After a week off, Flavell's Five Thoughts is back. Unfortunately, after a second straight loss, things aren't as cheery as they've been throughout every other edition this season.
Following an 11-0 start, the Steelers have fallen flat on their face in the past few games and haven't looked good for about four games now. The losses seemed like they were coming, and now they've faced two in a row.
On the bright side, the Steelers own the NFL record for most consecutive games with a sack at 70 and counting. That's one of the few positives.
It's time to dig in and dissect some things. Let's discuss.
Cam Heyward Was Incredible
One of the few bright spots on the Steelers Sunday was Cam Heyward.
Heyward is very often a disruptive force but seemed to be extra geared up for the Bills game. Heyward has always been one to get fired up after losses. One of the team leaders in the room, Heyward, is typically agitated following losses, and this one seemed like no exception.
Heyward didn't record a sack in this contest and the Bills did a remarkable job shutting him down in the second half and adjusting to his dominance. But he remained a force the whole time. He made sure to let Josh Allen know he was there all night long.
Injuries Absolutely Decimated the Steelers
It's very hard to win in the NFL, minus your best cornerback and multiple linebackers. It's even harder when during the game, you lose two offensive linemen and one of the few linebackers left on your team was in and out due to a handful of injuries.
Matt Feiler and Kevin Dotson were lost earlier on in the game. Alex Highsmith was in and out of an already depleted defense. Even Heyward was being worked on late in the game. This mix isn't going to help much.
Pittsburgh already is without Joe Haden, Bud Dupree, and Devin Bush. However, the defense was fairly good Sunday.
Eventually, injury luck was going to go the opposite way of the Steelers. Injuries continue to slowly catch up to them. It's not a good time for the Steelers to be losing people when the trade deadline is over, and your only additions can come from people off the street.
Roethlisberger Has Got to Step up His Play
The reports are out about Roethlisberger's potential knee injury. Whether it's hindering him all that much is certainly the question. It certainly seems to be.
Roethlisberger threw for just over 200 yards and tossed two touchdown passes. Those numbers were coupled with a couple of picks as well. Much of the good Roethlisberger was doing early in the season has been undone in the past four games.
It seems like Roethlisberger is missing his targets more frequently. His receivers are certainly dropping the safe throws, so that isn't helping. But his efficiency and accuracy has seemed to go in the wrong direction and has been a large part of the Steelers' close calls over the past four games.
At the end of the day, many people will blame Fichtner. Many will blame it on the lack of a run game. Certainly, lots of people will attribute it to the costly drops by the receiving core. This team starts and stops with Roethlisberger and if he isn't going right, this team isn't going to either.
The Browns Are Lurking
The Browns and Ravens play Monday night. A Browns win could make the Steelers really begin to sweat.
What once seemed like it wouldn't be an important matchup that could see Pittsburgh sit a lot of important starters is turning into what could be for the division.
A Chiefs win on Sunday gave them the first seed in the AFC, and it's likely that the Steelers won't be wrestling that back. Kansas City almost has to lose out at this point and that's unlikely to happen.
If Pittsburgh falls into a trap and loses to the Bengals next Monday night, things are going to get very hairy over the final two weeks. The Steelers clinched a playoff spot on Sunday with a Dolphins loss, but they are by no means safe.
How embarrassing would it be if Cleveland sneaks in and steals a division title from Pittsburgh after an absolute collapse over the final month of the season? Maybe someone should bring that possibility up to the players and see how they respond.
Tomlin's Decision Following Pick-Six Was Curious
I'm a staunch Tomlin defender, but the debacle after the pick-six can't be ignored.
Roethlisberger threw an ugly pick-six to give the Bills a 9-7 lead at halftime. The touchdown occurred with just under a minute to go. Mike Tomlin had two timeouts in his back pocket.
The first play from scrimmage was a handoff, and no timeout was used. They ran one more play and let time run to the half. I mean, c'mon.
You just gave Buffalo all the momentum, and they were going to get the ball first in the second half. The Steelers didn't even attempt to put points on the board even though they had two timeouts.
Maybe it's because they couldn't move the ball, and Tomlin weighed risk vs. reward and felt that going to the half was the smarter move. It just didn't seem like the prudent course of action. How much would that have helped keep some momentum on the Steelers' side? Who knows.
We'll never know. All we know is that the Buffalo Bills defeated Pittsburgh and handed the Steelers their second straight loss. Things are trending down for the home team. Let's see how they respond on Monday night against the Bengals.