Steelers Beat Writer

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

The Steelers are eighth overall in the NFL in scoring defense. And they’ve given up the third-fewest points in the league in the first half of games.

But they’ve allowed the 25th-most points in the league in the second half.

So what gives?

As we saw Monday night in a 29-27 win over the Bears, even when they’re down two scores, opponents aren’t afraid to continue running the ball against the Steelers. The reason is because they don’t fear Pittsburgh’s offense.

The Steelers are averaging 20.1 points per game. While that number was certainly helped by their 29 points against the Bears, opponents don’t fear the Steelers’ run-first offensive attack.

Over the past month or so, even when opponents have been down multiple scores, they’ve stuck with their rushing attacks. And they’ve hurt the Steelers, who have been playing more nickel defense, expecting passes.

But the offense is showing some signs of life, most notably putting together a game-winning field goal drive in the closing minutes last week. They’re baby steps, but they are steps.

And if the offense can get to a point where it can put some fear into opponents, then it will help the defense immensely.

  • The Steelers weren’t happy to nearly blow a 14-point fourth-quarter lead. They were, however, happy with the win.

That’s especially true considering what happened in the NFL last week, when it seemed if you were a team with a winning record, there was a good chance you lost to a team with a losing record.

Every win is important in the NFL. And as head coach Mike Tomlin noted this week, there are no FCS teams playing in the NFL.

They don’t ask how you got to your win total at the end of the season. They only ask how many you have. This isn’t college football, where style points matter.

  • Najee Harris and Pat Freiermuth have scored six of the Steelers’ past seven touchdowns.

There’s nothing to add there. That statement speaks to their ability.

  • Good luck to the Los Angeles Rams with Odell Beckham Jr., whom they signed Thursday. He’s already worn out his welcome with two other teams.

Now, he joins a team that has been doing quite well without him – and already has two very good receivers in Cooper Kupp and Robert Woods.

Then again, just to make sure Beckham doesn’t become a problem, the Rams could put his locker next to that of Aaron Donald. That ought to keep Beckham in line.

This week’s games

Lions (plus 9½) at Steelers: Are the Steelers good enough to blow out somebody? After watching them nearly give away a 14-point fourth-quarter lead last week, you do have to wonder. But the Lions are getting outscored by an average of 13.7 points per game. The Steelers are on a short week. The Lions are coming off a bye week. That might keep this closer than you think. Take the Lions to cover in a 24-16 loss.

Browns (plus 2½) at Patriots: Back-to-back road games for the Browns. And Bill Belichick will have something up his sleeve for Baker Mayfield. Both teams are dealing with issues at running back, but something tells me rookie Mac Jones makes a big mistake that changes the outcome of this one. Take the Browns, 20-17

Saints (plus 2½) at Titans: We already know the Titans are without Derrick Henry. But Alvin Kamara is banged up for the Saints. That puts this one on the shoulders of the quarterbacks. Tennessee’s Ryan Tannehill is better suited to deal with that than either Trevor Siemian or Taysom Hill. Take the Titans, 24-17

Vikings (plus 3) at Chargers: The Vikings struggle against potent passing games. The Chargers struggle stopping the run. But the Vikings played in Baltimore last week and now must get on a plane to go back to the other coast. Also, who do you trust more, Justin Herbert or Kirk Cousins? Take the Chargers, 31-27

Bills (minus 11) at Jets: After getting beaten by the Jaguars last week and scoring just six points, does anyone think the Bills aren’t going to be ready to roll in this game? That’s especially true in a division game. The Jets won’t be able to compete against Buffalo’s elite defense. Take the Bills, 31-13.

Last Week: 2-3 ATS, 3-2 straight up; overall: 15-29-1 ATS, 27-19 straight up.

Dale Lolley covers the Steelers for and writes a Sunday column for the Observer-Reporter.

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