MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 24, 2012
posted by Dale Lolley
This game reminded me of on in Chicago in 1995 when the Steelers got into a shootout with the Bears. The last team to have the ball was going to win it.
Only that Steelers team had a great defense to go along with an emerging offense.
This team has established stars all over on offense and Ben Roethlisberger is playing the best football of his life.
As for a great defense, not so much - at least on the road.
As Brett Keisel said after this one, this team needs to find a way to win on the road if it is going to get to where it wants to go.
That being said, Denver and Oakland are two tough places to open. There are easier road games coming, and the Steelers had to be pleased that they put up 31 points in a very hostile environment.
But the defense allowed scores on five consecutive possessions. Can't somebody, anybody, make a play?
While the Steelers have spent some big money on offensive players in recent years, they've also dropped some heavy coin on a couple of defensive players - LaMarr Woodley and Lawrence Timmons - as well.
They're not getting their money's worth right now.
Sure, Woodley had the team's lone sack Sunday and also had a tackle for a loss. But he finished with four tackles.
That was still better than Timmons, who had three tackles. In fact, after recording seven sacks and four forced fumbles in 2009, Timmons has five sacks and two forced fumbles - in the past two-plus seasons.
At this point, he's not even as impactful on a game as Larry Foote, who doesn't have nearly the athleticism of Timmons.
Often times, tackles are a matter of opportunity. But there's something to be said about players who make their own opportunities as well.
@ If you had any question about Mike Tomlin's faith in his defense to stop the Raiders in the second half, you only needed to see him go for a fourth-and-1 at his own 29.
At that point, it was the right call. As we saw, the Steelers couldn't stop Oakland's offense.
With that in mind, I'd have given serious thought to going for it on fourth-and-9 from the 36 as well.
@ Ben Roethlisberger played an outstanding game, leading the team to 31 points while continuing his hot play on third downs, where the Steelers converted 8 of 14 for the game.
But he once again had a chance to lead a fourth quarter, game-winning drive and failed.
In the past two seasons, Roethlisberger has led exactly one game-winner, and that came against lowly Indianapolis last season.
In his first seven seasons, Roethlisberger led 26 such drives, many of which came when he was, you know, just a game manager.
@ This is still a pretty good team with a chance to get much better coming out of the bye when it gets Rashard Mendenhall, Troy Polamalu and James Harrison back.
Mendenhall has looked good in practice and has to be able to give the team something better than the 2.6 yards per carry it's currently averaging.
Polamalu is still Polamalu, while even a one-legged Harrison would give this team some kind of pass rush outside of Woodley.
The Steelers are on pace to allow more touchdown passes (32) than they have sacks (27).
You want to know what's wrong with this defense? That's it in a nutshell. The lack of pressure is killing it.
@ That was a bad fumble for Jonathan Dwyer. With Mendenhall coming back and Barron Batch showing a little something as a third-down back Sunday, Dwyer could find his opportunities dwindling quickly.
@ On the positive side, with the return of Mendenhall, this offense has a chance to be one of the more dynamic ones in the NFL. If the defense can play average football the rest of the way and the offense continues to click, the Steelers still have the look of a 10 or 11-win team.
But unless they figure out how to win a big game on the road, any hopes of another Super Bowl run are just that, hopes.