Sunday, September 8, 2013

The Steelers Find No Safety At Home, Lose 16-9 To Titans

The Pittsburgh Steelers got off to a great start Sunday when Darius Reynaud of the Tennessee Titans took the opening kickoff back a step into the end zone to kneel the ball which resulted in a safety. The Steelers led 2-0 with just three seconds off of the clock. The fastest score in the history of the NFL. 

Squeamish and/or bandwagon pom-pom waving fans should stop reading now. 

When the ensuing kickoff was taken by Antonio Brown for 16 yards to the 41-yard line, it officially ended the highlights on the day for the Steelers as they, aside from a garbage-time touchdown, did little else en route to a 16-9 loss. 

What happened next was a comedy of errors rivaling anything ever written by Shakespeare. They're the 2012 Steelers in a form of déjà vu. -

All the problems that plagued the team last season reared their ugly heads again on Sunday. The offensive line was porous (five sacks, 32 yards and zero first down rushing), offense stalled from dropped passes, turnovers (fumbles and an interception), lack of its own pass rush (one sack and minimal pressure), lack of forced turnovers and too many injuries. 

The last one being in the forms of Pro Bowl center Maurkice Pouncey (ACL & MCL) and Larry Foote being done for the season. The Steelers had several other injuries as well. LaRod Stephens-Howling (knee) needing surgery and likely gone for the season also, Cortez Allen (ankle), Shaun Suisham (toe/hamstring and could be out 2-3 weeks) and Ryan Clark (knee?) all went down at one point in the game.

At some point it has to be considered more than just being "snake bit." But, ultimately the team has no one to blame but themselves. -

“That was the problem, we did it late and we couldn’t do it early enough,’’ Ben Roethlisberger said. “It was just little things here and little things there.’’ -

Big Ben connected on 21 of 33 passes for 191 yards, one touchdown and an interception for the Steelers, who came in with 10 straight victories in home openers, the longest active streak in the league. 

Last season Big Ben headed into the Titans' game poised to surpass Steelers Hall of Famer Terry Bradshaw as the team's all-time leading passer. He went into Sunday's game ready to pass 30,000 yards for his career. Neither milestone was accompanied by a win. Both losses were because of lack of execution and mistakes.

"The first [fumble] was a [bad] quarterback-to-running back exchange. I never had it. Ben said he got it out slow because he was working with a new center," said Isaac Redman per Ken Laird. "We were supposed to have two tailbacks in the game. I looked up to see if we could flag Felix (Jones) on the field. They put DJ (David Johnson) at tailback." -

While it is true that that the exchange wasn't clean, this sounds more like an excuse than a reason. Absent is the "it's my fault and I'll make it right next time" tone. He would fumble again only to recover the second one. Was the running game affected by Pouncey going out?

"We didn't execute. They did. They had a nice plan. Our plan could've been better under the circumstances." -

The loss of Pouncey, which Marcus Gilbert referred to as "freak play" and "no one's fault", is unmistakably a major one. He was one of the team captains and a three-time Pro bowl center. This loss is dangerous to a team who's offensive line is already held together with spit and chicken wire. 

It doesn’t get any easier for the Steelers, either, as they travel to Cincinnati Monday Night Football. Some pick the Bengals the best team in the AFC North, and if the Steelers struggled at home against Tennessee, how will they fair against a motivated James Harrison, Geno Atkins and the rest of the Bengals?

Regardless, regardless of how utterly pathetic, inept and putrid they looked, it is human nature to still try and find bright spots. 

Bad week one to be certain, but there were some positives: Troy looked like Troy, Jarvis Jones and LaMarr Woodley made some plays and the rest of AFC North lost. 

Also, the 1989 Steelers lost to the Cleveland Browns (51-0) and Bengals (41-10) by a combined 92-10. They came back to finish 9-7 and make the playoffs. They even won their wild card playoff game. Who'd they defeat? The Houston Oilers - what the Titans used to be known as.