Week 9 Recap: Dancing On The Ceiling


That’s a Lionel Richie reference, son.

You know, ‘cause he kinda looks like Nicole’s dad. Too old for you kids? I’ll try to be a little more hip.

It’s the end of the world as we know it.

It’s the end of the world as we know it.

And I feel fine.

What could possibly have a member of Steeler Nation thinking about the end of the world? What catastrophe could turn a person’s outlook so bleak? What disaster would lead to such depths of despair?

QB Ben Roethlisberger was seriously injured in last night’s 23-6 victory over the Washington Redskins. Preliminary reports are he fully separated his right shoulder on a goal line dive at the end of the first half. He rushed to the locker room, hip checking a defenseless and slightly anorexic Redskin cheerleader in the process, then stood on the sidelines for the rest of the game, his right arm hanging limply at his side. Ben’s a tough guy who plays through a lot of pain but I’m pretty sure he’s missing at least one game considering he couldn’t even lift the arm above his waist when congratulating teammates.

And you want to hear something crazy? I don’t care.

Backup QB Byron Leftwich came on in relief and to say he looked good is a colossal understatement. Whereas other poorly run franchises have lost their star QBs and had to trot out the inept likes of Brad Johnson or Ryan Fitzpatrick, the Steelers turned the reins over to a guy who not only can play but play well. I have no idea what the 31 other GMs in the NFL were thinking when training camp rolled around with Leftwich out of work but that explains why a lot of lousy teams continue to be lousy year after year.

Let’s start at the beginning. Head coach Mike Tomlin began the game with an onside kick which went doubly awry as we didn’t recover and were offside on the play. That set the ‘Skins up on our 40.  I’m not really a fan of crazy gambles although in this case I applaud Tomlin’s call. When you have such a devastating force as the Blitzburgh Defense at your command, you can take a few chances. Indeed, Washington went three and out then kicked a chintzy FG for a quick lead.

This pattern continued throughout the first half as the Steeler D just absolutely stifled the vaunted Redskin offense. QB Jason Campbell was under duress every time he dropped back. Every one of our LBs and DE Aaron Smith had a sack, finishing the game with a season high 7. RB Clinton Portis, who had been averaging over 5 yards/carry this season, was stuffed like a fat kid on Halloween, finishing the game with a meager 51 yards (22 of which came on one bad play). Other than TE Chris Cooley being open on dinky-dunk short check down stuff, the WRs were blanketed all game.  At halftime, the Washington offense had amassed a whopping 71 total yards.

Which would’ve been great except our offense only amassed a whopping 71 total yards. To be frank, our offense in the first half was atrocious. Remember how I said our showings against the Eagles and Giants were bad? Next verse same as the first. Big Ben looked completely confused and out-of-sorts today. He had happy feet and never seemed comfortable with what he was doing. He’d miss wide open receivers, he’d shuffle back and forth unsure of whether to run or stay put, he made several poor throws (one of which should’ve been a Pick-6) and he’d hold on to the ball too long when given time. Only his touchdown plunge which came after a blocked punt by special teams ace Andre Frazier kept the first half from being a total loss.

But the offensive crappiness can’t all be placed on Ben’s sore shoulders. When he did manage to get the ball to the WRs, they kept dropping the passes. I’m not sure when this allergy to pigskin started but it contributed to Roethlisberger starting the game 1 for 9. Worse yet was our playcalling. I know bitching about O-coordinator Bruce Arians is getting old but so are his horrific game plans. Pothole Willie Parker finally returned to the field and looked good, made his cuts, and showed that burst he’s known for. Awesome except for the fact Arians seemed intent on passing every down instead of establishing any sort of running game. He’d give Parker a carry and unless he broke a 8-9 yard gainer, it was pass pass and then pass some more. Establishing a running game means giving your star RB more than 10 scattered carries per half, Arians.

Then the second half began and it was like a totally different team in Black and Gold emerged from that locker room. With the backup QB in there, Arians was forced to focus more on the run. This made the D cheat up more to counter Parker and opened up the Tiffin Thunderbolt Nate Washington for one of his patented Long Bombers. Leftwich was coolly efficient as when he felt pressure he either stepped up and fired or stood in the pocket and absorbed the hit in order to deliver the ball down the field. Say what you want about his Carlos Zambrano-like delivery, the man has a cannon. With FWP and Mewelde Moore providing ground support and Lord Byron firing bullets all over the field, the offense finally clicked.

Two nice drives capped by TDs put the game out of reach for the overmatched Redskin offense.  Our defense held them to 200 total yards, at least 1/4 of which was gained during garbage time.  Honestly, it was like bringing an Uzi to a knife fight.  Best of all, our secondary picked off Lionel Jr. twice, finally putting an end to his Zero INTs streak so whatever terrible announcers work the game next week can shut up about that one.

Obviously, we’ll all be glued to the news and papers awaiting word on the severity of Ben’s injury. We owe a lot of this year’s success to his heroics and I wouldn’t for a second want to diminish his ability or what he means to our team. However, I think if he’s hurting and that is going to limit his effectiveness, then he should be willing to step aside for a week or two, get himself healthy (or healthier) and not come back until he can play up to his usual level. It’s pretty clear that Byron Leftwich is capable of filling in more than adequately and I don’t know about you but 100% of Lefty appears to be vastly preferable to 50% of Big Ben. Tomlin had the guts to call for the fake punt, let’s see if he has the grapefruits to do what Bill Cowher was never willing to do: tell Ben Roethlisberger to take a week off for the good of the team.