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Rerun Not Fun; Steelers Fall Down the Stretch for Second Straight Week in 23-20 Loss

Stunning as it was disturbing, the Steelers for the second straight week started out like gang-busters, had chance after chance to beat a team they have owned the last five seasons, and in the final seconds, gave the game away with their defense looking like they had just run gasers on the first day of training camp.

Yes, the Steelers are indeed in a slump, as they fell to the Bengals 23-20, this after holding a commanding 20-9 lead entering the fourth quarter. The Steelers defense, best in the league a season ago, allowed drives of 85 yards and 71 yards, both for touchdowns, as the Bengals rallied to drop the defending champs to 1-2.

“We got to make critical plays at critical moments,” Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said. “We’ve got the players to do that, we have people whose resumes are full of those kinds of plays, we got to find a way to get it out of them. We had an opportunity to win that football game, and we were not able to do that.”

The second long drive for the Bengals came with the game on the line after the Steelers punted from their own 37 with 5:14 left. Cincy went 16 plays, with Carson Palmer going 8-for-13 on the drive which included two fourth down conversions and then the final nail in the Steelers coffin, a four-yard touchdown to a wide open Andre Caldwell in the middle of the end zone that James Farrior took responsibility for.

“Not really mental mistakes, physical mistakes, not being in the right place, making tackles” Farrior said.

Truth be told, the game should have never come down to it. The Steelers outgained the Bengals 373 to 273, held the ball for 34:42 to 25:18, and built a 13-0 led and then a 20-9 lead, only to give both of them up. They even went over 100 yards rushing, as Willie Parker ran for 93 yards, and the team put up 102 yards on 28 carries.

Ben Roethilsberger was 22-for-31 for 276 with a throwing score to Parker, and then a rushing score that made it 20-9 with three minutes left in the third quarter. He also though gave up six points as he threw a pick six to the Bengals Johnathan Joseph that cut the Steelers lead to 13-9 after they missed the extra point with 13:35 to play in the third quarter.

Tomlin kept stressing how the team failed to take care of the details. And that was never more evident in the third quarter after the Bengals touchdown when Roethlisberger went deep down the middle to Limas Sweed, who was a step ahead of the defense in the end zone for what would have been a sure touchdown. Instead, just like the AFC title game in January, Sweed dropped the ball, and after Jeff Reed missed a 52-yard field goal, an opportunity was lost.

“Really what it is it’s the story of the National Football League,” Tomlin said. “We got to get on the details, this is the ultimate parody league, when your on those details, you find ways to win close games, and you find ways to close games out, simply because your livin and performin right. We accept responsibility for that.”

And it’s been those chances and opportunities the past two weeks that have the Steelers starting to look like the 2006 version, a team coming off a Super Bowl title that started the season 2-6. For those that were there that season, they need to make sure this year is not a full blown repeat with a Sunday night game vs San Diego staring them in the face.

“We’re Super Bowl champions, and we’re starting 1-2, that’s not how we envisioned our season starting,” Hines Ward said.

Matt Loede has been in the sports media for over 16 years, with experience covering the MLB, NBA, and NFL. On Sunday’s during football season, you can hear Matt on national networks like Fox Sports Radio, Associated Press, and others. Born and raised in Cleveland Ohio, Matt studies and talks football inside and out, and is anxious to share his thoughts and comments with readers on a daily basis.



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  2. Stefan

    September 27, 2009 at 11:28 pm

    “the ultimate parody league” or is it supposed to be “parity” ?

  3. mark

    September 28, 2009 at 7:47 am

    Mike Tomlin has a serious problem this year guys. This defense cannot generate a pass rush and teams are going underneath and sustaining drives. Why cant the Steelers stop this?? I dont want to hear,”no Troy”, because that just isnt an excuse.Telling me that the absence of 1 man, no matter how great he is, is the reason our defense cannot stop anyone in crunch time is lame. This game on Sunday night is a MUST win fellas. 1-3 is a ticket to no-where this season.1 more thing,in 3 games Ben has 3 TD passes. Terrible. I am not even going to bring up that puke #14. I wont mention his name. We can just call him BUST!

  4. Jay

    September 28, 2009 at 8:35 am


    I also wanna know what’s up with the underneath stuff. I mean, we drafted Timmons for that; he’s supposed to be speedy and all and athletic yet, much like last week early in the game after a big play (he broke up n intended pass for Olsen) when he stuffed Benson on a run, he was owhere to be found! Farrior, who is slow and old, was on the pass coverage on that final touchdown and HE, not Timmons, was the one who Palmer threw at. Tomlin’s draft picks so far: Timmons—where is he (he was supposed to only be a nominal separation in talent between he and Patrick Willis, not a ten mile wide gap!), Woodley—okay but not this year so far, Spaeth—r u kidding me, Mendenhall—potential bust, Sweed—DEFINITE BUST, Bruce Davis—CUT, Hood—hardly on the field….Seems like we might have to become significant players in free agen…Wait, we don’t do that, so expect mediocrity where 6 of the 7 of the past three years’ first three rounders….SUCK!

  5. DrGeorge

    September 28, 2009 at 8:54 am

    My previous comments on this site regarding the Steelers’ defense — inability to get to the quarterback, tiring late in the game — is echoed in Ron Cook’s column for the Post-Gazette today (9/28/09). The interior linemen in our 3-4 are responsible for stopping the run first, and collapsing the pocket on passing downs. Yesterday, again, they were not effective in doing either. C. Hampton once required two men to block him. Now opposing lines top our three interior defensive lineman one on one. That allows them to double team Harrison and Woodley. The only effective pressure on the QB yesterday came when LeBeau lined up Woodley and Harrison on the same side. Eventually, Cincy learned how to block that scheme too. The secondary gave up the passes and must take some of the blame. Troy’s absence hurts too. But we aren’t getting sacks and pressures, and without pressure on the QB, any competent QB can pick apart a secondary. And I don’t see anything to relieve our senior linemen in our backups; Hood and Eason are average at best. Hoke is at least as good as Hampton (at this point in Casey’s career), but neither is the dominating nose tackle needed for the 3-4.

    On offense, the drop by Sweed was huge. If he catches the ball, the Steelers’ lead becomes almost insurmountable. I would replace Sweed with McDonald in the rotation; McD has much better hands. Homes didn’t look like himself either. My prior comments about the running game also hold, notwithstanding the improvement in yardage. Most of our gains were off tackle plays between the 20s. In short yardage situations, the Steelers did not call one running play. The coaches know they can’t run behind this line, and the opposing defenses know it too, making us a one dimensional offense. Ben was left to convert 3rd and long repeatedly. In my opinion, he played a solid game at QB, despite the interception (did Santonio run the wrong route?)

    In short, we are losing the battle in the trenches on offense and defense. It is a nasty trend that began in Tennessee last, repeated itself in a near loss in the Super Bowl, and has continued in two of three games this year. Last year, our defense was strong enough to mask our deficiencies; this year, the defense has aged before our eyes and cannot longer hold substantial leads. And I don’t see any new talent in Tomlin’s two drafts on offense or defense that are capable of stepping up. The team will undoubtedly improve as the year goes on, but there is no quick fix. At this point, the Steelers play like a slightly above average team at best. And San Diego is a better team than Cincy.

  6. George H

    September 28, 2009 at 9:19 am

    Hey guys I just found this site. First of all, Sweed is most likely a bust. It was truly pathetic but kudos to Wallace, he stepped up big time even though he stepped out of bounds instead of getting a TD. My 3 big issues: 1.)We cant score in the Red Zone. 2.)The defense seems to think that they have an excuse to play mediocore since they dont have Troy to save them. 3.)The Steelers are playing not to lose…again. We all have seen this story during the Cowher years, but the big difference is that we could run the clock out then…now we cant

  7. mark

    September 28, 2009 at 11:44 am

    I have to admit that I am worried about the potential of mediocre draft picks turning this team into a mediocre one.I am not giving up on Mendenhall but as far as #14, just plain awful. I posted yesterday about how Mcdonald will be on the field much more now that #14 has shown his true colors. Timmons is a beast. I like what he brings but he is still learning. That is just one of the lumps we might take this season. As far as Woodley and Harrison they are getting schemed on because NO one else is doing anything! Is it time for the Steelers to let Mundy and Ratliff and whoever else is young to play SS or Nickel or Dime? The current line-up is not getting it done. No turnovers! Very pedestrian secondary. Its like watching the Tim Lewis coached secondary of 2002.Like I said, San Diego is a MUST win. I know its early but it can get late in a hurry. Bengals, Jets,Chargers and Colts are all contenders and I do not have to mention the Ravens and Patriots do I? 1-3 and looking up at those teams will probably be too much. This Steeler team will not quit, will not phone in the season and will not be easy to beat. Its just the few missing pieces or the few young players we counted on did not get it done fast enough this season. This offense should be scoring 23+points a week with these weapons. I thnk the same anti-Arians talk is about to heat up again too.

  8. mark

    September 28, 2009 at 2:51 pm

    I also forgot to mention that if James Farrior makes that tackle on 4th down, we are talking about how we are 2-1 but still need to get a bit better! That one missed tackle is haunting us right now. That is a play the Steelers made last year. I guess it is a fine line between 10-6 and 6-10 right?

  9. Mike

    September 28, 2009 at 3:33 pm

    3 games played, all three decided by 3 points. Steelers could be 3-0 or 0-3 or anywhere in between. Let’s not panic. No pass rush but teams are getting rid of the ball quicker. Make adjustments and move on which i am confident the Steelers will do. Each of the games this year was decided by a couple of plays. Need to start making plays which i am confident the steelers will do.

    • George H

      September 28, 2009 at 9:22 pm

      Mike I cant agree with you more. Guys not to sound lame, but werlooking at all the negatives. Lets stay positive, c’mon…where the Pittsburgh Steelers, were 6-time Superbowl Champions. We have one of the best defenses in the league still and an offense ready to errupt and start putting up 23+ a game. We will start getting it all together and we will run through the schedule. When we get through San Diego, we have the Lions and Browns next. Fellas, thats a 4-2 record right there. Guys lets stay optimistic and show why were the best team in the league.

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