On a day when the writing seemed to be on the wall for the ousting of Chargers head coach Norv Turner by season’s end, Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin and the rest of the team looked like they were the ones in the hot seat and headed out the door.
I don’t think I’ve ever written a post game reaction this early. Ever. There’s still 8:20 left on the clock as I write this. That’s how bad and definitive this loss is for the Steelers. The Chargers took to the Steelers today at Heinz Field and out played them in ever aspect. How? By being completely out coached by a man who appeared conciliatory about his end of season fate before this game even started. From the first three and out until the Chargers scored in the mid-4th to go up 34-10, Norv Turner out coached his foe from the other side of the field. The Chargers played as if they had nothing to lose, and the Steelers played as if their playoff hopes had died three weeks ago when Ben Roethlisberger suffered his shoulder and rib injury.
The Chargers offensive line, who has been decimated by injury recently and poor play, kept the Steelers blitzes at bay. It allowed the secondary to become porous, as the Chargers receivers had plenty of time to get open. Were it not for a few drops by Gates and others, the score would certainly be even worse. The Steelers offensive line, who appeared to have their act together last week against the Ravens, allowed the Chargers D to break up run plays giving Dwyer nowhere to go. Roethlisberger was able to scramble and found open receivers, but Wallace continued his drops and the refs missed clear pass interference calls that stalled several drives for the offense.
It was ugly all around, and the fake punt by the Chargers in the 3rd quarter was the icing on the cake. Norv et. al. pulled out plays and schemes that they hadn’t touched in a long time. It kept the Steelers offense and defense and special teams off balance all game. I saw a ton of criticism out there about Ben being rusty and not ready to play. To be certain, the lack of offensive production was not on him. That deep pass to Wallace that hit #17 in the hands was a beaut’ and should have been caught. Quite honestly, I felt that was a key turning point in the game – yes, even that early in the game. It just showed one of the parasitic elements of this offense that’s plagued them all season. Even with a more accurate and stronger armed Roethlisberger, Wallace continues his inability to snag the ‘big ones.’ Yes he had a 40 yard TD grab later on, but by then the game was slipping away. He added another (as I wrote this), but the damage for the season and this game has been done.
Make no mistake that for the third time this season, the Steelers fall to a team that they clearly should have beat. They are redefining the term ‘trap game’ by consistently making potential ones a reality. Having one of those games a season could probably be placed on the players, or a single play during the game that didn’t go their way that caused the loss. But to have three in a season steers the bullseye directly onto Tomlin. Just as the poor play by the Chargers all season long has put Turner in the hot seat. The poor play by the Steelers in games against the Raiders, Browns, Chargers (even the Chiefs albeit they won that game) shows a lack of ineptness by Tomlin to get this team ready and hungry.
Great teams crush teams like the Chargers. The Steelers choose to lose against squads like that….. time and time again. They playoff picture is getting messy and the Steelers are starting to lose control of their own fate of even just squeaking in the door as the 6th seed.
And as I close this out for now, it looks like the Skins may beat the Ravens. That’s huge. Here’s to better weeks ahead. Let’s hope that Tomlin figures out how to coach a bit better and get these last three, or they’ll be watching the playoffs from their couches.
UPDATE: Ravens and Cincy lose. Steelers could have made huge progress today. #BigFail.