The Sunday Night Lions Vs. Steelers Game Was Disappointing But Encouraging.
I think most fans were expecting to lose the Lions vs. Steelers game. The Lions came out of their bye and showed they could hold up against the Pittsburgh Steelers, but they were handicapped by their coaching staff. In what was the most important call of the game, the Lions went for it on fourth down in the second half on the goal line and were stopped. The Steelers got the ball back and went end zone to end zone on a 97-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Juju Smith-Schuster. While the defense kept the Lions in the game, they were unable to overcome critical red zone stops by the Steelers.
The offense struggled to convert promising drives into touchdowns. Matt Prater was the only scorer tonight. That is not acceptable for a team looking to make a run at the playoffs. The team got inside the Steelers’ 30 yard line eight different times. They failed to convert those opportunities into touchdowns, and that destroyed the Lions’ chance at winning.
Stafford looked better. He looked healthy. This is a huge plus for the Detroit Lions. Without Stafford, this team is not going to make a run at anything. Stafford’s health and improved effectiveness is good news for the Lions going into the easier part of the schedule. His ball placement was better than it had been through previous weeks. Even his misses looked better. When he missed receivers, the throws were not egregious, and they were also not in spots that the defenders could make a play on the ball. That is a significant improvement over previous weeks.
A healthy Stafford is important to success going forward, and he looked healthy tonight. Matthew Stafford tried to push the ball downfield more than he usually does. This is a good sign for an offense that has been cripplingly conservative this year. It helped that he seemed healthy and that his protection was better. His receivers were improvising on their deep routes and making plays downfield for him.
The running game was better. It wasn’t good by any stretch of the imagination, but it was better. Better is good. The play calling was not good, but better. Better is good. The Lions don’t have to be perfect in the run game. They don’t have to have a running back run for 100 yards on a regular basis. They just have to run the ball well enough that the defense has to respect that aspect of the offense. I think that the offense accomplished that in this Lions vs. Steelers game. Abdullah got stopped behind the line of scrimmage enough to minimize his stat linw, but overall, the running game looked better than it has in past weeks.
The offensive line looked better than we expected it would. Stafford had a decent amount of time in the pocket. He even had a good amount of time sometimes. That is something that Lions fans haven’t seen in a while. With a banged up offensive line, that is better than we can hope for. The run blocking was still not good. It needs to be better. These backs have shown that they are talented, but they need better blocking. Brian Mihalik, someone that Lions’ fans were concerned about, actually looked really good this week. He did an admirable job filling in at left tackle, something no one expected. He played well against one of the better pass rushes in the league and exceeded everyone’s expectations.
The receivers showed well. TJ Jones, Marvin Jones, both showed up. They made plays at big points in the game and they made plays when they had big opportunities. This is what you look for out of your big play receivers. Tate was limited in his production, but looked healthy enough. This could be a product of the team easing off him to keep him healthy, but either way it is a good sign.
Overall, the offense still needs work. It needs to convert in clutch situations. The team needed more points from the offense in this Lions vs. Steelers game and less points from Matt Prater. A team can’t survive when the kicker is getting this many points. The Lions need to improve in this area going forward. They have an easier schedule coming, so they likely will, but if they make the playoffs, they need to be better.
The defense played aggressive football. This worked to their advantage, sometimes. Sometimes it didn’t. Early in the game, the Lions gave up some big plays. They gave up some big plays late. They also gave up some plays that should have been big plays but didn’t end up that way. Overall, the defense held the Steelers to minimal points. This game could have been a lot worse than it was. The defense, despite their mistakes, held their own.
The Lions were unable to sack Roethlisberger. While they were able to get pressure on him intermittently, they were not able to prevent him from taking frequent shots downfield. Ansah had serious issues containing the end. He made a few nice plays, but was overall inconsistent. His injury can only be an excuse for so long. He cannot continue to struggle in his pass rush, and specifically his run defense and be considered the Detroit Lions’ top defensive end.
Linebackers had some really nice plays. Jalen Reeves-Maybin played a lot of snaps. For the most part, he played well. He did a decent job in coverage, and he filled run lanes well. He forced Leveon Bell to improvise on his runs on multiple occasions. Jarrad Davis did a really nice job in clean up duty. It is good to see that both rookie linebakckers are getting work and excelling in those reps.
Secondary was good in this game. They had some miscommunications over the course of the Lions vs. Steelers game, but overall had a nice showing. Nevin Lawson got picked on, and he didn’t step up early, but the unit in general did very well. Slay held Antonio Brown in check when they were in man coverage. Glover Quin had a really good game and had a nice diving interception in the first half that probably saved the Lions defense from some points. Quandre Diggs played well underneath and in run defense but struggled on routes over the top.
What Does This Lions Vs. Steelers Game Mean
This team was not expected to win this game. This game was not expected to be close. The Lions made this a game. They made this a game that I believed that they could win. Their red zone offense was atrocious. Their play calling left something to be desired. They gave up big plays and didn’t shine when they needed to.
That said, their offense looked much better than they had in past weeks. They moved the ball efficiently against a really good defense. The Lions used their offensive weapons bettr than they have in previous weeks. They showed signs of imporvement out of the bye across the board. If they want to make a playoff run, they have to be better than thye were today, but their competition will be easier. Everything will be easier. They just need to continue to improve.