Le'Veon Bell leaps over Detroit defenders in the second quarter Sunday at Heinz Field.
By Bob Smizik / Special to the Post-Gazette
Second-day thoughts on the Steelers’ 37-27 win over the Detroit Lions:
* Le’Veon Bell has carried 120 times in his brief NFL career and gained 375 yards. In the first 120 carries of Rashard Mendenhall’s career, he gained 635 yards. Should anyone suggest Mendenhall ran behind a superior line, these were the five men in front of him 2009, when he had the most of those carries: Max Starks, Chris Kemoeatu, Justin Hartwig, Trai Essex, Willie Colon.
* When the NFL Network last week mentioned a "disconnect" between Ben Roethlisberger and offensive coordinator Todd Haley, a lot of fans picked up on that very vague word. It suggests something was wrong when actually it is completely normal to not be totally connected to another person, particularly in the workplace. If you read the excellent ''Their Life’s Work,’’ by Gary Pomerantz, you’ll discover there was a significant "disconnect" between Terry Bradshaw and Chuck Noll
* Since Bell gained 93 yards on 19 carries against Baltimore on Oct. 20 -- and was overly praised by some as having arrived -- he has carried 69 times for 191 yards, a 2.77-yard average. Bell is not a bust. It's way, way too early for that. But his play has been disappointing.
* The offensive line drew deserved praise for its protection of Roethlisberger. But it should not be forgotten that it was going up against one of the worst teams in the league at sacking the quarterback. The Lions had one fewer sack than the Steelers going into the game and rank 30th in the league with 16.
* On a more negative note, the offensive line opened up next to no running room against a defense that had been allowing an average of 100 yards a game. The Steelers rushed for 40 yards on 27 carries.
* Add this to the on-going debate concerning execution (players) vs. strategy (coaches) from Gerry Dulac’s report card: ''It would be easy to say the Steelers changed their game plan and adjusted at halftime after the Lions put up 27 points in the second quarter with big pass plays. But defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau didn't make any changes and the players simply responded.’’
* Jerricho Cotchery has been among the most pleasant surprise this season for the Steelers. Given a larger role, he has has responded spectacularly. He has caught more passes for more yards in 10 games in 2013 -- 34 for 503 -- than he did in 27 games in 2011 and 2012 -- 33 for 442. And he has accomplished that while being targeted fewer times -- 49 to 57.
* After accumulating only one takeaway in the first six games, the Steelers have eight in their past four.
* In 10 games this season, Antonio Brown has caught more passes than in any season in his career. He has 74 catches for 952 yards and five touchdowns. The man he replaced as the Steelers top receiver, Mike Wallace, has 44 catches for 534 yards and one touchdown with Miami.
* Somewhat overlooked in victory: Ike Taylor dropping two easy interceptions on drives in which the Lions eventually scored touchdowns; Roethlisberger badly overthrowing David Paulsen in the end zone and the Steelers settling for a field goal; Brown failing to catch a pass in the end zone while wide open, which was rendered meaningless when they scored three plays later.
* The Steelers are 28th in the league with 18 sacks. They have allowed 38 sacks, third worst in the league.
* The good news is the Steelers are one game behind Miami and the New York Jets for the second wild-card spot. The bad news is they are one of six teams tied for that position. The six teams with 4-6 records, the combined records of their six remaining opponent and their conference record: Steelers 29-32, 3-4; Cleveland Browns 27-32, 3-4; Baltimore Ravens 31-29, 4-4; Tennessee Titans 29-31, 3-4; Oakland Raiders 36-24, 4-4; San Diego Chargers 36-24, 2-5.
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