Detroit Lions at Pittsburgh Steelers: Good, Bad & Ugly


Credit: Jason Bridge-USA TODAY Sports

There was not much “good” in the Detroit Lions’ 37-27 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday, unless you count the second quarter. In the NFL, these kind of losses happen all the time: a road game against a perceived weaker opponent turns into a bad loss. They fall into a statistical tie with Chicago, but still hold the all-important tie-breaker.

It is how you respond to these losses that is key to the success of a team. For the Lions, how they respond, with a wealth of home games in the season’s stretch run (including two straight coming up), will be key.

So, without further ado, let’s get to the grim retelling of Sunday’s disappointing loss in Pittsburgh.

Defense wins championships, but also loses games

The Lions’ defense was a cause for concern heading into this season. The secondary was still a work in progress, yet in many cases the unit has played surprisingly well. Not great, but in many cases it was the defense making plays and keeping the team in games until the offense would come around.

Sunday, the entire defense, not just the shoddy secondary, dropped the ball. There was very little pressure on Ben Roethlisberger, which helped him to have an un-Roethlisberger-like 367 yards and four TDs. The Lions defensive line knew they’d need to be quicker as the Steelers love to dump the ball out quickly, but they couldn’t adjust.

Missed opportunities 

No matter who the teams on the field are, any time you spot another team 14 points–its going to be tough to win, but the Lions battled back, including outscoring the Steelers 27-6 in the second quarter. The Lions were flying high while the Steelers were doing everything wrong.

Then the adjustments were made and not made.

A lot will be made about Jim Schwartz trying to run a fake when a field goal would have put the Lions up by seven early in the fourth quarter, but I find it more troubling that Schwartz wasn’t able to rally the troops and keep them fired up during halftime. The Steelers made the adjustments while the Lions coasted and that may have cost them the game.

The fake field goal is one of those calls that, had it worked, Schwartz would have been a genius. Scoring a touchdown would have given the Lions a 10-point cushion and made it a much different game. But it was a gamble, and it went against Schwartz and the Lions, and he’ll have to take heat for that failing.

The offense inexplicably was absent for three quarters and questions will have to be answered why they could do no wrong in the second quarter, but could do no right, including not getting the ball to Calvin Johnson, for the rest of the game.

I believe the one play that completely changed the game was when Detroit had to settle for a field goal and lead by a touchdown heading into half instead of leading by 10. They could have really put their foot on Pittsburgh’s throat with a touchdown there, instead it gave them some momentum by stopping Matthew Stafford, Calvin, and company after three failed shots from the one-yard line.

Some perspective, please

Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Certainly this is one we’d rather have in the win column. It was an ugly loss and a bad one–but in the NFL, is there ever a good loss?

Throughout social media, Lions fans waived the white flag. “Same old Lions,” “this team sucks,” “Fire Schwartz” and other fun euphemisms to describe their, I guess former, favorite team’s loss.

Let’s look at this loss for a minute. While the Lions should have won, it wasn’t a must win. It was against an AFC opponent, so if potential tiebreakers come up in the NFC playoff picture, this loss wouldn’t factor in. Secondly, it was a road game. The Lions are still a respectable 3-3 away from Ford Field this season.

Additionally, Detroit has a ton of home games coming up and still control their own destiny. Win your home games, beat Green Bay on Thanksgiving and the Lions have a very good shot at a division title.

Now, if the Lions somehow manage to lose to Tampa Bay, this column will have a much different tone next Monday, but c’mon Lions fans! Don’t give up so easily! We’ve had a lot worse years and a lot worse losses than this one.

Bottom Line

  • The Pittsburgh Steelers throwbacks are God awful. That’s been covered in-depth throughout the interwebs, however I still find them more appealing than every single alternate jersey in college.
  • Reggie Bush has had a great influence on the Lions’ offense this season, however his ability to hold on to the ball has been an issue. It was a problem in losses to Arizona and Pittsburgh, and nearly cost them against Dallas.
  • Should we be worried about the Bucs next week? Probably, because any team can beat any other team in today’s NFL, however I’m not putting much stock in Tampa winning two straight home games against two teams in turmoil. Miami has a ton of off-field issues and Atlanta has the looks of a team that has given up. I’d probably be a little more worried if they were coming into Ford Field winless because then they’d be desperate.