I was called out last week for stating that the Steelers are no worse off after their loss to KC as they were after their loss to Cincinnati. The main point of the post was not that the Steelers hadn’t blown a HUGE opportunity to get back in the race for the AFC North Title or sew up a wild card berth but that the Steelers are who they are.
Currently the Steelers are an under performing group of under achievers. They give away points with their defense on the sideline with the regularity of a Metamucil user. The once vaunted “Championship Caliber” defense of 2008 gives up third down conversions at an alarming 40% clip and regularly disappears in the 4th quarter. The QB mistakes go for touchdowns not just change in ball possession. The offensive game plan is to put the QB in the no-huddle and wait for the “big play.” The coverage units are embarrassing and in the same league as once was the University Of Pittsburgh. (Funny how the ST coordinator is one in the same) Punts and kickoffs are regularly returned in huge chunks of yardage. Tackles are few and far between. The Steelers in the post KC loss reality are still chasing a wild card spot as they were after the second loss against Cincinnati. The Steelers are who they are.
Sunday night in Baltimore is not “make it or break it” for the season but we are getting there. If Baltimore treats Ben Roethlisberger as they did in the 2006 game it could be a break it game for Benny’s career and future mental abilities. Don’t kid yourselves. Suggs or no Suggs, Murderin’ Ray and his band of fired up psychopath defenders will be hard charging at Benny’s skull. It is never more imperative for the offensive line to step up and protect their leader from harm than now. If the Steelers can get a performance of the year from this group of 5 I like the Steelers chances on Sunday night at Baltimore to change their personality and who I think they are. If they don’t I fear for Ben Roethlisberger’s health.
I love the run game and am a HUGE proponent of it. That said the Steelers have very rarely been able to run on this Baltimore defense. It is for that reason that while I want the Steelers to continue (or begin to BA!) to pound the rock on the ground, the Steelers chances of coming up with a W are squarely on the abilities of the offensive line, the shoulders of the defense and the right arm of one Ben Roethlisberger. Like the games last year it is up to Ben to find some time to get the ball to his wide outs Ward, Holmes and Wallace and look for the big play. It is important if the Steelers receiver finds himself alone in the end zone that he catches the ball. It is also very important that the Steelers protect the football like it was their last meal, which it could be if they don’t protect their QB. But, so far the Steelers are who they are.
In the end the Steelers have made their road to the 2009 playoffs much harder than it needed to be. This game on Sunday in Baltimore has been an L on many of our schedules since it came out. Being that the KC game and at least one Cincinnati game were W’s this L is not cast in stone. With an L the Steelers will be 6-5 and farther back in their wild card chase with the division title a pipe dream. But, protect the ball and protect Ben and stop Flacco on 3rd downs then this game could come down to the wire. The last few years the BrownRavens have been forced to come to Pittsburgh for a nationally televised evening game and been handed their heads in Pittsburgh. Baltimore lobbied the league office to move that game to Baltimore this year. The league has obliged. The BrownRavens will be seething and ready. Their fans will be loud and intimidating. Are the Steelers ready for prime time? We will see if the Steelers are ready to turn the page and garner a new personality for 2009. Like the Bear game in the 2005 snow, this is a great chance for the Steelers to stop being who they are and begin to be who they want to be.