I guess what I could do is come in here and tell you that the Steelers played better than the second week which was better than the first week and that would make you feel all better about the team and maybe give you the idea that the team can turn it around. That really isn't the case. The Steelers did play better but at 0-3 the playoffs are more of a prayer than a reality and while they could conceivably go 13-3 I think most of us would bet our lives that wouldn't happen.
Crunched between a brutal start and a brutal end to the game was actually some good football. The Steelers offense posted 23 points which was more than they had in the entire rest of the season (albeit two games) combined. The problem is that the Steelers turned the ball over five times and the defense didn't create a turnover, again, and that really was the problem in a nutshell.
It is hard to really pin down some of the things that happened last night. I mean we will first talk about Ben Roethlisberger. He probably had his best game of the season where he threw for 406 yards and a pair of touchdowns but in the same breath he fumbled three times (lost two, one returned for a touchdown) and threw two interceptions, one of which was taken back for touchdowns. What was encouraging was that Roethlisberger was finally able to get the ball down the field as he posted a 9.9 yard per attempt average and fired touchdown passes of 33 and 21 yards so it wasn't just the dink and dunk. The bad was that he just doesn't look that locked in. Now a lot of this has to do with him getting hit nearly every drop back because the offensive line isn't doing their job but he is missing some throws that he hasn't missed in the past. I think overall he is playing pretty well but you can't turn the football over four times and expect to win.
The same can really be said about the defense. On the one hand they allowed the Bears to gain only 258 yards and they held Jay Cutler to throw for under 100 yards until the fourth quarter. Outside of a 55 yard run from Matt Forte they held the Bears to only 52 yards rushing on 27 carries. So how do the Steelers lose this game? They lose it by not creating a turnover and only getting to Cutler twice. That is how. After teh Steelers cut the Bears lead to four with about 10 minutes left in the game they allowed the Bears to go on a nine play, 72 yard drive that ended in a Cutler touchdown pass that put the game out of reach. The key plays on that drive was a 13 yard run by Cutler on a third and 10 from his own 26 and then followed later by a 41 yard completion to Brandon Marshall that set up the touchdown pass. Like I said I am not saying the defense was bad, because the offense really put them behind the eight ball a couple of times, but at some point you have to create a turnover.
The one guy who deserves all the praise in the world is Antonio Brown. I have been pretty vocal about the fact that the Steelers don't have a number one receiver and that Brown was really just an average number two, but last night he really was good. He caught nine passes for 196 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Every time Roethlisberger needed a big play Brown was there and he wasn't just making the average catch and run plays, he was making highlight catches. It was really good to see Brown break out of his shell a little bit and was right in sync with Ben and it made all the difference in the world in making this offense look good and keeping them in the game.
The Steelers also did a pretty nice job of running the football. I am not going to sit here and tell you that they did a great job but they did run for 80 yards on 21 carries for damn near a four yard per carry average. While that is below the standards when you look at the first two games of the season and see the complete incompetence of anyone to do anything you can understand how this might look good. Jonathan Dwyer actually got the most carries of anyone (12) but didn't really do a whole lot with them (39 yards with a long of 25) while Felix Jones was effective with seven carries for 34 yards. The knock here is that Jones fumbled the ball early in the third quarter that I thought was going to put the game out of reach. What that fumble did do was officially make him a Steelers running back because if you want to be one of those you have to put the ball on the turf.
Troy Polamalu was also a bright spot. Every game this season he has been on the field for every defensive snap and for a guy that has had a problem staying on the field over his career that is a good thing. For the first time in a while he looks healthy and while he is not as nimble and agile as he once was he is still all over the field and making some pretty unreal plays. Last night he blocked an extra point and while it didn't mean much since the game was already out of reach it is nice to see that he still has that burst and is healthy.
I mean I really wish there was more I could say about the game. It literally came down to the Bears making two interceptions and recovering three fumbles. They turned those five turnovers into nearly all of their points and the Steelers were not able to create a single turnover. To be honest when you turn the ball over that many times and you still have a chance to win the game late you are pretty damn lucky. For much of the second half it looked as if the Bears were just trying to not lose the game and it nearly cost them. One pick or forced fumble that went the Steelers way changes that game and gives them a much better chance to win. It didm happen.
Now London gets to watch the Vikings and Steelers next week. Both teams are 0-3 and both teams are bad. At this point I think that the Steelers actually have a decent chance of winning this game (I didn't think they did the last two games) so I guess that should give us something to look forward to. Right now the Steelers are in a bad place and when I envision this team winning five games I have a hard time believing myself.