Week 13 Recap: Epic Fail

Time of death was 4:02 P.M.

That was when a desperate last second Hail Mary attempt hit Limas Sweed in the worst possible place – his hands – and fell harmlessly to the turf, dooming the Pittsburgh Steelers to their fourth consecutive loss.  The Oakland Raiders, who came in as a two touchdown underdog, handed the defending Super Bowl champs a stunning 27-24 defeat.  This loss effectively ends the Steelers season.  While technically there are four games left and technically there is a complicated series of events which would still land Pittsburgh in the playoffs, it’s time to take off the Black and Gold colored glasses.  This is not a playoff caliber team.

In fact, right now this team isn’t very good period.

Let’s once again start at the beginning.  Which is actually appropriate because how the game started was a perfect example of everything they’ve done wrong this year.   The Steelers finally got something positive from their special teams when Stefan Logan took the opening kickoff back 83 yards.  Facing the worst run defense in the NFL, what do you think we did?   Go on, take a wild guess.

If you said, “Came out in a four WR/no RB passing formation” give yourself a cookie.

Naturally, we threw on two of our first three offensive plays.  All plays in the red zone, mind you.  And naturally these two passes, with a token run sandwiched in between, netted us a grand total of five yards.  So naturally we ended up settling for a Skippy Reed FG.   That’s the Bruce Arians way.

The ensuing kickoff was short as all of Skippy’s kicks were yesterday.  Evidently, the Steelers new plan for covering kicks is to semi-pooch it and just hope somebody makes a tackle.  In this case, Gary Russell (yes, the ex-Steeler whose best return move seemed to be “catch the ball and dive straight ahead”) eluded two or three Steelers for a 34 yard return.  The Raiders managed to get a Sebastian Janikowski FG out of the ensuing drive.

In the second quarter, the Steelers struck in lightning fashion.  Ben Roethlisberger lasered a ball down the middle to his frenemy Hines Ward for a 27 yard gain.  On the very next play, he dropped a beautiful pass over Santonio Holmes‘ right shoulder for a 34 yard touchdown.  Two plays, 61 yards, fifty-seven seconds.

But once again, the Raiders showed they weren’t going down without a fight.  Pittsburgh native QB Bruce Gradkowski directed a 53 yard drive that would end up milking over five minutes off the clock.  He started with a 16 yard pass to Zach Miller.  Then they were gifted 15 more yards when Lawrence Timmons face-masked Gradkowski on a blitz.  The biggest play was a 22 yard pass to Johnny Lee Higgins where…  I’ll let you guess what cornerback got his feet twisted up and blew the coverage.   The Raiders made it all the way to the Steelers 26 but were held to a FG thanks to idiotic playcalling on behalf of Oakland.   Gee, let’s have our RB try to throw a TD pass!!!

Halftime came with the score 10-6.  Now, what I haven’t mentioned yet is the Steelers should have had about 28 points at this point.  I already explained how the first drive was a failure.  Later in the first quarter, Arians discovered that the Raiders had a terrible run defense because he actually called a few rushing plays.  I think cavemen took less time to discover the wheel.  Rashard Mendenhall (20 carries 103 yards) took a handoff and rumbled 60 yards.  His next three carries only netted 9 and 3/4 yards to the Oakland 5.

So Mike Tomlin decided to channel his inner Belichick and go for it.  The call?  A quarterback sneak by Roethlisberger.  No, don’t give the ball to your 235 pound #1 draft pick RB.  Don’t give the ball to multi-time 1,000 yard rusher Fast Willie Parker.   Don’t give it to usually dependable Mewelde Moore.   Ask your recently concussed quarterback to dive headfirst into a solid wall of humanity.   Yeah, that’s what you want to do.

To add insult to stupidity, the Raiders stopped Ben in his tracks.   Turnover on downs.  But that wasn’t the only failure Big Ben was to experience on Sunday.  In the second quarter, the Steelers went back to their Flying Circus (against the worst rush defense in the NFL, did I mention that yet?)  They managed to work the ball all the way down to the Oakland 16.  At which time, Ben decided to throw into triple coverage and was predictably picked off.

So let’s recap this tremendous display of first half offensive firepower by Bruce Arians, Ben Roethlisberger, the guy who thinks Ben is a sissy, the Dirk Diggler lookalike, and some other guys who barely ever touch the ball.   First down at the Oakland 18.  Field goal.  First down at the Oakland 14.  Turnover on downs.   First down at the Oakland 16.  Interception.


The second half started and out of nowhere Arians decided to impersonate a competent offensive coordinator.  He gave the Raiders a steady dose of Mendenhall which served to control the clock.   At one point, Mendy ran the ball on five consecutive plays and I began to believe in alien abduction.  By controlling the time of possession and keeping the defense off the field, the Steelers effectively ran out the quarter without any points being scored.

Then came the fourth quarter where the game became the live-action equivalent of Madden Football.  Oakland started with a nice 11 play 67 yard touchdown drive which put them ahead 13-10.  Another good kickoff return by Logan was followed by a 57 yard bomb to Holmes.  Mendenhall bulled his way in to the end zone from 3 yards out.  Then, in an absolutely stunning display of ineptitude, the secondary completely blew the coverage in allowing somebody named Louis Murphy to get wide open for a 75 yard touchdown pass.

A SEVENTY-FIVE YARD TOUCHDOWN PASS.   Thrown by Bruce Gradkowski.   Caught by Louis Murphy.  Yes, the Origami Curtain was alive and well.

Ike Taylor was the man who was roasted like a chestnut over an open fire on the play although I don’t know if he was entirely to blame.  Don’t get me wrong, Ike had an awful game but it definitely looked like he was expecting a safety to be out there with him.  Considering Tyrone Carter and Ryan Clark were out of position or missing tackles all day long,  missing an assignment is definitely within the realm of possibility.

Ben answered by leading the Steelers 80 yards on 7 plays, tossing a go-ahead TD to Hines.   Hines actually got away with one because he facemasked the CB to get wide open on his fade route.   After the kickoff, the Raiders found themselves at their 12 yard line with two minutes left in the game.  And being down 24-20, they had to score a TD.   In the bag, right?

Oh, dear readers, no lead is safe with the Origami Curtain.  They had only just begun to fold.  The first calamity occurred on a 19 yard pass to Murphy.   William Gay had him wrapped up but Ryan Mundy attempted to spear him for good measure.  Instead, he ended up taking out his own man.   Now, I’m clearly not a fan of Will.i.am.  Some might even call me a Gay Basher.  But I want to see him on the bench for the right reason, because he sucks, not because of injury.  Thankfully, he walked off the field although apparently did suffer a concussion.

No word on whether Hines considers him a sissy.

Anyway, out of the oven came rookie Joe Burnett to take his place.  He immediately showed us all that he’d fit in PERFECTLY with this secondary by dropping an INT that hit him right in the chest.  As soon as that happened, I knew the game was lost.  But, like when you slow down as you pass a car crash, I kept watching to see how the inevitable end would come.

I soon had my answer.  On the very next play, Gradkowski threw up a duck that hung in the air like a punt.   I mean, it must’ve floated up there for a good four or five seconds.   Mitch Berger didn’t kick’em that high.   While three other Steelers stood around with thumbs up their asses, Louis Murphy outjumped Burn Me Ike to come down with a 23 yard gain.  Do these guys know you can push a receiver out of bounds?   Do they care?

On the next play, Mundy decided he wanted to spear an Oakland player instead.  Unfortunately, the WR was already down when he came flying in.   So his stupidity cost the Steelers 15 more yards on a personal foul.  Not content with taking out our starting CB then cheapshotting an opponent, Mundy completed the Trifecta of Suck by leaving his man alone in the end zone when Gradkowski scrambled around.

Touchdown, Raiders.

Game, Raiders.

Season over, Steelers.  It was fun while it lasted.

Dick's Sporting Goods presents "Hell Week":

Tags: 2009 Nfl Playoffs Anthony Madison Baltimore Ravens Ben Roethlisberger Big Ben Black And Gold Black And Gold Blog Bruce Arians Bruce Gradkowski Charlie Batch Dennis Dixon Fast Willie Parker Fire Arians Fwp Hines Ward James Harrison Lamarr Woodley Louis Murphy Mike Tomlin Nfl Playoffs Oakland Raiders Pittsburgh Pittsburgh Steelers Pittsburgh Steelers Blog Rashard Mendenhall Ratbirds Ravens-Steelers Roethlisberger Roethlisberger Concussion Ryan Mundy Santonio Holmes Silver And Black Attack Steeler Nation Steelers Steelers Blog Steelers Nation Stefan Logan Stillers Super Bowl Champions William Gay Zach Miller

  • JLAW

    I was working and as stated before live in Mo. I’m sulking so I won’t watch espn as their highlights are never as good as yours anyway. I read through the posts yesterday on know thy enemy and have to agree with JD. I just don’t get it this year. Other than McFadden and Troy to injury was their someone else different in the secondary cause I don’t recall? They still stuff the run pretty well. The flying circus needs the reigns pulled back in. As I stated last night we can spoil it for the rats and the fish so maybe that’ll inspire them?

  • KTown

    I am the eternal optimist when it comes to Pittsburgh Steeler football. To my favorite team in the world: Thanks for the great season last year and enjoy your playoff-less offseason. For the 2nd time now, this Superbowl championship team defended their championship with no heart, no soul, no attention to detail, and a seeming disinterest in it all. And I thought it was Cowher!?! It is the core leadership of this team that is to blame for this embarrassment. I actually believe a home loss to the Raiders should immediately make the team doing the losing a eligible for demotion to the UFL. Again, best wishes for your extended offseason, though; maybe next year you’ll find the UFL competetition willing to lie down for you.

  • Darrell

    I got to see like the last 27 seconds or so on TV (Colts were on and they already had the win sealed but they’ll never turn the channel away from the precious Colts until its 0:00) but I got to see the replay of Mundy committing his great personal foul, and then soon after I got to see his garbage coverage. Needless to say, he’s definitely on my list of players Steelers need to get rid of already. Maybe he’s good but I just happened to see the worst two plays of his football career, how unfortunate for him. I don’t even know what he was doing, he looked like he was cutting inside based off watching the QB and not watching his WR as that guy was actually going outside. Seriously when are these inexperienced players going to stop trying to make the big time plays? Play your position and get better at it before trying to be the **** hero. And then I read a Yahoo article today saying Ryan Clark should be replaced by Mundy. Seriously? If they really need a replacement for Ryan Clark that bad I think I should go try out, couldn’t be any worse than Mundy.

  • JD

    Never been much of a “Swaggin” fan and after seeing the debacle Sunday, I’m even less of a fan now. Sounds like he may see the bench Thursday. With Polamalu gone, these were the games that the secondary needed to step up. Really dropped the ball on that…no pun intended Mr. Burnett.

    Can’t believe they’re still even mentioning the Steelers in the race for the Wild Card (outside chance). It’s like a bad horror movie where the killer keeps getting up…should maybe let the season die already. To painful to keep thinking there is still hope…

    Go Steelers…

  • http://nicepickcowher.com chris

    JLaw, I appreciate your compliments on my recaps. I realize they may be a tad long for those who already saw the game but a lot of my readers come from outside Pittsburgh so I try to give them some details about the game rather than just general observations.

    As for playing spoiler, I totally agree that ruining the Ratbirds chances would be sweet. I don’t really have any problem with Green Bay or Miami, though. Actually, I kinda hope Peezy makes the playoffs. I always liked him.

  • http://nicepickcowher.com chris

    KTown, thank you for bringing up Cowher. I was just thinking about that myself. When we had a terrible 2006 after the Super Bowl year, I remember everybody piling on Cowher for “mailing it in.” I admit he was a bit calmer on the sidelines than usual but he was also dealing with a brain damaged QB and a bunch of losses in free agency. Tomlin has to deal with a few injuries, too, but he still has All Pros and #1 Draft Picks all over the field. So what’s his excuse?

  • http://nicepickcowher.com chris

    Darrell, national sites like Yahoo or ESPN or Sportingnews usually have no idea what they’re talking about when it comes to the Steelers. I still see Willie Parker listed as “a top free agent running back” on those sites and we all know he’s way way way past his prime.

    As for Mundy, this game was particularly bad but he hasn’t played well all season. He used to rotate in with Ty Carter with Troy out (and still does although not as often) and he repeatedly either blew his assignment or missed tackles by trying to spear the guy instead. He sucks and starting him will only make our secondary worse.

  • KTown

    Chris, there is no excuse, that is the point. It wasn’t Cowher and it isn’t Tomlin, Arians or Lebeau. It is terrible execution accompanied by apparent apathy. Take Ike Taylor getting beat for the TD by a no-name kid. First, terrible fundamentals, letting the kid gain outside position. Second, terrible effort in tracking him after the catch followed by a half-hearted push just before the kid reaches the end zone (shrugging off the push along the way). Now, if you want to blame coaching, then I suppose you could look to Mundy’s failures. He’s a kid after all and requires “coaching up,” but vets such as Taylor, Clark, Carter, Farrior, Harrison, Hampton & Keisel, their failure is not due to coaching – it’s due to a lack of leadership, attention to detail & heart (and, I know, in some cases such as Farrior, Townsend, and maybe Hampton age is a factor).

  • KTown

    Incidentally, does anyone else here miss Bryant McFadden? Anyone agree with management that letting him go and letting Will Gay replace him was a smart organizational move? I didn’t then and sure don’t know. Maybe, just maybe, there is some blame to place there as well.

  • Darrell

    McFadden was decent from the few games I got to see, I can’t know how much he wanted from the Steelers to know if it would’ve been worth keeping him. Some of the Arizona games I’ve seen he doesn’t seem all that spectacular this year. Not saying he’s terrible but still.
    And I’ve always had a problem with Ike Taylor. It seems like if any CB gets beat deep its always him. He jumps routes trying for picks and then gets beat. The funny/ironic thing about that is, he can’t even catch the ball so aside from making it incomplete jumping the route does him no good cause he isn’t going to catch it anyways. The Steelers have always seemed to be good at getting rid of good players who they couldn’t afford or weren’t worth their trouble and then replacing them with other good players, but so far this year no one seems to be playing good.

  • JLaw

    McFadden was alright. One of the guys who went out did his job and made occassional mistakes like everyone else. I agree Ike is not the premier cover corner that they build him up to be. They need another Woodson or Lake type leader back there to compliment Troy. He is getting older and soon a protege must emerge or we are super screwed.
    I’ll agree that nobody on the defense seems to want to lead the guys into battle either. I’m a Farrior fan and since he is the senior man on the squad perhaps he needs to light the fire!
    Chris as I’ve mentioned I live in MO and get stuck watching the Scrams lose all the time which I enjoy seeing cause the STL bandwagon wore me out those couple of good years they had. Now it’s back to grab your torch and pitchforks. Sorry I’ve got not much use for them. Sunday or Monday are about the only games I get to see so I look to you for the play by play. Thank you. The fish are ok but whatever drives them to at least finish with a winning record is my concern. As for the Rats, drown them at all cost. Bad enough the Bengals clinched.

  • http://nicepickcowher.com chris

    KTown, I basically agree with your idea that veterans should be responsible enough to pay attention to details or show some pride and heart. However, I think you’re letting the coaching staff off way too easy. The coaches, esp the head coach, has to be in control of his team. If he expects the players to entirely police themselves, he’s not doing his job. Also, when a player repeatedly fails, whether they are a youngster like Gay or a vet like Farrior, the coach needs to address this. Tomlin has done nothing.

    As for McFadden, I’ve said several times I wish we still had him. He’d clearly be a massive upgrade over Gay. But when B-Mac left, I admit that I wasn’t upset about it. Last year, B-Mac missed games with a broken forearm and when he came back, he rotated with Gay. Gay looked like a perfectly capable CB at the time.

    Obviously, he has been exposed as a fraud now that he’s playing every down. But hindsight is always 20-20.

  • http://nicepickcowher.com chris

    Darrell and JLaw, in the past two seasons, Ike Taylor has had to cover OchoCinco (4x), Terrell Owens, Plaxico Burress, Brandon Marshall, Percy Harvin, Derrick Mason (4x), Reggie Wayne, Santana Moss, and Randy Moss. How many of those guys do you remember having huge games against us?

    Notice the next time you watch a Steelers game how at least 75% of the other team’s passes are either directed down the middle of the field of toward William Gay. They stay away from Ike. Because his coverage is usually airtight. Everybody gets beat once in awhile but if you look at what the WRs he covers usually do, you’d see how much of a difference he makes.

    Now, I agree with JLaw, he’s not a “premier” corner because his hands completely suck. If he came down with even 3 or 4 INTs a season, he’d be in the Pro Bowl every year. But he doesn’t so, yeah, he’s not the greatest CB in the league.

    But as far as a coverage goes? He’s really really good. Although last week he definitely had a pretty pathetic game.

  • JLaw

    Hey you forgot Larry. I’m not saying he is bad just not great. He gets some lucky breaks too though. He has a pretty good knack for not gettin flagged when he probably should.
    I’d just feel more comfortable with another guy like him or better that also will help light a fire in that secondary.

  • Darrell

    Maybe Ike Taylor just plays bad in the few games I get to see the Steelers? Regardless, everyone just played bad this night. Losing to the 1-11 Browns 13-6 is just an all time low. After the game Hines said all they can do now is play for pride, I’m sorry when you lose to the browns you lose all previous pride and are stripped from gaining pride for the rest of the season. I gotta agree with you Chris, something is going on with the coaching here, these players have all proven in the past they have talent, but none of them are playing like they do.