The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Sports

October 29, 2013

Sloppy play by Steelers halts prior momentum

PITTSBURGH — Two weeks of momentum vanished in 19 seconds. More than three hours later, the competitive portion of the Pittsburgh Steelers’ season likely followed suit.

Stung on the first play from scrimmage and stumbling on the last, Pittsburgh’s 21-18 loss to the Oakland Raiders thwarted any progress the Steelers

(2-5) made during a brief two-game winning streak that suggested perhaps there was a chance they could somehow dig out of an 0-4 start.

Turns out, probably not. The same mistakes that dogged Pittsburgh during a winless September re-emerged in the Black Hole.

The defense surrendered a record-setting run by Oakland quarterback Terrelle Pryor. The offense limped to a miserable start, only reviving itself when things nearly got out of hand. The running game was abysmal and the special teams even worse.

Bad clock management. Questionable decision making. A game plan that dared not stretch the field. Even if the Steelers had somehow found a way to escape with a win, coach Mike Tomlin isn’t sure he would evaluate things any differently.

“Had we pulled the game out, I still would have been disappointed in the quality of play in the first half,” he said.

Because the Steelers lost, now Tomlin can feel free to lump in the second half too.

“I liked the effort, but it’s not effort oriented,” Tomlin said. “It’s result-oriented.”

And the results are repeating a well-established pattern, one Pittsburgh has been unable to shake for nearly a year.

The Steelers are 4-10 since quarterback Ben Roethlisberger left a 16-13 win over the Kansas City Chiefs with a dislocated rib last November. Nearing the season’s midway point, the only team Pittsburgh is ahead of in the AFC standings are the winless and apparently hopeless Jacksonville Jaguars.

“We felt like we were doing some good things, and that we were getting better,” Roethlisberger said. “(Sunday) we just weren’t there in all phases. We didn’t block well enough, we didn’t pass well enough, we didn’t catch well enough, we just weren’t good enough.”

Something that’s happening with regularity when forced to change their routine. Pittsburgh has lost eight straight games when playing outside the Eastern Time Zone. Nearly every loss has looked like Sunday’s debacle in Oakland. The Steelers have a tendency to fall behind early, which leads to them abandoning the running game and forces Roethlisberger to try and go it alone behind an offensive line that can’t stay healthy or effective.

Pittsburgh dressed eight linemen against the Raiders and needed every one of them. Guards Ramon Foster (concussion) and David DeCastro (right ankle) left early. So did backup Guy Whimper (knee). The injuries pushed struggling Mike Adams and little used Cody Wallace onto the field, further complicating a comeback attempt.

Roethlisberger absorbed five sacks in all and is on pace to be dropped more than 60 times, if he lasts that long.

The line, however, is only a portion of the problem. The defense spent the days leading up to the game praising Pryor and insisting they would be wary of the quarterback’s blazing speed. Then on the game’s opening snap, Pryor faked a handoff to Darren McFadden, tucked the ball under his arm and headed right. One block from wide receiver Rod Streater is all Pryor needed to race 93 yards to the end zone, the longest run by a quarterback in NFL history.

Pryor’s fake was so convincing free safety Ryan Clark didn’t even realize Pryor had the ball until Clark was getting ready to jump on a pile he believed included McFadden. Instead, Clark ended up looking to his left just before assisting on what he thought would be a tackle. By then Pryor was already in the clear and the Steelers were already in serious trouble.

“Obviously we were fooled on the first play,” Clark said. “Everybody floats to McFadden, Terrelle pulls the ball. After that I felt like we settled down.”

By then, however, it was too late.

A botched punt by struggling Zoltan Mesko, two missed chip-shot field goals by normally reliable Shaun Suisham and a pair of costly drops on what would have been difficult catches by Antonio Brown didn’t help.

It led to a long plane ride and the prospect of having to do it again this weekend when the Steelers play at New England (6-2), a place where Pittsburgh has yet to beat Tom Brady.

Brady might be the last of the Steelers’ problems. At the moment, they can’t seem to stop beating themselves.

 

1
Text Only | Photo Reprints
Sports
  • 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

  • Pirates 0417 Pirates power past Brewers

    Andrew McCutchen hit his first homer of the season and drove in three runs, Pedro Alvarez had a three-run shot and pinch-hitter Josh Harrison broke a tie with a long ball in the seventh inning as the Pittsburgh Pirates handed the Milwaukee Brewers their first road loss, 11-2 on Thursday night.
    Harrison’s two-run drive down the left field line off Rob Wooten (0-1) was the second of his career as a pinch hitter.

    April 17, 2014 1 Photo

  • Penguins 0417 Jackets preparing for Game 2

    The Columbus Blue Jackets don’t feel they’re doomed after blowing a two-goal lead in a Game 1 loss of their first-round Stanley Cup playoff series against the Pittsburgh Penguins.
    “It’s not about missed chances, or feeling sorry about it,” goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky said at Thursday’s optional workout, 13 hours after falling 4-3 in Pittsburgh.

    April 17, 2014 1 Photo

  • Local Sports Briefs

    April 17, 2014

  • racin 0416 Jennerstown Speedway gearing for May open

    Jennerstown Speedway released a very ambitious schedule on its website and continues to prepare for its 2014 reopening.
    The track is set to hold a practice day for drivers as well as an open house and media day on April 26.

    April 16, 2014 2 Photos

  • ‘Hawks already building toward next season

    Jason Spence used up his cell phone’s battery on a trip from Johnstown to his parents’ home in Nova Scotia, Canada.
    Once the Johnstown Tomahawks coach got to his destination, Spence had to get creative to secure cell service across the border.

    April 16, 2014

  • Pirates 0416 Dominant Cueto drops Pirates in matinee

    That playoff loss in Pittsburgh last year? Johnny Cueto never thought about it much. So getting a chance to shut out the Pirates in a rematch wasn’t any more special.

    April 16, 2014 1 Photo