Steelers 24 – Buccaneers 27
It’s becoming increasingly difficult to watch Steeler games, if they are not getting completely blown out and embarrassed, they’re slugging along flat footed and making lesser opponents seem good. While everyone in the free world assumed the Steelers, coming off a dominant performance against a good Carolina team, were going to maul and manhandle the lowly Buccaneers, it was quite the opposite. After deferring the kick-off, Tampa Bay set the tone right out of the gate by sacking Big Ben on the second play of the game, following that up with a strip sack giving them the ball at the Pitt 9 yard line. Coach Tomlin’s tongue in cheek response in his post gamer press conference, was that the inordinate amount of penalty flags were the primary cause of their defeat. What he fails to recognize however, in a nutshell, is the deficiency in all three units to hold the lead, and that more so is what led to another embarrassing defeat.
Got punched in the mouth as soon as they got the ball to open the game, 1st play from scrimmage, no gain, 2nd play, sack minus 6 yards, 3rd play strip sack minus 5 yards giving the Bucs a 1st and goal at the Steelers 9. And that pretty much set the tone for the rest of the game, the offensive line which played so brilliantly a week before, was back to getting pushed around and bullied by an inferior opponent. Sure there were some splash plays and a couple of milestones accomplished, but when the proverbial shit hit the fan, it was the offense’s inability to convert a third and five with 50 seconds on the clock to secure the lead and victory.
Health Miller had a solid game, 10 catches for 85 yards and one TD, he passed Hall Of Fame great Lynn Swann as the fourth leading receiver in Steelers history. Antonio Brown set an NFL record by snaring 5 catches or more across twenty games, but it was the one he should have caught that put Pittsburgh in a trick bag. Early in the fourth quarter clinging to a 24-20 lead, Ben executed a perfect flee-flicker and launched the ball deep to AB who had beaten double coverage. In what would normally be a routine grad for the All Pro receiver, the ball careened off his hands, that was the last chance the Steelers had of reaching the red zone.
The old adage of “any given Sunday”, or any team in the NFL can win on any given day, certainly applies in this match-up. Tampa Bay was starting it’s back up quarterback, their top rookie receiver Mike Evans left the game with a groin injury early in the second half, and the hero of the game was a receiver they just signed this past week. Still the Defense found a way to play down to their competition, in fact they got softer as the game wore on.
Cornerback Cortez Allen was targeted all day, Tampa apparently saw him as the weak link and he lived up to his billing. I’ve been unable to figure out since 2010, why Steelers Cornerbacks do not turn and look for the ball, they do an excellent job in most cases of playing the receiver, but that does little to help them locate the ball when it’s in the air. It looked as if Troy Polamalu was starting to come out of his shell, though he is still lacking in pass coverage as is newly signed Mike Mitchell, who seems more content to pound his chest when he makes a tackle then to involve himself with pass coverage.
Sean Spence was in for the injured Ryan Shazier, he had big struggles handling the size and strength of the Tampa Bay offensive lineman. One shining moment was seeing former Defensive Playier Of The Year (2008), James Harrison, back in uniform. I’ll say he acquitted himself nicely for a man who just got off the couch to come and help out, but time will tell. The defense as a whole were right back to their lack luster play, seeming confused, out of position, and getting pushed around like rag dolls, yet again. Very disturbing and one has to wonder if there really is any hope this unit will improve, so far it’s not looking that way, even after last weeks one hit performance. Of course we can’t lay any blame on our defensive coordinator, he is the great genius and Hall Of Fame coach.
Not much a contribution from this group today, Sean Suisham missed a 50 yard field goal, which should certainly be a gimme for a newly minted kicker playing at home on a clear crisp autumn day. AB had no punt returns, and well, kick off returns are becoming a thing of the past anyway so nothing to report there. And, just as you were holding your breath for a good punt back to Tampa with 50 tics on the clock, all Brad Wing could muster was a 29 yard kick to the Steelers 45. Game, set, match!
One thing you could generally count on from Coach Tomlin, his team would be well prepared and motivated at the start of the game, seems those qualities have escaped him. What’s also troubling, and certainly not without merit, is that he blamed the loss on the excessive amount of penalties. Here’s the thing Coach, if your offense converts 3rd and 5, the games over. This isn’t the 1975 Steel Curtain, if you’re relying on this 2014 defense to hold a lead or close out a game, you’d have better luck playing the lottery. One might begin to think Tomlin has become out of touch with his team, they are certainly unmotivated and undisciplined, and that is by his own admission.
Just when you thought we were back in the race, here comes that same Bear riding our collective backs. A better stage could not have been set, playing at home against a team that was embarrassed beyond belief, a back up green horn QB, etc. Yet, as has become the current personality of this team, under achieving, listlessness, lethargy, the Steelers once again pissed away a game they should not only have won, but won big. Should be an interesting game next week against a sub five hundred Jacksonville Jaguar team, who will be starting a Rookie Quarterback, it’s a scary thought indeed …