Loosing In Grand Style
For those who were sitting on the edge of their seat when it was 3rd and goal with 19 seconds left, you have my sympathies. I’ll give Big Ben and company credit for going the length of the field with a minute forty something left on the clock, but the strip and fumble recovery was a fitting end to another miserable loss. There were again those flashes where we looked like we were in sync, and credit must be givin’ to rookie Le’Veon Bell making his first NFL start. Except I was not thrilled to see him do a somersault into the end zone on his first touchdown run, this guy has been frail enough as it is, a stupid rookie mistake. However the same scenario when it comes to feeble line play, negative plays, and Ben taking sacks because he refuses to get rid of the ball. Left tackle Mike Adams got abused and whipped all day long by veteran Jarod Allen, whiffing relentlessly and giving up sacks on crucial downs, particularly on 3rd and goal late in the first half. Not certain why he wasn’t replaced by Beachum early on, except that Beachum had to replace Roman Foster who was inured. Of course there were the usual bubble screens which lost chunks of yardage, and then the classic interception by Ben after scrambling around and hurling the ball blindly into the arms of a waiting linebacker. These weekly foibles are becoming so commonplace and predictable, it’s becoming more painful to watch with each successive loss. It would be unfair to not give credit where credit is due, and certainly coming back on a nice drive to potentially tie the game was great. But the sack and strip on 3rd and goal is a bit much to take, but that’s who they are as coach Tomlin will say.
The Vikings came into week 4 with the same record as the Steelers, 0-3, except they were starting back up quarterback Matt Cassel. Certainly looked on paper as if stopping Adrian Peterson, then letting Cassel throw the ball would be a good enough plan to become victorious for the first time this season. Uh-ah, not these Steelers. Lack of hustle, lethargic play, poor execute, much of the same as we’ve seen from this crew in the first three loses. It’s amazing how they can make a back up journeyman like Matt Cassel look like the second coming of Tom Brady. Then there’s all that talk about how the Steelers defense has no turnovers on the year, well, a team has to want to take the ball away in order to get them. Ike Taylor has a pick six bounce off his hands, and then in the first quarter in the end zone, another chance to intercept. Early in the fourth quarter Lamar Woodley finally gets enough pressure to strip the ball from Cassel, three Steelers laying around not knowing where the ball was bouncing around, which ended up being recovered by Minnesota. Then there’s Greg Jennings, burned us in Super Bowl 45, came back to burn us again. Jennings took an 8 yard reception and turned it into a seventy yards scamper right to the end zone, no one on the defense could tackle him or keep up with him to run him down. I didn’t want to think jet lag would be a factor, but the defense sure did look like they could’ve used a couple hours more sleep before stepping onto the field at Wembley Stadium. It was quite curious to see how Lamar Woodley reacted when Adrian Paterson blew by him for a sixty yard touchdown run. Instead of reacting to the play, it looked as if he was engaged in some type of dance with the tight end, while Peterson was blowing by him he just looked at him as if to say, “hey, isn’t that Adrian Peterson, Wow!” The defense looked comical and buffoonish, stumbling over themselves, no aggression or toughness whatsoever.
In an episode of the NFL series ‘America’s Game’ after winning Super Bowl 43, Head Coach Mike Tomlin opined about how some people concentrate more on the end result of their work, whereas he appreciates the process more and loves stopping to smell the roses along the way. Well the aroma that permeates through this 2013 journey could hardly be compared to roses, simply put, it stinks. Tomlin is no longer leading the Championship team he inherited, he is now in charge of the team that Tomlin built, this is his baby and he owns it. Everything from hiring Offensive Coordinator Todd Haley, line Coach Jack Bicknell, right down to the ‘zone blocking’ scheme to the entire concept of the ‘keep Big Ben healthy’ plan. So why then does Tomlin look like a dear in the headlights during games, he looks more like a guy who’s just committed a crime and he’s trying to blend in with the crowd, instead of someone who’s trying to motivate his team and get them on the right track. I’ve long held that the team lacked working on the fundamentals during training camp, maybe Tomlin’s happy go lucky demeanor and playful banter with the guys was taken the wrong way. There certainly is a major lack of focus, intensity, and outright ‘kick-ass’ mentality missing from this team. In his post game press conference, Tomlin said it is the “lack of the fundamentals” that is contributing largely to the loosing ways this team has adopted. Fundamentals like, tacking, blocking, take-aways, and all the things that make winning in the NFL much easier.
Why Tomlin made the decision to wait until 2 days before the game to travel 7 hours on a plane, which included a 6 hour time difference, is beyond me. Wouldn’t it have been better to travel, as the Vikings did, on Monday and settle in, enjoy the scenery and smell the roses along the way. Given the photo shoots and promotion that goes with a trip like this, which is the sole reason the NFL hosts these match-ups across the pond, perhaps the change of venue would’ve done the team some good. Instead Tomlin decides to wallow in their hometown lab, cooking up the same stench and expediting a short time to rest up and be prepared to battle would be the right ingredient for victory. Did you notice how well rested and prepared the Vikings were?
Steeler fans have become used to nail biters, we’ve seen our share of late game comebacks and game changing drives. I know there were a lot of people on the edge of their seats yesterday, fully expecting the game to be tied after what was a sound and lofty drive down the field to the 3 yard line. The sack and strip on 3rd and goal is a painful end to another abysmal afternoon, yet it seemed somewhat fitting as the ball has not bounced our way once this year. Again this is the team that Tomlin built, a team that has little in the way of back up, and the quality of the play at the starting positions is not good enough to compete. And so this is what you have after a month’s worth of games, an 0-4 record and not much hope in site. But again, I hope I’m wrong.