Well, that sucked…
The Pittsburgh Steelers promptly took any optimism gleaned from their modest two game winning streak rolled it into a tiny little ball and tossed it in the trash with a 21-18 loss to the Oakland Raiders. Yesterday’s sloppy mistake-filled game set football back twenty years. There were nine penalties, five turnovers, two missed field goals, numerous dropped passes, and a blocked punt. Oh and let’s not forget four different left guards.
Yes, as if the Steelers offensive line didn’t have enough problems what with being absolutely terrible, yesterday they were decimated by injury. Like something out of a Final Destination movie, the Injury Gods targeted the left guard position and simply would not stop until every single one was dead. Starter Ramon Foster got concussed minutes in, bringing in super-sub Guy Whimper. He got hurt so the Steelers had to turn to somebody called Cody Wallace, bringing him in at RG and shifting David DeCastro over to left. DeCastro got hurt – of course – so starting LT Kelvin Beachum had to move over to guard with Mike Adams coming in to play tackle.
The end result of this Merry-go-Round was Ben Roethlisberger took yet another beating. He was sacked five times and hit another five putting him on track to be sacked 60 times and whacked more times than a pinata. Despite being under constant siege, Ben still managed to fire off 45 pass attempts, completing 29 for 275 yards. He was also intercepted twice, both coming in the fourth quarter on plays where his intended target did him no favors.
The flurry of passes came as the Steelers tried to mount a furious fourth quarter comeback after falling behind 21-3. Of course, they could’ve tried to push the pace a little earlier so the comeback wasn’t so furious but evidently that wasn’t on Mike Tomlin‘s agenda. For a head coach known for being one of the dumbest in-game managers in football, yesterday was his masterpiece. Down by 18 to start the second half, the offense moved with no sense of urgency in grinding out a 9+ minute drive that ended with a shanked field goal. Then in the fourth quarter, with the offense in the Oakland red zone – four down territory – trying desperately to pull within a field goal with less than 2 minutes left, Ben calls a TIME OUT rather than take a delay of game on second down.
I realize Ben probably has residual brain damage from the motorcycle accident but what the hell were Tomlin and Todd Haley doing?
Of course, a lot of people are going to hang this loss on the foot of Shaun Suisham. After being flawless through the first two months of the season, Suisham decided to completely fall apart against Oakland. His two misses weren’t 50+ yard Hail Marys – he shanked from 32 and 34 yards. It’s definitely easy to pile on the kicker because they’re non-athletes paid to do one relatively simple job but I refuse to do that. Nobody is going to connect on 100% of his kicks and on balance, Suisham has done a lot more to win us games this year than lose them.
Besides, if you’re looking for blame, there is plenty to go around.
Let’s start with the defense. From my game preview: “the key to this game will be the Steelers ability to keep quarterback Terrelle Pryor in the pocket.” Even Dick LeBeau said his game plan this week was keyed to stop Pryor. So what happens? First play of the game, Pryor fakes a hand off, the entire D goes left while he goes right and blows by everybody for an NFL record 93 yard TD.
It wasn’t the only time the Steelers would get blown off the line of scrimmage. Running back Darren McFadden would chip in with two rushing touchdowns, one of which came on a direct snap which was designed to go outside but he had time to stop, cut back, and run into the end zone practically untouched when the middle of the D-line parted like the sea. At least he met some resistance on his first score, carrying a sad Troy Polamalu into the end zone.
Polamalu was one of the team’s lone bright lights yesterday. He came up with a big early turnover when Pryor airmailed a Kordell-esque overthrow about 5 yards over his receiver’s head and into Troy’s waiting arms. That led to the one field goal Suisham did make, a 47 yarder. Lawrence Timmons forced a big fumble early in the fourth which led to the Steelers first TD. There was also a Cortez Allen pick to close out the first half which was key at the time because Oakland was driving for a late score after a horrendous Zoltan Mesko punt.
I am loathe to talk about punters but it needs pointed out that Mesko is absolutely terrible. His first punt was blocked, setting up McFadden’s first TD. The one at the end of the half traveled a grand total of 30 yards. He did uncork a 65 yarder and had a couple touchbacks but he’s wildly inconsistent. Guess the Patriots awesome offense all these years totally hid the fact he secretly sucks.
Again, though, kicking and punting were the least of the Steelers worries. Once again, future Hall of Famer Le’Veon Bell brought the running game to the tune of 13 carries for 24 yards for a positively Redman-esque 1.8 YPC. I suppose he’ll get a pat on the head and a cookie from Tomlin because heaven knows we shouldn’t criticize him for doing nothing. Yes, the patchwork line doesn’t help nor does Haley’s vast array of draw plays but you can’t tell me a talented back can’t make things happen for himself. Sure am glad we passed on Eddie Lacy…
The receivers also contributed to this fiasco. Antonio Brown had a couple big catches down the stretch although he dropped some crucial passes including a key first down and caused Ben’s second pick when he let the ball go through his hands. At least he cut down on his obnoxious posing. Manny Sanders caught the team’s first touchdown and then scored on a trick play 2 point conversion that Tomlin decided to grace us with after saving it for two years. Even normally sure-handed Heath Miller had a hard time coming down with the ball. Heath, it should be noted, was a near non-factor yesterday as early on a Raider took out his surgically repaired knee which left him moving in slow motion for the rest of the game.
But, hey, at least he didn’t hit him up high! Roger Goodell‘s NFL everybody!
I don’t know what more to say. I’ve already spilled over 1000 words of e-ink on this and feel like I still haven’t conveyed just how soul-sucking a loss yesterday was. I suppose we should’ve expected to lose – the Steelers haven’t won in Oakland since 1995 after all. However, after winning two straight games and coming off a well-played victory over Baltimore, I guess hopes were the Black and Gold had turned a corner.
Turns out, they turned one alright… And ran smack into a dead end.