The Pittsburgh Steelers faced the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Heinz Field on Sunday and it was an ugly game. While the two teams battled for the top score, the Steelers ultimately gave up a key play that allowed Buccaneers rookie quarterback Mike Glennon to find a wide open receiver in the end zone to win the game, 27-24.
The Buccaneers entered the game with an 0-3 record and have struggled this season but made the Steelers look unprepared and undisciplined on the field. Penalties led to the Steelers losing yardage and finding themselves stumbling from being ahead to falling behind. Following the game, Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin addressed the press. “We need to fix (the penalties). And if we don’t we will continue to lose close football games,” said Tomlin. “It’s just that simple. Some of the penalties are technical or orientation-like, facemask penalties and things of that nature. Our tackling technique needs to improve. But some of the pre-snap and post-snap and post-play penalties are just lacking discipline. We have to fix it. I have to fix it. And I will.”
Steelers fans are in a wait and see mode and have lost faith that the team will be able to make the necessary adjustments to get back on track against their next opponent, an 0-4 Jacksonville Jaguars team this weekend. In four polls on SteelersGab.com on Monday, fans responded to the following questions with the corresponding results: When asked who was responsible for the loss to Tampa Bay, 46.39 of respondents said “the players”. When asked how many of the next three games (Jacksonville, Cleveland Browns, Houston Texans) the Steelers would win, 32.56 percent of fans said one to two games. Cornerback Ike Taylor was voted as the player that was missed the most on defense (62.9%), while Ryan Shazier received 22.2 percent of the votes and Jarvis Jones received 14.81 percent. When asked who should take the fall for the 125 penalties yards between head coach Mike Tomlin, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, the game officials and the players, Tomlin led the list with 46.51 percent, followed by the players (41.86%).
“We just got to be more disciplined, for sure,” safety Troy Polamalu said. “It starts in every aspect of how we approach the game, practice, film study, correcting ourselves. It has to permeate our lives as football players. We definitely have to help ourselves out by being more disciplined pre-snap, post-snap and during the snap.”
Here are five areas where the team failed to meet expectations against Tampa Bay and what players and coaches must do the repair the damage that has been caused.
Antonio Brown celebration penalty
The Pittsburgh Steelers were successful at getting veteran receiver Antonio Brown into the end zone and heavily involved in the game. However, in a game where penalties were piling up for the Steelers, Brown opted for an end zone celebration that cost the Steelers a 15-yard penalty. Overall, the Steelers were penalized for 125 yards in the negative. Officiating in the NFL has been a lot stricter during the 2014 season, but the celebration was the type of penalty that head coach Mike Tomlin particularly finds unsatisfactory and unnecessary.
Ben Roethlisberger sacked five times
Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger led the offense against Tampa Bay, but his offensive line left him exposed too many times. The Steelers got the ball first in the opening quarter and on the second play of the series, Cody Wallace, making a second straight start for an injured Ramon Foster at left guard allowed Tampa defensive tackle Gerald McCoy sack Roethlisberger for a 6-yard loss. On the next play, Michael Johnson performed a sack/strip on Roethlisberger, and the ball was recovered by Jacquies Smith. Overall, Roethlisberger was sacked five times in the game, lost two fumbles and got lucky when Marcus Gilbert fell on the second one. The Steelers have to clean up their offensive line.
Red zone miscues and missed opportunities
Even though the Steelers were able to get three points on the scoreboard midway through the second quarter, their red zone offense should be considered a failure. Antonio Brown caught a 19-yard pass that moved the chains to the nine yard-line. With a first down, the Steelers called for a jet-sweep to rookie RB/WR Dri Archer that only went for a yard. A quick toss to tight end Heath Miller only gained another yard. On third-and-goal, Ben Roethlisberger threw to Justin Brown (shown in photo) who could not make the catch and forced Shaun Suisham to kick a field goal.
As for the defense – The 0-3 Buccaneers were allowed to get within striking distance at the end of a first half in which they were trailing in first downs, 18-5, and did not convert a single third-down situation. Tampa Bay was outgained, 253-64, and averaged 2.4 yards per rush. By taking advantage of miscues, Steelers mistakes and penalties, Tampa Bay kept themselves in the game. A turnover inside the 10-yard line by the offense was recovered by the Buccaneers and the Steelers defense didn’t protect the red zone at the end of the game, causing a loss.
Steelers lack of running game
The Pittsburgh Steelers used the running game effectively against the Carolina Panthers in week three. Unfortunately, during week four’s game against Tampa Bay, the Steelers couldn’t get Le’Veon Bell and LeGarrett Blount into a rhythm. At one point, Bell turned a 16-yard rush into a 1-yard gain. After a positive rush, Bell was flagged on a taunting penalty. Erase the gain by 15 yards.
The lack of a rushing game forced quarterback Ben Roethlisberger to try to create offense with his receivers and use the running backs at outlets. Heath Miller had a record 10 catches, but other than he and Antonio Bell, no other player was effective enough to gain critical yardage via the pass, making the Steelers very one-sided and predictable.
Steelers allowed Buccaneers to remain in the game
The Steelers and the Buccaneers battled to stay up in the game, pushing each other on offense and defense to keep the score relatively close. With minutes left in the game, the Steelers were able to regain possession of the ball and the lead. Backed up to their own 14-yard line with just 1:44 left remaining in the game, Le’Veon Bell rushed for two yards. On second down, center Maurkice Pouncey was penalized for an illegal snap and receiver Markus Wheaton was only able to gain eight yards, forcing the Steelers to call out punter Brad Wing. Wing has struggled all season with inconsistency. Wing punted from the 17-yard line with 50 seconds left to play and blasted it a whole 29 yards. The result was that Tampa Bay took over with mere seconds in excellent field position. Mike Glennon found Vincent Jackson in the end zone after blown coverage by the Steelers defense and the result was a win for Tampa Bay, a loss for the Steelers. It was an ugly end to a game that never should have been as close as it was.
Brett Keisel on run defense
Steelers defensive end Brett Keisel talks about Pittsburgh’s struggling run defense