View Full Version : Steelers' defense dismayed for failing to hold lead

10-05-2010, 07:40 AM
Steelers' defense dismayed for failing to hold lead
Tuesday, October 05, 2010
By Gerry Dulac, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Matt Freed/Post-Gazette

Baltimore wide receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh celebrates after catching the winning touchdown pass against the Steelers in the fourth quarter of Sunday's game at Heinz Field.

It didn't seem to matter that there were 11 penalties for 88 yards, as many as they had committed in the first three games combined.

Or that the offense failed to gain 1 yard from their 3 after a tense defensive stand gave them a chance to run out the remaining 2 minutes, 40 seconds.

Or even that a holding penalty against linebacker Keyaron Fox on a punt from the end zone shortened an already short field by another 10 yards.

To members of the Steelers' defense, the only thing that mattered was that they failed to protect a late lead, something that dogged them last season. And that it happened against the Baltimore Ravens, a team they had dominated for most of the past decade at Heinz Field, only made it worse.

"We still feel we had some control," safety Troy Polamalu said. "Had we made that last stop, we'd be singing a different tune right now."

But, despite their 3-1 record, there was no singing or whistling in the locker room after a 17-14 loss Sunday to the Ravens, not when the defense gave up the decisive 18-yard touchdown pass with 32 seconds remaining.

Not when Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco completed all four of his pass attempts -- none of which were contested by defensive backs -- and needed only 36 seconds to score the winning points.

"There were opportunities out there, from the special teams to the offense and the defense to change the score of this game," Polamalu said.

None of which happened, which is why the Steelers are no longer among the NFL's unbeaten teams.

Even on a day when it appeared the defense would come to the rescue for one more week without Ben Roethlisberger -- getting big plays from nickel back William Gay on back-to-back passes from the 2 -- it all fell apart in a matter of 36 seconds.

"We feel like we should have won," said inside linebacker James Farrior. "We definitely had the opportunity. They made one more play than we did."

And a big one it was, not just because Ravens receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh easily beat cornerback Bryant McFadden with an out-and-up move to catch the winning 18-yard touchdown. But also because the Ravens anticipated a blitz call by defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau and kept in additional players to pick up the extra rushers.

The max-protect worked to perfection, with running back Ray Rice picking up inside linebacker Lawrence Timmons and tight end Todd Heap coming across from the right side to pick up Polamalu. Both players were blitzing off the right side, outside the rush of linebacker James Harrison.

"It's a call that's worked for us before," Polamalu said.

This time, though, it didn't, and the defense is accepting the blame.

In four games, the Steelers are ranked No. 1 in the league in run defense and have not allowed a running back to rush for more than 42 yards. What's more, they have not allowed a run longer than 11 yards and their average allowed per carry (2.6) is the lowest in the NFL.

None of that, though, seemed to matter after the final-minute loss to the Ravens.

"Sometimes when you are riding high, you don't look at your mistakes, look at the things you do wrong, as tough as you should," said safety Ryan Clark. "We definitely need to dissect this."
Gerry Dulac: gdulac@post-gazette.com.

Read more: http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/10278/1092701-66.stm#ixzz11WUAHIhL

10-05-2010, 07:50 AM
If I were the Browns, I'd be very scared. Ben AND a defense with something to prove? Could be serious trouble for Mr. Seneca.

10-05-2010, 09:18 AM
Actions speak louder than words. Do we want a repeat of last year when the D crumbled in the 2nd half? Of course not. Actually doing something about it is another matter. I really won't put too much on the Browns game - they're nowhere near being an elite team. I want to see how the D fares against the Saints, Patriots, Ravens (pt 2), and Jets. Those will be our biggest tests. The Dolphins were unmasked as frauds last night. As for Carson & The Bungles, they're not the threat everyone made them out to be. If the D learns from their implosion with the Ravens, and the O gets going under Ben, we may very well be a 15-1 team and THE force to be reckoned with in the NFL.