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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