Monday, November 15, 2010
ABOVE: A male zebra that was killed after it was kicked in the head by another male zebra. As expected, the whole incident revolved around a female zebra. The beneficiaries will be the local lion population
No, the zebras had nothing to do with this miserable excuse for a Steeler game, as from the opening kickoff, alarm bells could be heard going off all over Heinz Field and in the heads of Steeler fans around the country.
Where were the real Steelers? Were they abducted? Are they being held for ransom somewhere? Has the mayor been alerted?
When the Steelers suffer a team collapse of the magnitude of last night's national embarrassment, sorry to say it's usually symptomatic of other teams having watched the film and done their due diligence to exploit weaknesses.
Make no question about it, this team has many cracks now in its' armor.
Last night, not only did the Steelers defense come out looking extremely flat, the team also had to deal with an offensive line that is back to being extremely, well, "offensive". Held together seemingly by scotch tape Elmer's glue and baling wire, this line has been so ravaged by injury that it is hardly recognizable any more.
Just last week alone, the Steelers lost about 700 pounds of beef as Max Starks (injured reserve disc in neck) and Chris Kemoeatu (sprained knee) were lost. Add Willie Colon (lost to the i.r. before the season even started) and you have a team that is clearly not playing with its' best people in place.
Hines Ward was also knocked into "la la land" and it remains to be seen if he'll be able to return next week. Not having Ward on the field left a huge hole in the Steelers receiving corps. There were many dropped passes last night in situations, early in the game, where it would have made a difference.
Meanwhile, after playing a miserable first half, the Steelers were still only down, incredibly, 10-3. With New England having deferred to the second half, the Steelers would have to shut down Tom Brady and crew hopefully by making some good adjustments.
The Patriots came out and in a complete carbon copy of the game's opening, they marched the ball straight down the field... So much for halftime adjustments. Speaking of which, this was one game where I would have to give the Steelers coaching staff an "F" for this game plan. True, the coaches don't block or tackle, but in my mind, this whole game plan was wrong and these players were obviously not ready to play. That's the coaching staff's responsibility.
The Steelers never ran the ball effectively when just a week earlier, Cleveland had gashed the Patriots for 180 yards rushing by the Browns' Peyton Hillis. Rashard Mendenhall wasn't even on the field much early in the game. By possessing the ball, it also would have kept Tom Brady off the field and maybe allowed a few less chances for that leaky secondary to be further exposed.
But getting back to the defense, either 1) the Patriots have the greatest collection of blockers in history, 2) the Steelers didn't come to play, or 3) Dick LeBeau just blew it by not applying more pressure. Whatever the reason, the defense, as a result, looked very "pedestrian" at best and hardly ever exhibited their nasty side all night. Brady sat in a rocking chair all night as he picked them apart.
When NFL teams have games as bad as this one, they just leave you scratching your head. True, people have bad days and you're not got going to win them all, but this was a complete team collapse on a national stage against another 6-2 team. Who do the Steelers think they are, Pitt? Truthfully, they didn't even look like they belonged on the same field let alone sharing the same record. The final score, 39-26 wasn't nearly as close as it sounded.
Meanwhile, kicker, Jeff Reed, continued on his farewell tour from the Black and Gold by missing a chip shot field goal later in the game after the offense had failed to connect in the red zone. Reed, who said he didn't want to make excuses, proceeded to do just that, blaming "the worst turf in the league" on his miss. He then complained because fans at Heinz Field have apparently tired of his act. Reed currently trails the entire NFL in kicking accuracy. But as he said a week ago, "Kicking for touchbacks is overrated." With that kind of an attitude it's no wonder that he rarely has them.
ABOVE: Kicker, Jeff Reed, continues his season-long filibuster to find another team.
Next week, more trouble is on the way in the form of the bye-week-rested and suddenly-resurgent Oakland Raiders. The Raiders beat the Steelers last year in the midst of their mid-season swoon where they lost five in a row. They suddenly have a ton of injuries to deal with and players who for some unknown reason are playing without their usual intensity. This season could begin unraveling quickly and this next game worries me...a lot.