Steelers Beat Writer

Dale Lolley is a contributor to the Observer-Reporter and has been covering the Pittsburgh Steelers since 1993.

So, the Steelers go to Los Angeles and lose to the Chargers, 41-37, and the biggest complaints coming out of that game are … about the offense.

Makes perfect sense.

Sure, the defense set the offense up on a short field for one score and a blocked punt set up another. But last time I checked, those are allowed to happen for other teams too.

Fact is, the Steelers scored more than 30 points in a game for the first time in more than a year – they last scored 30 or more in a 36-10 victory over the Bengals Nov. 15, 2020 – and seemed to find a rhythm in the fourth quarter with their passing game that, quite frankly, had been missing this season.

Ben Roethlisberger was 10 of 11 for 93 yards and a touchdown running the no-huddle offense against the Chargers. Considering the Steelers had barely used the no-huddle to this point in the season – he had attempted just 26 no-huddle passes this season prior to this game – it was a big step.

“The line was able to, for the first time, really kind of do that – tell them protections and have them do it,” Roethlisberger said of the line, which includes two rookies and two other new starters.

That’s the kind of thing that could pay dividends for this team considering the upcoming schedule.

  • So, about that schedule. The loss to the Chargers hurt. It certainly looked like the Steelers would find a way to pull that out after taking a lead with 3:24 remaining in a game they had trailed by 17 points in entering the fourth quarter.

But at 5-4-1, if the Steelers beat the Bengals (6-4) this week, then knock off the Ravens (7-3) at home next week, they will have positioned themselves nicely for the final five games of the season.

  • It’s no coincidence the Steelers are 0-2 this season when missing T.J. Watt, who has 12½ sacks, a half-sack off the league lead, despite playing three fewer games than Cleveland’s Myles Garrett.

Voters for NFL Defensive Player of the Year should keep both of those things in mind when making their selection later this year.

  • So, Penn State caved and gave James Franklin another contract extension, this one for 10 years that will pay him $7.5 million in base salary each season.

All of this for a coach who is a robust 11-9 the past two seasons despite having multiple first-round draft picks on his roster, and 7-4 this season. Overall, he’s 67-32 at Penn State.

This is the game the university seems to like to play with Franklin, its coach since 2014. A coach gets fired or resigns. Franklin’s name gets mentioned as a potential replacement – likely fed to the media by his agent. Franklin never denies any interest in that job – see Mike Tomlin’s response to the ridiculous USC and LSU rumors as an example of how to extinguish such talk. That causes Penn State to offer more money and tack a few more years onto his contract.

It’s a dance that’s played seemingly every year or two. And when it happens again next year or the year after, Penn State will probably ante up again.

If someone really wanted to hire Franklin – and he wanted to go – this 10-year deal wouldn’t stop that from happening.

That’s why it’s laughable that Penn State, an institution of higher learning, doesn’t have anyone who can figure that out.

This week’s picks

Steelers (plus 5) at Bengals: The Steelers won’t be missing Watt, Alex Highsmith or Diontae Johnson for this game as they were the first time against the Bengals. Five points is entirely too much. The Steelers could win this game outright. They haven’t been swept by the Bengals in a season since 2009 and haven’t lost three in a row against them since dropping six straight form 1988 through 1990. Take the Steelers, 24-20

Browns (plus 4) at Ravens: The Ravens have been living with a horseshoe up their collective behinds this season, as they now pulled out four games they could have lost in the closing moments. But the Browns are in a bad spot with Baker Mayfield. He’s not healthy and they just keep running him out there. The Ravens won’t need a miracle this week. Take the Ravens, 31-17

Bucs (minus 3) at Colts: The Colts have won three in a row and four of their past five games behind Jonathan Taylor, who is emerging as an MVP candidate. But Tom Brady will eat up the Colts’ zone defenses and the one thing the Bucs can still do is stop the run. Take the Bucs, 30-20

Rams (plus 1) at Packers: The Rams have had a couple of weeks to prepare for this one coming off their bye. The Packers, meanwhile, had another week to lose another key offensive lineman. And Aaron Rodgers is playing on a broken toe. Take the Rams, 26-24

Jets (plus 2½) at Texans: Zach Wilson returns to the starting lineup again for the Jets, with plenty of time to reclaim the NFL interception lead he held before his injury. The Texans have six interceptions in their past two games, including four of Ryan Tannehill last week in an upset of the Titans. Besides, the Jets only beat teams with winning records – the Titans and Bengals. Take the Texans, 21-16

Last Week: 3-2 ATS; 4-1 straight up. Overall: 20-34-1 ATS; 33-23 straight up

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