The game was played at an NFL venue but did not have the normal look or feel of an NFL game. Normal professional offenses don’t opt to run the football on third and long, but the Lions are a special kind of offense right now.
There were plenty of reasons as to why the Lions finished in a 16-16 tie. Let’s take a look at three of the more prominent things that caused this insane game to end in a draw.
The ground game
D’Andre Swift, Godwin Igwebuike, and Jermar Jefferson combined for 39 carries for 229 yards, good for 5.9 yards per carry as a team.
The offensive line was consistently resetting the line of scrimmage and giving running backs big lanes to run through. As it certainly looks, the unit got a boost with veteran left tackle Taylor Decker returning from injury. Having Penei Sewell in for Matt Nelson at right tackle immediately upgraded two positions.
It also freed up Nelson for swing tackle duty against the Steelers, something the offense took advantage of several times, including on the long touchdown run by Jefferson, the long touchdown run by Igwebuike, and Swift’s hurdle.
Tracy Walker is ascending
Walker really seems to be finding his groove in his 4th season as a pro. He ended up leaving the game early with an apparent head injury, but prior to that, he was making plays all over the field.
With all of the youth in the rest of the Lions' secondary, Walker’s steady play and leadership has been vital. He is consistently around the ball, directing traffic pre-snap, brings the wood several times a game, and is one of the emotional leaders on the team.
Hopefully, his injury doesn’t keep him out for too long. Losing him for any amount of time would be a massive blow to a unit that cannot afford any more injuries.
The (lack of) passing game
The fact that the Lions were able to run the ball the way they did is truly a testament to the offensive line and how they handled the Steelers front today.
Without ANY semblance of a passing game or downfield threat, eventually, Pittsburgh was able to hone in on the Lions' ground game, and they still didn’t have much luck slowing things down.
It’s not just the final stat line for quarterback Jared Goff that is so concerning. Don’t get me wrong, 14 completions on 25 attempts for 114 yards (4.6 yards per attempt) is truly terrible. But what really killed the Lions is the fact that opponents knew Goff had zero interest in even thinking about taking shots.
And even when the staff drew up something downfield, like they did with the deep pass to Kalif Raymond, Goff was late with his processing and timing, resulting in an under thrown ball instead of a big play.
I try to not be too reactionary with my assessments, and we don’t know the severity of Goff’s injuries, but something has to change moving forward with this offense.
This young Lions team competed today. They made plays. Forced takeaways. You cannot keep trotting out Goff if this is all you are going to get from him, or you risk the team losing faith in the long-term picture of this rebuild.