Don McPeak-US PRESSWIRE - Presswire
Road problems continue and home teams improve to 14-3 on prime time games, the Steelers drop a tight game to Tennessee 26-23 on the third consecutive Steelers game that has been decided on the final play.
Injuries ravaged the Steelers in their 26-23 loss to Tennessee.
So did their past in another disappointing road loss; another game where they grabbed defeat from the jaws of victory.
Despite Ben Roethlisberger breaking Terry Bradshaw's career passing record, he fell short on another late-game opportunity, failing to complete a third down pass, setting up a comically long 54-yard Shaun Suisham field goal
He missed. Short. Really, to the surprise of no one.
It's clear at this point in the season this team has significant issues playing on the road. Just four days removed from harassing Michael Vick and the potent Eagles offense (or at least seemingly potent Eagles offense) to under 300 yards, they allowed Titans quarterback Matt Hasselbeck to overcome several poor throws, and wide receiver Kenny Britt to drop several passes, yet, still gouge them when it counts.
While this loss will likely be tabbed nearly exclusively on the defense - which netted three sacks, a forced fumble and an interception - the Steelers offense got very little production from anyone who did not break a passing record in the evening. Both of the Steelers' main receivers - Antonio Brown and Mike Wallace - had drops for the third consecutive game, and while Wallace had an 89-yard touchdown catch, Brown finished with four catches for 20 yards, and was absent, similarly to his injured teammates, in crunch time.
No word has been given on the severity of any of those injuries, but Pouncey went down on the first play and did not return, suggesting there's reason to fear his long-term diagnosis.
Without the Steelers' top two running backs, or a healthy two-thirds of their interior offensive line, they were unable to run the ball with any semblance of consistency in the fourth quarter in particular, when they held a 23-16 lead.
Steelers cornerback Ike Taylor is as much to blame in this loss as anyone, never appearing to have any discernible strategy other than grabbing hold of his assignment (oftentimes Britt) and hoping officials didn't notice. It's now fair to take a look at several Steelers players - Taylor and Brown - and wonder why their production is slipping.
As far as Taylor goes, he hasn't played an outstanding game yet this season, one year removed from a contract extension he signed after the lockout in 2011. Brown just signed a big extension, and has provided very little of the explosion the Steelers have seen from him in the (admitted) limited body of work to this point in his career.
They aren't the only ones in question.
The absence of LaMarr Woodley was both obvious and unnoticeable. It was obvious in the sense he wasn't generating much pass rush in the first place, but the amount of money Woodley's contract ties up in the salary cap - while Jason Worilds got his third sack in three games - brings into light the decision to sign him for as much as they did.
At the same time, Lawrence Timmons made the play the offense should have needed to close the game out, intercepting a Matt Hasselbeck pass for the first linebacker interception in what feels like three generations.
Timmons now has more interceptions than all Steelers cornerbacks combined.
The secondary had a step in the right direction for a little while in benching safety Ryan Mundy, who was replacing Troy Polamalu, but dreams of benefits coming from that ended when Mundy messed up a blocking assignment on a punt rush that led to a Titans touchdown (some short field situations Steelers defensive adversaries are sure to forget as they boil the tar and go looking for defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau). Replacement Will Allen ran his games-injured streak to Gilbertian levels with his second in two games played on the defensive side of the ball. He ran face-first into the shoulder pads of Britt, fortunately, causing a fumble (Britt couldn't have had a Nerf ball with Velcro gloves Thursday) the Steelers were unable to recover.
In total, It's a rough loss, and another peak into what appears to be a bleak current outlook for the Steelers season. Injuries are difficult to overcome, but it shouldn't have been this hard.