The Pittsburgh Steelers held on to defeat the Detroit Lions 28-20 yesterday afternoon. I apologize for being late with this recap but, honestly, I have no idea where to start with this one. We’re more than 1/4 of the way through the 2009 season and there seems to be a Great NFL Divide between the good teams and the bad ones. At this point, I can’t tell you which category the Steelers belong in.
I knew we were in for a long afternoon when Ben Roethlisberger came out throwing the ball on their first three plays. Of course, that went nowhere. Daunte Culpepper then led his Lions down the field, doing most of the work himself with a 32 yard scramble. A short pass-and-run by Maurice Morris for 16 yards set them up on our 27 yard line where the drive eventually fizzled and they settled for a FG.
I recount that drive because that was basically the story of the game. The Lions moved the ball. They eventually shot themselves in the foot, either with a penalty or a sack or some other miscue. Also, in honor of all the Cancer Awareness this month, head coach Jim Schwartz needs to have his testicles checked to make sure they’re there. His Cowardly Lion decision making didn’t help Detroit’s cause. On the aforementioned FG, Will.i.am Gay was offsides (a 5 yard penalty) on the 4th and 5 play. If you’re coaching a team with one win in two years, you’re playing the Super Bowl champs, and you’re at home (so to speak, half the crowd looked to be wearing Black and Gold), don’t you GO FOR IT? What is there to lose?
I am shocked at how what was the best defense in the NFL last year can be so poor this year. Yes, the D only surrendered 13 points. Yes, they had a season high 7 sacks, including 3 from the resurgent James Harrison and 1.5 from Mister Woodley. But Detroit’s self-inflicted screw-ups kept the score low. Against a decent team, a lot of those FGs would have been TDs.
The Lions had 335 yards of offense. The Steelers had 344. I repeat, the pitiful one-win Detroit Lions had the same amount of offense as your defending Super Bowl champions. And that’s not even a fair comparison because the Steeler offense worked against a defense ranked near the bottom of the NFL. Meanwhile, the Lions piled up yards against the Steelers supposedly great defense despite starting an ancient backup QB and without the services of superstar WR Calvin Johnson.
Which brings me to our offense. Bruce Arians is the dumbest offensive coordinator ever. Once he decided to run the ball, Rashard Mendenhall was RIPPING THEM UP. He had about 60 yards on 9 carries(!) at halftime. So what does Arians do? He gives him SIX more carries the entire second half. SIX!?!?! Mendenhall finished with only 77 yards despite averaging a whopping 5 yards/carry. Isn’t the fourth quarter, when you’re up by 15 points as the Steeler were, the best time to grind out the clock by RUNNING THE BALL? Why was he dialing up super-bombs instead? Can somebody explain this moron’s offensive strategy to me? Please?
Arians’ passing fetish almost lead to one of the most embarrassing upsets in Steeler history. Don’t get me wrong, Big Ben (23/37 282 yards) played a decent game. He connected on some nice short passes and even hit rookie Mike Wallace on a beautiful deep bomb which Wallace unfortunately Sweed-ed to the turf. He did redeem himself later by coming back to catch an underthrown deep ball for a TD.
Still, the Steelers aren’t the Colts. Ben is not Peyton Manning. I’m not saying I wish we had Peyton or that he’s better than Ben. They are different players with different skills. The skills Peyton has allow the Colts to throw the ball 40x every game because he throws the ball away to avoid sacks and he doesn’t throw many INTs. Ben has the tendency to make bad throws, like the Pick Six against the division-leading Bengals and the one he threw yesterday which narrowed the score to 14-13. And he holds on to the ball like a Reno desk clerk holds on to her semen-stained cowgirl hat. Sure, Arians was an idiot for calling deep passing plays late in the 4th quarter but Ben has to know the situation and THROW THE BALL AWAY. Instead, he took three costly sacks over a five play span.
This bit of offensive ineptitude set up what threatened to be another 4th quarter collapse by the Tissue Paper Curtain. They gave up a 25 yard TD to Dennis Northcutt on a deep pass down the middle where Keiwan Ratliff, who is a cornerback playing safety because we have no decent backups, was badly out of position. This drive covered 82 yards and took a grand total of THREE MINUTES. On their next and final drive, Culpepper directed his team all the way to the Steelers 21 yard line before Dick LeBeau had enough and basically ordered them to Kill The Quarterback.
When Troy Polamalu was injured opening day against the Titans, I said not to worry. I felt we still had so much talent on the defense that missing one player, even one as great as Troy, wasn’t going to affect us that much. I am now fully prepared to say I was wrong. Not just wrong, like George Bush Wrong. Like Roman Polanski Wrong. Like Pink Roethlisberger Jersey Wrong. Without Troy, this defense is average at best. Tyrone Carter sucks. Ratliff doesn’t know what he’s doing. Our linebackers can’t drop back into coverage. And nobody in the secondary can pick off a pass.
I apologize if this recap is sounding more like a Yinzer Rant. I probably sound like some degenerate gambler who is pissed because Vegas had the Steelers favored by 14 points yesterday. I am just very very disturbed by the way this team is playing right now. Detroit is by no means the worst team in the league anymore (hello, Raiders!) but there is no way this game should have been close. Our offensive philosophy is completely screwed up and our defense is having massive problems in the secondary. Unless these things get fixed and get fixed soon, we’re going to find ourselves on the wrong side of the Great NFL Divide.