Sunday, December 20, 2009



ABOVE: Two guys who can drag a foot with the best of 'em, Mike Wallace (left) and Santonio Holmes

In a crazy season where the Steelers have lost to some of the worst defenses in the league, they chose the Green Bay Packers, with one of the league's best defenses, to light up the Pack for 503 yards passing and a thrilling 37-36 win as time expired.

Big Ben hit Mike Wallace along the sideline with his second touchdown catch in a near mirror-reverse example of the Santonio Holmes SuperBowl touchdown catch as the clock wound down to zero.

With the score tied at 36, all that remained was a pressure-packed Jeff Reed extra point for the victory. When the kick cleared the uprights it was soon announced that it was the first 37-36 finish in the entire history of the NFL.

While Big Ben and the offense were clicking on all cylinders, the defense was back to its' old fourth quarter tricks, allowing 22 points in the final stanza. That the Steelers nearly lost a game where their offense was shattering 75-year-old records speaks volumes for how far the defense has slipped as a unit. If and when Troy polamalu comes back, it can't be too soon.

In fact, Tomlin even went for an on-sides kick after kicking a field goal that gave them a two point lead! If that didn't speak volumes that the coach himself had no confidence in the Steelers "swiss cheese" secondary, nothing would. 

The on-sides kick was actually a good strategy. What wasn't a good strategy was having "no-hands" Ike Taylor at the line to get the surprise kick. Taylor, never reputed to be a "brain specialist" on his days off, did not allow the kick to travel the necessary ten yards, thus resulting in a deadly "illegal touching" penalty. As might be expected, the Packers went down and prompty scored the go-ahead touchdown adding a two point conversion for good measure for a 36-30 lead. But it was now Big Ben time.

Roethlisberger, who is already well on his way to becoming the greatest come-from-behind qb in team history was vintage Big Ben in the final drive. Utilizing all of his receivers, he found rookie Mike Wallace for another scintillating touchdown. A virtual carbon copy of the Santonio SuperBowl gem, Wallace's catch wasn't as big, but it saved the Steelers' season, so it was plenty big enough. With the hated Ravens coming to town next week, the Steelers are still mathematically alive for a playoff spot. The Steelers end their regular season the week after in Miami. With a potential 9-7 season they can still make it, but without Troy Polamalu in the lineup, don't get your hopes too high. Everyone in the Steeler locker room I'm sure would tell you that although it was a thrilling win, this was not the way to win games in the NFL.

But at least the team hasn't quit, which before today, everyone was beginning to wonder.

GAME NOTES: Big Ben's 503 yards eclipsed Drew Brees' record that was set back in 2006...Roethlisberger was 29-46 and had three TD passes...Aaron Rodgers was also very effective, completing 26 of 48 for 383 yards and three touchdowns...Despite 94 passes being thrown, there were no interceptions although on the final drive the Packers had one nullified because of a defensive holding call.


The Pittsburgh Steelers go up against the Green Bay Cheeseheads today in a matchup at Heinz Field that earlier in the season no doubt had the network executives drooling. Thus the reason for the 4:00 start. The unexplainable swoon that has enveloped yer Steelers over the past five miserable games has derailed what could have been a memorable matchup into the first inconsequential contest for the Steelers since their memorable Bill Cowher sendoff season.

All around Steelerland, the same question echoes in a resounding din: "What's wrong with the Steelers?"

What makes this five game swoon most perplexing is that the Steelers looked to have as strong and talented of a lineup as they've had in any of their recent championship seasons. So what went wrong?

It seems that in that famous "book" that all NFL teams keep on their competition, the storyline on the Steelers chapter is that since the injury to Troy Polamalu, their defensive ace, the Steeler secondary, as a whole, has been exposed as being very weak. Teams that in the past may have attempted to establish a running game now waste even less of their offensive plays on runs. Instead, they tend to throw more and more each week against a seconday that seems to regress even further each game.

As proof of the weakness of their secondary, it is mind-boggling that their cornerbacks have not intercepted a pass all year. Of course it's pretty tough to do that when you're five yards behind the receiver you're supposed to  cover, so speed has definitely been an issue with this group. Add to that the fact that they have no hands either and you have a grounds to believe that this secondary, minus Troy Polamalu, is one of the weaker groups in the league.

Add to this an offense that has become very predictable and very un-Steeler-like and you have the recipe for a five game losing streak. During that skein, the team has also allowed long kick returns and in general has not shown the trademark energy and hitting that has long been its' calling card.

So incredible has been this total shutdown by the Steelers that it leads one to believe that this team has serious internal dissension...and I'm not even referring to the Hines Ward-Big Ben tiff. No, as amazing at it seems to say this, it appears that this team may be revolting against Mike Tomlin himself.

Is it possible that just like another Mike, Michael Therrien, the Steelers players have grown weary of Tomlin's macho image and hard-guy attitude?

If the Steelers mail in another game like the last five, I would take that to be a resounding "YES". With a dart-thrower like Aaron Rodgers coming to town, don't expect many running plays from the Packers today. Brace yourself for a lot of booing from Steeler nation too. I could get ugly.