I went back through and read my preview on this game just before kickoff, and I told a friend that the Pittsburgh Steelers would either win a close one, or lose big. There could just be no in between for them. Now that we’ve seen that the Steelers edged the Philadelphia Eagles 16-14 on a last second field goal, I am glad I was right.
There were really a half dozen things I saw that really stood out to me, and while they all didn’t impact the final outcome of the game, the Steelers must address them.
There was a commitment to the running game, sort of. Steelers running back Rashard Mendenhall returned and was running with a level of explosion and power we saw before his knee injury. And it was working. But as was the trend today, Mendenhall got hurt.
Not certain of the extent and I will report as I know more, but it could have just been fatigue, but even before that, the team was running the football with commitment. 31 designed runs compared to 37 pass attempts is the kind of balance we all like to see.
I said several weeks ago to sell high and trade Mike Wallace. This weekend, he showed me that he’s not the player he was last year. Not sure if it’s attitude or just getting back into game shape after his holdout, but no matter the reason, Wallace came up short this week.
The Steelers need to decide about his future with this team, but I hate to see him just walk away at the end of the season for nothing.
The offensive line was great…and awful. There’s nothing more frustrating than penalties, and this week the offensive line did their very best to give me a stroke. But at the same time, for all their problems, they didn’t allow a sack, and opened up holes for Mendenhall in the run game. It’s still a process but if they can cut down the penalties, this group could be very good.
My X-Factor was huge. In my preview I said it was time for linebacker Lawrence Timmons to step up. And he did to the tune of 9 total tackles and a forced fumble. On two plays I remember well, Eagles running back LeSean McCoy was making a break for the edge, where his speed makes him so hard to run down, and Timmons came from his inside linebacker spot and ran him straight down the line for little or no gain.
Not a lot of linebackers who can make a run like that, but he did. Welcome back, Timmons.
Offensive coordinator Todd Haley needs to learn from his mistakes. I know I’ve discussed this before, so just bear with me. I continue to see running back Chris Rainey being misused and it’s so obvious, I don’t understand how it continues to happen.
At some point they are going to want to get him more involved in the offense and I’m not sure the occasional inside handoff will do it.
And finally, the injuries are getting ridiculous. Linebacker James Harrison and safety Troy Polamalu return, but Polamalu didn’t make it to halftime before he’s hobbled again, and the other rush linebacker, LaMarr Woodley injured his hamstring. This is a s short week, and they need these players healthy to keep up this momentum.
In the final analysis, it’s one of those situations where any landing you can walk away from is a good one. It doesn’t hurt to win ugly, and they did just that. Now it’s time to heal up in a hurry and be ready for prime time Thursday night NFL football.
What did you think of today’s game, Steelers fans? Come find me on Twitter @nfldraftboard and let me know.