Lack of energy, enthusiasm seems like one of multiple root problems

Jared Wickerham

Hopping around after turnovers doesn't directly merit more turnovers. But something to energize a downtrodden team wouldn't hurt. The Steelers appeared lifeless on a few key plays, suggesting the competitive fire isn't burning very warmly.

It was the best play Steelers safety Troy Polamalu made all season.

It's first and 10 from New England's 35-yard line. Tom Brady hits running back Stevan Ridley off the offensive right side. Polamalu closes on him after Brady releases the ball, and hits Ridley where he stood, about a yard and a half from the line of scrimmage.

Polamalu swats at the ball as he puts a good hit on Ridley. The ball falls to the ground.

With Polamalu on the ground, LaMarr Woodley trots over, looking confused. Al Woods dawdles over, looking equally lost.

Vince Williams, the rookie, runs over like a kid brother trying to get involved with whatever the cooler older kids are doing. Someone is shouting, "That's a fumble!"

Woodley picks it up and his wrapped up by three Patriots players as Polamalu tries to hold one of them off. Woods is still standing there, doing nothing. It appears Williams is the one yelling at the official, who has not yet blown the whistle - generally an indication the ball has not been ruled down.

The official signals the ball is now in the possession of the Steelers. Williams jumps and pumps his arm in the air. Polamalu takes a quick jog from the fracas. Ziggy Hood has now entered the frame, and, along with Woodley, saunter toward the Steelers' sideline.

Old hat, apparently. Act like you've done it before. No reason to try to show some emotion or anything.

Earlier in the game, the Steelers went for it on 4th-and-1 after a ridiculous 29-yard pick-up by running back Le'Veon Bell on 3rd-and-30. That long-distance down set up partially by a pathetic chop block penalty on Bell, incidentally.

The Steelers smash it off center Fernando Velasco's right butt cheek. Bell gets low, plows ahead, definitely close to the line to gain. The Steelers get up off the pile like it's practice; they've run short-yardage drills all day, and they're tired.

The Steelers would get the first down, but the energy displayed on the play, and throughout much of the first half, makes one wonder how competitive this group is internally. Three plays later, they get stuffed royally on a similar 4th-and-1 possession, losing a yard (could have been two), and never having had a chance to pick it up.

Defensively, they made a great stop on 4th and goal in the first half, and they celebrated with each other. They slapped hands and bumped hips in the air. They looked like they were genuinely enjoying success together.

That wouldn't last. Even after the turnover, the exact thing the team needed to inject life into them, the defense's reaction was ho-hum. No one congratulated Polamalu. No hip-bumps given to Woodley. A camera shot of Brett Keisel moseying off the field despite not having been involved on the play.

It shouldn't be "act like you've done it before." Now, it's "act like you have a fighter's chance of competing in this game if you make a few plays."

The reality is, they aren't doing "it" anymore, and Sunday's lackluster level of energy and emotion while the game was still competitive makes a casual observer wonder if the lack of plays isn't directly tied to the lack of enthusiasm on both sides of the ball.

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