Monday, September 28, 2009

"YOU BLEW IT!!!!!!!!!" ---Happy Gilmore

ABOVE: One of the many female fans of the Steelers expresses her outrage at the teams' generosity this season toward its' least I think that's what this shirt means. The Steelers lost their second game in a row in the final seconds, losing to the Cincinnati Bungholes 23-20.

I had a queasy feeling about this game all week. For one thing, there was a lot of Bob Prince style "hidden vigorish" going in. Not only had the Steelers won eight straight in Cinci, but Ben was riding and undefeated streak against the whole state of Ohio (which of course would include Cleveland's own Bad News Browns). Sooner or later, those kinds of streaks have to end. But the Bengies hadn't been playing that bad either. Remove one miracle play and they're now 3-0.

The Steelers, on the other hand, are just not playing with the kind of hunger necessary to win in the NFL. Try as they may have tried to dismiss last season's accomplishments, this team still hasn't managed to come down off their SuperBowl cloud. They very easily could be 0-3 too! As Bill Cowher often used to opine, the margin of difference between winning and losing in the NFL is very slim indeed. The Steelers are finding that out the hard way right now.

ABOVE: The Steelers are trying to find their "Happy Place" as portrayed in the scenes above in the Adam Sandler comedy classic, "Happy Gilmore".

Some players' shortcomings are standing out more noticeably than others.

Limas Sweed, who has clearly been passed over in the depth chart by Mike Wallace showed everyone why yesterday: The guy can't catch. This is not good if your career is being an NFL receiver. Sweed should either get over this very soon or start looking for another career. His dropped touchdown catch would have won the game.

Rashard Mendenhall, another second year player from the so-far ignominious draft class of 2008. He is apparently so far out of it in practice that Tomlin benched him for the game. If Sweed and Mendenhall don't get their heads on straight soon, this draft could turn out to be one of the biggest disasters in recent memory.

Santonio Holmes has been dropping passes like crazy. Yesterday, he also miscommunicated with Ben and cost the team an interception and touchdown.

Jeff Reed missed another field goal. No one ever said that a field goal was a guaranteed thing. Reed did make two other chip shots, but in the combined melange that is a loss, you can't dismiss that three more points wouldn't have helped...not when you lose by three points.

The Defense has clearly looked mortal since Troy Polamalu's injury took him off the field. Yesterday, they couldn't hold off a fairly ordinary Carson Palmer at the end and missed out on three possible interceptions. Is Troy the only guy on that unit who can catch? Apparently so. The team did not get the kind of pressure on Palmer, a relative statue, that one would like to see.

Mike Tomlin didn't have his best game either. Early in the game he opted for a field goal from the one yard line. This didn't send the kind of message that you would expect to be coming from him. While the Steelers made the field goal, at that stage of the game, I don't see why you wouldn't want to go for the touchdown.

Then, as time was running out in the half, Tomlin "goes for it" on fourth down at the Cinci 35. The ball is turned over on downs and the result is a field goal given up near the end of the half. Thus a 13 point lead becomes a 13-3 lead.

On the positive side, I thought that Ben, the offensive line and Willie Parker looked very good. Ben was "operating" on the Bengals like the Surgeon general and the offensive line gave him an amazing amount of time. The run blocking was also greatly-improved and the resultant holes gave the aged, decrepid and nearly wheelchair-bound Willie Parker a chance to romp. The running game is going to steadily improve, but I have a feeling that Parker and Mewelde Moore are going to be sharing most of the workload. I don't know what Mendenhall did or didn't do, but I fear that he is squarely in Tomlin's doghouse as no doubt is Sweed now too.

Mike Wallace is the real McCoy and as Pitt's Dave Wannstadt likes to say, "This guy is fast." He's not only fast, he's scary fast and he can catch. Now all that we have to work on is him not running out of bounds when he catches a ball five yards beyond a defender. I really like Wallace though. Santonio's drops aside, I feel that the Steelers, right now, have the finest, most well-rounded passing attack in the franchise's history. Ward, Holmes, Wallace, Miller, Spaeth, Moore and even Parker give Big Ben a slew of targets to choose from. Ben, for his part, keeps getting smarter about looking-off defenders, pumping the ball and not forcing passes. His escape and subsequent touchdown pass to a wide open Willie Parker was vintage Ben.

Once this offense can get the short yardage part of the game worked out, they should once again be one of the toughest to defend in the league. I wouldn't be writing a suicide note quite yet.

But they have to finish. The team has not been crossing the goal line as they should be. Once they start accomplishing this, watch out.

Meanwhile, I have a completely different feeling about this week's San Diego game at home. The Steelers need the friendly confines of Heinz Field to get themselves untracked and I believe they will find their "Happy Place". They also have a tough opponent coming in, so there should be no lack of focus this week. Plus, the idea of starting off 1-3 is not an appealing prospect. Look for the Steelers to play with much more intensity and desparation this week.

That should give them that little edge necessary to bridge that infintesimally-small gap between winning and losing in the National Football League. Until then, this week we'll just have to keep thinking back to that Adam Sandler classic, "Happy Gilmore" and repeating that now infamous phrase, "YOU BLEW IT!!!"

ABOVE: Carson Palmer (here played by Bob Barker) delivers a gut-wrenching blow to a typical Steeler fan (played by Adam Sandler) with 14 seconds left in Sunday's game against the Bengalese. Sandler's colors are right, but that logo has to go.
BELOW: Sandler, just seconds before uttering his now classic line, "YOU BLEW IT!!!"