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
  • Shelley and McElligot Series serves as reunion for former Chiefs personnel

    Not so long ago, Bob McElligott, like most Western Pennsylvania hockey fans, would savor a long Pittsburgh Penguins playoff run.
    The Somerset native followed the Pens’ Stanley Cup-winning teams in 1991 and 1992.

    April 15, 2014 1 Photo

  • Malkin nearing return

    The Columbus Blue Jackets are the closest NHL team to the Pittsburgh Penguins, at least geographically. The two franchises are separated by 185 miles of highway.

    April 15, 2014

  • Reds swing way past Pirates

    Mike Leake doubled and hit a two-run homer Tuesday night, ending Gerrit Cole's winning streak and leading the Cincinnati Reds to a 7-5 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates that completed two days full of homers and delays.
    First, the NL Central rivals completed a game that was suspended in the sixth inning because of rain the previous night.

    April 15, 2014

  • Pitt ends its spring practices

    No tailgating.
    No trip to a local high school.

    April 15, 2014

  • Pirates Game 1 0415 Pirates edge out Reds in suspended game

    After all those home runs and an overnight delay, it was settled by a single.
    Andrew McCutchen doubled and came around on Russell Martin’s single in the seventh inning on Tuesday, giving the Pittsburgh Pirates an 8-7 victory over the Cincinnati Reds in the completion of a game that spanned two days and 10 home runs.

    April 15, 2014 1 Photo

  • track_B1 WestPAC relays go to Windber boys, Berlin girls

    Rain showers and dropping temperatures put a damper on Monday’s WestPAC Relays at Berlin Brothersvalley High School.
    For the Berlin girls and the boys from Windber, however, discomfort was not much of a factor.
    The Mountaineers won their third straight relay title while the Ramblers reclaimed the title from defending champ Shade.

    April 14, 2014 2 Photos

  • Penguins 0414 Pressure on Penguins to capture Cup

    The statistics are gaudy.
    And if the Pittsburgh Penguins can’t find a way to extend their season into the final days of spring, ultimately forgettable.
    The same team that led the NHL in man games lost due to injury (more than 500) also earned 109 points, led the Metropolitan Division from mid-October on and received another peerless effort from star Sidney Crosby, who topped the league with 104 points and is a near lock for the second MVP award of his career.

    April 14, 2014 1 Photo

  • Local High School Baseball and Softball Briefs 4-15-14

    April 14, 2014

  • Local Sports Briefs 4-15-14

    April 14, 2014

  • mccort0413 color Bishop McCort falls to Bethel Park at PNC Park

    April 14, 2014 2 Photos