Tomlin’s history lesson results in Same Old Steelers

Ezra Shaw

In an effort to keep the players focused on the game after their heady two game winning streak, Coach Tomlin regaled the Steelers with historic tales of the Raiders Steelers rivalry. The results however were reminiscent of an even older time in Steelers history; back in the losing decades of 50’s and 60’s they were know as SOS: Same old Steelers, a throwback that sadly seems to be making a comeback.

The Steelers arrived in Oakland to face a Raiders team that was 0-10 coming off its bye week; that’s ten years worth of failing to capitalize on a week's worth of rest and practice.

By contrast, the Steelers this year came off their Week 5 bye with a modicum of energy and proficiency and managed to defeat the New York Jets for their first win of the season, and then followed that up with a victory over the Baltimore Ravens that had Steeler Nation (and apparently the players themselves) suddenly confident in the team’s performance.

Yet once again, for the fourth time in Ben Roethlisberger’s career, the Steelers failed to win in Oakland; he is winless his entire career against the Raiders on the west coast. Despite the Raiders’ "game after bye week" record for the past decade, despite the Raiders not having two of its starting offensive linemen active for this game, Roethlisberger could only manage a 70.1 passer rating this game with a game plan that showed an equal but opposite amount of inspiration and originality as the play calling did against the Ravens.

On defense, the Steelers were unable to exploit the Raiders offensive line, only notching two sacks for a measly 6 yards. By contrast, the Kansas City Chiefs sacked Raiders QB Terrell Pryor 10 times in one game. Ten times; that’s how many sacks the Steelers have for the entire season.

The Raiders scored 21 points in the first half while the SOS (Same old Steelers) managed only 3. Five punts, including a blocked one that led to the Raiders second touchdown, and one field goal out of two attempts; that was the sum total of the Steelers offensive output, despite the exciting bedtime stories Tomlin told his players about the exploits of Bradshaw, Harris, Stallworth and Swan.

It was quite evident that, at least offensively, the Steelers’ success the past two weeks was the exception, not the norm.

On defense, the Steelers gave up 182 yards rushing in just the first half. Even if you take an extra hit of kool-aid and disavow the Raiders 93 yard touchdown run by QB Terrelle Pryor to start the game as a fluke, the Steelers still allowed 89 yards rushing in just one half of a game, including two rushing touchdowns.

Granted, the Raiders only managed 15 yards on 15 carries and three completions on six attempts for 26 yards in the second half, but really, what more did they need to do? They started the final half leading by 18 points and with no reason to believe the Steelers offense could do much better against their top 10 rated defense; and they were right.

The Steelers had what in other circumstances (say, with a lead maybe?) would have been a game controlling 9 minute drive to open the third quarter (down by 18 points remember) that culminated in the Steelers being on the Raiders 15 yard line with a fresh set of downs and then the following: First down: LeVeon Bell up the middle for a loss of 6 yards; Second down: Bell up the middle for 6 yards; Third down: incomplete pass to Antonio Brown; Fourth down: Shaun Suisham misses is second field goal, this time from 32 yards.

Sixty yards travelled in nine minutes while behind by 18 points and the Steelers called nine running plays out of the 15 executed on this one drive. For the first half the Steelers managed a whopping eight yards on seven carries (1.1 yard per attempt for those scoring at home), and they start the third quarter down by three scores by running the ball 60 percent of the time?

Since the Raiders are seen as the "anti-everything" as compared to the rest of the league, did Steelers OC Todd Haley think they’d go into the locker room at half time and make adjustments to get worse at stopping the Steelers running game in the second half? The Steelers ran the ball 19 times the entire game; only 28 percent of their entire offensive output was the run. Yet nearly half of those came in their first possession of the third quarter down by three scores. Was Haley trying to teach a new type of math to go along with Tomlin’s history lessons; use more time to less effect to score more points than the opponent? Coming into the game Roethlisberger had a 90.7 passer rating and with the team struggling to do much of anything on offense the ball is being taken out of his hands?

Yea, Bell may be the savior to the Steelers’ running game, but saviors don’t show up overnight, and rarely are they found without a supporting cast; the Steelers’ offensive line was anything but supporting, having given up five sacks for the game and having lost Foster, DeCastro and Whimper at various points throughout the game.

Finally though, to continue the high school analogy, isn’t it time punter Zoltan Mesko is given detention for his repeated "junior varsity" punts? If Dwyer can get detention in the "dog house" repeatedly and extensively for not performing, how long of a leash does Mesko get before it’s yanked? Granted, he had a couple of long punts late in the game, but he only averaged 35 yards for the entire game. In addition, he muffed the snap on a punt in the first quarter which gave the Raiders time to penetrate and partially block it, which led to their second touchdown of the game. And to add insult to injury, it is quite possible that Mesko contributed to the two field goals Suisham missed, as both times he placed and held the ball for Suisham to kick it was leaning at a severe slant to the side Suisham went wide.

Instead of reminiscing about the times he watched Pryor in high school, maybe Tomlin should reminisce about Drew Butler’s punting performance for the Steelers in the past and give the guy a call; he can’t be much less consistent than the JV punter currently on the roster, and the repeated poor punting this season certainly should be considered grounds for expulsion.

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