The pundits have called for the Pittsburgh Steelers to stand up and make a statement in recent weeks. Charlie Batch led them to victory in Baltimore, then what was a “sure” home victory against San Diego turned into a nightmarish loss. Then, we see the true colors of Pittsburgh this week at Dallas. The team has plenty of weapons at wide receivers, a sturdy front seven on defense, but there is a lack of gamebreaking plays. There is stalwart quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who makes absurd moves in the pocket to extend plays. Earlier in his career, he authored amazing comebacks, but since the Super Bowl XLV loss to the Packers, the air of invincibility surrounding Big Ben has diminished. Those late game drives still occur, but it’s not something upon which to rely. That proved to be the case on Sunday when Roethlisberger threw a game-clinching interception on the opening drive of overtime to set up Dallas for a chip shot Dan Bailey field goal to defeat the listless Steelers, 27-24.
Of course, the game could have been put out of reach if Pittsburgh did not have a costly turnover where a decent drive could have salted away the game. Antonio Brown fumbled away what would have been a tremendous punt return with less than 10 minutes remaining with a 24-17 advantage. The Cowboys promptly took advantage of the short field and a lack of secondary coverage to even the game just after the midpoint of the fourth quarter. The drive was capped by a 3-yard DeMarco Murray TD run.
True to themselves, Pittsburgh had a fantastic opportunity to win the game in regulation with a first down at their own 46-yard line, with just under two minutes remaining. The offense simply needed 20-25 yards to give Shaun Suisham, who has been automatic this season, a chance at another game-winning boot. The pass protection, which had been solid throughout the contest, broke down on consecutive plays, resulting in two sacks. On 3rd down and 26, Pittsburgh’s hopes for a quick strike to finish off the Cowboys had been extinguished. The late game theatrics ensured and Dallas did not require Tony Romo to pick apart the shell-shocked Steeler secondary for a victory. The defense used Brandon Carr’s stellar interception and nifty 37-yard return to level Pittsburgh’s record at 7-7.
Despite the hopelessly erratic play of the Pittsburgh Steelers, they control their own destiny to make the playoffs. Two home wins in the remaining games against divisional rivals Cincinnati and Cleveland would result in either a wild card or, shockingly, the Steelers could still win the AFC North with two wins and two Baltimore losses (vs. the Giants, and at Cincinnati). Cincinnati looks much steadier than both Pittsburgh and Baltimore right now.
Pittsburgh is 14-0 in the 2012 season. Seven times they have defeated their opponents, seven times they have beaten themselves.
Loss #1 @ Denver. Down 25-19 with under three minutes remaining, Roethlisberger gets picked off by Tracy Porter to clinch the defeat.
Loss #2 – Costly fumbles by Jonathan Dwyer and Antonio Brown allow Oakland to stay in the game long enough for Sebastian Janikowski to kick a game-winning field goal as the final whistle sounds.
Loss #3 – Shaun Suisham’s 54-yard field goal attempt is short, giving Tennessee a short field to put Rob Bironas in range for another game-winning field goal as time expires.
Loss #4 – Pittsburgh’s special teams allow Jacoby Jones to score on a punt return, giving Baltimore a 13-10 win.
Loss #5 – Eight turnovers at Cleveland was enough to give the Browns a 20-14 win. No one wins when handing the ball over that often.
Loss #6 – A thorough lack of effort by all 45 Steelers led to a defeat at home vs. the Chargers.
Loss #7 – Yesterday’s debacle @ Dallas.
About the Author
Written by Rob Stroup
I grew up in western Pennsylvania, so I have followed the Pittsburgh sports teams (Steelers, Penguins, Pirates) since the womb. It has become a tradition to make the yearly trek to a Steelers and Penguins game each year despite the distance. I hope to make writing a profession because I thoroughly enjoy attempting to paint a picture with words.