…but I toldja so.
All the signs were there if you know what to look for. It almost seemed inevitable the Steelers would lose to the hapless Jets. Yet, I’m sure we all wished upon our lucky stars, four-leaf clovers, and bald-headed midgets that somehow, some way, the Steelers would manage to pull off a win. It was not to be.
Now we know where the Steelers truly stand in the hierarchy of the NFL. We’re not a #2 seed. We’re not better than the Colts. We might be a little better than the Chargers, but not by as much as records would indicate. We’re definitely not even in the same stratosphere as the Patriots.
Before you dismiss this post as some sort of “The Sky is Falling” rant by a disgruntled yinzer, read some of my older posts on this blog. I’ve been saying for four weeks now that this team has some very serious fundamental flaws which would eventually end up costing them games. The Steelers have been fortunate this year in overcoming their mistakes and shortcomings but the problem with playing with fire is sooner or later you burn off your eyebrows and have to draw them back in like a whiny emo kid.
This was by far the worst performance of the season. A large part of the blame for this should be placed on Mike Tomlin. The Steelers played some horribly sloppy and undisciplined football yesterday. We had 8 penalties for, get ready, 100 yards!! One pass interference call set up a field goal. Another was an inexcusable roughing the passer call on Aaron Smith which kept a drive alive. Finally, the most costly, a defensive holding penalty, cost us a 5 point swing (we would’ve had a safety, they finally kicked a field goal) when Kellen Clemens fumbled the ball out of the endzone. Beyond the penalties, there was some wonky play calling, such as running draw plays with FB Cary Bates on third-and-longs. They did that in their lone overtime possession in what amounted to a give up play, leading to the punt (and punt return) that ended the game.
A large reason the Jets were able to get so many field goals is they had great starting position all game because of Tomlin’s “Pooch and Pray” kickoff strategy. Our special teams have been horrendous this year and while I applaud Tomlin addressing the issue, his answer is not the answer anybody wants to hear. It’s embarrassing for a professional football team to just give up on covering kick offs and conceding field position. How about, I dunno, BRINGING IN GUYS WHO CAN PLAY SPECIAL TEAMS?
The biggest failing yesterday was, once again, our porous offensive line. As the picture up top there indicates, you could drive Optimus Prime through the holes in our line. Jets blew through Sean Mahan, Alan Faneca, and Kendall Simmons like Britney Spears and a bottle of tequila. The worst, however, was Willie Colon, who did a terrific impression of a revolving door all day long. Yes, they didn’t get help from Ben Roethlisberger, who on occasion held the ball way too long (little hint: if nobody’s open, THROW IT AWAY), or Willie Parker (52 yards on 21 carries), whose knee injury looks to be worse than they’re letting on because he had very little burst or cutback ability.
It all begins with the offensive line and the Steelers’ is in total disarray right now. This shouldn’t be surprising to anybody who has been watching this team, however. Cleveland came into last week’s game with 7 sacks ALL SEASON. They collected 5 in that one game. The Jets had only 9 ALL SEASON and yesterday they piled up a ridiculous 7. Clearly, the off-season retirement of C Jeff Hartings is killing this team as his replacement, Mahan, is not doing the job. Colon and Simmons are wildly inconsistent. Even perennial All-Pro Faneca isn’t looking like the dominant pass blocker he usually is which makes me wonder if the Steelers not signing him has something to do with feeling he’s declining with his age. I don’t know what the answer is but something needs to change and it needs to change in a hurry or we’re going to be one-and-out in the playoffs.