Steelers Absolute Mess Against Saints: Instant Reaction
Nov 30, 2014; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers safey Troy Polamalu (43) lays on the field after making a tackle against the New Orleans Saints during the first half at Heinz Field. Mandatory Credit: Jason Bridge-USA TODAY Sports
That picture up there about sums it up. The Pittsburgh Steelers had a chance to begin their march to the playoffs when they faced off against the New Orleans Saints on Sunday afternoon. Instead it’s been practically flushed down the toilet after a completely hot mess of a game.
The Steelers admitted that they weren’t going to take the Saints lightly. At 4-7 coming into the game, the Saints were still fighting for a spot at the top of the NFC South division. However, that division is the worst in the league, and we know how well the Steelers are against teams that are below .500. The Steelers would not disappoint – they kept that trend alive and strong. Except this time, it was worse.
The team didn’t have the kind of slow start it usually has coming out of the gates we have become oh so accustomed to. The Steelers drove the field nicely for a while, but fell short after crossing mid field. The Steelers defense was able to stop the Saints after allowing a quick first down and was able to maintain pressure on Brees for the first quarter and a half. Dick LeBeau made a surprising move by mixing things up using six defensive backs on 2nd and 3rd down. Brees was forcing balls and his receivers struggled to haul in anything that was close. There was hope.
It’s no secret that this team lives and dies with Roethlisberger. Unfortunately, today, Roethlisberger steered this ship right into an iceberg. His awful day doomed this team in the first half. He was “off” from the very beginning. Missed routes, high throws. It was hard not to get that sinking feeling that it was going to be one of “those” games. His inaccuracy led to multiple “would be” interceptions. He ended with 2 INT’s but could have easily ended the day with 6. No joke.
Was it the hand? Not even close. Surely, he was hurting after his hand/wrist slammed up against a defensive lineman on a pass attempt. He handed the ball off five times in a row after that incident – with his non-throwing hand even. No question something was wrong, but the effects quickly faded. The fact that Roethlisberger was able to come back in the second half and put together some solid drives and finally get the ball in the red zone to set up a Le’Veon Bell touchdown shows that the hand was ok enough to perform at the high level he’s expected. He also held it together long enough to get two scores to Antonio Brown during garbage time. Too little too late.
His receivers didn’t help the situation either. Ben might have been a little lofty with his passes on numerous attempts, but many of them hit the hands of his receivers that dropped to the ground – none bigger than the Martavis Bryant pass that was dropped at the goal line, which probably would have ended up as a touchdown. The missed opportunities here killed the momentum and allowed the Saints to stay within six points until they were able to figure out how to dissect the secondary. Once that happened, it quickly turned 14-6 at the end of the first half.
The iceberg had been struck. This ship was taking on water. The safe passes from Ben in the second half just weren’t enough. They needed high powered plays, and just couldn’t get any. Haley wasn’t going to call them. I really don’t blame him.
The wheels came off the defense, which is completely irritating. More so than usual. All bye week and this past week of practice, Steeler Nation heard nothing less than the returning veterans from injury would only add to the success of Sunday’s contest against the Saints. That couldn’t have been more wrong – I’m looking at you Ike Taylor. Taylor has lost steps, about 3, over the last two years. Some might say he was rusty today after coming back from his forearm injury. I would say that he’s just picked up right where he left off. That moment was clear when he was slow off the snap, tripped up slightly on a move from Kenny Stills, and was torched for a 69 yard touchdown.
Can you believe that Saints TE Jimmy Graham was targeted zero (0) times on Sunday? The Steelers did so well game planning him, that they forgot that the Saints have other receivers on the team.
More bad news on the long tooth defensive front. Brett Keisel, the one old guy aside from James Harrison who was actually having a very solid season, injured his tricep in the second half. He did not return, and at the time of this post, it is unclear the extent of his injury. If it’s a tear, he’ll be out for the season, and more than likely will hang it up. A real shame. It might lead to more Stephon Tuitt, but not in the way I would have hoped. We also don’t know what happened to Troy Polamalu. A big helmet to helmet hit put him on the ground (pictured above), but he escorted himself off the field. Reports came in that it was a stinger to the neck, but we never saw him again. So much for returning back from that knee injury.
So what now? Well the Steelers are sharing last place with three other teams in the division at 7-5. There was no way that the Steelers were going to win out these last five games. But, now it puts all the more pressure that they need to take both games from the Bengals next week and in Week 17. Ben will need to be nothing short of spectacular. We see what happens when he’s not.
If they can’t win next week against a struggling Andy Dalton and Bengals, they can kiss any playoff chances goodbye. Hell after today’s performance, they don’t deserve it.