Steelers Torch Lions Defense in 37-27 Win
There’s no question that this week’s game meant less overall to the team than last week’s showdown against the Bears and it also didn’t mean as much as the upcoming Thanksgiving meeting against the Packers will. But a win against a very beatable Steelers team would have propelled the Lions to 7-3, a full game ahead of the Bears for the division lead and only a game back of the Saints for the second seed in the NFC. Instead, the Lions join the Cardinals, Bears, and 49ers at 6-4.
The blame for the 37-27 loss could be thrown in a lot of directions. Head coach Jim Schwartz is receiving most of it for his questionable fake field goal in the fourth quarter. When the Lions could have taken a 30-23 lead in the fourth, Schwartz pulled out a curveball, and holder Sam Martin tucked the ball away, rushed for the first down, but fumbled in the process, a crucial turnover in what would be the Lions final redzone possession.
But that decision wasn’t the lone fault from the coaching staff in week 11. The game plan all around was ineffective, if there was even a game plan to begin with. efensively, the goal should have been to make struggling quarterback Ben Roethlisberger as uncomfortable as possible, pressure him the same way they did Jay Cutler a week before. Pittsburgh’s offensive line is amongst the weakest in the NFL, and has been for several years now. Going into the game, only two teams in the league (Miami and Oakland) had given up more sacks. Yet despite what should have been a golden opportunity for the Lions talented defensive front against an extremely weak offensive line, Roethlisberger was rarely pressured, barely even touched throughout the game, and perfectly comfortable on just about every drop back.
Nick Fairley provided the only sack on the day, and while the run game was neutralized, thanks to 7 tackles for losses, the Lions had no response whatsoever to the Steelers passing game. There were coverage mistakes in the secondary and a lot of missed tackles - especially against quick-footed receiver Antonio Brown. But it really all started with the lack of pressure on Roethlisberger.
Forget the pre-game smack talk from Emmanuel Sanders, forget the idea that the Lions need to prove themselves when other team’s mock them, and forget the league-wide disrespect for Ndamukong Suh, the Lions defensive line just simply needs to step it up on a more consistent level. Coach Schwartz is a defense-first coach, but for some reason or another, he’s still not getting the weekly dominant performance he should be getting from a defensive line that’s led by Suh and Fairley.
Now the Lions have two straight must-win games that wouldn’t have had as much pressure had they defeated Pittsburgh on the road. At home against a suddenly hot Tampa Bay team could be a tougher battle than a lot of people think and of course that Thanksgiving game against their NFC North foes looms after that.