Week 5 Recap: The Worst Win Ever

The Pittsburgh Steelers held on to defeat the Detroit Lions 28-20 yesterday afternoon.  I apologize for being late with this recap but, honestly, I have no idea where to start with this one.  We’re more than 1/4 of the way through the 2009 season and there seems to be a Great NFL Divide between the good teams and the bad ones.  At this point, I can’t tell you which category the Steelers belong in.

I knew we were in for a long afternoon when Ben Roethlisberger came out throwing the ball on their first three plays.  Of course, that went nowhere.  Daunte Culpepper then led his Lions down the field, doing most of the work himself with a 32 yard scramble.  A short pass-and-run by Maurice Morris for 16 yards set them up on our 27 yard line where the drive eventually fizzled and they settled for a FG.

I recount that drive because that was basically the story of the game.  The Lions moved the ball.  They eventually shot themselves in the foot, either with a penalty or a sack or some other miscue.  Also, in honor of all the Cancer Awareness this month, head coach Jim Schwartz needs to have his testicles checked to make sure they’re there.  His Cowardly Lion decision making didn’t help Detroit’s cause.  On the aforementioned FG, Will.i.am Gay was offsides (a 5 yard penalty) on the 4th and 5 play.  If you’re coaching a team with one win in two years, you’re playing the Super Bowl champs, and you’re at home (so to speak, half the crowd looked to be wearing Black and Gold), don’t you GO FOR IT?   What is there to lose?

I am shocked at how what was the best defense in the NFL last year can be so poor this year.  Yes, the D only surrendered 13 points.  Yes, they had a season high 7 sacks, including 3 from the resurgent James Harrison and 1.5 from Mister Woodley.  But Detroit’s self-inflicted screw-ups kept the score low.   Against a decent team, a lot of those FGs would have been TDs.

The Lions had 335 yards of offense.  The Steelers had 344.  I repeat, the pitiful one-win Detroit Lions had the same amount of offense as your defending Super Bowl champions.  And that’s not even a fair comparison because the Steeler offense worked against a defense ranked near the bottom of the NFL.  Meanwhile, the Lions piled up yards against the Steelers supposedly great defense despite starting an ancient backup QB and without the services of superstar WR Calvin Johnson.

Which brings me to our offense. Bruce Arians is the dumbest offensive coordinator ever.  Once he decided to run the ball, Rashard Mendenhall was RIPPING THEM UP.  He had about 60 yards on 9 carries(!) at halftime.  So what does Arians do?  He gives him SIX more carries the entire second half.  SIX!?!?!   Mendenhall finished with only 77 yards despite averaging a whopping 5 yards/carry.  Isn’t the fourth quarter, when you’re up by 15 points as the Steeler were, the best time to grind out the clock by RUNNING THE BALL?  Why was he dialing up super-bombs instead?  Can somebody explain this moron’s offensive strategy to me?   Please?

Arians’ passing fetish almost lead to one of the most embarrassing upsets in Steeler history.  Don’t get me wrong, Big Ben (23/37  282 yards) played a decent game.  He connected on some nice short passes and even hit rookie Mike Wallace on a beautiful deep bomb which Wallace unfortunately Sweed-ed to the turf.  He did redeem himself later by coming back to catch an underthrown deep ball for a TD.

Still, the Steelers aren’t the Colts.   Ben is not Peyton Manning.  I’m not saying I wish we had Peyton or that he’s better than Ben.  They are different players with different skills.  The skills Peyton has allow the Colts to throw the ball 40x every game because he throws the ball away to avoid sacks and he doesn’t throw many INTs.  Ben has the tendency to make bad throws, like the Pick Six against the division-leading Bengals and the one he threw yesterday which narrowed the score to 14-13.  And he holds on to the ball like a Reno desk clerk holds on to her semen-stained cowgirl hat.  Sure, Arians was an idiot for calling deep passing plays late in the 4th quarter but Ben has to know the situation and THROW THE BALL AWAY.  Instead, he took three costly sacks over a five play span.

Un-frickin’-believable.

This bit of offensive ineptitude set up what threatened to be another 4th quarter collapse by the Tissue Paper Curtain.  They gave up a 25 yard TD to Dennis Northcutt on a deep pass down the middle where Keiwan Ratliff, who is a cornerback playing safety because we have no decent backups, was badly out of position.  This drive covered 82 yards and took a grand total of THREE MINUTES.  On their next and final drive, Culpepper directed his team all the way to the Steelers 21 yard line before Dick LeBeau had enough and basically ordered them to Kill The Quarterback.

When Troy Polamalu was injured opening day against the Titans, I said not to worry.  I felt we still had so much talent on the defense that missing one player, even one as great as Troy, wasn’t going to affect us that much.  I am now fully prepared to say I was wrong.  Not just wrong, like George Bush Wrong.  Like Roman Polanski Wrong.  Like Pink Roethlisberger Jersey Wrong.  Without Troy, this defense is average at best.  Tyrone Carter sucks.  Ratliff doesn’t know what he’s doing.   Our linebackers can’t drop back into coverage.  And nobody in the secondary can pick off a pass.

I apologize if this recap is sounding more like a Yinzer Rant.  I probably sound like some degenerate gambler who is pissed because Vegas had the Steelers favored by 14 points yesterday.  I am just very very disturbed by the way this team is playing right now.  Detroit is by no means the worst team in the league anymore (hello, Raiders!) but there is no way this game should have been close.  Our offensive philosophy is completely screwed up and our defense is having massive problems in the secondary.  Unless these things get fixed and get fixed soon, we’re going to find ourselves on the wrong side of the Great NFL Divide.

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  • http://dawgpounddaily.com Steve

    Worst win ever, huh? I think the Browns might take that honor at this point.

  • http://nicepickcowher.com chris

    Steve, point taken. Although I’d argue the difference is people actually expect better out of the Steelers.

  • Robyn

    I’d like to say “a win’s a win. style points don’t matter” but this team is making me nervous. I think a blowout of the brownies is what we need to get our swagger back. However, we’ve always seemed to play to the level of our opponents, so even this week’s game scares me. hopefully, the return of Troy will fire up the defense and we’ll right the ship this week!

  • http://nicepickcowher.com chris

    Robyn, you were channeling your Inner Tomlin there for a second. :) I think when it comes to improving the defense, everybody has their eggs in Troy’s basket. Although in light of the new injury news, I’m starting to feel we’re just totally snakebit this year.

  • Cecil

    Hi Chris. I think that a lot of Steeler fans are missing the point here. We are the defending Super Bowl champions, and since that is what we are, we have a target on our backs. Every team is going to step up their game a notch when the play the Pittsburgh Steelers. Yes, the Lions are a bad team, but in this league any team can beat any other team, no matter the mismatches. I agree with Robyn that we need to stomp on the Browns. And yes, the playcalling in the 4th quarter was atrocious. I think a lot of Steeler fans want BA’s head on a stick.

  • “O”

    Cecil,your absolutly correct. We have a big old target on our back. That is were the saying “Any given Sunday” came from. Also BA either needs a stern talking to or needs to pack his bags. But with all of that said it is only week 6.You don’t want to peek in week 6.I believe all these undefeated teams are just wasting wins they will need in the playoffs. With Troy back the defence will have a whole different look to it. So why worry about how we look in week 6 as long as we scrape by with a win, and jell at the right time say week 13-14 and go into the playoffs a well oiled machine.

  • See

    yall gotta get two rings on ben’s hand on the banner of the website

  • http://nicepickcowher.com chris

    Cecil, you’re absolutely correct about “any given Sunday” and teams being especially psyched to play the champs. Still, at some point talent has to shine through. The Lions were whupped 48-10 by the Bears the week before. There is no way the fearsome combination of Culpepper-to-Northcutt should have sliced up the Steelers secondary like that. We do have a “bullseye” like you said but if we struggle against the fired up Lions, what are we going to do against the fired up Ravens or Colts?

  • http://nicepickcowher.com chris

    “O,” excellent points as usual. I don’t have stats in front of me but it does seem like every year a team or two start out 7-0 or 8-0 then fizzle out and end up one and done in the playoffs. I’d much rather peak in November/December than in October.

    However, my concern is by the time they flip that switch, it may be too late. The AFC is loaded with good teams. Remember the Browns missed the playoffs a couple years ago with a 10-6 record. There is still a lot of football to be played but when you’re up by 10-13 pts in the 4th quarter and blow it, those are the kinds of losses that come back to haunt you.

    See: I’ll talk to my graphics guy and see what he can do!

  • Cecil

    Yes, your right that we do need to come out against these bad teams and take control of the game. Daunte Culpepper is one of the most underatted quaterbacks in the leauge, but if you look at his numbers, you almost do a double-take. He is really good, a 3 time pro-bowler, and a 2 time all-pro, with 146 touchdown passes. I just think that after the Cleveland game we have to real challenges against Minnesota and Denver, and we have to win with what we’ve got. That’s what makes a champion.