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Week 15 Recap: Not The Steelers Night

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You knew it wasn’t going to be the Pittsburgh Steelers night last night. When the Four Letter came back from commercial to reveal the San Francisco 49ers dilapidated old stadium was bathed in darkness, you knew it wouldn’t be our night. Chris Berman and his gaggle of idiots showing their calm level-headed journalistic skills by repeatedly comparing a blown fuse to both a catastrophic earthquake and 9/11 was almost as torturous as the 20-3 ass-kicking the Niners meted out to the Steelers. Ryan Clark later told the media he felt the blackout was orchestrated by Niners management to illustrate their need for a new stadium.

And people think Steeler fans are paranoid…

Anyway, you knew it wouldn’t be the Steelers night when they took the opening kickoff, drove right down the field, then had the drive end on a Ben Roethlisberger interception. Ben would be intercepted on the Steelers’ next drive, too. He’d add another later in the game and throw in a lost fumble for good measure. I’m not going to criticize Big Ben for playing an absolutely atrocious game (“I was the 49ers best player,” he’d later say) because 29 other quarterbacks wouldn’t have even bothered suiting up last night. He tried to tough it out when it was clear he had absolutely nothing in the tank. It doesn’t take a videotape nerd like Ron Jaworski to see Ben wasn’t stepping into throws leading to the ball sailing all over the place.

Who I will criticize is Mike Tomlin. You know, I’m sick and tired of people quoting Tomlin’s resume as some sort of proof he’s a great coach. George Seifert and Barry Switzer have Super Bowl titles, are they headed to Canton? When you inherit a championship caliber team, guiding it back to the Super Bowl is hardly evidence of superior coaching acumen. Tomlin does a lot of really stupid things and last night may have been the worst job of coaching I’ve ever seen from the Pittsburgh sideline.

The score was only 6-0 at halftime but it was painfully obvious Ben couldn’t play. To make matters worse, the offensive line was getting owned by the Niners’ defensive lineman. Aldon Smith spent more time on top of Big Ben than his trophy wife probably has. So you had a totally ineffective QB, battling a serious injury, who kept taking punishing hit after hit because he couldn’t move and his line couldn’t protect him. Instead of putting Charlie Batch or Dennis Dixon in, Tomlin kept running Ben out there. I was ready to throw something at my television when, with three minutes left and down nearly three touchdowns, Ben was still in shotgun taking snaps. What the bloody f*$*kin hell was Tomlin thinking?

On the other side of the ball, the Steelers’ D put up a valiant effort for three quarters before falling apart in the fourth quarter. LaMarr Woodley left early in the third as his hamstring acted up yet again. James Harrison had an amusing tweet about the repeated power outages but if he hadn’t been suspended, maybe Mister Woodley wouldn’t have felt the need to rush back. If Tomlin doesn’t shut Woodley down until the playoffs, he should be fired for utter incompetence.

TE Vernon Davis had 6 catches for 72 yards, several of them key conversions on third down. The Steelers played mostly base D which meant a linebacker was charged with covering Davis. Now, which ‘backer would one assume is charged with covering a speedy TE: the old and glacially slow James Farrior or super-athletic (and super highly-paid) first round stud Lawrence Timmons? If you answered Grandpa James, you get a cookie.

Oh, they tried to have LT cover people but he kept getting beat like a rented mule. Timmons has been an absolute joke this year. I realize Kevin Colbert has this pathological need to justify his draft choices, even when they’re bad ones, but spending all that money on him over the summer is looking like cash flushed right down the toilet. Since his hot start last season, Timmons has varied between being mediocre and flat out horrible. Last night, he decided to play the Invisible Man.

When Shaun Suisham hit a 51 yard field goal, you knew it wasn’t going to be the Steelers night. Sure enough, he’d shank a 48 yarder on his next attempt. I’m not going to rant about Suisham since there were so many other goats last night and since this is what we’ve come to expect from Miss’em Suisham. I’m simply pointing out another area of the team which has been a problem since week one yet they’ve stubbornly failed to address.

Despite Ben playing on one leg and despite the defense repeatedly bending but not breaking to keep the score close well into the fourth quarter, it still took the Steelers getting hosed on a number of atrocious calls to fully put the game out of reach. The most egregious being an inexplicable “launching” call on Timmons that gave the Niners a first and goal after they had been held to a field goal. I don’t know if the ref had money on San Fran or grew up a Joe Montana fan or what but this was the most poorly officiated game in a long time. I spent much of the night on Twitter and a few minutes after each ridiculous call, I’d see a tweet pop up from Mike Perreira, former Director of officials, saying in so many words “That call was wack, yo.”

At the end of the day, the Steelers have dealt with biased officiating before. This game was lost the moment Ben hobbled in to pitch black Candlestick and Tomlin didn’t have the balls to tell him he couldn’t go. Yeah, I flip-flopped on whether Ben should start but hindsight being 20/20, it was a mistake. A mistake compounded by bad refereeing and an exhausted and undermanned defense. The Ravens loss on Sunday Night opened up a door and I don’t blame the Steelers for trying to walk through it. That door was shut last night. The Steelers should resign themselves to being the Wild Card and focus their efforts on getting ready for that first playoff game three weeks from now. Ben and Woodley should be shut down for the rest of the season, perhaps Troy Polamalu as well. Anything else would be utter insanity.