Week 10 Recap: Steelers Kiss Da Baby

The Pittsburgh Steelers were handed a devastating loss by the improbable score of 18-12 yesterday afternoon.  This defeat completes a shocking sweep of both divisional games by the Cincinnati Bengals.  Barring a monumental collapse, the Bengals have all but assured themselves of winning the AFC North title.  On a day when both a game and a division were lost, perhaps the worst loss for the Steelers came in the form of Troy Polamalu, who re-injured his knee on the first series of the game and may be lost for the season.

This is where I usually launch into an obnoxiously detailed analysis.  Unfortunately, there isn’t much to talk about with this one.  Most of the action seemed to follow the same script over and over again.  There were no offensive touchdowns scored.  Pittsburgh punted five times while the Bengals had four boots.  Neither team was able to reach 250 total yards of offense for the entire game.  The offensive heroes were Cincy’s Shayne Graham (4 for 5 on FGs) and Skippy Reed (who split the uprights on all 4 of his attempts).

Skippy also figured prominently in the key play of the game.  The final margin of victory was primarily owed to rookie Bernard Scott and his 96 yard kickoff return for a touchdown.  Skippy did another fantastic job on kickoff coverage, running past Scott without so much as laying a finger on him.  Although let’s be fair and remember Reed is paid to make kicks not tackles.  The 10 other guys who by and large don’t do anything except play on special teams should be embarrassed by their work this season.  This is the worst kick coverage I’ve seen in close to ten years.

A badly depleted Steeler defense managed to bend but not break all day long.  Subtracting the kickoff TD and one FG that was set up by a Ben Roethlisberger interception returned deep in to our territory, the D held up quite well.  Of course, it helped that the Bengals played most of the game without the red hot Cedric Benson, also lost to injury.  Still, when you hold a high-powered offense featuring the likes of Carson Palmer (178 yards passing) and Ochocinco (2 catches for 29 yards) to a handful of field goals, you’ve pretty much done your job.

Which is more than I can say for our offense.  This week really exposed the weakness of Bruce Arians’ Flying Circus.  When it clicks, it’s great.  But when you have one of those days where things just aren’t firing on all cylinders, everything falls apart.  And, brother, not even superglue could’ve put it back together.

Big Ben sucked yesterday.  Every throw was high or low or a little to the right or a little to the left or overthrown or underthrown or directly into a defender’s paws.  Ben had so many passes swatted down at the line of scrimmage that I lost count.  And even though Ben’s throws were wild and erratic, his receivers didn’t provide him much help.  Santonio Holmes let a sure TD go right through his arms in the end zone and Mike Wallace dropped a crucial third and long conversion.

Then we have the offensive line.  It surely didn’t help Ben’s cause that his boys had a hard time keeping him upright, surrendering a season high 4 sacks and many other knockdowns/pressures.  The bookends, Max Starks and Willie Colon, were repeatedly getting beaten off the edge by the Bengals speedy pass rushers.  And when they did manage to provide a sliver of protection, the Bengals secondary was able to keep things covered long enough to prevent Ben from doing any damage.

Despite this laundry list of shortcomings, the Steelers managed to move the ball into the Cincinnati red zone no less than four times.  In fact, they got as deep as the Bengals 16, 10, 8, and 17 yard lines before settling for FGs on each occasion.  A disturbing pattern soon emerged where the Steelers would look lost, somehow pull a couple nice plays out of their asses to get into Cincy territory, then proceed to shoot themselves in the foot.  On three of those drives, what started as a 1st and goal from around ten yards out became a 2nd and goal from the 25-30 yard line because of a penalty or sack.  The playcalling was beyond atrocious.  I realize the Bengals are the #2 team against the rush and Rashard Mendenhall only had 36 yards on the day but lining up in a five WR set from the 8 yard line????   If we can’t pound it in from that distance Steeler Football is truly dead.

Much like our hopes for a championship repeat may be.  This loss drops the Steelers to 6-3 and creates a scenario where the only way we can win the division is by finishing a full game ahead of the Bengals.  With that scenario highly unlikely to happen, it appears the Black and Gold are now relegated to Wild Card status.  Last year, the New England Patriots missed out on the Wild Card despite an 11-5 record.  In other words, not only is that route to the Super Bowl extremely difficult because you have to play three games all on the road but it’s a huge crapshoot just to get the spot in the first place.   But this is where having lost twice to a team we should have beaten has left the Steelers.  They’re going to have to play their best football from here on out because as of now the margin for error is officially zero.

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  • http://joeyporterspitbulls.blogspot.com/ Joey Porter’s Pit Buills

    Well said.

    Jeff Reed is maddening. You’re right that he’s paid to make kicks, not tackles. Still. That was ridiculous. Again. Maybe he should tackling lessons from Daniel Sepulveda. Plus his kickoffs rarely get into the end zone, while Stefan Logan seems to be routinely fielding kickoffs five yards deep into the end zone.

    The Steelers still have a pretty good shot at the Wild Card, having already defeated both San Diego and Denver. At least split with Baltimore, and beat everybody else, and we should be in good shape at 12-4.

  • JLaw

    I couldn’t agree more. Reed needs to stop worrying about his hair and acting a fool around town and attend a tackling practic. Sure he is paid to kick but tackling is part of the game. Especially to save the game!!

  • andrew

    Division is still winnable. Bengals play San Diego and Vikings before this season is up. A road game in Oakland could be a slip up much like we did in 06.

    We play nobody with a winning record. And while Baltimore and the Packers aren’t pushovers they certainly are below this team’s talent level.

    Hoping Troy P gets better.

    And as far as skippy I dont blame him one bit. He shouldnt be PUT in that position every week. The team needs to get their stuff together. I dont care what it takes.

  • “O”

    Special teams is killing us week in and week out. Don’t put this all on Reed. But it would be nice if he could kick it to the endzone. Our special teams are not donig well on their lane assingments and they are not getting off of there blocks. Coach Tomlin should rip them a new ass****. Plus Ben had a horrible game. There were three chances for him to hit Wallace deep, but he did not pull the trigger. Plus Chris made a good point about dropped passes. Finally Troy. That is what you could call a perfect strom. Maybe we can weather the storm but it will take a miracle.

  • http://nicepickcowher.com chris

    Joey and JLaw, I don’t want to make it sound like I’m forgiving Skippy. His attempts at tackling are absolutely embarrassing. But the kicker is supposed to be the last line of defense. The 10 players whose entire job is to run down the field and make a tackle are the ones who should be getting most of our blame.

    And Joey, I’ve noticed that about Reed’s kickoffs, too. I think it may be because they’re telling him to angle his kicks to specific places so the coverage knows where to go. Yeah, that’s working out real well.

  • http://nicepickcowher.com chris

    Andrew,, I appreciate your optimism but watching Green Bay dismantle the Cowboys yesterday tells me that game is far from a gimme. We may be more talented than most of the teams on our schedule but, honestly, who doesn’t think we’re more talented than the Bears and/or Cincy?

    A loss to the Pack and a split with the Ratbirds puts us at 11-5. As I said in my final paragraph, the Patriots missed the playoffs last year at 11-5. Our margin for error is slimmer than a lot of people think.

    And that doesn’t even factor where we’re at if Troy misses significantly more time.

  • http://nicepickcowher.com chris

    O, I’m glad you noticed the misfires to Wallace, too. The second one was particularly bad as he blew by the coverage and Ben underthrew him by five yards. Then again, the playcalling was also insane because they had 2 full minutes left in the game and instead of taking nice small 10-15 yard chunks, Arians kept dialing up 30+ yard bombs.

    I hope Tomlin does something to wake this team up, especially the special teams. I’m all for a coach with a calm demeanor but these cheap kick/punt return TDs have got to stop.

  • JLaw

    Gonna be tighter than I’d like the rest of the season. I think we can finish strong and hope that the Colts and Pats lose a few. We get the sixth seed and win out on the road just like it was taking The Bus home for XL. It’s gonna be tough but I’ve got faith.