The Black Hole
Anyone in Steeler Nation who thought the Steelers were going to go into the Black Hole and win this game was either wishful thinking, or hadn’t been watching the last several match-ups between these two teams. Perhaps the ghosts of Championships past are getting redemption for all the Steeltown ass-whoopings of the seventies, or maybe it’s on a more metaphysical level of simply going into a parallel universe, where an uphill climb is an insurmountable task. However one chooses to perceive this most recent disaster by the Black and Gold, simply put, we just stink. All three phases of the game failed miserably, with the exception of the defense shutting out the Raiders in the second half, this team fell flat on it’s face in embarrassing fashion. Clearly Offensive Coordinator Todd Haley didn’t feel that any vertical attack was necessary as a series of dumps offs, short passes’, bubbles screens and draw plays were all this bland offense could muster up. Of course there were the usual offensive penalties that turned manageable third and fives into third and longs, resulting in sacks as always seems to be the case. Truly a hard game to watch, one in which you hoped would soon end regardless of who won. Big Ben was 29-45 for 275 yards, one TD and 2 interceptions, with a whopping 6.1 yards per play. The offense mustered up a mere 35 yards on the ground, not even two yards per carry.
On the first offensive series, Big Ben launches the ball about four feet too deep to a wide open Antonio Brown. I would be understanding if that was the first play of the pre-season, but not game seven. Another potential touchdown taken off the board on what is supposed to be a routine play on any NFL team. That was about as far as they tried to push down the field for the rest of the game, it’s the same offensive week after week, inching our way down the field to settle for three points.
Whereas there’s blame to go around from top to bottom in this loss, the only silver lining of this stench-fest was that the defense kept the Raiders out of the end zone in the second half. And though they gave up 197 yards rushing, 93 of that of course came on the very first play of the game. Knowing full well they were facing a rookie quarterback who was going to be running a lot of read option plays, how they got totally fooled and burned on the first play of the game is mind boggling. And they had an entire week to prepare for this. They did have three turnovers, including two interceptions and one fumble recover, but still getting no pressure on the QB. Not that Terrell Pryor was going to be lighting it up in the passing game, he was 10 of 19 for a grand total of 88 yards, they always seem to find a way to play down to their competition. Their opponent next week is Tom Terrific, it’s unlikely he’ll be running any read option plays. It’s safe to say at this point, this is about as good as this defense is going to get.
Our ace in the hole had his worst game of the season, after making his first kick of 47 yards for 3 points in the first quarter, Sean Suisham’s next two kicks sliced to the right of the goal post from 34 and 32 yards out respectively. Hard to fathom how a place kicker of Suisham’s consistency and ability could miss two rudimentary kicks, but such is life in the black hole.
The week leading up to the game, Coach Tomlin decided to give his team a little history lesson by showing them some of the battles the Steelers faced back in the seventies against Oakland. Nothing wrong with that, certainly the Raiders were our biggest and most hated adversary, the rivalry has lost it’s luster over the years and has been replaced by the Rat-birds. Clearly it served no purpose by way of motivating them, I don’t even Lynn Swann or Jack Lambert could’ve helped this current unit. Tomlin would’ve been wise to prepare his team for the current battle, as they were as ill prepared as they’ve been all year. This was a Steelers team that was playing with zero sense of urgently, they had all day to win, instead just floundered around in a fog.
Not certain what Todd Haley will have to do with the remaining nine games to keep his job, he has to shoulder a good amount of the responsibility for the offensive just sputtering and sputtering. Someone correct me if I’m wrong, but wasn’t the reason for changing offensive coordinators because we weren’t scoring touchdowns in the red-zone? It does not appear that plan has worked, as the current approach is clearly to inch their way as close to the goal line as dumps offs, bubble screen and short passes will get them, then kick fields goals.
Based on the past several meetings between these two teams, and especially the ones played in Oakland, I didn’t have a good feeling about this game, and everything pretty much unfolded in the fashion I thought it would. I don’t believe in the mystic, or ghosts of seasons past, but there’s something about the black hole that puts the Steelers in an uncontrollable funk. All of these losses are difficult to watch, but with 12 minutes left in the game and only one-two scores behind, the game just dragged on in excruciating fashion.
At 2-4 we had a chance to dig ourselves out of the hole and keep on trucking, at 2-5 and upcoming games featuring proficient quarterbacks like Tom Terrific, Matt Stafford, and Aaron Rogers, we’ll be lucky if we match last years record of 8-8.
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