Coming off two stellar performances into a must win game that would have put them in a favorable wild card seating, the Steelers laid a big egg in another lackluster, uninspired performance. Just when you thought this team was on the upswing and were poised to come into Baltimore to hunt bear and bring it to their hated division rivals, they had that same ho-hum play not to lose mentality with zero motivation towards what was at stack. This has become the story of the 2013 Pittsburgh Steelers, conservative play calling, an very non-aggressive approach and playing down to their opponents. The most interesting thing about where this offense is, is that the offensive line played well in this game. Big Ben was not sacked, Le’veon Bell ran for 80 yards, and even with the continued injuries and substitutions they were still within’ a two point conversion of tying the game. In fact when Fernando Velasquez went down with an ankle injury, right tackle and reserve center Cody Wallace came into the game for the final two plays. I thought for certain there were be an arrant snap or a miscue, but he did nicely and it was drop by wide receiver Emanuel Sanders which ended hopes of going into overtime. Big Ben did a good job of throwing into the dirt on crucial downs, and Emanuel Sanders did a good job of dropping easy passes that would’ve equaled points. So again, they managed to shoot themselves in the foot with yet another underachieving performance in the most pivotal match-up of the season.
As has been the case with most of the Steelers losses this season, they have a miraculous come from behind then attempt to win the game in the final seconds (i.e. Titans, Vikings, etc). The Thanksgiving day match-up was no exception. After giving up a six minutes drive on defense to start the third quarter, the offense went no huddle and moved the ball from their own 20 in 7 places to get their first TD of the night. After a twelve play scoring drive to start the fourth quarter, the Steelers got the ball back with 5:37 on the clock in what was a bizarre final attempt to get a score. On second and ten from the Balt 20 yard line, Big Ben threw a strike to Heath Miller that was initially called a TD, then reversed after the review as Millers knee was down at the one. Two plays later Le’Veon Bell skirted off left guard and looked to have a clean shot at the goal line, however Antonio Brown failed to follow through on his block and his man came flying in head first and connected with the ear hole of Bell’s helmet in what was one of the most violet collision in recent memory. Bell was knocked out cold yet they gave him the touchdown, until the review showed that his helmet flew off before the ball broke the plan of the goal line. I was looking for a helmet to helmet flag, it never dropped as Bell laid there motionless and completely knocked out cold.
Hardly prepared for their opponent that’s for sure, knowing full well Big Joe would be taking shots down field early, there was no safety help over the top and they were unable to stop them on third downs. The Steelers defense has had no pass rush to speak of all season, in this game they had even less. What ever happened to the ingenious ‘exotic blitzes’ Dick Lebeau has become famous for, the stunt blitzes? Outside linebacker rookie phenom Jarvis Jones didn’t even show on the stat sheet, zero impact for a young man selected first round in the draft and someone who showed such promise early on. These match-ups aren’t as much about brawn against brawn any longer, it’s about stopping the big plays and putting Big Joe down like we used to do when Debo was with us. Instead, the vaunted Steelers defense allowed the Rat-Birds to score on each one of their second half possessions. Very poor by every stretch of the word.
These are the games where Special Teams usually play a key role in winning or loosing, though it would be unfair to blame the lose on this unit, they were definitely a contributing factor. It’s a little difficult to comment on the botched field goal, it was explained that they were working off a ‘cadence’ because of the crowd noise. Cadence? Crowd noise? What happens when the championship game is on the line and you’re playing an away game? I sincerely have never seen anything like that before, don’t all kickers start their approach to the ball when they see it being snapped, then placed? It you didn’t see this missed field goad attempt is was quite the spectacle, Sean Suisham started towards the ball before it was even snapped, he was about a foot ahead of the holder by the time the ball was even snapped. Then of course there was the usual return by Jacob Jones, when are they going to realize they’ve got to kick away from this guy. 73 yards later it took Coach Tomlin to step onto the field to help make the stop, you know you’re in trouble when you need help from the bench.
It may be a safe bet Offensive Coordinator Todd Haley wrote out the game plan on a napkin during the bus ride to Baltimore, it certainly lacked thought, creativity, or any aggressive approach that showed a desire to attack and score. After three humdrum running plays to start the game, it was again a series of miscues and random plays resulting in a scoreless first half. I can’t figure out what the defensive game plan was supposed to be, for as many times as Dick Lebeau has coached against Joe Flacco, you’d like to think he’d have something in place to stop him. The Ratbirds scored on each of their possessions in the second half of the game, albeit at 3 points a clip, it all adds up in the end. Perhaps the most aggressive coaching ploy occurred when Coach Tomlin stepped onto the field to trip the kick off return man, well of course he was only looking at the jumbo-tron. I was reminded of all the times Bill Cower tried to run onto the field and make a play, even though I didn’t approve of Tomlin’s tactic, at least someone was making an effort to stop them. How many times has Jones ran back punts and kick-offs against us, almost every game, yet they kick right to him and give him an open lane to run back.
Simply put, very disappointing. A must win game in prime time against our most hated rivals, and it was just one big dud. Passive, non aggressive, uninspiring play from a team who should have been ready to take the world by storm. The days of banging heads with the Rat-Birds inch by inch, drudge by drudge are over. Now they find themselves virtually out of any hope of a sixth seed play-off birth. Like so many games they should’ve won this year, the Steelers wait until the last gasp play of the game to win, and it hasn’t worked yet.
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