Finally, the Steelers were driving. Faced with a one-score deficit midway through the fourth quarter, Kenny Pickett completed six passes and drove Pittsburgh down to the Dolphins’ 15-yard line. On a 3rd-and-1, the Steelers seemed poised to pick up the first down and continue their march towards the end zone.
Instead, they got flagged for an illegal formation. Matt Canada tried to get too cute at the worst possible time.
Mike Tirico and Cris Collinsworth let him have it.
The play in question was a QB sneak from Pickett with wideout Miles Boykin lining up behind him. But Boykin was in the wrong position. The Steelers were penalized five yards, and took another penalty for holding on the ensuing play. Suddenly, 3rd-and-1 turned into 3rd-and-16. Predictably, Pickett ended the drive with his third interception of the day: a ball thrown right to Miami safety Jevon Holland.
Why not just a simple handoff to Najee Harris, or conventional QB run?
Tirico and Collinsworth were baffled in the “Sunday Night Football” booth.
“That 3rd-and-1 play, they were being successful, they were moving the ball. Then they went to a trick,” said Tirico. “To have Boykin come right behind the quarterback, and push him, aka Philly, who they’re going to see next week. And those tricks are great sometimes, sometimes they’re difference-makers. And that’s the conundrum of a play-caller. You just stay basic there, you’re gonna pick up that one yard with two shots at it.”
Collinsworth added on.
“It’s a killer, right?,” he said. “It’s going perfectly. You had the defense in their heels, they were tired. It was the end of the game. It was so Pittsburgh Steelers, the way the game was going.”
Right on cue, Levi Wallace dropped an easy interception on the next play. It was the Steelers’ fourth dropped INT of the night.
But still: the Steelers defense held the high-flying Dolphins to 16 points — and just nine after their first drive. This loss was on the offense. The Steelers are now averaging just 15.3 points per game, second-worst in the NFL.
“To call this a high school offense would be demeaning to high school football,” a former Steelers quarterback told Andrew Fillipponi.
As many pointed out, it seems like the Steelers’ playbook doesn’t expand past 10 plays. Canada calls the same sequence all of the time: run, shuffle pass, rinse and repeat.
Ironically, on the one occasion he tried to get complicated, it blew up in the Steelers’ face. Figures.