Be sure to check out my first quarter and second quarter notes, too.
- I'm sure everyone in the Steelers blog-o-verse will be up in arms about offensive coordinator Bruce Arians's decision to go with a play-action pass on 4th-&-1 deep inside of Carolina's territory. I suppose that's legitimate, but Pittsburgh has long been ineffective in the short-yardage running game, and the play was well-executed, as Rashard Mendenhall got really close to the sticks. For my part, I'm putting Roethlisberger in the shotgun there; it's like semi-bluffing in poker, as it gives you two ways to win: your quarterback might find an open man, and he can run for the first down if need be.
- Regardless of the call, I like the decision to go for it. Increasing your lead from 20-0 to 23-0 doesn't really help, since your opponent is still trailing by three scores. Might as well be aggressive and try to put the game away. Worst-case scenario: you have your opponent pinned in their own territory and you're likely to enjoy fantastic field position on your following drive. (To the surprise of no one whatsoever, that's exactly what transpired; Roethlisberger and the offense took the field on Carolina's 35.)
- The Steelers cashed in on their next possession, as Roethlisberger dove into the end zone on 3rd-&-short. Great play, of course - and I think we'll see Roethlisberger quarterback-diving behind center Maurkice Pouncey a lot for the next five or six years - but it was discouraging to see Rashard Mendenhall get stuffed on the previous two plays. Why Pittsburgh has been so terrible in those kind of situations for the last couple seasons, I'm hesitant to say. The easy scapegoat is the offensive line. We'll see if the Steelers address their offensive front in next year's draft.
- I said earlier that the Steelers had to focus on Jonathan Stewart, and I have to say, he's had more success (52 yards, 4.3 ypc) through three quarters than I expected - I even dropped him in one of my fantasy leagues! -against Pittsburgh's dominant defensive front. You have to feel for a player like Stewart (or linebacker Jon Beason). I can't imagine what it must be like to be a fantastic player on a thoroughly terrible team.
- Hopefully we'll see some Steelers reserves come onto the field in the fourth quarter. With Pittsburgh leading Carolina 27-0, the game is essentially over, and this is a wonderful opportunity for head coach Mike Tomlin to rest his starters and get his younger depth players invaluable playing time.