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Week 13 Recap: Turkey Day

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At least I found a nice Steeler Bar to watch the game…

Fresh and invigorated from their bye week, the Pittsburgh Steelers went out and played like a bunch of turkeys, losing to the New Orleans Saints 35-32 at Heinz Field. Hey, they only lost by a field goal so it was a pretty tight game, right? Never has a final score been more misleading. Two garbage time touchdowns, one occurring literally in the game’s final seconds, served to make the end result look a lot closer than it actually was.

I’m shocked Mike Tomlin even bothered to use his super-secret special two point conversion plays in such a meaningless situation.

There were several goats turkeys yesterday but two guys in particular deserve singled out. First, we had the enigma that is Ben Roethlisberger. The clueless idiots at FOX couldn’t wait to blame Ben hurting his wrist/hand midway through the first quarter for his shocking inaccuracy. Unfortunately, that excuse doesn’t fly because I saw at least two plays where he badly overthrew his target and should have been picked off well before the “injury” occurred. Bad Ben showed up from the start and never managed to pull himself out of whatever funk he sunk into.

Since the back-to-back six TD performances, Ben hasn’t just regressed to his usual norms, he’s fallen off the map. He played a terrible game against the Jets and the Titans win was 90% Le’Veon Bell. I don’t know if he’s secretly injured or the Football Gods are just punishing him for daring to enter the rarefied air reserved for Tom Brady and Peyton Manning but something has seemingly gone awry. Granted his young receivers didn’t do him any favors by dropping balls and the offensive line – Mike Adams getting thrown backward into Ben like a sack of sweet potatoes – was largely at fault for one of his two interceptions. 

Still, the Steelers offense just never got on track against a Saints defense that came into the game ranked near the bottom of the league in nearly every category. Bell had some nice runs early and finished with 95 yards and a TD although he never really took over the game like he did against Tennessee. Bell, Heath Miller and Antonio Brown were the only weapons in the passing game as neither Markus Wheaton nor Martavis Bryant could get on the same page as Ben. Without the big plays, the offense once again sputtered in enemy territory with the team settling for field goals instead of TDs. You can’t play a quality team like the Saints and walk away with only three points after long drives.

The defense is going to take some heat but overall I thought they played a decent game until they ran out of gas in the second half. I mean, it’s not like there’s great shame in surrendering 35 points to an offense led by Drew Brees. It’s weird in that it seems like the D has a certain amount of good series in them and once they’re on the field for an extended period, things start falling apart. New Orleans barely had a first down the first quarter and a half but as soon as the three and outs began on offense, the D started getting gashed in the air and on the ground. I can say they’re bend-but-don’t-break or better when playing with a lead although the end of the day they still gave up 122 yards rushing to Mark Ingram and allowed Brees to drop 5 TD passes on them so it’s hard to absolve them of a their fair share of blame.

Turkey #2 goes to Ike Taylor, who played an epically bad game in his return from the broken arm suffered earlier in the season. In my game preview I gave a quick rundown of how Ike might be used in his return and it seems like that’s something the Steeler coaches should’ve considered more as well. The Saints second TD was set up by a 44 yard pass play where Ike whiffed on a jam and fell down, allowing the receiver to run free down the field. Ike was burned a few times, then missed a key tackle at the goal line to add insult to injury. It was a performance entirely devoid of Swag  although with Brice McCain getting injured early on, I’m not sure the Steelers had many options. It’s not like William Gay or Antwan Blake were playing like All Pros out there.

Let’s be clear, even though New Orleans came in at 4-7, this loss isn’t in the same league as the ones to the Bucs and Jets. The Saints have a lot of talent and, for whatever reason, haven’t played up to their potential this year. Of course, the Browns and Ratbirds found a way to beat them which doesn’t speak too highly of us. Plus, coming off a bye and facing a dome team at home in the fresh air really makes you wonder how many more factors the Steelers needed in their favor.

The good news is Cleveland and Baltimore both lost while the Bengals came thisclose to losing before being bailed out by some incompetent referees. With two head-to-head match-ups with Cincy looming, this loss basically means the Steelers have to sweep the season series in order to have a shot at the division title. Before we worry about that, though, we have to worry about getting Ben back on track because this team isn’t going anywhere if he continues to play like Andy Dalton. 

3 thoughts on “Week 13 Recap: Turkey Day”

  1. Nice post Chris.
    I do feel the ‘D’ for whatever reason seems to get a pass on the critique side of things far too often. The Steelers seem to follow a pattern, the ‘D’ plays well in the first quarter and the offense makes adjustments and the Steelers do not. I remember when a Steelers ‘D’ wouldn’t surrender 35 points to any QB not named Brady. This team has a number of issues – IMO LeBeau is not get to the job done anymore (I think he’s stayed 4 years too long). Tomlin is just an interview quote and Haley needs a QB like Warner to run his offense. The draft has been a joke, a league that has moved onto a passing spectacles – and the Steelers pass up CB’s in lieu of LB’s. No one is going to win the Superbowl leading the league in rushing so a LB isn’t as important as a corner.

    1. Whoa, Captain, long time no see. I was just thinking the other day, “I wonder whatever happened to all my regulars back in the old NPC days…”
      I don’t know what’s more surprising: that you finally tracked me down or that we pretty much agree. I will take slight issue with the idea Haley needs “a Warner type” to succeed: He won in KC with Matt Cassel so he can tailor an offense to suit his QB. It just seems like 3 years in, he still doesn’t know what kind of offense to run here.
      I’m totally with you on the draft, tho. I about threw my remote at the TV when the Shazier pick was made. Linebackers, man, this team and their obsession with frickin’ linebackers…

      1. Hey Chris,

        Wasn’t sure you’d remember me :). It was a freek accident that I found this site, and I’m glad I have – I’ve missed your “Know Thy Enemy” posts! My point with Roethlisberger and Haley is that I honestly believe Ben isn’t “really” on board with Haley. Factor in the amount of times Art is stepping in when he shouldn’t be and I think that is why we find so many inconsistencies from game to game – heck, series to series. Art is very Jerry Jones like – and it is troubling. This whole idea that the Steelers need to be “smash” mouth is not how the NFL is today. It’s nice to mix it in – but it won’t win the Superbowl.

        Chat soon!

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