When the Pittsburgh Steelers were trounced by their intra-state rivals, the Philadelphia Eagles, 34-3, three weeks ago, many scouts said they thought it was a fluke and that it would likely be one of their few stumbles of the season.
Initially, that appeared to be the case. Pittsburgh came back the next week and absolutely throttled the solid Kansas City Chiefs 43-14 in a game they led 36-0. Pittsburgh then easily handled the New York Jets in an 18-point win to move to 4-1.
All seemed right in Pittsburgh and the Eagles was safely in the rear-view mirror. However, that all changed Sunday when Pittsburgh took an unexpected stumble in South Beach.
The Steelers were completely flat in a 30-15 loss to the Miami Dolphins, who have been underwhelming all season. In many ways, this loss was worse than the defeat in Philadelphia. The Eagles are a good team. Miami is not.
And here’s another problem: the 4-2 Steelers can’t fret about this loss for long. They host New England next. If the Steelers want to be in the home-field advantage mix in the AFC playoff picture, winning that game is paramount.
Wins are precious in the AFC. Losing the to the Patriots is excusable. Losing to the Dolphins the week before is not.
The good news for Pittsburgh? Sunday was a bad day for the AFC North. All four teams in the division lost. The Steelers hold a 1-game lead over the Baltimore Ravens, who are now 3-3 after three straight defeats. Cincinnati is 2-4 and in danger of falling out of the playoff picture. So the Steelers didn’t lose ground Sunday. But it’s difficult to run away with a division if you lose.
It is time for the Steelers to get back on track after another stinker. They’ve done it before, but this time Tom Brady looms and, of course, with the news late Sunday night that Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is going to be out, will not help against New England.
Here are some more Week 6 observations:
Brady is catching up nicely: In two games since returning from his Deflategate suspension, Tom Brady has thrown for 782 yards and 6 touchdowns. He has not been intercepted. Yes, Brady is still way awesome. And, he is also writing in his candidacy for league MVP. Yes, even after missing a quarter of the season.
Is Aaron Rodgers really slowing down? The heat is on the Green Bay Packers quarterback. His numbers are down. The Packers offense is blah and the Packers are looking up at the hated Minnesota Vikings. Is Rodgers on the decline? No, I don’t buy it. He will be fine. Trust me.
Seahawks always find a way to Seahawk: The Seattle Seahawks found a way to win a close game in Seattle, with a 26-24 victory against Atlanta. Well, of course they did. That’s what the Seahawks do. They win close games at home. That’s why staying away from Seattle in January is essential for any NFC team with Super Bowl designs.
But the Falcons will be fine: Atlanta just dealt with a killer back-to-back road trip to Denver and Seattle – and they were 3 points away from being 2-0. The Falcons are the class of the NFC South this season and their offense is the real deal. They will be a late-season factor.
Panthers are probably cooked: The Carolina Panthers are now 1-5 and their season is probably over. It’s one of the most stunning developments of the season. Remember, this is a team that went 15-1 last season and went to the Super Bowl. It’s just not happening this season. Look, it’s one of those seasons. Cam Newton is in his prime and Ron Rivera is the right man for this job. A bad season happens. The Panthers will be back. Probably just not this season.
Shady McCoy was a man with a purpose: LeSean McCoy ran like he wanted to prove a point. Of course he did. We all know McCoy was not a fan of coach Chip Kelly when they were in Philadelphia together. Sunday, McCoy showed Kelly, now the head man of the 49ers, by running for 140 yards and 3 touchdowns. I like a running back who carries a grudge on the field.
Colin Kaepernick, the football player, is still flawed: Kaepernick made his first start of the season for the hapless 49ers amid his internationally known national anthem protest. While Kaepernick is compelling off the field, he is still a shell of his former self as a quarterback. Remember, this guy was an amazing dual threat just a few years ago. Now, he’s a fringe player.
Raiders can’t take advantage: The AFC West is tied again. The Oakland Raiders were in first place by themselves from the time Denver lost to San Diego on Thursday night until they suited up Sunday. The Chiefs cleaned the Raiders’ clock on the road, easily winning 26-10. Oakland and Denver are now 4-2. Don’t discount the 3-3 Chiefs. Kansas City knows how important this game was. Had it lost to Oakland, it would have been behind by three games. This was a huge swing game.
Marcus Peters, ball magnet: The Kansas City cornerback picked off his 13th NFL pass. He’s played 21 games in the league. Paul Krause, be worried, sir. OK, for those of you who don’t want to look it up, Krause holds the NFL career interception record with 81.
Case Keenum is actually playing well: We are all waiting for Jared Goff, the No. 1 overall pick, to play and reports are he’s coming along. But the truth is Case Keenum is helping the Los Angeles Rams. He was 27 of 32 Sunday (with a string of 19 straight completions) for 321 yards. He threw 3 touchdown passes. Goff clearly needs to be the future in Los Angeles, but Keenum is not killing his team.
Drew Brees is still Drew Brees: The New Orleans quarterback threw for 465 yards and 4 touchdowns in a 41-38 shootout win against Carolina. This is the second time in five games this season Brees – who turns 38 in three months – has thrown for more than 400 yards.
Dak beats Brady: Dak Prescott finally did throw an interception – after 176 career starts. But he did beat Tom Brady’s record of passes attempted at the start of a career without a pick. So impressive.
Zeke had himself a day, too: Prescott, of course, is just part of Dallas’ super rookie story. First-round pick, running back Ezekiel Elliott, had 157 yards in Dallas’ big win at Green Bay. He is the first rookie to post four straight 130 rushing yard games. Prescott has been amazing, but Elliott is moving this train.
Gronk is so alive: Rob Gronkowski is right. He had 7 catches for 162 yards and a score Sunday, following up his 100-yard performance last week. The hamstring injury that has been hampering him is now under control and Gronkowski is able to show he is the greatest tight end talent the game has ever seen. (Shannon Sharpe told me that, so I’m sticking with it).
So are the Redskins: Remember, after Week 2 when the Washington Redskins were 0-2 and it was a messy 0-2? That was a long month ago, Washington has ripped off four straight wins, the latest being an impressive win against the Eagles. The Redskins are 4-2 and very much in the NFC playoff mix.
Oh, Odell: Odell Beckham Jr. is under the microscope like no other player. Sunday, he showed us all when he is worth the hassle. He had 222 receiving yards, including a 66-yard game-winning play (which he made by himself) with just more than a minute remaining in the game. Yet, of course, he got in his own way by getting a celebration penalty after the game winner by taking his helmet off. And then there’s the whole love affair deal with the kicking net. Dude, you just stick to football, you can be an all-time great.
Amari Cooper is so good: Another great young receiver is Oakland’s Amari Cooper. Yet, Cooper is all business. He rarely cracks a smile. But no one cares when you’re catching 9 balls in the first half. Cooper finished with 10 catches for 129 yards.
Hello, Dontari Poe: Poe, the Chiefs’ 346-pound nose tackle, plowed his way in for a 1-yard touchdown run in Kansas City’s win. Who says Andy Reid can’t have fun?
Not all roses for Wentz: Eagles rookie quarterback Carson Wentz finally had a rough game as he completed just 11 passes for 179 yards. He was also sacked 5 times by Washington. He’ll remember his first real struggle in the NFL and he’ll learn from it.
Bills are keeping our attention: After pasting the 49ers, the Buffalo Bills improved to 4-2. After an 0-2 start, Rex Ryan’s team is on fire. Will it last? A confident Rex Ryan is a dangerous Rex Ryan. I’m not a full believer, but Ryan’s team is making it interesting.
Ravens just might be average: Remember when the Ravens were 3-0? Yeah, it seems like a while ago, doesn’t it? The Ravens went 3-0 by winning close games. They fell to 3-3 by losing close games. This might be the road to 8-8 in Baltimore.