Capping off their eighth loss of the 2013 season, the Steelers again followed the same redundant script that has officially taken them out of playoff contention. In what was ideal weather conditions for December football in Steeltown, the Dolphins of Miami were hardly phased by the snow, ice and cold that permeated the turf. After going their normal three and out on the first drive, Big Ben lead a nice 12 play drive with a heavy dose of running back Le’Veon Bell, ending with a 5 yard TD toss to Emanuel Sanders. That would be the highlight of the first half, until the first possession of the second half when Ben connected with Antonio Brown for another nifty catch and weave for a 43 yard TD. After a phenomenal pick six by Troy Polamalu, the tide had turned to our favor with a 21-17 advantage. But the defense drew right from that same script and allowed a 3 and 4 to turn into a forty yard gain, and before you knew it the Dolphins went up on us again, 24-17.
And so it went, they score, we score, they score, until there’s just not enough time on the clock to try to win with the score now being 34-28. The game ended on a razzle dazzle ball flipping march down the field with no time on the clock. Oddly enough the ball ended up in Antonio Brown’s hand and he skirted down the sideline with nothing but open space ahead of him, unfortunately he stepped out of bounds around the 12 yard line, three inches from victory. Big Ben finished the day 23-39 for 349 yards and three touchdowns, not too shabby a day in snow ice and wind. But alas, not enough effort to secure a victory.
They’re a myriad of problems with this 2013 Steelers Defense, and they do a good job of fitting all their deficiency into each game. They can’t tackle, they can’t stop teams on 3rd down, they’re out of position on scoring plays, they get suckered in on fakes, etc. By far the most beleaguering deficiency is the inability to protect a lead, especially in the fourth quarter and waning moments of a game. Every time the offense goes ahead, the defense gives up the lead just as quick. Clinging to a 28-24 lead with 4:31 left in the game, the Dolphins had the ball at their own 20 and marched 80 yards to take the lead. That drive included a 55 yard run by Daniel Thomas, then what occured was quite possibly one of the worst plays in Steeler history. QB Ryan Tannehill connected with Charles Clay on a simple crossing route, corner back Cortez Allen and safety Troy Polamalu both converged on the ball carrier near the far sideline. Polamalu tried to strip the ball while Allen I think was trying to tie his shoe laces together in an effort to trip him. However neither player was able to bring Clay to the ground as he squirted free and jaunted in for the game clinching touchdown. Talk about a dagger in the heart, a pitiful display indeed. This unit needs help, don’t count on them for stops when you need them, and don’t count on them to hold the lead.
It would be unfair to point out the efforts of some men, more specifically the play of Jason Worilds and Cam Heyword. Worilds has excelled since moving to the left outside linebacker spot, so much so that it looks as if he’ll be replacing Lamar Woodley at that spot moving forward. Worilds is getting pressure, sacks, and has had consecutive strips on the QB in the last several games. Just the type of productivity we have been sorely missing, and certainly what we have all been expecting from #93 for quite some time. Similarly Cam Heyword is turning up the heat from his defensive end position, bull rushing, swatting passes, and becoming a force to be reckoned with.
Suisham hit all three extra points, punting was good in bad weather, and there were no run-backs or returns for scores. Most importantly Coach Tomlin stayed on the sideline during kick-offs and punts.
One thing’s for certain, the players aren’t screwing up all on their own, it takes some keen Coaching decisions from the sidelines to help screw things up as well. I’ll leave Offensive Coordinator Todd Haley off the hook this week, his offense produced 420 total yards, 28 points and only one turnover in very inclement weather conditions. The issue however with Defensive Coordinator Dick LeBeau is another one all together. We respect LeBeau, he’s in the hall of fame, his Defenses have been in the top five predominately during the course of his coaching career. However what we’re seeing game after game is an inability to stop teams on 3rd downs, players dreadfully out of position in the red zone. It seems as if they’re never prepared for the obvious, i.e. Calvin Johnson, Torey Smith, Rob Gronkowski, etc. These boners occur game after game, and it’s the Defensive Coordinator who is responsible for game preparation and in game strategy. The once mighty Steelers defense has killed us this year. Granted there are several rookies, several young players starting for the first time. Problem is, by week 13, even the young players should have a clue. We are seeing great development from players like Cam Heyword, Jason Worilds, and of course Larry Timmons has been consistent throughout the year. However players like rookie first round pick Jarvis Jones middle linebacker Vince Williams are making little progress and even less impact.
The big debate this week is Coach Tomlin’s decision to go for in on 4th and 10 from his own 20 yard line, 2:23 left in the game trailing 31-28. The logic being an issue of time, assuming the defense could hold them to a field goal, that would give the Steelers the ball back with enough time to score the go ahead TD, versus allowing the Dolphins to burn up the clock after a punt. There’s certainly merit in that thinking, but what is extremely puzzling and debilitating is the fact that Tomlin burned a time out because they didn’t have the correct play call in place. Another glowing example of how inept this team has been in games. Situational football, Something Tomlin prided himself on in his early days of Coaching here in Pittsburgh, yet time and time again they have to waste time outs due to being ill prepared. Another Coaching decision I absolutely HATE! Is the fourth and short where they try to pull the defense offside. They seemingly always do it and it never fools anyone. A real time waster and I’m not certain who the mastermind is with that decision, but you’d have to guess Tomlin is using his strategic prowess on that one.
Kiss the season and the play-offs goodbye, this was by far the most demoralizing defeat of the year and you could see it in the faces of the players after the game, reality has finally sunk in. One more prime time embarrassment against the high flying Bungles this coming Sunday night, then we can coast our way out with Green Bay and Cleveland, then call it a year.
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