Steel City Underground presents our 2017 Recall: a brief look back at Pittsburgh Steelers games from last season.
The Steelers may have started out their season 2-0, but they looked as if they were a 0-2 team in a disappointing loss to the Chicago Bears in Week 3 of the 2017 season.
Disappointment is thrown around quite a bit by fans who look as most of the Steelers opponents as inferior. They also view the Steelers, while on the road, as inferior too. That urban legend has been proven true and false over the years, but it was difficult to swallow this loss, even if it occurred in overtime.
The Bears were unceremoniously dumped on their keisters in their first two games of the season. The Atlanta Falcons dropped 23 points on them in Week 1, while the Tampa Bay Buccaneers put up 29, while also holding the Bears to a measly seven points. The Bucs forced four turnovers and didn't appear to be half the team the Steelers were destined to be in 2017.
However, comparing things on paper tends to get you in trouble. The Steelers cleaned up their penalty problems from the first two games but still had growing pains clicking on offense... and that would also carry over to the defense, in the hottest home game at Soldier Field since the 1980's (89 degrees).
Before the game even kicked off, OT Marcus Gilbert and OLB T.J. Watt were ruled out of the game, while OG Ramon Foster would leave early in the contest. That made the Steelers look even more lethargic than the heat did, with substitutions entering and leaving, left and right. Whether it was rust or the lack of linemen, Le'Veon Bell couldn't get going yet again, rushing for only 61 yards. He'd just miss 100 scrimmage yards with six receptions for 37 yards.
Ben Roethlisberger would also be sacked three times, as the offense failed to spark, including an unforgettable moment where he missed Antonio Brown wide-open downfield. (Brown would return to the sideline and punch a Gatorade container near the bench.)
However, Ben and Brown connected often in this game and were the only bright spot on that side of the ball. AB finished the game with 10 catches for 110 yards and a touchdown.
Yet, with all of the subs on each side of the ball, one thing there wasn't a substitution for in this game was Pittsburgh's lack of stopping Chicago's running game. Bears RB Jordan Howard would run for 140 yards and 2 touchdowns while Tarik Cohen would add another 78 for a total of 222 yards.
The Bears put up 17 points and had a 17-7 lead going into halftime. The extra three points came from the leg of Connor Barth, who got to attempt to a field goal on a timeless down at the end of the second quarter after Chris Boswell had his own attempt at the end of the half blocked. That led to a series of bizarre events which saw Steelers TE Vance McDonald hustle down the field to catch up with Bears DB Marcus Cooper, who stops just short of the goal line... allowing McDonald to knock the ball away and preventing Chicago from putting six points on the board.
The play was reviewed, which somehow allowed Chicago to take the possession on the Steelers one-yard line, which then turned into the Steelers five-yard line on a false start.
That was most of the action in a game that was difficult to watch. The Steelers struggled on offense before finally doing something midway through the third quarter, closing the gap to 17-14. Pittsburgh would be gifted the ball back with 8:57 remaining, following a J.J. Wilcox interception, but the offense could only setup Chris Boswell's game-tying field goal.
Each team would try to move the ball some more, but regulation time would expire with the game locked 17-all. The Steelers would lose the coin toss, and then the game, as they gave up three big rushing plays of 36 and 18 yards, and the game ending 19-yard touchdown run to fall to 2-1.
(Note: checkout the nice no-call on the hold in one of the overtime run plays above!)
What Stood Out
AB's record-setting day
With 110 receiving yards Antonio Brown passed John Stallworth (8,723) for second-most in Steelers history.
He also set an NFL record for the fewest games to reach 650 career receptions, doing so in 104 games. (Marvin Harrison was the previous record holder with 650 in 107 games.)
And Le'Veon Bell surpassed Antonio Brown
Bell passed Brown for the most catches by a Steelers player in their first 50 career games with 240 receptions. Brown had 234 receptions in 50 games.
The Bears ran for 220 yards
Jordan Howard lead the way with 138 yards and 2 touchdowns. Of the 220, 146 came outside of the tackles.
Bears QB Mike Glennon only threw for 101 yards on 15 completions
Making offenses one dimensional is normally the key for defenses, but the Bears were one dimensional on purpose and still prevailed.
Ben Roethlisberger completed only 12 of 25 passes to backs, receivers and tight ends not named "Antonio Brown"
It was a completion percentage of 48%. Ben struggled to find a rhythm with his other receivers even with Martavis Bryant back in the lineup.
The Steelers offense only ran the ball 17 times for a gain of 70 yards
After handing the ball off 30 times the week before against the Vikings, the Steelers failed to find any balance on offense, much like week one against the Browns.
Play of the Game
The Steelers newly acquired tight end, Vance McDonald, had become accustomed to playing special teams and showed his value by giving the Steelers a chance to remain in the game with this incredible hustle play that will remind many of the Dallas Cowboys Leon Lett fumble in Super Bowl XXVII.
Without this play, the Steelers don't get a crack at overtime. Sadly, it's also the subsequent field goal, and three points, which got the Bears to OT and an eventual victory as well.