Sunday, December 23, 2012

Steelers' Inept Play Ruins Anniversary Ceremony, Playoff Hopes in 13-10 Loss

What's an antonym for "immaculate?" Dirty? Filthy? Foul? Tainted? Unclean? Unsterile? Well, pick one, because they all fit the Pittsburgh Steelers overall performance against the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday in a 13-10 loss. Here are the highlights from the game:

That's it. After that, then the opening kick, it got really ugly.

For Ben Roethlisberger and the offense, it was an utterly pathetic showing. Granted, Big Ben was 'almost dead' five weeks much did that affect his arm strength? That can't be quantified accurately, but he wasn't the Ben we know for more than a handful of plays.

As Big Ben accurately stated, "We should be (going to the playoffs) if it wasn't for me." -

As Dejan Kovacevic, sports columnist for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, tweeted on his official Twitter (@Dejan_Kovacevic) account, and with which we agree: "I love Ben, always have and have always defended him...BUT he should take a lot of the blame...not all, but A LOT." -

Was he actually still ailing? Let's hope it's nothing else. Regardless, Big Ben deserves the brunt of the blame for the last two losses. Ben just hasn't been Ben since coming back from his injury and the difference is staggeringly obvious.

BIG BEN pre-injury:

209 - 316 passes
66.1% completion
17 TD passes
4 interceptions
QB Rating of over 100.0 and 121.1 on 3rd down with the team just under 50% on 3rd.
3 game-winning drives.

BIG BEN post-injury:

60 - 110 passes
54.5% completion
6 TD passes
4 interceptions (half of season total)
QB Rating in the 80.0's (58.6 on Sunday) and the team converting only 2 of 14 3rd downs.
3 blown chances at comebacks or game-winning drives.

The offense as a whole wet the bed and wasted a nearly brilliant defensive performance in which Cortez Allen, the Steelers Digest Player of the Week, had two interceptions and a forced fumble, the Steelers first multi-interception game in over a year (their first since Cleveland last December).

It was also a game in which the defense recorded six sacks, their most in one game all season, and where an unusually animated Troy Polamalu had his first sack since September of 2011 in a 24-0 victory over the Seattle Seahawks.

But their performance couldn't offset the inept play of the offense. An offense that had actually been the ones carrying the defense in recent weeks. And as has been the case too many times this season, one wasn't enough. -

The offense had far too few bright moments, Sunday and all season, and turned it over far too many times. That's a failure for both the players and the coaching staff.

No, the coaches don't throw interceptions, fumble or drop passes, but they are ultimately responsible for repetitive problems and continued insanity (insanity: doing the same thing over and over but expecting a different result).

One dropped pass is a mistake, two fumbles is a pattern, and three interceptions is a habit. Or, in this case, a problem. A problem If It Ain't Steel said was needed to be avoided in our pre-game article. -

The players, for the little good it meant, recognized it also. "I'm not surprised at all," said running back Isaac Redman. "Turnovers at key moments of games have just crushed us all year long."

(Getty Images)
The final crushing blow was dealt once again by quarterback Big Ben who threw two interceptions in the game, the first being returned for a touchdown. For the second straight game, Big Ben threw a costly interception that led to a loss when Reggie Nelson picked him off with 14 seconds remaining and the score tied.

The Bengals (9-6) then only needed a 21-yard completion to A.J. Green to set up the game-winning field goal. This is the first time since 1981-82 that the Bengals have reached the playoffs in consecutive seasons. -

Though he also threw a touchdown pass when he and wide receiver Antonio Brown made it rain on Adam "Pacman" Jones for a 60-yard score, the Steelers (7-8) lost for the fifth time in six games. This will be the first season since 2006 that the Steelers will enter the regular season finale with no chance of making the playoffs.

According to Steelers left tackle Max Starks, though, they'll be ready: "There won't be any quitting going into next week," he said after the game.

Next week will be it for this season, however. Time to start taking a serious look at everything and everyone. Injuries decimated this team from virtually day one, yes. But there were obvious inherent problems that need addressing.

"We have to do a better job as players of playing," said Steelers linebacker James Harrison, "and a better job as coaches of coaching."

One thing they have to absolutely do better is block. Finding a number one running back would help and they had injuries at all positions but one. But the offensive line was never completely consistent in its blocking and got progressively worse as the season went along.

In fact, we warned how bad it could get with defensive tackle Geno Atkins in town. It was expected that Ramon Foster would see him, instead he lines up over rookie David DeCastro most of the day. Atkins feasted on the youngling, having 2.5 sacks for a total of 13 this season.

The problems that need to be addressed will be discussed at length in future articles, as we have a long offseason to address them. All that is left is to salvage the season and avoid being the first losing year since 2003.

It won't take an immaculate performance against fellow cellar dwellers, the Cleveland Browns, just one that isn't the same inept showing seen lately. The standard should be a higher one.


TIDBITS: In Mike Tomlin's post-game press conference, he announced that Baron Batch broke his arm and that Heath Miller suffered a PCL and MCL injury. Injured reserve for both for a certainty.

Curtis Brown (Achilles), Mike Wallace (hamstring), and center Maurkice Pouncey (knee-MCL) all dinged up, but status unknown. -


After his suspension, Rashard Mendenhall returns to have 11 carries for 50 yards. He returns to the scene of the crime (sort of) next week against the Browns. -


Steelers 2013 opponents now set following loss to Bengals: