In the National Football League, you are not going to go 16-0. So losing a game here or there is excusable, but what bothers me about Sunday’s 21-14 loss to the Arizona Cardinals was the way the Steelers lost. This will be the first challenge for head coach Mike Tomlin and company, as the team was outhit, outplayed, and mistakes were everywhere Sunday afternoon in the desert.
I thought that Ben Roethlisberger played a whale of a game, running for his life on more than a few plays, and throwing on the run with great strength and precision. His play helped the team, but the ghost of 2006 past reared its ugly head again, as Big Ben threw a pick on 3rd-and-goal from the 4-yard line in what totally changed the game. The game was tied at 7 at that point, and even if the Steelers come out with 3, they at least would have had the lead. With that said though, you can’t pin this one on Ben.
As for the special teams breakdown on Steve Breston’s 73-yard punt return, you could almost see it coming. Right after the penalty that forced the Steelers to kick it again, I had a bad feeling from the couch that things were not going to be all right. The kickoff and punt coverage teams have been weak in two of the last three weeks, allowing two sizable returns vs the Bills two weeks ago, and now a TD vs the Cards. Hold them partly accountable for this one.
The running game also has to take the blame for this loss. I am not pinning it on Willie Parker mind you, but Sunday he was part of the problem. It looked from the TV as if Willie didn’t take what the defense gave him, and danced a bit too much, ala 2006 again. If there is a crack to get 2-3 yards, take it, don’t dance around to try and break a 10-15 yard run. I noticed him doing that 2-3 times Sunday, and each time he was stopped for little or no gain at all. This one is also on the O-line, as they were unable to get any push up front, and they didn’t allow Willie to get off to any sort of start, giving Arizona more confidence as the day went along.
As for the pass blocking, this again seemed like last year all over again. Ben forced to step up in the pocket time after time, and what about the stupid false starts and holding calls?! By far the worst game the front five have played, and you can bet this proud unit is going to take a beating from the coaches during film session on Monday.
Tomlin laid it out postgame as to why the Steelers are now 3-1 instead of 1-3. “We weren’t able to run the ball successfully, the turnovers that we acquired, we gave up a big play and we had way too many penalties. When you do that, you lose.”
At least Mike is not trying to sugar coat the issues that cost the Steelers from moving to 4-0. He knows that while it’s just one game, the team cannot afford to take a week off, since the very solid Seattle Seahawks at 3-1 themselves are heading to Hinez Field on Sunday. For now, there is enough blame to go around for this 7-point loss, and plenty to work on to make sure it doesn’t happen again.
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