Tim Benz: Plenty of grievances for Steelers even after win over Colts | TribLIVE.com
Breakfast With Benz

Tim Benz: Plenty of grievances for Steelers even after win over Colts

Tim Benz
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
The Indianapolis Colts’ Justin Houston recovers a fumble by the Pittsburgh Steelers Jaylen Samuels in the fourth quarter Sunday, Nov. 3, 2019 at Heinz Field.

A win without the starting quarterback, a starting defensive lineman, a starting offensive lineman and two running backs.

Against a first-place team.

Yeah. Sure. Take that without complaint, right?

Nah! Who are we kidding? Not Steelers fans.

Or… me.

Especially when there is so much to complain about coming from Sunday’s Steelers game.

Yes, even though it was a 26-24 victory over the Indianapolis Colts, who entered the game 5-2 atop the AFC South.

That’s why “Breakfast With Benz” gives you a weekly “Airing of Grievances,” win or lose.

Safety first

Steelers quarterback Mason Rudolph got himself in trouble on that Indianapolis safety by Justin Houston in the third quarter.

Instead of throwing the ball away while rolling from pressure in the end zone, Rudolph pulled it back and tried to do more.

That didn’t end well.

Rudolph didn’t have the time or space to make whatever play he was looking for there. He needs to have better field awareness than that.

That safety very easily could’ve been a defensive touchdown. And if that happens, the Steelers could’ve lost.

They should be thanking their lucky stars Alejandro Villanueva jumped on the loose ball to prevent a Colts score.

Was that necessary?

With 6:02 left in the second quarter, trailing 10-3, the Steelers went for a fourth-and-2 from the Colts’ 35-yard line.

I’m not questioning the decision to stay away from a 52-yard field goal. I get that. Even though Chris Boswell made a 51-yarder later in the quarter.

What I don’t get is the overly intricate pass to JuJu Smith-Schuster behind the line of scrimmage. It yielded nothing.

Why wheel out something that complex there?

Roosevelt Nix is healthy. Zach Banner is becoming a cult hero as the sixth offensive lineman. Slam the ball behind the line and get six feet.

You know, like the Colts did later in the quarter.

The Steelers have failed on six of their seven fourth-down conversion attempts this year.

Momentum squandered

After Minkah Fitzpatrick returned an interception for a touchdown, the Steelers burped up any momentum they had.

The defense allowed a lightning-quick 75-yard scoring drive to the Colts on six plays in just 1:39.

A questionable roughing-the-passer call against T.J. Watt aided that. But the defense needs to be stouter than that in that kind of situation.

We’ve seen these fish before

OK. It wasn’t as bad as Donte Moncrief versus Seattle.

But it wasn’t good.

Rudolph got dinged for another interception that went off the hands of his intended receiver.

This time it was Smith-Schuster. And Kenny Moore II was the beneficiary.

Smith-Schuster only wound up with three catches and 16 yards.

Then there was Jaylen Samuels’ fumble in the fourth quarter.

There was more football to be played in this game, and luckily it didn’t cost the Steelers a victory. But that giveaway was eerily similar to James Conner’s turnover in San Francisco back in the third week of the season.

Flags and challenges

After flagging Watt, the officials tagged Colts linebacker Darius Leonard for a payback call when he hit Vance McDonald in a sea of other players on a play that should’ve ended the first half.

Instead, the Steelers got 15-extra yards and Boswell was able to hit a 51-yard field goal on an untimed down.

How about calling neither instead of feeling the need to call both? Steelers fans are praising the call. Yet if Devin Bush does that, we’re screaming bloody murder.

Then Leonard got popped again for shoving Smith-Schuster out of bounds late.

The only thing later than the hit was the flag itself. It was clear the official didn’t plan to throw the flag until he was influenced by the crowd reaction and the bench of the Steelers. Had that play been on the Colts’ sideline, there is no way an infraction is whistled.

If you see the penalty, make the call. If you don’t think it is a penalty, don’t drop the flag because Kam Kelly talks you into it.

The Colts only had 43 penalties for 347 yards coming into the game, third from the bottom of the NFL in each category.

Yet with the crew at Heinz Field Sunday, they were hit for seven flags and 89 yards.

Finally, let’s get to those two disputed fourth-quarter pass interference calls and Mike Tomlin’s corresponding challenges.

Neither flag needed to be thrown. But I do get Tomlin’s gripe that if a flag was dropped — and upheld upon review — on Steven Nelson at the 2:20 mark, then an offensive penalty could’ve been called on Zach Pascal two snaps later.

But Tomlin should’ve known better. Neither of those calls was going to get overturned. And he burned two potentially critical timeouts as a result.

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Tim Benz is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Tim at [email protected] or via Twitter. All tweets could be reposted. All emails are subject to publication unless specified otherwise.

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