Week 11 Recap: Rock Bottom

Let’s say I told you the Pittsburgh Steelers wouldn’t allow a touchdown on defense for over six quarters.  Let’s say I told you the defense would hold the Kansas City Chiefs to 50 yards of total offense during the first half.   FIFTY YARDS.  Let’s say I told you Ben Roethlisberger had almost 400 yards passing while his opposing number, Matt Cassel, was stormed for a sack five times.  You’d think the Steelers had a pretty good day, wouldn’t you?

Except you’d be wrong.  Terribly, horribly wrong.  There are some nightmares you unfortunately cannot wake up from.   And the Pittsburgh Steelers being defeated 27-24 in overtime by the lowly Kansas City Chiefs is certainly one of them.

We’ll start where we should always start, in the beginning.  Mike Tomlin made a big show this past week of cutting Arnold Harrison and sending a message to the woeful special teams.  Evidently, that message didn’t get through because the Chiefs took the opening kickoff 97 yards for a TD.  It wasn’t even the cleanest of returns as there were guys within reach of Jamaal Charles.  None of them could shed a block or make a tackle in an absolutely inept display of kick coverage.

I thought it was funny to see Skippy Reed run down the field to get involved in the play after he told  the paper his job on kicks is to wait for the returner to come to him and then run in the opposite direction as fast as he can.  The Steelers have now given up four kickoff TDs this season, the most in their history.  EVER.  It’s not the Steelers Way to fire a coach mid-season so special teams “coach” Bob Ligasheshky is probably safe for now but I’d be polishing up my resume if I were him.

Anyway, after that debacle, the first half went mostly according to script.  The defense completely stifled the inept KC offense.  Offensively, we mixed the pass/run fairly well and moved the ball effectively against the porous Chiefs defense.  Five drives yielded three scores, which would have been more except on the second drive rookie Mike Wallace fumbled after catching a 33 yard bomb.  The only thing I didn’t like was the fact “more emphasis on the running game” evidently meant more carries for Willie Parker.  Parker continues to look like a shell of his former self.

Then came the second half.

Stop me if this sounds familiar.  Run-pass-pass.  Run-pass-pass.  Run-pass-pass.  That’s Bruce Arians brilliant playcalling.  He rolled out the Flying Circus and it was all downhill from there.  If you want a play that perfectly sums up the stupidity of this offense, it’s this.  3rd and 4 from your own 40.  They line up in the shotgun and Ben launches a 35 yard pass which falls incomplete.  Why are we passing in third and short?  Why are we in the shotgun?   Why are we going for a bomb when all we need is to move the chains?

I’ve watched football for a long time.  I realize times and teams are different.  I realize you have to play to your strengths.  But do you remember Bill Cowher?  His teams never, NEVER, blew large leads against clearly inferior opponents.  Know why?  Because once we were comfortably ahead, he dialed back the throttle, put the ball in the hands of the Bus (or Barry or Bam) and let him and our awesome defense ice the game.  The last time the Steelers blew a double digit lead was 1986.  This year we’ve done it TWICE.

So we took the ball to start the second half and it was run-pass-pass.   Except on the second pass, Ben’s throw bounced through Heath’s hands and was INT by KC.  Cassel drove the Chiefs 61 yards, completing a 21 yard TD pass to Leonard Pope.  Who blew the coverage on that play?   Take a guess.  I’ll wait.

Twenty Brownie points if you said “Will.i.am Gay.”

After an exchange of punts, the Steelers began to drive.  Ben took what was being given to him, dinking and dunking the team down to the KC 10 yard line.   Then he showed it was better to give than receive.   His second INT of the game was a terrible throw trying to force a pass into a crowd in the endzone.  This pick was returned James Harrison-style, from their end to our end.  The only difference was Rashard Mendenhall, showing great hustle and surprising speed, ran all the way across the field to tackle Andy Studebaker short of the goal line.  This was almost a game-saving play because the defense rose up to hold the Chiefs to a FG.

The defense wasn’t done.  Lawrence Timmons busted in on Cassel and rescued the ball from his evil clutches while Silverback made sure it found it’s way to freedom.  Working on a short field, Ben was able to find Mendenhall for a short TD pass.  Mendenhall really deserves praise for an excellent game.  He had 21 carries for 80 yards, 4 catches for 36 yards, and the aforementioned hustle play.

Just when it looked like the Steelers would escape with an ugly win, the defense choose that time to completely break down.  KC completed two long passes over the middle in going 91 yards on only 8 plays.  Shockingly, the game was tied.  The Super Bowl champions were tied with the laughingstock of the NFL.

Ben still had a chance to be a hero.  Unfortunately, he was a general going into battle without all his troops.  As a result of throwing the ball every twenty seconds, our best offensive lineman, Chris Kemoteau, was injured.  You see, pass blocking is a lot more dangerous than run blocking because in the former you’re backing up and reacting while in the latter you’re just pushing forward.  Kemo has a sprained MCL which could mean he misses a game or two.  Max Starks was also injured during one of our many many throws although he eventually came back.

Well, KC recognized our weakened OL situation and began dialing up the pressure.  A sack ended one drive and a penalty ended any thoughts of a final drive in regulation.  The Steelers won the OT coin toss and I’m sure we all thought Ben would pull this one out.  Then disaster struck.

Or, more accurately, a knee struck Ben Roethlisberger.   In the head.  Hard.  Ben was under duress and scrambled away from the pressure trying to convert a first down.  A KC linebacker flew in on him, knocking him loopy with a knee to the helmet.  Ben sat down on the bench looking like he was seeing cartoon birds flying circling around.  Charlie Batch, seeing his first action in two years, came in and threw a STRIKE to Santonio Holmes for 17 yards.

The Steelers were looking at a 53 yard FG.  All you needed was about five yards to be in makeable range for Skippy.  On the previous play, Rashard gashed KC for 7 yards right up the middle.  So what does Arians do?  Calls a wide pitch to Mewelde Moore which is stopped for a three yard loss.  WHY, BRUCE, WHY!?!?!?

KC took the ball.  Cassel threw a duck into Ike Taylor’s hands which he predictably dropped.  The Football Gods, angered by his refusing their gift, paid the Steelers back with a 61 yard pass play to Chris Chambers where half the defense missed tackles.  One kick later and you had one of the most embarassing defeats in Steelers history.

I don’t know what more to say.  I’m utterly disgusted by this team right now.  If I were Dick LeBeau, I’d be infuriated by the fact my defense keeps playing standout football only to see the pathetic offense and embarrassing special teams give games away. The offensive playcalling is atrocious. The special teams is a joke. And our secondary blows without Troy.  Ben is concussed and with the NFL cracking down on head injuries, we may not have him next week.  Even if he plays, mark my words, we ARE NOT going to beat Baltimore. Sorry, no way, no chance.  Forget playoffs and forget Super Bowl.   This is not a good team right now.

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  • JLAW

    Wow what a crapper! Can’t believe they blew that one. You hit the nail on the head Chris. Just heard on sportscenter Batch is out for next 6 weeks and Ben is still not ruled in or out for Sunday night. If they are both out the D will have to pick six every other Flacco pass and limit our special teams to onside kicks in order to pull this one out.

  • Todd

    Yeah, we’re screwed at this point. I knew we were in trouble when Polamalu went out with an injury again. 4 runbacks on special teams is ridiculous…you know our ST are pathetic when you hold your breath on every single kickoff.

    Predictable offensive playcalling, yep…maybe we should watch some Patriots tapes and rip off some of their sure-fire pass plays. They move the chains without breaking a sweat against any defense, but it seems like it’s a crapshoot for us on 2nd or 3rd down pass situations to get the ball in our receivers’ hands.

    If we can’t beat Kansas City, we don’t deserve even a Wildcard berth.

  • “O”

    At least we still have the Penguins.

  • http://nicepickcowher.com chris

    Todd, I hold my breath, too. It doesn’t make it any easier. And I’m totally in agreement, no team that loses to the Chiefs (and, really, the Bears aren’t much better) deserves a playoff spot.

    According to Arians, almost every 2nd and 3rd down is a pass situation judging by his playcalls.

    I assume you were being sarcastic with the Patriots comment but for the record, the Patriots can throw 40x a game because Brady, Moss, & Welker are geared for that. I love our guys but Ben is too mistake prone and our receivers aren’t sure-handed enough to do that.

    Tomlin saying we should be like NE was the dumbest thing he’s ever said.

  • http://nicepickcowher.com chris

    Jlaw, I saw that bit of news on ESPN’s ticker. I’m waiting to hear what’s up with Ben before posting about it. If Ben is a go, losing Batch isn’t as big a deal. Although I have a feeling we’re going to need our backup QB at least once more before this season is over.

    Really sucks for Charlie. I liked him. At his age, he might finally pack it in. Too bad he couldn’t go out a winner.

  • JD

    Was at the game in KC…Just want to say thank you to the Steelers for a very embarassing moment. Been a fan since the 70s but since I live in Nebraska have very few chances to see them play. Found myself and every other Steeler fan slinking out of the stadium to shouts of “NOT IN MY HOUSE” and “NO CAKE HERE”…Steelers made their season!

    Offensive play calling sucks!!! You’re right, I don’t understand passing on 3rd and short. With Berger and the play calling it’s feast or famine on every play. Need to get back to consistent, sustained drives.

    Special teams needs to start kicking the ball out of bounds…at least no run backs.



  • http://nicepickcowher.com chris

    JD, about how much of the stadium would you say was made up of Steeler fans? It sure sounded like we invaded Arrowhead on TV although once the Chiefs showed signs of life that all went out the window.

    And I’ve heard some pretty strange smack talk in my day but I have absolutely no idea what “NO CAKE HERE” is supposed to mean. Must be a Mizzou thing.

    It’s always great to hear from lifelong Steeler fans from outside the ‘Burgh. I’m just sorry that sorry performance was the one you got to see. And I agree on the kickoffs. Teams return it to the 35/40 every damn time anyway, might as well kick it out of bounds so at least they won’t get a TD.

  • JD

    Will support the Steelers no matter what!!! BUT would like to see a little more consistency with the running game…like most Steeler faithful!

    Stadium was probably 40%? Steeler Nation. My Dad was with me and when the towels began to fly, he was awfully impressed. He’s a Husker fan, and they have a similar type of following. It was pretty amazing. They had a band playing at one of the gates and the singer kept trying to get the Chief fans fired up by referencing the “Sea of Black and Gold”.

    The thing that made me feel a little better when leaving the stadium and numb-nuts is shouting “No Cake Here” (You’re right I have no clue what that means) was when I also heard him mumble “And next time don’t bring so damn many of ya”.

    Proud to be part of Steeler Nation….

  • JLAW

    JD I sadly hale from the state of Missouri. I don’t get the cake thing at all. I got to attend the beating of the Scrams last year with my father, grandfather, mom, and uncle. All been fans since the 70′s. I was born in 80 and my son was born last year. I’d like a few more rings hope that don’t mean I need to mass produce. We all are proud to be part of STEELER NATION! The sea of Black and Gold was amazing. I’m hoping to attend a game in the Burgh next season. I may fuss but I’ll never jump ship.
    Chris my steelers texter said Charlie is out for 4 weeks and Ben seems to be ok and suffering no residual effects. Didn’t say anything about Troy so I’m assuming he is out next couple of weeks. Got any news on that front?

  • http://nicepickcowher.com chris

    I figured there was a large gathering of Steeler fans at the game just by the “HEEEEATTHHH!” chant every time Miller caught a pass. But almost half the stadium? That’s a really impressive showing by Steeler Nation.

    JLaw, I usually don’t pay much attention to injury reports early in the week because Tomlin lies to the media. I wait until my “Know Thy Enemy” post because hearing who did/didn’t practice on Friday is usually the best clue. But all sources say Troy is gone for a month so I wouldn’t expect to see him for at least the next two games.

  • Todd

    Was it Gary Anderson who used to kick the ball through the back of the end zone on every kickoff? Whoever it was, I wish we had him back.

  • http://nicepickcowher.com chris

    There were two Gary Andersons. He used to kick it in the end zone early in his career. Then the NFL changed the rules to move the ball back on kickoffs and his kicks never got farther than the 5 yard line.

    I like your train of thought on this one. Instead of keeping a player just to run back kicks (Logan), the Steelers should find a kicker just to boom kickoffs instead.