Hey, knock knock, is anyone out there in Internet Land? Kind of hoping that you're not... you should either be at work grumbling that it's Christmas Eve and WTF, this damn American work ethic, or you should be at home relaxing with loved ones away from the computer. (Well, seeing as this was published a couple days later than it was supposed to, this is all pretty much moot.) Regardless of your holiday affiliations. I don't want to get angry emails about being politically incorrect, ya know. Okay, so I'm rambling because there's something I really don't want to get to: The Pittsburgh Steelers got spanked by division rivals the Cincinnati Bengals and they're officially out of the playoffs.
I'll keep this one short because frankly I don't want to think about this anymore and you probably have a lot more important things to do than read a recap about a really bad team. Yes, even though the Steelers should have treated this game as a "playoff," "must-win" game, they still fell short. Oh, the sweet agony. The Bengals may have only won by three points, but after the way the Steelers have played the past few games, they never would have made it past the first round of the playoffs. And most likely would have humiliated us fans even more than we already are.
Most of the game, especially on offense, was, well, pretty bad. This was the second game in a row in which QB Ben Roethlisberger's final pass was intercepted and set up a winning field goal. We're so used to him bailing us out in the final minutes that the fact he did this twice has us all wondering what the hell is going on. It was kind of poetic though, as his third pass attempt of the game was intercepted for a touchdown. There was essentially only one highlight for Ben: At the end of the first half, he looked like his old self by connecting with Antonio Brown on a 60-yard TD pass. Otherwise, he looked totally lost, got sacked four times, and failed to convert a crap ton of third downs.
The running game was a tiny bit better, but, eh, not really. The Steelers ran 31 times for a total of 85 yards. Rashard Mendenhall, who was suspended last week, finished up with 50 yards on 11 carries. Isaac Redman also looked great converting on 4th-and-1 with an impressive second push, but Jonathan Dwyer yet again wasn't what we needed. Goes to show that the Steelers weren't able to establish a running game all season, and how much it was missed. Should the talk about firing offensive coordinator Todd Haley commence? Does Ken Whisenhunt need a new job? The receivers didn't fare much better (but maybe it was because Ben was playing so poorly too). Mike Wallace and Emmanuel Sanders had one catch each4. The Bengals' D was pretty much all over the Steelers and the Steelers couldn't adjust to it.
The silver lining was the defensive play, but the offense was so inept that they couldn't score any points off the turnovers the D committed. And that's just a big ass shame. Bengals running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis ran for 14 yards on 15 carries. Let me repeat, he ran for a total of 14 yards. He had six runs of zero or negative yards. Yet the Steelers still lost. The Steelers were able to create three turnovers -- finally!! -- but unfortunately it didn't make much of a difference. Cornerback Cortez Allen participated in each turnover; he intercepted two passes and caused a fumble. Unfortunately, QB Andy Dalton (who completed 24 of 41 for 278 yards) and A.J. Green connected 10 times for 116 yards. And there was also a huge 21-yard pass to Green that set up that winning field goal.
But imagine causing all those turnovers and then watching your offense go three-and-out and/or sputtering. I mean, Allen intercepted Dalton on the very first play of the second half. That should have been the boost the Steelers needed. They were positioned at the Bengals 32. Then, on third-and-7, Ben was sacked. The Steelers were taken out of field goal range. How frustrating that must be for the defense! And don't even get me started on that call against Brett Keisel for excessive celebration, a move he's been doing for the past decade without penalty. What a stupid game.
To make matters worse, Shaun Suisham missed two field goals (though the first can be attributed to a bad snap). He missed a 53-yarder with just 1:47 left in the game to win it too, but it was quite a lot to ask of him.
Jeez, should the Steelers lose next week just to get a better draft pick? Granted, they need a win against the Cleveland Browns to avoid the first losing season of Tomlin's career with the Steelers, but, at this point...
It's hard to know where to start with all the weaknesses on the Steelers team, made all the more apparent after losing to "worse" teams. Though, after failing against the Chargers, Cowboys, and now Bengals, maybe it's the Steelers that are in actuality the terrible team. The Steelers need to essentially revamp all aspects and all sides and all facets, especially the secondary, and they have to fix the QB situation in case Ben gets hurt again (and he's always hurt). As well as if he continues to play the way he's been playing. Of course the Steelers offense has gotten brilliant moments from Ben (as well as two Super Bowls), but the fact he threw two interceptions to lose the last two games, it's kind of hard to say where his head's at at this point in time.
Of course, needless to say, it wasn't the Steelers' year. That's definitely an understatement. Still, it's easy to get overly emotional and call for big changes, but there needs to be some changes. The fact that we're out of the postseason with a game left to go in the regular season is problematic. Seems like the Steelers had the talent, but for whatever reason lacked the motivation. It felt more mental than anything. They rallied around Charlie Batch against the Baltimore Ravens and then just gave up.
To rant even further, the Steelers still lost the game when the Bengals head coach, Marvin Lewis, with just 3:18 left in the game (and a tied score), decided to go for a 56-yard field goal. A decision made all the more curious because making 50+ yard field goals is very rare at Heinz Field, and Ben & the offense weren't able to do a thing. Why not pin them back deep in their own territory? The Bengals kept trying to give the game away and the Steelers failed to capitalize.
I'll sprout more about this next week when the season's officially over... but what a brutal one for us Steelers fans. To first lose against the Cowboys (ugh) and then to the Bengals a week later. They'll get to spend January at home, probably getting pretty drunk, after losing for the fifth time in the last six games. That's definitely not Steelers football. I'm way too lazy to look it up, but when's the last time that happened? Five out of six games? Crikey.
The fans are going to blame everything from the coaching to the injuries to bad luck. From losing Ben for a few games to Troy Polamalu to Ike Taylor, and now Heath Miller, who needs surgery on a torn ACL, like I said, just wasn't our year. Though many teams have played through injuries and managed to win games. Even with the injuries, just seems like the Steelers' hearts and souls weren't in it. That's quite easy to say from a comfy sofa with (multiple) beers in hand, but it felt like, even though these past few games were "must-" and "shoulda-" wins, they kept coming up short.
So, enjoy the food and alcohol with the families for now, Steelers fans, you'll need it. We have all winter and summer to discuss all the ways in which we suck. I'll be sure to refresh you on what happens next week against the Browns, most likely intoxicated, and say a final farewell to this awful, awful season. But there's always next year... right?