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Week 3 Recap: Flirting With Disaster

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Remember last week when I wrote about uninspiring victories…

For those readers too old to stay up late or those who simply could not stomach the carnage, your [intlink id=”21″ type=”category”]Pittsburgh Steelers[/intlink] managed to squeak by the Indianapolis Colts 23-20 on a last second Shaun Suisham field goal last night on NBC Sunday Night Football. I don’t know what’s more impressive, that Suisham made a clutch kick or that the Steelers were able to find eleven guys to put on the field for the attempt. I don’t know how many ice baths they have in Lucas Oil Stadium but I guarantee there won’t be enough. Perhaps everyone will just have to share.

Pity the poor fool who ends up with Chris Kemoeatu.

The Steelers, ten point favorites according to the leg-breakers out in Vegas, should have lost. If not for absolutely inept quarterbacking by the fearsome duo of Kerry Collins and Curtis Painter, they probably would have. This game basically came down to two plays which determined the final outcome. First was Painter’s overthrow of a wide open Pierre Garcon, who ran a simple slant-and-go route which [intlink id=”101″ type=”category”]Ike Taylor[/intlink] inexplicably bailed on after the slant part. Had Painter completed the pass, there was nothing but 75 yards of green grass and high tides forever.

Two possessions later, [intlink id=”52″ type=”category”]James Harrison[/intlink] annihilated Painter for the team’s first and only sack which produced the defense’s first and only turnover of the season. [intlink id=”57″ type=”category”]Troy Polamalu[/intlink]’s gorgeous hair stayed out of his eyes long enough for him to scoop up the fumble and run it in for a touchdown. That play broke a 13-13 tie. Had the defense not scored there, I doubt the team could have found the end zone with a map.

So I don’t come across like Mr. Negativo, I’ll start with the good.  Polamalu and Harrison played their best games of the season. Harrison led the team with six tackles in addition to making the play which essentially won the game. Polamalu was the Tasmanian Devil, flying all over the field at 100 miles per hour. In the fourth quarter, he kept coming on blitz after blitz which the Colts repeatedly failed to pick up. Hint: if you catch the faint scent of Head N’ Shoulders in the air, direct one of your players toward it. Troy almost put the kibosh on the game-typing drive when he brushed Painter’s hand on an incomplete pass then he shot into the backfield and barely missed taking the hand-off from Joseph Addai.  Of course, Addai scored a touchdown as after he got past Troy, the rest of the old slow defense fell over like bowling pins trying to get him.

Where to begin with this defense. Mike Tomlin ripped Face Me Ike a new asshole for the Garcon play while Dick LeBeau nearly had a coronary when the Steelers were leisurely milling around as Painter went hurry-up on a crucial third down play. They surrendered 86 yards to Addai (97 overall) which doesn’t sound bad until you realize the Colts had no quarterback so they KNEW the run was coming and still couldn’t stop it.  Aaron Smith and James Farrior routinely get pushed all over the field with ease. And, most distressingly, “Blitzburgh” barely generated any pressure on the QB.

What more can I say about the secondary? Other than the one brainfart, Ike did a pretty good job matched up with superstar Reggie Wayne (3 catches for only 24 yards).  [intlink id=”96″ type=”category”] Gay[/intlink] and Kennan Lewis, however, were brutal.  I have no idea if LeBeau has lost depth perception or has zero faith in his men but at several points he had their safety help over the top lined up FIFTEEN YARDS DEEP.  This was on third and 8. Gay is bad enough with his comfy 5 yard cushions but Lewis is even more hospitable by splurging on 10 yard pillows. I am not exaggerating when I say Peyton Manning would’ve thrown for 500 yards last night.

Now let’s shift over to the other side of the ball.  The Steelers came out looking great on offense. They should have had a TD on their first possession but Manny Sanders pulled a Limas Sweed on a pass that would’ve set them up 1st and goal at the 5. Antonio Brown is clearly this team’s second (yes, I said SECOND) best receiver at this point.  Two possessions later, [intlink id=”14″ type=”category”]Ben Roethlisberger[/intlink] finally hit a deep ball to [intlink id=”82″ type=”category”]Mike Wallace[/intlink] who streaked (thankfully fully clothed) 81 yards to the end zone. It would be the team’s lone offensive touchdown.

The Steelers simply cannot run the ball right now. I don’t believe in returning to Stiller Football but you have to have some balance.  Ben can’t chuck the ball 45 times and survive (not to mention his penchant for boneheaded mistakes). Rashard Mendenhall had 37 yards on 18 carries which is all the more pathetic when you factor in 15 of that came on a single run. The interior linemen aren’t opening any holes for him right now. [intlink id=”129″ type=”category”]Maurkice Pouncey[/intlink] has been battling a hamstring all season and it seems clear that the problem is worse than they’ve been letting on.  His mobility is limited and he doesn’t fire off the line with anywhere near the ferocity of last year. David Johnson has completely regressed as he either blocks the wrong the man or whiffs completely. WHY DO YOU HATE FULLBACKS, ARIANS?!

The good news is the interior linemen were okay at protecting Ben. The bad news is the bookends were trying to get him killed.  The shotgun is an apt name because every time the Steelers lined up in that formation, they fired at their own feet. I’ve never seen two players dominate a game like Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis. Jonathan Scott should legally change his name to Turnstile.

Rookie [intlink id=”85″ type=”category”]Marcus Gilbert[/intlink] allowed the first sack which resulted in a fumble. He didn’t do a horrible job but, much like last week, he gave up on the play after the initial block and Mathis ended up getting Ben from behind. The sack-fumble-TD by Freeney was a Hat Trick of suck as he blew up Scott then he blew up Mewelde Moore then he blew up Big Ben. Ben contributed to the self-destruction by tossing an ill-conceived pick into the middle of triple coverage. The Steelers were +18 in turnover margin last season, they’re sitting at -9 this season.

After the sack-fumble, Gilbert went to the sideline with a bum shoulder. Trai Essex replaced him, playing about as well as you’d expect a back-up to play. Later, the Big Legursky limped off the field to be replaced by Ramon Foster.  Foster, you may remember, started last week at LG because Kemo has been nursing a balky knee since training camp. Then, in the midst of the game-winning drive, Turnstile had to be carried off the field with what looked like a serious ankle injury. Gilbert returned to the game at LT for three straight hand-offs to Double M before Suisham (who doinked a 36 yarder earlier in the game) mercifully ended it.

One sack and one turnover (a fumble) against a decrepit 38 year old country music singer and a backup with a career 9.0 passer rating (you get 80 points for putting your helmet on correctly). The NFL’s (alleged) best defense allows Curtis Painter to drive 80 yards in 3 minutes for a game-tying touchdown in crunch time. No running game. Three more turnovers on offense. A banged up offense line that looks like extras from The Walking Dead. Ben Roethlisberger taking foolish chances when he’s not running for his life. A kicker that’s good for a weekly miss.

And we won?