"Quick Yinzing" is Steel City Underground's post-game feature where there is no research, no stats, all "Renegade" and reactions in recapping the Pittsburgh Steelers' game performance.
If you were like a lot of disappointed Pittsburgh Steelers fans who turned off your televisions or left the Cleveland Browns' stadium on Thursday night, you missed one of the ugliest final eight seconds I have ever seen in over 40 years of professional football in the NFL. Backed up within a dozen yards of their own end zone, quarterback Mason Rudolph - who struggled all night due to poor offensive line play and the loss of most of his skill players - was brought down by Myles Garrett of the Browns. While it appeared Rudolph was not happy about the way he was taken down and got his hands on Garrett's helmet, Garrett took offense and lifted Rudolph to his feet by the facemask and then proceeded to use Rudolph's helmet as a medieval-like weapon, striking the quarterback in the head. As a result, offensive linemen Maurkice Pouncey and David DeCastro took offense and a horrifying scrum ensued.
Here's the full play. Myles Garrett hit Rudolph with his own helmet. Maurkice Pouncey (#53) threw punches and a kick. pic.twitter.com/kzJDd4Hj53
— NFL Update (@MySportsUpdate) November 15, 2019
The Steelers chose to not run a play in the final five seconds of the game, opting to just get off of the field at that point. Immediately following the exit from the field, head coach Mike Tomlin refused to make any statements about the end of the game in his press conference despite being asked his thoughts several times.
The final seconds of the game was likely a culmination of a lot of frustration and high emotions. In the game, Cleveland was guilty of at least two helmet-to-helmet hits (two at the same time on JuJu Smith-Schuster and another on Diontae Johnson) that forced both receivers into the concussion protocol.
Instead they threw none. https://t.co/xh45jw0wa6
— Christina (C.L.) Rivers (@3Rivers_Writer) November 15, 2019
With the offensive line, especially Alejandro Villanueva, struggling against a Browns defensive line that they should have been able to manage, things got off to a rocky start and just got worse offensively for Pittsburgh. Rudolph looked sluggish in the pocket, often attempting passes as a lineman or teammate was being pushed into him. The young signal-caller also made some poor decisions when checking down a couple of times.
One of the things that have plagued the Steelers this year has been the inability of their young wide receiving corps to be consistent in their route running and ability to bring in catches. There were several drops again in this game.
This game clarified a few things about this year's Steelers team:
The playcalling has to be geared towards making it easier for Rudolph to orchestrate drives successfully. That means that Rudolph and the coaching staff need to identify what his strengths are and capitalize.
The skilled depth at receiver was already thin. It will be more so if Smith-Schuster and Johnson are in the concussion protocol for a while. Johnson's injury looked more severe due to the fact that he was bleeding (although it was superficial) but the double-whammy to Smith-Schuster may turn out to be worse. That left the Steelers with Johnny Holton, James Washington, and recent-addition Tevin Jones.
Minkah Fitzpatrick can't be expected to score all the points or grab an interception every game. Several chunk plays by the Browns offense were due to broken coverage or poor tackling. While the defense generally did okay in this game, they were forced to be on the field too long once again and it became harder and harder to make big plays. T.J. Watt, Bud Dupree, and Cam Heyward all made some nice plays but the defense is starting to be counted on to do too much to keep Pittsburgh in games once again.
Overall, this was an ugly loss by the Steelers that was precipitated by mistakes they forced on themselves. The injuries weren't helpful. A missed field goal was the result of a poor snap from Kam Canaday and an inability to get the ball set correctly by Jordan Berry, not the fault of Chris Boswell. The four interceptions Rudolph threw late in the game were the result of playing from behind with less and less skill players available to get the ball to, a lack of experience (this is his first real year of playing) and a combination of poor routes and poor target choices.
The Steelers fall to 5-5 on the season with the loss. You can guarantee that when these two teams meet again in two weeks that there will be plenty of emotion that spills over from this game. Hopefully, the Steelers will take that energy and focus it into playing better, more consistent football.