After the Pittsburgh Steelers’ 36-28 loss to the Minnesota Vikings in the NFL’s Week 13 opening on Thursday Night Football, there was a lot of unhappiness within the organisation.
Wide receiver Chase Claypool and pass rusher T.J. Watt were the targets of the wrath. It was for his indiscipline in the case of the former, and for another tragic injury in the case of the latter.
Chase Claypool was chastised by Mike Tomlin
It all started with Pittsburgh’s first offensive series, which was halted due to a penalty on the second-year receiver for putting his hand in the face of the Vikings’ defensive secondary after catching a pass.
The Steelers lost 15 yards as a result of their attitude, and Chris Boswell missed a field goal which would have given them a lead they never had in the game.
Claypool has the most penalties of any receiver in the NFL this season, with eight.
Pittsburgh head coach Mike Tomlin took the guy off the field after that play, and he returned shortly after, but his team had been utterly trounced.
Watt stood on the sidelines and watched Cook’s offensive display
T.J. Watt, the Steelers’ greatest player so far this season with 16 quarterback sacks, is the other half of the equation.
Watt was recorded on television broadcast camera without a helmet exchanging words with the aforementioned Tomlin as Pittsburgh’s defence was being swamped by Minnesota running back Dalvin Cook in the second quarter.
J.J. Watt’s brother suffered a groyne injury shortly after, and after halftime, the Steelers defensive back stepped out onto the sidelines of U.S. Bank Stadium in plain clothes, and it was reported that he would miss the rest of the game.
In a post-game press conference, Tomlin only mentioned Watt’s groyne ailment and did not go into detail about the severity of the injury.
Cook gained 205 yards on the ground against the Steelers, the most by a running back in a game this season.
The Vikings’ win over the Steelers on Thursday night taught us a few things
- For the Vikings, it was a nail-biter of a game. The Vikings blew a 29-0 second-half lead so horribly that they were forced to defend passes into the end zone that could’ve forced OT if a Steelers two-pointer had been made. Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger completed a beautiful ball to Pat Freiermuth in the end zone on the game’s last play. For a brief moment, the rookie tight end had two hands on the ball, but the pass was intercepted as Freiermuth was wedged between Harrison Smith and Xavier Woods. The Steelers’ remarkable comeback effort came to a tragic conclusion as their offence came to life late. RB Najee Harris found some second-half slack, rushing for 94 yards on 20 carries, while Roethlisberger’s protection, which had been abysmal in the first half, improved enough to allow the veteran to wreak havoc on the Vikings secondary. He was inefficient for much of the game, completing 28 of 40 passes for 308 yards and three touchdowns.
- There’s no soul to be found if this wasn’t the Steelers’ run defence’s lowest point. With a counter-trap play, Vikings RB Dalvin Cook broke off a 20-yard run on his first carry, and it was a portent of things to come. On his way to a 153-yard half and a 27-for-205 night, he ran for 30 and 29 yards (TD) in the first half. In the first half, he sliced through Pittsburgh’s defence with little to no opposition, bursting through big holes up front and rushing unimpeded into the secondary. Cook exhibited no signs of the shoulder issue that had him questionable to play earlier in the week, and he wasn’t absorbing many hits either on this night. The Vikings press box had a s’mores bar, according to NFL Network’s Andrew Siciliano, but the real marshmallows were playing defence for the visitors.
- Is there an NFL quarterback that needs a clearer pocket than Ben Roethlisberger? Big Ben looked every bit his 39 years on Thursday, taking five sacks and seven QB hits while displaying the mobility of a redwood tree. In the first half, the Vikings’ pass rush pounced on him, and they didn’t need to blitz much to get home. Even a mobile quarterback, in Roethlisberger’s defence, would have taken a few sacks since Vikings defenders were able to rush practically unfettered on numerous plays. Even still, Roethlisberger appeared uneasy when asked to move even little in the pocket. In the second half, he made some plays and twice put the Steelers within a touchdown, but it was excruciating to watch for more than a half.
- Because Kirk Cousins had an off-day for the Vikings, it’s a good thing Minnesota’s running game was in top form. Cousins completed 14 of 31 throws for 216 yards and his fourth and fifth interceptions of the season, including one late in the game that poured fuel to the Steelers’ fire. He did, however, save two of his best throws for the most vital plays of the night. First, he connected with K.J. Osborn for a 62-yard touchdown throw, giving Minnesota just enough cushion to fight off Pittsburgh’s comeback. Cousins then converted a crucial third down with a 17-yard pass over the middle of the field to Cook with under three minutes remaining. The Vikings had a big win, but it was a game their quarterback would prefer to forget.
- Chase Claypool was benched for all the right reasons, but he left a lasting impression. Starting with a 15-yard personal foul on the Steelers’ first possession, Claypool didn’t appear to have his head in the game. He extended a ball forward toward a first-down marker despite being well short of it on their second attempt, and the ball was knocked loose, necessitating a review reversal to earn the benefit of a borderline on-field fumble judgement. He missed a block on the next play, allowing Woods to drop Harris for a loss on third-and-1, forcing Pittsburgh to punt. Head coach Mike Tomlin even benched him for a while. Claypool caught four catches on Pittsburgh’s last 84-yard drive, including a 38-yarder down the right sideline, to rescue the Steelers out of a severe field-position hole. He had eight catches for 93 yards, which was a game-high.
Next-Gen stat of the game: The Vikings had four of their season’s top ten fastest sacks.
No opposing running back achieved the 100-yard mark by halftime in the first 234 games of Mike Tomlin’s coaching tenure in Pittsburgh. It’s happened twice since then, once by Cincinnati’s Joe Mixon and again by Cook on Thursday.