Monday, October 09, 2006

North Shore nightmare

Another winnable game against a quality opponent, another halftime lead that was allowed to slip away. This time, though, I can't exclusively blame the turnovers, although they certainly didn't help at all. In fact, there really isn't an excuse for why we lost this game except for the fact that we were just thoroughly dominated in the second half on both sides of the ball.

In the first half, we were moving the ball pretty much at will after two punts in the first three drives, and the defense was simply choking off everything the Chargers threw at them, namely holding Ladainian Tomlinson to 12 total yards before the break.

In the second half, the Chargers were in Ben Roethlisberger's face every time he had the ball, and the defense did absolutely nothing to prevent the Chargers from marching down the field. They just couldn't get off the field on third downs, something that's bugged the Steelers defense in the past, a problem that was not-so-coincidentally absent during the eight game winning streak the Steelers finished last season on. The epitomy of this was when the Steelers had brought San Diego to 3rd-and-9 on their own 43, still just down by seven with four and a half minutes to play. Phil Rivers somehow was able to scramble fifteen yards for a back-breaking first down to sustain a drive that saw the Chargers convert a field goal to put the game out of reach.

Overall, though, the biggest culprits would have to be the pass-blocking in the offensive line. Ben looked flat-out confused sometimes, and it seems right now like his confidence isn't at its highest. Still, he had a better game than a lot of people are giving him credit for, and given a little more time, he might have been able to make some more plays. He was having quite a respectable game, in fact, up until he really shot himself in the foot with that Brett Favre-esque tossup on a 2nd-and-6 close to midfield with six minutes left in the 4th quarter.

One more thing I was not happy with was the decision of Bill Cowher and his staff to stray so far from the run. Willie Parker only received 14 carries in a game that the Steelers were never losing by more than one score until the final 90 seconds of the game and Najeh Davenport only carried twice. There should never be any reason Ben Roethlisberger throws 30+ passes in such a close game as long as he's playing for the Steelers.

Basically, the Steelers should know what they have to do. Ben has to play much, much smarter. To his credit, he heaped all of the blame on himself, which is a far cry from the reaction we've seen from certain other quarterbacks in this city when they perform poorly, even much more poorly than Ben did last night, like when Tommy Maddox blamed the wind for his bed-shitting affair against Jacksonville last year.

I'm still very adamant that the Steelers are a much better team than their record says they should be, although some doubt is beginning to creep in. I take solace in the fact that the Steelers lost three games in a row at one point last year. Five wins in a row, which this team is more than capable of accomplishing, and the Steelers are 6-3 and people are forgetting this nightmarish start.

I'm just happy the bye is out of the way. Let's get on with the season and turn things around as soon as possible.

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