Prime Time Fiasco
The most ardent Steeler fan may have felt we got back on track in Sunday nights contest against the Chicago Bears, and by all intent and purposes we did, until the bottom fell out once again. The offense was able to fight back and bring themselves within’ four points with a little over ten minutes left in the fourth quarter, but the stop they needed the defense to make, didn’t happen. Then things got even uglier before the final whistle blew. In a night filled with sloppy undisciplined play, five turnovers erased whatever chance the Steelers had to pull off a victory. Down 17 to 0 after the first quarter, it was certainly looking as if this could be a blow out. Much credit needs to go to the Bears defense of course, they’re a solid unit with veteran play makers and a reputation for taking the ball away. Big Ben was again careless with the ball, throwing a pick six on an ill advised throw to Cotchery, who wasn’t even looking for the ball. Ben was also stripped twice when the pocket was quickly collapsing, one being returned for a TD which iced the game. There were however some much needed big plays courtesy of Antonio Brown, first making a 41 yard grab on 3rd down, then making two phenominal catches resulting in touchdowns, helping to put us back into the game. The ground game opened up a little with the return of Jonathan Dwyer, who also had keen blocks on passing plays, providing Big Ben more time to scan the field and get rid of the ball in time, versus all the scrambling around and panic plays which have become the norm these days.
The Steelers defense has two major flaws, they can’t stop the run, and they can’t get off the field on third down. The latter of which proved to be the nail in the coffin, just as we fought our way back to a four point deficit. The defense allowed Jay Cutler to scramble for thirteen yards on a 3rd and 12, trucking over rookie Robert Golden in embarrassing fashion, Next on a 3rd and long Cutler hits Brandon Marshall for a 41 yard gain, in what had otherwise been a quiet night for the pro bowl receiver. Finally on 3rd and 5 in the red zone, Cutler lofts a perfectly placed pass at the left corner of the end zone ending capping off a 75 yard drive with all the big plays coming on third down. It would be unfair to blame the defense for the loss, however one can help think that if we get the ball back after three and out, we’d have time to go down and score, given the momentum swing on offense. Instead Cutler and crew burned off about 6 minutes of the clock on the 75 yard drive.
Special teams provided good and bad moments, and both to penalties. The big momentum swing in the game occurred when a Bears players barreled into the punter, giving us a first down which enable Ben to hit Antonio Brown in the corner of the end zone for the first score. The momentum killer occurred when Brown was flagged for a senseless face mask penalty after gain all of two yards, taking the ball backwards fifteen yards. Otherwise Suisham was 2 for 2 on the night with no missed extra points.
By now everyone in Pittsburgh is calling for the firing of offensive coordinator Todd Haley, and though there does seem to be a disconnect with his style of offense and the play of Big Ben. I’m not going to be so quick to put the onus on him for the current state of performance of the offense, as their are other coordinators responsible for crafting the playing styles of these men. However, there are periods in drives when the momentum completely shuts down. After a nice run by Jonathan Dwyer off right tackle which gained 25 yards, Haley called for two consecutive running plays gaining 2 and 3 yards respectively. 3rd and 9 produced an incomplete and crucial pass, killing the drive and coming away with zero points.
Dick Lebeau, well, come on Dick, come up with a plan to stop teams on 3rd down, especially when the game is on the line. This team is loosing as a team, but there are times when one unit has to help the other. This was certainly the time to give the ball back to the offense, but Dick’s D simply could not stop Jay Cutler, who already had a less than memorable night.
Coach Tomlin somehow has to right this ship, I like the idea of him rotating the tackles, perfect chance to see who can handle their position as this unit is not doing their job. He seems to have a better relationship with Big Ben this year, but he’s going to have to really hone his coaching chops if this team has any chance of making a comeback. And certainly there are those in Pittsburgh that want him axed as well as Haley, but the Rooney’s are not going to making a change anytime soon. So the Yinzers will have to live with it until the bottom falls completely out, which I don’t foresee happening.
Each game this year has been a contest we should have one, none more dramatic than this one. This truly could have been the game that would have helped us to turn the corner, an impressive comeback and a triumphant win at home. Unfortunately another major egg was laid, leaving us all to scratch our heads and wonder how long it’s going to take before we see a W in the win column. There is fight in this team, you’ve got to give credit where credit is due, to come back in the fashion we did shows the resilience this team has been known for. There is a certain amount of toughness lacking, perhaps it’s due to the leaders we’ve lost, perhaps due to more youth and inexperience. But someone is going to have to step up soon and get this ship sailing straight, as we’re are not technically out of anything right now, it’s just time to start winning.