Aubrey Bruce: The Steelers were ‘Gold-Rushed’

Photos by Brian Cook Sr.

Lost big to San Francisco; chance for redemption comes Sept. 18 on Monday Night Football  


Hear ye, hear ye, let it be known to all that will listen, the Pittsburgh Steelers were ambushed by the San Francisco 49ers by the score of 30-7 on Sept. 10, 2023, a date that will certainly live in infamy.

Steelers cornerback Patrick Peterson erroneously predicted that he would have a great outing against the 49ers QB Brock Purdy. Before the game, Peterson said on his podcast that he studied “enough tape on San Francisco’s offense to know what plays were coming.”

What? Did Peterson study film with a blindfold on? He must have been going over the game film from the Pittsburgh Steelers’ 2015, home opener when the Steelers beat the Niners by the score of 43-18 because the film that he studied obviously wasn’t much help. The team that showed up this past Sunday from the city named for St. Francis of Assisi did not treat the Steelers very saintly and certainly was not the San Francisco treat that Pittsburgh was expecting. Patrick Peterson did not get a pick but he was poked, picked apart, picked on, and pickled. By the end of the day, the Steelers defense was just plain tuckered out after being forced to serve as the support act to a Steelers offense that played as if they were merely high school understudies trying to perform as the principal characters on a Broadway stage.

The “prospectors” hailing from the “city by the bay” did not need Geiger counters to discover gold in Pittsburgh, all they needed was Steelers QB Kenny Pickett to lead them to the “mother lode,” otherwise known as the end zone.

Offensive offense and sloth-like play calling: The time of possession in the first-half of the game was: 21:06 for the 49ers and 8:54 for the Steelers. During the Steelers’ 8:54 time of possession, Steelers QB Kenny Pickett was 12/20 for 61 yards, sacked twice with one pick. Pickett could only connect with his security blanket tight end Pat Freiermuth on one out of three passing attempts for a 3-yard “garbage” TD reception almost at the conclusion of the first half. By the way, it was only during the final 1:15 of the first half that the Steelers made their initial first down. The Steelers offense spent plenty of time burning up the bench while leaving the Black and Gold defense out on a scorched gridiron, being hung out to dry.  The Steelers had tight end Darnell Washington sitting on the bench. Washington is so “huuuge” that he should be assigned his own zip code. He could catch the ball at the three-yard line, catch the ball, take two steps forward, and fall into the end zone.

A player should not have to serve as a fan favorite or provide a security blanket for Kenny Pickett or Matt Canada because Pickett and Canada are both “grown-a—men.”  The Steelers’ offensive playbook should be centered around the wide receivers that they have at their disposal who are almost as fast as greyhounds. I suspect if Steelers tight end Pat Freirmuth had not been temporarily sidelined by a chest injury, he would have been targeted a few more times. Their one and only favorite must always be the scoreboard. As far as time of possession was concerned, Pickett and Matt Canada seemed to revert to one of their primary bad habits, starting slowly.  For the game, San Francisco possessed the ball for more than thirty-seven minutes, while the Steelers could only hold on to the pigskin for around 22 minutes. One of Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin’s comments after the game was, “we got kicked in the teeth today in a lot of ways.”

I can halfheartedly agree with Coach Tomlin.  The Steelers did lose a few choppers during the 49ers game, but the extraction of those “cavities” was willing and was performed by the Steelers’ own in-house dentist, “Doctor” Matt Canada, and his trusted dental assistant, Kenny Pickett. From an observer’s standpoint, just watching Canada’s game plan unfold was like getting several teeth extracted without a local anesthetic being injected or general anesthesia being administered. Now the Yinzer Nation is again calling for Mike Tomlin to be kicked to the curb. That’s nothing new because, on January 17, 2018, Mike DeCourcy posted an article on titled, “Steelers’ partners pushing for Mike Tomlin’s firing need a history lesson.” The following excerpt is from that article. DeCourcy talked about a few of the limited partners who were pushing for the dismissal of Mike Tomlin and pointed out that: “Chuck Noll won four Super Bowls from 1974 through 1979. Then he missed the playoffs eight times in the next dozen years. Bill Cowher coached the Steelers to six consecutive playoff appearances, including one Super Bowl trip, after taking over the team in 1992. Then he went 7-9, 6-10 and 9-7, all three teams missing the playoffs. No one got fired. It might have been a function of timing, but no one present asked Tomlin about the Pro Football Talk report that some of the franchise’s limited partners were planning to press team president Art Rooney II to remove him as coach.”

That was more than five years ago and the “fire Mike Tomlin at all costs” narrative remains the perfect “fuel of doubt” to maintain a crackling fire in the fireplaces of many “yinzers.” Mike Tomlin was not even remotely responsible for the sophomoric, stumbling bumbling performance of Pickett and the incompetent game plan that offensive coordinator Matt Canada drew up against the 49ers.

Damaged defense: With the putrid performance put on by the offense, one could not expect the Steelers defense that spent 15 minutes more on the field than the opposing defense (which is equal to an entire quarter) to perform at an optimum level. No one could have convinced me that if the Steelers’ outside linebacker, J.J. Watt, would register three sacks, five tackles, two forced fumbles, one strip sack, one tackle for loss, one pass defensed, and five quarterback hits that the Steelers would go on to lose that game by twenty-three points! I urge Mike Tomlin not to sacrifice his career on the altar of history to save Matt Canada.  Mike Tomlin should pose this question; Would Matt Canada do the same for him?



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