Tim Benz: For Steelers, what a waste!
We're a day removed from that Pittsburgh Steelers loss in Denver, and I'm still mad about it. I keep coming back to one thought.
What a waste!
There was so much good in that game wasted by a few fatal flaws that it should make every Steelers fan angry to see an "L" next to that game on the schedule for the rest of the year.
Coach Mike Tomlin wants you to believe the only thing that went wrong in Colorado on Sunday was the turnover ratio.
If you want to believe that, go right ahead. Lap up that healthy serving of coach speak.
Based on my Twitter timeline, a shocking number of you are doing just that and asking for seconds.
Pinning the loss exclusively on the four turnovers — with no takeaways in return — is just a way for the Steelers coaches and their fans to avoid talking about the other sins committed in that game.
Oh, the turnovers were the biggest problem. No doubt.
However, there were dropped passes. Blocked kicks. Horrible red-zone play calling. Those were all big issues, too. Not " minutiae " as Tomlin described.
All those factors laid waste to some positive components of the Steelers' performance that we should've been celebrating Monday morning.
There were some great individual efforts. Ben Roethlisberger threw for 462 yards. JuJu Smith-Schuster had 189 yards receiving and a touchdown. Chukwuma Okorafor was far better than anyone had a right to expect in his first start — against Pro Bowler Von Miller, no less.
There were some spectacular plays. Roethlisberger and Smith-Schuster hooked up for a 97-yard score.
JuJu Smith-Schuster catches a pass from Ben Roethlisberger and takes it 97 yards for a touchdown, smoking Denver #Broncos DB Bradley Roby in the process! This ties the Pittsburgh #Steelers record for the longest passing TD. #BroncosCountry #NFL #PITvsDEN pic.twitter.com/lXOPETQoWR— Swapty Sports (@SwaptySports) November 25, 2018
On that play, Antonio Brown made a great block during Smith-Schuster's run. Plus, he made another fantastic toe-tap catch earlier in the game.
Then there were the wasted trick plays. There was the one that didn't work. That was Brown's rolling throw back across the field in the first quarter.
Then there was the one that did work: Chris Boswell's fake field goal throw to Alejandro Villanueva.
CHRIS BOSWELL TOALEJANDRO VILLANUEVA (Yes, you read that correctly.) pic.twitter.com/0FtvWfCkCO— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) November 25, 2018
We should've been doing nothing but talking about that play all day Monday. Instead, we were debating what Xavier Grimble was thinking when he decided to brace for contact from Will Parks at the goal line.
We should've been talking about how the Steelers stayed ahead of the New England Patriots for the second seed in the AFC and a bye. Instead, that playoff positioning was wasted, and the Steelers may need to win an extra game where they may be underdogs — like against the Patriots or New Orleans Saints next month — to get that slot back.
We could've been discussing James Conner's redemption from an earlier fumble, and Roosevelt Nix getting inserted into the game plan once more. That's if the Steelers had done the smart thing and stayed practical at the goal line in that final sequence.
Simply giving the ball to Conner and letting him plow into the end zone behind Nix and Maurkice Pouncey would've been preferable to that overly intricate run-pass option that led to the goal-line interception by Shelby Harris in the game's waning moments.
We may have been applauding rookie wide receiver James Washington finally making a contribution.
Unfortunately, he decided that pass down the sideline from Roethlisberger was a good time to replicate being a kid jumping off his tree house and pretending that he had sprouted wings.
It all was wasted. Much like a chance for conference victory. Much like the tie in Cleveland to start the season.
All that is more than "minutiae."