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mesaSteeler
09-27-2009, 10:29 PM
Team finding ways to lose
By ERIC KNOPSNYDER
THE TRIBUNE-DEMOCRAT
http://www.tribune-democrat.com/prosports/local_story_270230921.html

The difference between last year’s edition of the Pittsburgh Steelers and the current one is quickly becoming evident: That Super Bowl championship team won games it had no business winning; this one finds ways to lose games it should have had wrapped up by the third quarter.

The NFL season is only three games old, and there is still plenty of time for the Steelers to reverse the trend, especially when safety Troy Polamalu returns from a knee injury. But after Sunday’s 23-20 loss in Cincinnati, the Steelers are now two games behind AFC North rival Baltimore, which finally has an offense to go with its trademark fierce defense.

The Steelers seem to have neither of late. Or at least late in games.

For the second time in two weeks, the Steelers dominated a game in the first quarter but managed to lose it in the fourth quarter.

There’s plenty of blame to go around, from Jeff Reed missing field goals to Santonio Holmes and Limas Sweed failing to catch potential game-clinching touchdowns to a running game that can’t be counted on to protect a lead late in games.

But the most disappointing aspect of the road losses to Chicago and Cincinnati is how a defense that was the best in the league a year ago has folded with the game on the line.

It happened a week ago, as Jay Cutler led the Bears to 113 yards and 10 points on Chicago’s final two drives.

And it happened again Sunday, as Carson Palmer guided the Bengals to 156 yards and 14 points on Cincinnati’s final two possessions.

“We’ve got to make critical plays in critical moments,” Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said in his postgame press conference. “We have people that are capable of doing that. We have people whose resumes are full of those kinds of plays. We just need to get that out of them.”

Instead, it was the Bengals making critical plays. They stopped the Steelers on a fourth-down play late in the first half when the game could have gotten away from them.

Jonathan Joseph intercepted a Ben Roethlisberger pass and returned it for a touchdown in the third to get the Bengals within striking distance. And Palmer and the offense converted a pair of fourth-down plays on the final drive before tossing a 4-yard touchdown pass to Andre Caldwell with 14 seconds remaining in the fourth.

It was reminiscent of how Roethlisberger and the Steelers managed to win games a year ago against a brutal schedule on their way to a sixth Super Bowl championship. Sunday was just another reminder that last year is over and that the Steelers need to prove themselves anew each week.

Not that the Steelers needed reminded of that.

“We don’t need what transpired out there to let us know it’s a new season,” Tomlin said.

“We realized that when we reported to Latrobe. That’s been our mentality. That’s what we said, and it’s not lip service. We mean it.”

Tomlin also knows that there is no miracle cure for what ails his team. It just needs to execute better, especially at the end of games.

“We’ve got some work to do,” he said. “We’ve got to finish football games better. That’s the mark of a champion. That’s not us at this point.”

That message was driven home again on Sunday.



Eric Knopsnyder is the sports editor of The Tribune-Democrat.

OX1947
09-27-2009, 10:33 PM
Execution of basic football fundamentals is what has cost the Steelers the last two games. The hard part about it is out #1 receiver has been at the apex of it. If you want to look at a couple of plays, two plays stand out in my mind. Holmes drop last week in the end zone and Limas Sweed's catch. Steelers get those two catches and you are more then likely looking at a 3-0 team. Its that close in the NFL.

Edman
09-27-2009, 10:41 PM
Woulda, Shoulda, Coulda, but didn't.

The Steelers are 1-2. Two losses to two crappy teams after holding them down the majority of the game. Two blown late leads. Inability to seal the deal.

That's the bottom line. It's 2006 all over again.

BlastFurnace
09-27-2009, 10:47 PM
Football seasons are a funny bunch....

Last year, we won a lot of close games where things went our way.

This year, things haven't gone our way so far.

Like Bill used to say, it's a fine line between winning and losing.

rbryan
09-27-2009, 11:16 PM
Finding ways to lose....Thats exactly what I thought as I watched today.

This one seems harder to stomach for some reason. Its gonna be a long week.