Quick Yinzing: Reactions to Steelers' fall to 0-3 after loss to 49ers | Steel City Underground

Steel City Underground

Pittsburgh Steelers San Francisco 49ers Quick Yinzing

On Sunday afternoon, the Pittsburgh Steelers looked like they'd finally found the formula for success as they grabbed three early turnovers. Unfortunately, with near-constant pressure from the San Francisco Forty-Niners defensive front, the conservative plays sent in to Mason Rudolph in his first NFL start could not generate enough momentum to swing things in Pittsburgh's favor until the third quarter. After a rare fumble from James Conner after T.J. Watt grabbed his second takeaway of the game to get the ball to the offense, the 'Niners were able to take advantage for the lead and the win, 24-20.

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Rudolph is the Steelers' QB1 now, and there was a lot that he did right in this game. He showed an ability to scramble. He stepped up in the pocket to avoid pressure. He used his legs to get yards when the pocket collapsed around him. He also made two exceptional passing plays; one went to JuJu Smith-Schuster for a 76-yard touchdown and the other resulted in rookie receiver Dionte Johnson's first NFL touchdown.

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San Francisco stacked the box and made rushing the ball very difficult for Pittsburgh. With so many bodies pressing in, it would have been beneficial for Rudolph had offensive coordinator Randy Fichtner put some short crossing routes into the playbook. Unfortunately, with such a conservative approach, the Steelers offense looked flat and ineffective for the majority of the game.

This is the third loss in a row due mainly to the Steelers offense being unable to capitalize on opportunities the defense has given them. It is also the third game in a row that has presented a bland, unoriginal offensive approach. That's not really on Rudolph or the young receiving corps. The Conner fumble hurt because Pittsburgh could have held onto their three-point lead and run out the clock... but it would have required they be able to convert critical third downs, which seems to be the bane of the Steelers.

Until Pittsburgh can find their offense, they'll be forced to ask the defense to score points. That's not a reasonable request.

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Defensively, the Steelers are even more exciting with Minkah Fitzpatrick on the roster but still not perfect. A big part of the imperfection against the 'Niners was due, like the past two games, to an inability to get off the field later in the game.

Things started off with a big bang, however. On the game's opening series, Watt was able to snatch a bobbled pass from Jimmy Garoppolo to Matt Breida for an interception. The Steelers turned it into three points (Boswell field goal). On the next offensive series, Stephon Tuitt sacked Garoppolo and Rasheem Mostert fumbled the ball but was able to recover it.

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On the next series, Fitzpatrick grabbed a ball that was tipped by Joe Haden for his first Steelers interception. Fitzpatrick came up big again when he delivered a hit on Mostert that knocked the ball loose and was picked up by Devin Bush. Bush would later grab a fumbled 'Niners exchange between Garoppolo and the center.

After the Steelers took the 20-17 lead, Watt grabbed a loose ball to give it back to the offense and give Pittsburgh their fifth takeaway of the game.

Unfortunately, after San Francisco failed to convert a third-down pass to go ahead, Mark Barron - who didn't have a spectacular game - was flagged for holding and the 'Niners were given a new set of downs. On a short pass to Dante Pettis that looked like Steven Nelson might have a bead on, the Steelers watched their opponents take the lead with little-to-no time left on the clock. The Steelers didn't have the spark to move the ball down the field for the win.

With the win-loss record now 0-3 on the season, the Steelers aren't in "win now" mode but "fix it now" mode. The biggest disappointment is that all of the fabulous efforts early in the game by a defense that was fired up was wasted. Until Pittsburgh fixes its issues on offense, this team is in a desperate situation.

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    • I agree on the leaders comment. I’m not sure about too many individuals. Coaching staff is flat.
      I have to wonder how much of this 0-3 start is hype versus reality. Did we see only what we wanted to in camp and not a real picture of what this team would be able to accomplish during the regular season? It’s a tough call.

  1. Unfortunately, the fumbles are more common than rare in Conner. He’s had too many going back into last year even. That makes me sad. Also, I agree about the deal with Rudolph… hell, even the broadcasters were saying that they had to turn him loose and let him stretch the field. Other than 1-2 throws in the first half, they were SOOOOO conservative in their play-calling. When they did turn him loose to throw it downfield, things happened. How disappointing. Each week, I get closer and closer to fire them all (coaches)….

    • Dave,
      You know what? I went back to look at Conner’s stats, and unfortunately, he does have more fumbles than he should. So I should walk back the “rare” statement. I was basing it on his carry percentage and snap count to fumble ratio… and even I was off a bit there. So thank you for making me relook at things and reassess.

  2. Sorry Christina, that’s not what I meant to do. I was just stating that it seems more common than rare. I think I read somewhere yesterday that Steven Ridley — who has a reputation as a “fumbling RB” — has lost the ball once every 70ish touches over his NFL career. Conner’s number is currently at about one fumble every 69 touches. Yikes. That is too much. o.O

    Hopefully it gets better. WAY better.

    • Dave,
      Actually, I’m glad you said something. I try to make sure that I have all my facts and figures on point… and by saying that Conner’s fumble was “rare” (and I think I used that exact term on Twitter) was not statistically correct. Thank you for sharing your insights as well. I have gone over a lot of film from that game and it is evident that the offensive line was not sharp. Did that factor into Conner putting the ball on the ground? I can’t say with 100 percent certainty that it did or did not. In the end, if he wants to be the lead back on the Steelers offense, fumbles are not going to earn him much praise or respect – especially among his teammates – so he has got to clean that up (and that’s on him). I continue to be optimistic that things can and will turn around. There’s some tuning that needs to be done to this piano, but once it is? I’m hoping for a concerto!

  3. Agree Christina. I still have plenty of hope. I look forward to seeing what we have in Rudolph. I look forward to seeing how some of these young defensive (particularly) studs mature. And I sure as heck look forward to having a season without any extracurricular BS! I said in the off-season– and I (think I) still mean it — I’d rather lose without AB on this team than win with him and ALL his insanity! So, let’s go Steelers! Let’s see what we’ve got!

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