Super Bowl Recap: Not Enough Shovels

Super Bowl XXX was the first time the Pittsburgh Steelers lost a championship game in their illustrious history.  Their opponents were the Dallas Cowboys.  Troy Aikman was the victorious quarterback.  The Steelers started off slow in that game but mounted a furious comeback that was ultimately undone by one too many mistakes.

Fifteen years later, the Steelers found themselves in Super Bowl XLV.  Ironically, it took place at Cowboys Stadium.  Troy Aikman was there calling the game.  And, once again, the Black and Gold staged a valiant comeback which was ultimately thwarted by too many miscues.

You can only dig so many holes.  Eventually, you run out of shovels.

The Steelers lived dangerously throughout this year’s playoffs.  Gave up a huge lead to Baltimore.  Ben Roethlisberger played lousy against the Jets.  Yet they found a way to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.  Against the Green Bay Packers, they tempted fate once too often.

This performance was pretty much a Cliff’s Notes version of everything which had led to this point.  The Steelers went into halftime staring at a 21-10 deficit.  Ben made a handful of plays but played poorly overall.  The secondary, a question mark all season, broke down at inopportune times.  And if this game doesn’t signal the end of the Bruce Arians era, he must have pictures of Art Rooney II cross-dressing at a Lady Gaga concert or something.

I said in my game preview the Steelers would be well-served to emphasize the running game like they did against New York.  On their second possession of the game, Pittsburgh lined up with David Johnson at fullback and ran the ball down Green Bay’s throat.  Then, on 3rd and 1, Arians went with his beloved empty backfield and the pass fell incomplete.  They wouldn’t return to a consistent ground attack until the second half.

Backed up at their 7, Arians dialed up a deep bomb to Mike Wallace.  He was open but Ben’s arm was hit on release and the duck was picked by Nick Collins.  Collins returned it for a touchdown.  A few drives later, Ben tried to squeeze a pass to Wallace between two defenders.  Jarrett Bush snatched the ball away from Flash for the second costly turnover of the half.

Why were we throwing so much against what is generally considered the strength of the Packers defense?  WHO KNOWS.  Why does the rain in Spain fall mostly on the plain?  WHO KNOWS.  Do androids dream of electric sheep?  WHO KNOWS.

I’m taking nothing away from the Packers.  They played like the Super Bowl veterans while Aaron Rodgers earned a well-deserved MVP award.  This game could have been uglier than Fergie’s outfit during that debacle of a halftime show if not for the Packers young receivers repeatedly dropping his perfect passes.  So to say the Steelers beat themselves would not be fair because most of those drops would’ve went for long gains.

In a happier alternate reality, Wallace would have been the MVP after being left wide open time and time again by a badly banged up Green Bay secondary playing without Charles Woodson.  Ben’s throws were routinely off-line, missing a streaking Wallace on a sure touchdown early in the third quarter being perhaps the most egregious of his errors.  Every game has bounces that go one way or the other.  The outcome hinges on who makes the plays when they need to be made.  When the chips were down, Rodgers made the plays.  Ben did not.

Neither did Dick LeBeau‘s defense.  They didn’t play badly but they didn’t play particularly well either.  Troy Polmalu was a total non-factor.  They failed to generate a single turnover.  And they wilted toward the end of the game, surrendering a 31 yard pass to Greg Jennings and a 21 yarder to James Jones when they desperately needed to get off the field.  Granted, they eventually forced a field goal but by then the clock had been milked past the two minute warning while Green Bay’s lead had been upped to six points.

Despite all the errors, the proud Steelers did not go quietly right up to the final drive of the game.  Although the game really turned when they rediscovered the running game in the second half and it allowed them to cut the 11 point deficit to 4.  As the fourth quarter began, the Black and Gold had the momentum and were driving when Rashard Mendenhall was double-humped by Clay Matthews and Ryan Pickett and the ball popped loose.  A lot of football was left to be played but that ultimately proved to be one mistake too many.

Congratulations to the World Champion Green Bay Packers.  Also, a heartfelt thanks to the Pittsburgh Steelers.  Losing the Super Bowl sucks.  No way around it.  But when you consider the adversity they faced this season, from the unfair persecution of their starting quarterback, to the injuries to key personnel, to being targeted by a corrupt commissioner and being victimized by blatantly biased officiating, there really is no way to consider this year a failure regardless of how the journey ends.   So, thank you, Black and Gold, for playing with the heart of a champion even if you eventually fell short of that goal.

There’s always next year…

Topics: 2009 Nfl Playoffs, Aaron Rodgers, Baltimore Ravens, Ben Roethlisberger, Big Ben, Big Ben Roethlisberger, Black And Gold, Black And Gold Blog, Bruce Arians, Charlie Batch, Dennis Dixon, Fast Willie Parker, Fwp, Green Bay Packers, Green Bay World Champs, Hines Ward, Lamarr Woodley, Mike Tomlin, Mike Wallace, Nfl Playoffs, Nice Pick Cowher, Nicepickcowher, Packers Super Bowl, Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh Steelers, Pittsburgh Steelers Blog, Rashard Mendenhall, Ratbirds, Ravens-Steelers, Roethlisberger, Roethlisberger Concussion, Rooney, Santonio Holmes, Steeler Blog, Steeler Fans, Steeler Nation, Steelers, Steelers Blog, Steelers Nation, Stillers, Super Bowl Champions, Super Bowl Xlv, Troy Polamalu

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  • Bill

    Well said. Great teams make great plays when they need to, and the Packers did just that. Time to heal, reflect and get ready for the next year that might actually happen. Maybe. Hopefully>

    Cheers!

  • Tom G

    Congrats to the Packers. You summed it up pretty well, Chris. Too many mistakes, the secondary leaked too much, and Ben was not on his game. I was shocked at how far off some of his passes were. AND – I really like Suisam, but thank God the game didn’t come down to a kick by him. He barely made the one extra point, and I think he was aiming at the sidelines during his field goal attempt. He’s definitely not a clutch performer, and that could be a problem…

    See ya next year, Chris.

  • CaptainAge

    Chris,

    Very good article, until the very last paragraph where you played the “whine” card YET again. I hope you have a different “theme” for next year.

    There is plenty of blame for last night’s poor performance.

    That being said, I do not believe BA (and I can’t believe I’m saying this) was the problem last night. Roethlisberger’s poor performance and the Mendenhall fumble were the problems. Neither of those mistakes can be attributed to coaching issues or play calling issues.

    I think Tomlin needs to shoulder a lot of the blame for not having his team ready to play in these playoffs. They were flat against the Ravens, came out flat in the 2nd half against the Jets, and played flat for the first half in the Superbowl – the SUPERBOWL. How in the world can a coach not have his team ready to play in the biggest game of the year?

    It was also not one of LeBeau’s finest nights either. However, this should not have been unexpected as his defense historically does not perform well against elite QBs.

    Something was/is seriously wrong with T.P. – and I wouldn’t be surprised if “surgery” was the word around the Steelers this offseason.

    • Bill

      I have to agree Captain. BA did not cost us the game. I didn’t agree with the play calling but if Wallace had made just 2 of those catches we’d all be talking about what a brilliant job of coaching it was. If Ben had been a little closer on a couple others. If Miller had been able to force a few more yards than the what was it 2 that he had. If Mendy had hung on to the ball. If. If. If…..
      Troy might need surgery but that doesn’t explain how he was out of position all night. I knew our secondary was suspect but for us to get beat because of turnovers granting the Packers 7 and setting up 14 more.
      Well enough rambling. They just got beat. Simple as that.

      • CaptainAge

        Bill,

        I completely agree – too many “IFs”. If Steeler fans can take anything out of this super bowl – the Steelers played, what I consider to be one of their worst games of the year – and the Packers played close to flawless – and the Steelers only lost by a touchdown. Not too bad.

        T.P was out of position mostly due to his reliance on his speed – IMO. He’s not able to push off and get that 1-2 step “make up” speed that he’s used to. I would suspect that he’s out of “position” most of the time, but he’s able to make up for it. Which is one of the reason’s he’s such a great football player.

        • CaptainAge

          As an aside – does any CB the Steelers have ever dressed look more lost then William Gay does…

          • Tom G

            I was thinking that same thing. Gay is consistantly 2 or more steps behind whoever he’s covering. I think the Steelers CB is their biggest weakness. (with the exception of Ike Taylor)

          • Bubby Brister

            Agreed, Cap. Gay is ..well.. gay. And Pittsburgh can’t afford to have Gay anymore. Aside from a forced fumble, Gay is just running stride for stride out there, unsure of where he going or what he’s going. We need to get the Gay out of Pittsburgh.

            Aside from the Gay issue, 60 minutes (Mike Wallace) was definitely not on the same page as Ben, especially on that last drive. Looked like he ran a completely different route than expected (ala ODonnell as seen above.) Did they not practice the 2 min. drive for the Super Bowl?

            That said, it was more surreal in their loss than it was in the previous wins. Green Bay played great, but we definitely beat ourselves (none more so than in the final drive).

            Please Steeler Nation, lets get rid of Gay and get ourselves some corners and safeties in the draft. Appreciate your blogs throughout the season, Chris. God bless you, God bless the Steelers, and God Bless Steeler Nation.

          • http://nicepickcowher.com chris

            Well guys, Gay is a free agent this summer (providing there is free agency with the lockout mess) so you may get your wish of seeing him out of here.

            By the way, I appreciate everybody reading this season. I will still be blogging during free agency and the draft (just not as frequently as during the season) so I hope everybody checks back in here from time to time.

  • Christa

    Thanks for your blog all season Chris! It was a heartbreaking game. They just didn’t look like they were playing in the Superbowl. I am proud of them for making it this far and just hope they have a good season next year. They usually have a rough season after the SB…
    I would just like to say Gay has improved a lot from last year, he was constantly missing plays and slipping all over the field. This year he has improved but I don’t see him ever being at the level that is needed. The one person that has been driving me nuts all season in Kemoeatu. He is worthless, has to be one of the laziest players I have ever seen. He misses blocks and just stands around looking lost. I’ve been paying close attention to him all season and can’t understand why no one else see’s it! He is terrible.

    • http://nicepickcowher.com chris

      Thanks, Christa.

      I agree with you on Gay. He played decently at times this season so I think the piling on him is a tad overdone by the guys above. To me, B-Mac has been the biggest bust of the corners. But by the same token, I find it hard to believe they can’t find/draft somebody better than either.

      As for Kemo, you’re speaking my language. I’ve called him a putz all year despite people (such as Peter King) claiming he’s one of the best linemen in the league. Kemo is good at run blocking but he’s slow and gets lost when he has to move. I would shed no tears if he left but they just resigned him a couple years back so we’ll have to put up with him for the foreseeable future. :(

  • pfred

    I agree pretty much. 3 turnovers was too deep a hole. Steelers had a positive +/- in all the playoff games, i think with -2 they would have pulled it out, but needed a score on one of those 3 drives.

    Good job by Lugursky to not be a negative factor, after so much was made about the loss of Pouncey.

    I also think the refs were still pulling for GB, including a missed holding call that even Troy Aikman noted and several really close Interference calls where contact was made before the ball arrived. right call on the incomplete pass that was reviewed though, so i am not gonna pull a Seattle and whine that the refs stole the game.

    Keep up the good work Chris, I enjoy the facts and humor in your blog ( and seem to be able to seperate them, unlike some readers ) and look forward to reading your take on the labor talks, draft and offseason.

    • http://nicepickcowher.com chris

      Good point, pfred. I meant to note Legursky played a pretty good game all things considered (although he was the one who got beat on Mendy’s fumble…Mendy should hold on to the ball, though). I just didn’t feel like being too positive considering WE LOST.

      I don’t think you could say anything about the referees other than they were equally terrible. Yeah, some of those calls on us were ticky-tacky and they could’ve called PI on some plays but they also gave us a face mask which didn’t exist and called a couple ticky-tack ones on GB too. The penalty yardage was pretty much even so while the refs and Goodell tried to screw us all year long, I don’t think you can say they did in this game.

      Thanks for reading!

  • zam

    Chris, a personal thanks for all of your great writing this season. I knew reading your blog today would make me feel (at least a little bit) better.

    I’m on the same page with you about Bruce Arians. In fact, I don’t know a single died-in-the-wool Steeler fan that isn’t. The guy is a terrible offensive play caller – and almost the only time we see success is when we’re going no-huddle or running it down their throats. I really wish we’d let him go too – but I’m sure the front office would have a hard time with that, since we’ve won two super bowls and gone to three with him.

    That last drive really sealed it for me. It was almost like Ben couldn’t muster the confidence to win the game. Almost like his conscience got the better of him…

    It certainly will be interesting to see what shakes out from here…one thing that I’m counting on (and the rest of you should be as well) is a sub-par Steelers season next year. That’s almost a given.

    • http://nicepickcowher.com chris

      Always glad to hear from a fellow Tartan, zam.

      Well, this is the last year of Arians’ contract so there is hope although I would imagine he’ll be back. Perhaps I didn’t make this clear enough for some people but I wasn’t blaming the loss entirely on him. There is plenty of blame to go around. But anybody who thinks our game plan was well-thought out really doesn’t have much of a clue.

      And, sadly, I also expect a bad year next season. Super Bowl losers almost always miss the playoffs so if history holds, it’ll be a tough one for the Black and Gold.

  • McCallister

    Great game. Great teams. Congratulations to Pack-fans. The loss hurt, but we simply turned the ball over one time too many. Peter King called Mendenhall the “Goat of the Week”. I think that’s pretty harsh considering Ben was by far not his best accurately and that he threw 2 picks. Also, thought Arian’s thick-skulled insistence on throwing the ball when Mendy is running so well was well, stupid and short-sighted. Can’t stand Gay and never could. He is too mediocre to wear a Steeler jersey. The Steelers played well when they weren’t making mistakes though. Thanks, Chris for excellent coverage of our beloved team.

    p.s. This postseason has brought me tremendous respect for Rodgers, even before he beat us. He is a natural.

    • http://nicepickcowher.com chris

      Thanks, McCallister.

      Actually, I was proud of Steeler fans on the local talk radio being fairly forgiving of Mendy. Not many people here are ragging on him which I was expecting. I’m pleased that Pittsburgh football fans can see how the blame should be spread to many different sources. In fact, if I were to rank my goats, Ben, the D, and BA would all come before the fumble.

      I think most diehard Steeler fans would agree we’d be pretty happy if neither Gay nor BA were in Pittsburgh next season.

  • Tom G

    I really don’t have an opinion about BA, but I wouldn’t shed a tear if we lost Gay or McFadden. I’d really like the Steelers draft a good CB or two.
    Also I would like to see the Steelers get the other half of the Pouncey set.

    • http://nicepickcowher.com chris

      The problem is all the decent CBs are gone by the middle of the first round. After that, all you have left are the Keenan Lewis’s and Crezdon Butlers of the world. Nothing that is gonna start immediately.

      That said, could call on the guard. I’d love to get a top notch guard to play LG. The Bros Pouncey would make an solid combo indeed.

    • Bill

      I’m not knocking anyone at all but just because one brother worked out doesn’t automatically mean the other will. Can anyone say Manning? Yes I know he won a Superbowl but beyond that Eli has been average at best.

      • http://nicepickcowher.com chris

        Well, I haven’t watched 343 hours of tape on Other Pouncey like Kiper does but I hear he’s a stud prospect. He’s had a bad year this year because he’s played out of position (center when he’s a natural guard). Considering where the Steelers are picking, I don’t see any good CBs being there. And while he may not be a superstar like Maurkice, he’s gotta be better than Essex, right?

        • Tom G

          Plus, there’s a huge physical difference between the Manning boys. The Pouncey’s are twins. I doubt Michael is as good as Maurkice, but my gut tells me he would be a great addition to the team.

          • http://pittsburgh-steelers-inflatable-bubba.blogspot.com/ Travis Parker

            Can’t agree more with that Tom. I think Maurice is very good player. We have to watch him in the near future. He will be a very good asset to the team, I really think so.

  • Hennessy

    Well, it’s only been one day and I am already buried in the sadness that is the off-season. It breaks my heart to come on here and see the same post from yesterday, I guess Ill have to bear it.
    I think the blame can go many ways for that game, but when you shake all the details into the same bowl, our boys played stagnate football. They had a lackluster performance with the exception of a few standouts, and as a whole they did not produce the type of game that overshadowed their weaknesses and got them to the big show.
    I could take or leave BA. I think if he goes we lose the off-field growing and groomin of a fine offense, along with his shaky game-time performances. As many times as he seems to be hallucinating on the sidelines, he did have a big time role in assembling the offensive unit and players we have.
    As for the CB’s, I was willing to let those guys go one more season. I thought it was more important to get the Oline together, and that we did (well, kind of). There is only one draft a year, and we all know the steeler aversion to the free agent market – so c’mon guys, we can only rebuild one unit at a time. I think if we can get the pouncey duo (which seems unlikely given the buzz around the league), and a couple young backs, I think we can make something of next year. I’m not one for curses either – i think we break the mold in enough other places, and am looking forward to a long run next season.
    Thanks for all the writing Chris. Always enjoyable and informational, and hilarious. I got on the beat late this season, but will be sure to tune in on the regular now.

    • http://nicepickcowher.com chris

      Excellent analysis, Henneessy. Sorry about the same post being up but, truth be told, I didn’t have the heart to write something new last night. I need a couple days to get over the game before I dive into off-season concerns.

      (And I will be writing about off-season concerns. Just because the season is over, this blog isn’t going dark. Although I was tempted to make the screen all black in mourning after Sunday’s game).

      I think next year will be more of the same, too. I’d like to see new DBs, a new coordinator, and all kinds of stuff but that just ain’t the Steeler Way. I’m sure they’ll get the band back together and give it another go. They did get to the Super Bowl, after all.

      • Hennessy

        I’m in that boat with ya – the black screen would have been a good touch! Very telling.
        The “same post being up” comment wasn’t a stab at your motivation or dedication, just a sad reminder that it is the offseason, and there will be less and less posts.
        Nonetheless, I am looking forward to the offseason commentary – great post today by the way.

        • http://nicepickcowher.com chris

          Oh, I didn’t take it as a stab or anything. I just like pimping the fact I’m not “quitting until next year” or anything because a lot of people assume that. :)

          Anyway, thanks for being a “regular,” Hennessy. Not only do you make a fine liquor, you always provide some excellent insights. It’s much appreciated.

  • Anthony

    Chris,
    Do you think there’s any way that we address the CB problems in Free Agency (assuming there is one), and if so, who? Personally, I’d hope for Nnamdi Asomugha (Sp?), but he’s a big name player and while that’s normally not our style, we did sign Flozell Adams, who is not quite as big name, he’s relatively big name when you consider the fact that he’s an O-lineman.

    • http://nicepickcowher.com chris

      Hi Anthony,

      Assuming there is a new CBA, I assume that means the return of the salary cap. The Steelers were right up against it before and now they need to get Woodley and Ike re-signed (whether you like Ike or not, I personally do, the Steelers always prefer to keep their own guys than get outside help).

      B-Mac has one more year on his contract and Gay is a restricted free agent. Plus they have Butler and Lewis who they spent 3rd round picks on. So I guess my answer is, unfortunately, I see more of the same in 2011.

      For the Nnamdi question, I’m writing a little post tonight and I’ll address that in there.

  • Steven Joseph

    For those that may have seen it as the waning moments of the game were wrapping up, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell was seen clapping for the Packers.

    He couldn’t have been happier to see the Steelers not win the game. He had a vendetta against the Steelers all season long and tried to do what he could through his ‘Competition Committee’ to eliminate the Steelers or lessen their chances of getting to this game; however, he was unsuccessful.

    The NFL is supposed to be an impartial entity that regulates the rules of the game, not meddle with the ability of teams to be or not to be competitive; therefore, I think the ‘Competition Committee’ should be abolished or done away with totally and; while we’re are at it, get rid of Mr. Goodell, for he and his predessor, Paul Tagliabue, were and are poor excuses to imitate the late Mr. Pete Rozelle.

    The NFL can do better than Goodell and should, by replacing him!

    SAJ

  • eric

    Good analysis of game.