlisberger, were the reasons the Steelers had a chance to pull off that improbable win. While some might want to rip him, I refuse to go down that road because too many things happened prior to his untimely fumble.
Normally, I don’t get into the conversation of pinning a loss on the refs because normally it’s a lazy narrative. While I’m going to stay consistent with that, I will say though that it’s impossible to discuss yesterday’s outcome without bringing up the zebras.
Their finger prints were all over a number of key moments that went against the Steelers.
Saints 1st TD: The pass interference call on 4th down against Joe Haden was one of the worst judgement calls that I’ve seen in quite some time. Not only did Haden not interfere with Alvin Kamara, the pass from Drew Brees was in no way catchable. Instead of taking over near midfield with a 3-point lead, that call gift-wrapped 7 points for a Saints offense that doesn’t need help scoring points.
Saints GW TD Drive: 3rd and 10, Michael Thomas makes a tough 8 yard catch along the sidelines but in reality, he didn’t make the catch. Replay shows that before he got his second foot down, his first foot touched out of bounds just before he dragged his second foot in bounds. That was a touch call to see and make but if the purpose of replay is to get things right, then get it right.
Missed Tuitt Deflection On 4th Down Pass Interference Call: On the Saints GW-TD drive, the refs properly called a pass interference on Haden. However, that should’ve been wiped off because prior to Haden interfering with Thomas, replay shows that Stephon Tuitt slightly deflected the pass from Brees. Tuitt deflects the back of the ball and you can see the ball slightly change direction. Once again, this is something that needed to be reviewed and if it was, pass interference would’ve been waved off and the Steelers would’ve won the game. In reality, that might’ve been the biggest play of the game because it was the one play that could’ve ended the game.
As you can see, there was plenty of blame to go around for yesterday’s loss.
The one thing that can’t be argued is that the Steelers 53-man roster and coaching staff is to blame for the situation they currently find themselves in. If the Steelers miss the playoffs, losing to the Saints won’t be the reason why.
You can look back at late collapses against the Browns, Broncos, Chargers and Raiders and point to them instead of the refs, Ridley, Smith-Schuster and a botched fake-punt.