This was to be a big day. A day to be celebrated. After a tumultuous 3 week stretch that the Pittsburgh Steelers had to do their best to tread water without their leader and best player, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger he was to return. And it was really the best case scenario possible. The Steelers had salvaged a huge win over the Baltimore Ravens the week before, kept their playoff hopes alive and were now staring down a home game with the lowly San Diego Chargers. Nothing could go wrong. Right? This is the NFL, so we know that isn’t the case.
Instead of a welcome back parade punctuated with a big victory, Steelers fans instead got a nice big taste of a team that came out flat and lifeless; a team complacent and lacking effort by everyone but the one guy who was supposed to be rusty. It was a comedy of errors that I didn’t get to see live, but forced myself to sit through after the fact to write this up.
The Steelers offense struggled so much in the first half. The offensive line was again using mismatched parts and the Chargers took advantage. They didn’t get a lot of sacks, but they blew up the run game, and had Roethlisberger under constant duress during the game. I’m not sure the Steelers even crossed midfield in the first half until the final drive. In the second half Roethlisberger finally started to turn up the heat in the passing game, but it was too late. The botched screen pass that turned into a score, and 2 drops, one by wide receiver Mike Wallace and another by Antonio Brown more than countered any good plays they made. The Steelers on offense just shot themselves in the foot over and over.
On defense they didn’t take advantage of opportunities. Couldn’t get off the field on third down and allowed quarterback Philip Rivers way too much time to throw the ball where he was able to pick apart a beat up Steelers secondary. The strength of this team for nearly the entire season let them down. This sort of loss had to be demoralizing to them.
But what does this mean? It means the playoffs for the Steelers start next weekend. Even with a loss by the Cincinnati Bengals, the margin for error has shrunk to zero. 3 games left, and with 3 wins they are in the playoffs. One slip up and there’s a real good shot that this team will be watching the playoffs on television. That’s unacceptable. I blame head coach Mike Tomlin for this one. He had to understand there was a real chance that this team would come in a little flat knowing their best player would be back. It was his job to make sure that didn’t happen. And he failed. Now the season is on him and his ability to get this team ready for 3 huge games. Can he do it?
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