Steelers Beat Writer

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

When the Steelers started the season 0-3, and then 1-4, it looked like they were in for a long season.

Of course, if we knew then what we do now, it wouldn’t be all that big of a deal. Three of those four defeats look as good as a loss can look.

There are currently five 10-2 teams in the NFL: New England, Seattle, San Francisco, Baltimore and New Orleans. Of that group, the Steelers played all but the Saints in the first five weeks of the season.

Yes, the Steelers got blown out by the Patriots in the opener, 33-3. But they were outscored by a combined nine points in losses to the Seahawks, 49ers and Ravens, losing to Baltimore in overtime. And that was with backup quarterback Mason Rudolph playing 10 of the 13 quarters in those games.

“We let those slip away,” defensive end Cam Heyward said. “Those teams are playing well. I want to try to get those teams back.”

They’ll get another shot against the Ravens in Week 17 and potentially in the AFC playoffs. They could get another shot at New England in the playoffs, as well.

The 49ers and Seahawks? That rematch would have to come in the Super Bowl. I’m sure Heyward would like for that to happen.

  • Linebacker Bud Dupree was penalized for roughing the passer in the fourth quarter last Sunday in a 20-13 win over the Cleveland Browns, a penalty CBS Sports NFL rules analyst Gene Steratore said earlier this week on WDVE was probably because Dupree hit quarterback Baker Mayfield too hard.

Dupree agreed. “Yeah, exactly,” he said. “That’s exactly what it was.”

The penalty came with 1:36 remaining in the game and gave the Browns 15 yards and a first down. Cornerback Joe Haden intercepted Mayfield two plays later to seal the Steelers’ victory, but things could have gone the other way, something Dupree said isn’t fair.

“Sometimes, I feel like the league should apologize for things like that,” Dupree said. “If it would have cost us the game, we’d be talking about a whole other situation. They’ve got to accept their responsibility, too.”

Dupree was not fined for the foul, which means the league office didn’t think it should have been a penalty, either, since personal fouls generate fines if the league office thinks they were legitimate calls.

Dupree has a point. Players are fined all the time for penalties committed during games, even if the play in question was accidental or incidental. Coaches are fined if they complain about those calls or say the slightest thing the league deems criticizes its officials.

The officials? They largely get a pass. If they are consistently bad, they simply don’t get to work playoff games. But they do continue working regular-season games, which determine who gets to the playoffs and who gets fired.

  • Three Steelers have won the NFL Defensive Player of the Year award in the past three decades: Rod Woodson in 1993, James Harrison in 2008 and Troy Polamalu in 2010. Linebacker T.J. Watt has been every bit as good, if not better, this year for the Steelers.

Will he win the award? Perhaps. There’s not an obvious frontrunner. What Watt does down the stretch could be the difference. He enters today’s game at Arizona with at least half a sack in nine consecutive games, one short of the franchise record and the longest current streak in the NFL. Extending that streak against the Cardinals, who have given up 42 sacks, sure would help his cause.

This week’s games

Steelers (minus 2) at Cardinals: Arizona’s horizontal offense isn’t going to challenge a speedy defense such as the one the Steelers put on the field. And Arizona’s pass defense is 32nd in the league. Keep an eye on the Steelers’ tight ends. The Cardinals have allowed 13 touchdown passes to tight ends. Take the Steelers, 23-17

Ravens (minus 6) at Bills: The Bills like to keep their safeties deep to prevent opposing quarterbacks from throwing deep on them. But that makes them soft against the run. That won’t work against the Ravens. And Buffalo should have trouble moving the ball against the Ravens. Take Baltimore, 24-13

Bengals (plus 8) at Browns: The Browns will likely win this game. But can they do it by more than a touchdown? The defense isn’t as stout without Myles Garrett. And with Andy Dalton back at quarterback, the Bengals can score. Take the Bengals to cover in a 24-20 loss

Chiefs (plus 3½) at Patriots: We’ve seen the Chiefs roll into New England and win in the past. And the Patriots just aren’t in a good place right now offensively. Tom Brady looks more and more like a 42-year-old quarterback each week. Kansas City’s pass rush will get to him. The Patriots also are on their fourth kicker of the season. Take the Chiefs, 23-16

Titans (minus 3) at Raiders: Oakland’s a tough place to play. But running back Josh Jacobs is beat up and the Raiders just aren’t good enough offensively to solve the Titans, who are playing well. The Titans are making a push and have to win this game with two games against the Texans and one against the Saints looming. Take the Titans, 27-17

Last Week: 2-3 Overall: 33-30-1

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

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