Just when you thought that Steelers might have turned that proverbial corner they go out and lay another egg in what was a pretty lifeless game. The final score is going to say that the Steelers lost by ten but it wasn't even that close of a game. People sometimes say that the score isn't indicative of how the game was played and this was what that person meant by that statement. All-in-all the game sucked. There really wasn't anything of substance to talk about and the only thing that you can really take out of today was that the Bengals lost so in terms of playoff positioning everything is the exact same as it was before the game was even played.
Here are some thoughts on the game:
-I figured the offense was going to be pretty bad in the first half since Ben Roethlisberger hasn't played in three straight weeks and it was as bad as I thought its as going to be. Just for some perspective on how bad it was here was the first half statistical snapshot:
If you thought it was bad in the first half it was just as bad in the second half was just as bad. The statistics will look better because there was a lot of garbage time plays but the offense was really non existent. The Steelers had a good chance to make something happen in the first half as the defense was bailing them out in a huge way but the Steelers only managed three first half first downs and when the receivers weren't dropping passes the line wasn't opening holes and running backs were missing lanes. Just bad times.
-I know that players don't go out and play anything less than 100% but sometimes it can look like that and on more than one occasion it looked like that for the Steelers. None might have been worse than the fumble that was ruled on the field when Roethlisberger threw a pass backwards (as it was ruled and then subsequently confirmed via replay although there was no good camera view to overturn it. To the naked eye it looked like an incomplete pass) and it rolled into the end zone where Antonio Brown could have picked it up and took the safety but instead he made a pretty weak attempt to pick it up and then the Chargers fell on it for a touchdown. Sure, in the end it really didn't matter but falling on, or kicking the ball out of bounds, COULD have made a difference.
-For as good as the offensive line was last week for Charlie Batch it was pretty bad today. Ben was running for his life on a lot of situation and he was hurried on most of his throws and by the end of the game Ben was hit numerous times although it doesn't appear that way on the stat sheet. I don't think the running game was completely the line's fault but they weren't giving the backs a lot to work with. The Steelers only gained 67 yards on the ground and for much of the game Roethlisberger was the teams leading rusher. That isn't a good thing. They failed on a 4th and less than one around midfield and that really what the game was all about.
-If you have followed me on twitter or read me for any time on here about coaching you know that I don't believe that on game day coaches have a huge affect on the results of the game. The players are the ones that make the plays and even if you make a questionable decision (going for it on 4th and less than one in your territory early in the game) the players still can perform and get that yard. That being said it was a really weird day for Mike Tomlin today. I am a Mike Tomlin supporter and think he does a pretty good job with the team but he had some pretty big head scratching moments today. The Steelers pulled within 18 with six minutes left in the game and rather than go for two and try to make it a two score game he kicked the extra point keeping it a three score game. He said after the game that he didn't think about going for two because they haven't proved that they could stop the Chargers offense. OK, that is fine, but then he tries to onsides kick. So if you are going to try and win the game why not try to make it a two score game and not three? Why go for it on fourth and one when you haven't been able to run the football? Why keep Roethlisberger in when the game was way out of hand and you choose to keep it a three point game. I am a Tomlin backer and I will continue to be but he was just really weird all game with decision making.
-The biggest thing that sticks out to me is the lack of consistent pressure that the Steelers were ably to get on Phillip Rivers. At one point in the game the Chargers had only one of their regular starting offensive linemen on the field and the Steelers were only able to get a single sack and four quarterback hits all day. They were quiet for most of the game. Credit has to go to Chargers offensive line for really doing a nice job when their backs were against the wall but you have to wonder what was going on with the Steelers and the inability to get to the quarterback.
-For much of the recent past Ike Taylor has been a scapegoat and he hasn't made to many fans but today should really open your eyes about how important he really is to the defensive secondary. The secondary was picked apart and Curtis Brown really had a brutal day. He was picked on time and time again and the secondary as a whole gave up 14 of the Chargers 19 third down conversions. The highlight of this came on the Chargers best drive of the game to open the third quarter when they went 17 play and 78 yards over 9:32 and converted four third downs via the pass. The absence of Taylor forced Brown into playing time that he probably wasn't ready for and Cortez Allen and Keenan Lewis weren't terrible but they weren't great either.
-I talked about how bad the Steelers offense was today, and they were bad, but you have to give the Chargers defense some credit. They did an outstanding job of making Roethlisberger uncomfortable and a great job of making the Steelers one dimensional and completely shutting down the running game. In the preview I talked about how the Chargers had an underrated defense in some aspects and the Chargers coaching staff really did a great job of preparing for this game and the players did an outstanding job of executing it.
-You know what was dangerous today? Norv Turner knowing that he wasn't going to be coming back to coach the team next season. He literally had nothing to lose and just went all out and it was not more evident than when he ran a successful fake punt just before the third quarter clock expired with the Chargers only up 27-10. They ran the fake on their own 28 yard line and if they don't get it there they give a Steelers offense (who put together a really nice drive to score on the previous drive) the ball on a very short field to possibly cut the lead to ten with about a quarter left to play. They fake the punt and convert it and although they didn't score they got to run seven more plays than they would have if they punted. Just a gut punch when the Steelers were finally able to get off the field.
-The only consolation prize for the Steelers is that the Bengals also lost to the Cowboys. That means the Steelers are still currently in the playoffs if the season ended today (which it doesn't despite what any yinzer might tell you). Basically the season comes down to the Bengals/Steelers game on December 23. The Steelers play a game before that (against Dallas) but in all reality they could lose that game and then beat the Bengals and they would still get in. Sure, the Jets could win out and be 9-7 but the Steelers hold the head-to-head over them and they would hold the head-to-head over the Bengals if they beat them on the 23rd. Miami could finish 9-7 but as I write this they are losing to the 49ers and still have a tough end of the season schedule. Beat the Bengals and the Steelers are all but in the playoffs.
-Speaking of getting into the playoffs I see a ton of people saying that the Steelers "playing to the opponent." I don't disagree with that notion one bit. I mean look at some of the wins (Washington, New York Giants, Baltimore) and then you look at the losses to the Titans, Browns, Chargers, Raiders and you wonder what team this is. Honestly have no idea what to expect from this team but if this is a "playing to the opponent" team then that should work out pretty well for them in the playoffs, no?
-I have no idea what is to blame for the Steelers inability to win against bad teams. Is it coaching? Loss of focus? Looking past teams? Taking success for granted? I have no idea. I wish I did.
Some other things of note from the game:
-Chargers had a 36:46 - 23:14 time of possession advantage
-Chargers ran 79 plays where the Steelers ran only 61
-Lawrence Timmons led the defense with 11 tackles. All were solo.
-Mike Wallace made seven catches for 112 yards and two touchdowns but did not play well at all.
-Steelers only 5-of-13 on third down. Chargers 12-of-22.
-I have no idea what game Phil Simms was watching today. He is in the running for the worst NFL commentator and I think he might be winning. He's just brutal.
All in all it was a pretty bad day to be a Steelers fan. The bright side is that everything is basically the same as we look towards the playoffs as it was coming into the day. That doesn't mean that this team doesn't have major problems but all you need to do is get into the playoffs and anything can happen. Ben looked more comfortable as the game went on and it wouldn't surprise me if he was very sharp next week. Hopefully the receivers can show up and make some plays and the offensive line figures out what it wants to do.