View Full Version : Steelers' physical game spirited away by Saints

11-01-2010, 08:39 AM
Steelers' physical game spirited away by Saints
Monday, November 01, 2010
By Ron Cook, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

NEW ORLEANS -- It's one thing for the New Orleans Saints to settle for a field goal after a first-and-goal at the 1. They are a passing team -- a pretty, finesse team, if you will.

It's something much worse for the Steelers to do it. They like to think of themselves as a powerful, physical football team. They weren't Sunday night and it cost them the game in the Louisiana Superdome.

The Saints scored 17 points in the second half to win, 20-10. But that's not the big reason the Steelers lost for just the second time in seven games to fall back into a first-place tie with the Baltimore Ravens in the AFC North Division. They were beaten early in the second quarter when they were whipped in the worst possible way.


"They won the line of scrimmage," coach Mike Tomlin said.

It happened after the Steelers appeared to score a touchdown on a 12-yard pass from quarterback Ben Roethlisberger to wide receiver Antwaan Randle El. Saints coach Sean Payton challenged that Randle El was down before he scored and a replay review confirmed it. The Steelers were given the ball and a first down at the Saints' 6-inch line.

No problem, right?

Uh, wrong.

Big problem.

Running back Isaac Redman went off left guard and lost a yard. "That was my fault," Steelers guard Trai Essex said. "I didn't do my assignment. I thought we were running a different play."

Running back Rashard Mendenhall tried right tackle and gained that yard back and maybe an inch or two more. "I thought he might have been in," Essex said.

Mendenhall then was stopped on third down for no gain, again over right tackle.

Steelers kicker Jeff Reed came on to kick a 19-yard field goal for a very unsatisfying 3-0 lead. Those were lost points that the Steelers desperately would need later.

"It's a shame because we've been really good in short yardage situations this season," Essex said.

It didn't make the Steelers feel any better when the same thing happened to the Saints early in the third quarter. The Saints had a first-and-goal at the Steelers' 1 and had to settle for a 23-yard field goal.

This is a matter of perspective, remember?

This is the second consecutive game in which the Steelers had trouble running the ball. They were fortunate to beat the Miami Dolphins Oct. 24 getting just 58 rushing yards on 27 carries, including 37 yards on 15 carries by Mendenhall. Through three quarters against the Saints, the numbers were just as disheartening: 19 rushes for 68 yards.

The final stats didn't look nearly so bad because Mendenhall scored on a 38-yard run early in the fourth quarter to cut the Saints' lead to 13-10.

Too little, too late.

"Halloween night. A playoff crowd. Them coming off a big loss to Cleveland. We knew they'd respond," Steelers wide receiver Hines Ward said.

As losses go, this wasn't a bad one for the Steelers. They were facing a Saints team that was off to a 4-3 start in defense of its Super Bowl championship and was coming off that embarrassing 30-17 home loss to the Browns. Beyond that, the Saints are an NFC team. If you have to lose, losing to them is better than losing to an AFC team. It's sure better than losing at Cincinnati to the Bengals next Monday night.

Clearly, though, the Steelers need to get their running game going. The great Roethlisberger can't win every game by himself. That's especially true on the nights when he is mediocre, as he was against the Saints. He was 17 for 28 for 195 yards, no touchdowns and an interception. His passer rating was a shabby 66.8 after being 132.0 against the Dolphins and 112.7 against the Browns Oct. 17.

"It's hard to be a physical ballclub when you're just passing the ball," Ward said. "Last year, we threw the ball around left and right and we didn't get where we want to go. We've got to be able to run the ball and use our play-action passing game."

That's the Steelers' best formula for success. Lucky for them they have an extra day this week to get back to it before they play the Bengals.

Ron Cook: rcook@post-gazette.com. Ron Cook can be heard on the "Vinnie and Cook" show weekdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on 93.7 The Fan. More articles by this author
First published on November 1, 2010 at 12:42 am

Read more: http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/10305/1099791-87.stm#ixzz141Qvm91j

Fire Arians
11-01-2010, 01:11 PM
essex sucks, i'm gonna be pissed if we don't draft a guard in round 1 in the offseason