After each game of the 2022 Steelers season, I’ll give you my top 10 picks. These are not going to be hot options and are meant to rock the world. This will be instant feedback on a game that was written back in the days of just following the game, when emotions are high and ideas are fresh. Included will be thoughts, observations, polls, and reasons that made me yell at the TV.
Game 15 – Las Vegas Raiders
1. Great performance goes to… – Defense. A night where the offense struggled. On a night when Chris Boswell, who is just as good, missed twice. The defense came to play. Stopping the Raiders offense in the second half. Three passes in the second half. Not surprisingly, Cameron Heyward led the way. When they needed a stop, he was there. He had two sacks. Three fights for defeat. The man was a monster all night.
2. Flag free football – Games are much more enjoyable when referees aren’t throwing flags all the time. The average number of flags per game in the NFL is usually in the low teens. There were only five accepted penalties in the game. None in the first half. Were these two teams magically doing so well that there was no reason to throw a flag? I suspect. Did the weather have anything to do with it? Could it be that the referees decided there was no reason to continue the game with the weather so cold? Or was it just a Christmas miracle? Whatever the reason, I’ll take it.
3. KP Doody – There will be ups and downs for newcomers. Kenny Pickett looked very rattled in this game. He looked indecisive and sometimes reluctant to pull the trigger. At least half a dozen times he left the pocket too early, half of which resulted in him throwing the ball out of bounds. When he did throw the ball, the vast majority were outnumbered. The two drops probably didn’t help his confidence. The final drive was adequate. Seven of his nine passes were checks, so they were sound decisions. I’d like to see more from him later this season.
4. Spill-Lane Filler– His season high was 7 in this game. He did this three times. He finished the game with 12. Twelve strikeouts in this game and he was doing it by attacking the run. Half of those were for gains of three yards or less, and one was for a loss of four. Like Cam Hayward, Robert Spillane seemed to be playing the little Grinch in this game. In the passing game, I’d like to see him focus more on shots than trying to get the ball out. This usually gives more yards. He does this because linebackers don’t make plays, they just focus on bringing the guy down and limiting the gain. Good showing by Spillane.
5. Throw them the D*$% ball – It’s not just me, is it? You expect more from this offense, don’t you? Pat Freiermuth, Deonta Johnson and George Pickens combined for 17 receptions on 20 targets. Two of those three misses were drops. So 19 out of 20 balls must be caught. The other incompletion was a wide open Johnson thrown high and behind. These guys can play. Why does it take 20 minutes of playing time for Freiermout to get the ball? Why does it take 23 minutes to get Pickens the ball? Let them make presentations. Canada needs to worry less about movement and more about medicine to get this offense clicking.
6. Can they get one of these? – The slot wide receiver has been a mess since JuJu Smith-Schuster left. They get almost nothing from those players. They need Hunter Renfrow. A player who excels at route running, getting open and catching the ball. Renfrow is not very fast. He ran a 4.59 40 coming out of college. He’s not big at 5’10, 185 lbs. He doesn’t produce big numbers, but he does get first downs. He moves the chains and keeps moving. As a bonus, he also returns the playing cards. The Steelers need to find them Renfrow.
7. Maximum effort. – I’d like to know what the offensive coaches were thinking when they decided not to bother blocking the Raiders’ best quarterback. Max Crosby is an outstanding linebacker. The Steelers thought. “We don’t need to block him all the time.” And if we do that, we’ll just use a solid edge. He was in the backfield on several running plays. He recorded four hits on the quarterback. What were they thinking? I wish other teams would do that with TJ Watt.
8.2% milk – With this win, the Steelers now have a two percent chance of making the playoffs. In the spirit of the season, it references the character Lloyd Christmas, who says: “So you’re telling me there’s a chance. YES!” In the middle of the season, you’re telling me with two weeks left, they’d have a chance to make the playoffs if you were committed. But there’s a chance, even if it’s very slim. So are you buying the milk, or have you ruined this season? What’s your taste of this season? They’re playing hard for everybody. I’d like to see them do that.
9. Safe and Snoring – There is no thrill in this offense. It is really difficult to watch and enjoy. You turn on the Red Zone during the day and you see the same Pittsburgh plays. They don’t just repeat like your favorite song in middle school. When the Steelers had Chase Claypool, they often threw it down the field. And he couldn’t catch it. Johnson and Pickens can catch it. We saw more downfield hits from Mitch Trubisky than Pickett. Why isn’t Pickett shooting his shots? Did the early season layoffs dampen his confidence? I don’t understand his hesitation.
10. Seeing double – I’ve only seen it once, but tell me if you’ve seen more. In one of the returns tonight, the Steelers got both Steven Sims and Gunner Olszewski back. Sims ended up getting a fair catch on the play. They planned some kind of scam. Against? Will they return? Has it gotten to the point where the offense is so lackluster that they’re trying to rely on special teams to come up with a big play? It is possible. I’m not sure about that kind of play, but we’ll see.