I knew it was going to be bad. I never thought it was going to be this bad.
This is quickly turning into a historic season for the Pittsburgh Steelers. Historic in all the wrong ways. The Black and Gold came within 23 minutes of setting an NFL record for longest time taken to force a single turnover. Their 0-4 start was their worst in 45 years. And yesterday, their defense gave up the most points in team history.
I repeat, no Steeler team in the franchise’s storied 80 year history has ever surrendered as many points as they did yesterday in their 55-31 loss to the New England Patriots.
Mike Tomlin is truly the luckiest man on Earth. If he were coaching for any other team, his totally inept ass would be out the door at season’s end. Because the Steelers are the Steelers, they’ll give him many more seasons to display his own particular brand of idiocy. Sure Chuck Noll and Bill Cowher – who I’m embarrassed to even put in the same sentence with someone as clueless as Tomlin – had bad seasons but they were never HISTORICALLY bad.
It’s one thing to lose because you simply don’t have the talent. Make no mistake, this Steelers team doesn’t have much in the way of talent. But the way this team continues to look ill-prepared and worse yet lackadaisical is a reflection upon the head coach. Last week, the defense had a brainfart on the first play of the game leading to Terrelle Pryor’s 93 yard touchdown. This week, there was two catastrophically blown coverages that lead to easy Patriots’ touchdowns.
Troy Polamalu played what was undoubtedly the worst game of his career. Being given the freedom to freelance has always been one of the things that’s made Troy special. Yesterday, it was like every single guess he made turned out wrong. The biggest irony of all this was he also made two of the defense’s best plays, stopping Stevan Ridley on 4th and Goal from the one foot line (after his jumping off-sides gave them a second shot at it) and later victimizing Ridley again by stripping the ball away.
Outside of Cam Heyward, who played by far the best game in his career, there isn’t a single Steeler you can point to and say they played well. Jason Worilds had 2 of the D’s 3 sacks but he was clearly the beneficiary of Heyward literally tossing his man back five yards on every play. Ryan Clark looked old and slow. Cortez Allen and Ike Taylor kept blowing coverages. Steve McClendon got pushed all over the field.
They had no answer for Rob Gronkowski. They had no answer for anybody. In addition to giving up 55 points, they allowed three 100+ yard receivers, a hundred yard rusher, a 432 yard pass performance by Tom Brady and surrendered 610 yards of total offense. It was a display only the Jacksonville Jaguars could be proud of.
Amazingly, the Steelers were in the game until the fourth quarter thanks to the depleted Patriots defense being nearly as bad as ours. Ben Roethlisberger threw for 400 yards and 4 touchdowns, the second of which put him at 200 for his career. Ben also had two picks and a fumble so you can’t exactly pat him on the back. Don’t get me wrong, Ben surely did not lose this game. He for damn sure deserves better than an offensive line that has him running for his life every other snap. But when you’re far and away a team’s best player – two of his three touchdown passes to Jerricho Cotchery were things of beauty – you also gotta take care of the football and not throw up prayer-bombs from the end zone.
In the end, though, the offense really wasn’t the problem. For all the scorn heaped upon Todd Haley, the offensive game plan has been pretty well done the past month. It’s not Haley’s fault the line sucks or guys drop sure TDs or fail to run the correct routes. Cotchery had the game of his life, catching 7 passes for 96 yards while snagging 3 TDs. His second one, a sweet back shoulder pass that he adjusted to after Ben underthrew it, tied the game at 24 mid-way through the third quarter.
Then came the onslaught.
A pass to Gronk and yet another blown coverage set the Pats up inside the Pittsburgh 10. The defense stiffened for the final time all afternoon and forced a field goal as the quarter ended. The fourth quarter began with the Patriots scoring two TDs in a little over five minutes. Ben tried gamely to bring them back with his third TD to the Cotch Rocket pulling them within 10. At that point, the defense just gave up. They literally laid down like a bunch of low down dirty egg-sucking dogs. After a short run by LaGarrette Blount, good ‘ol Ike stood around with his thumb up his ass while Brady lofted a pass over his head and into Aaron Dobson’s hands for a 81 yard touchdown. Ben was picked three plays later which allowed Blount to score after two carries of 23 and 5 yards where nobody seemed particularly interested in tackling him.
Remember the Super Bowl against the Cardinals? Remember James Harrison‘s epic 100 yard Pick Six? Good times. I mention it because all the commentators were in awe of how not one, not two, not three Steelers hustled back to escort Deebo into the end zone, damn near the entire D did. Yesterday, one guy would step up to make a hit, waiting in vain for a second man hustling over to finish the play. It’s one thing to play badly, it’s entirely another to play sloppy and lazy.
I’m officially done discussing mathematics and scenarios and upcoming schedules. I don’t care that 6 losses don’t actually eliminate them the Steelers from anything. This team isn’t making the playoffs. This team isn’t even getting out of last place. The only question left this season is how high a draft pick will they eventually earn. Or, rather, how low can the Steelers go?