The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Sports

September 24, 2013

Misfires costing Steelers

PITTSBURGH — Two plays. Two balls on the ground. Two very different results. One all-too familiar story for the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Pittsburgh’s 40-23 loss to the Chicago Bears on Sunday night looked an awful lot like the two defeats that came before it. The offense couldn’t hold onto the football. The defense couldn’t take it away. Rinse. Repeat.

Still, while the Steelers remain winless after dropping to 0-3 for the first time since 2000, they believe they’re not hopeless.

“It’s a situation we’re not familiar with,” defensive end Brett Keisel said.

 “If we have the type of character we think we do, we can overcome this and find a way to fight back.”

The Steelers insist all it will take is a bounce here and a little more discipline there to turn things around. It hasn’t happened yet, though linebacker LaMarr Woodley knows at some point the odds have to flip in their favor. Pittsburgh is one of two teams in the NFL yet to record a takeaway and its minus-nine turnover differential tied with the inept (and also winless) New York Giants for the worst mark in the league.

“We’ve just somehow got to go out and produce them,” Woodley said.

The line between success and failure is thin, as evidenced by a pair of bounces for the ball while the game was still in doubt.

The Steelers had just scored with 6:27 to play in the first half to draw within 24-10 on a gorgeous catch in the end zone by Antonio Brown. The defense stuffed the Bears on first down of the ensuing possession. On second down, quarterback Jay Cutler found wide receiver Alshon Jeffery underneath for a short gain. Pittsburgh cornerback William Gay knocked the ball out at the Chicago 33. The fumble, however, bounced right back into Jeffery’s arms before Woodley could pounce on it.

“Willie Gay had a big hit on (Jeffery) and we just didn’t get it,” Woodley said.

Chicago eventually punted, but flipped the field. The Steelers took over at their own 13 instead of inside Bears’ territory. They moved to midfield before bogging down and headed to halftime down two touchdowns.

The deficit grew larger early in the third quarter.

Running back Felix Jones took a handoff from Roethlisberger on the second play after the break and was met by Chicago safety Major Wright. The hit jarred the ball loose and defensive tackle Henry Melton cradled it to give the Bears the ball at the Pittsburgh 29. Six plays later, a Robbie Gould field goal made it 27-10 and despite a spirited rally, the Steelers never got the ball with a chance to go in front.

“It’s frustrating,” Jones said. “We did a lot of things that hurt ourselves.”

And the self-inflicted wounds have blunted any hope for momentum heading into what could be a trying stretch. Pittsburgh travels to London this week to face Minnesota (0-3), then gets a week off before heading to New York to play the surprising Jets. The Steelers won’t play at home until hosting rival Baltimore on Oct. 20. There’s a chance the competitive portion of the season could already be over if they can’t fix things.

“I don’t know if we can dig out of it but we’re going to have to give it everything we’ve got to get out,” Roethlisberger said. “It’s a deep hole and it’s getting deeper. I’m not going to quit.”

Roethlisberger took responsibility for the loss after throwing a pair of interceptions and fumbling twice, though the defense understands it needs to find a way to force the other team into mistakes. Even while finishing as the league’s No. 1 defense in 2012, the Steelers only created 20 turnovers, four of them coming in a meaningless season finale against Cleveland.

Safety Ryan Clark allowed Pittsburgh needs to “make something happen here quickly” but doesn’t think the team needs to take unnecessary chances to do it.

“We can do things to help our offense and we just didn’t,” Clark said.

Clark was in position to make a splash play in the third quarter when Cutler tried to flip a pass to tight end Martellus Bennett in the flat. The ball sailed over Bennett’s head. Clark was so focused on tackling Bennett he didn’t see the ball until it was past him.

Could he have gotten it? Maybe. Yet Clark has built his career on making the right play, not the risky one. He’s not going to start questioning his instincts. Neither are his teammates.

“We’ve got to find ways to get the ball,” Keisel said. “That’s what great defenses do. It’s been one of those things for awhile now we haven’t been able to get turnovers.

“Hopefully it will change.”

 

1
Text Only | Photo Reprints
Sports
  • Pirates Brawl 0420 Brewers top Pirates in game highlighted by dustup

    Ryan Braun homered in the ninth inning to tie it, then Khris Davis hit a home run in the 14th that put Milwaukee ahead for good.
    Yet those were hardly the big blows that attracted all the attention Sunday in the Brewers’ 3-2 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates.

    April 20, 2014 1 Photo

  • Football team ends boycott of embattled coach

    Minnesota State University-Mankato’s football team has ended its boycott of reinstated head coach Todd Hoffner, who successfully fought child pornography charges and other misconduct accusations that removed him from the job for 20 months.
    Hoffner said he assured the players, who refused to take the practice field Wednesday, that interim coach Aaron Keen, who led the team in Hoffner’s absence, will continue in a major role with the team.

    April 20, 2014

  • Penguins 0420a Game 3 pivotal for both teams

    Not so long ago, the Columbus Blue Jackets were the worst team in the NHL.
    Now they’re heading home for tonight’s Game 3 of their first-round Stanley Cup playoff series with the star-studded Pittsburgh Penguins, hoping to make even more history.

    April 20, 2014 1 Photo

  • Penguins 0419 Blue Jackets outlast Pens in double-OT

    Matt Calvert banged home a rebound 1:10 into the second overtime and the Columbus Blue Jackets earned the first playoff victory in franchise history with a 4-3 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins on Saturday night.
    Pittsburgh’s Marc-Andre Fleury stuffed the initial shot by Cam Atkinson but Calvert stood all alone at the left post and wristed a shot into the open net to even the Eastern Conference quarterfinals at one game each.

    April 19, 2014 1 Photo

  • Pirates 0419 Brewers rally to clip Pirates

    Ryan Braun hit two homers, including a two-run shot with two outs in the ninth inning that sent the Milwaukee Brewers over the Pittsburgh Pirates 8-7 Saturday night.
    Braun has five home runs this season after being suspended for the last 65 games of 2013 following Major League Baseball’s investigation into the Biogenesis drug scandal.

    April 19, 2014 1 Photo

  • Area runners gearing for Boston Marathon

    The time was 12:15 p.m. It was Monday April 19, 1897.  Tom Burke had drawn a line across the dirt road with his foot. Eighteen men gathered near Metcalf’s Mill in Ashland, Massachusetts.

    April 19, 2014

  • SRU vs UPJ baseball0418 1 UPJ takes one, drops second

    John Fees’ spring baseball season accurately mirrors that of his Pitt-Johnstown team.
    Fees started slow, losing his first four decisions, but has rebounded nicely in the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference West Division.

    April 18, 2014 2 Photos

  • Pirates 0418 Brewers ward off late Pirates rally bid

    Kyle Lohse pitched effectively into the seventh inning, Carlos Gomez homered and the Milwaukee Brewers beat the Pittsburgh Pirates 5-3 Friday night.
    Lohse (3-1) improved to 11-2 in his career against the Pirates, allowing one earned run in a win against them for the second time in six days.

    April 18, 2014 1 Photo

  • Drama lacking sans Tiger

    If professional golf saw its future at Augusta National last weekend, the sight had to be worse than choking on a 5-foot putt.
    The course was there in all its splendor.

    April 18, 2014

  • Penguins 0418 Penguins are wary of spunky Blue Jackets

    Sidney Crosby is used to the attention. It comes with the territory when you’re the best hockey player in the world.
    Still, the Pittsburgh Penguins star knows the spotlight becomes more acute in the Stanley Cup playoffs.

    April 18, 2014 1 Photo