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Steelers News: The Steelers’ plan to let the defense win the game blew up in their faces — again

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Time to check on the latest news surrounding the Pittsburgh Steelers.

NFL: Pittsburgh Steelers at Oakland Raiders Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

The Pittsburgh Steelers have seen better days than they are currently experiencing. The black-and-gold have dropped three straight games, after losing to the Broncos, Chargers and Raiders in consecutive weeks. Now they turn their attention to another AFC opponent, the New England Patriots, in Week 15.

Today in the Black-and-gold links article, we take a look at how the plan of the Steelers trusting their defense with a slim lead was by far the dumbest decision of the game. Rather than inserting Ben Roethlisberger back into the game, they trusted the defense...and they burned them again.

Let’s get to the news:

Ben Roethlisberger: We thought ‘Let’s let our defense hold them’ in Oakland

By: Chris Adamski, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger cited “old” x-ray equipment at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum for a delay in his return to this past Sunday’s loss to the Oakland Raiders and said that coach Mike Tomlin was waiting “to see how it played out” before inserting him into the game in the second half.

Speaking on his weekly KDKA-FM radio show Tuesday morning, Roethlisberger said that the simple task of finding the x-ray room in the 52-year-old stadium set back his return to action after suffering a rib injury late in the first half of what ended up a 24-21 loss to a Raiders team that came in with a 2-10 record.

Roethlisberger said that team physician Dr. James Bradley could not diagnose Roethlisberger’s injury without a clearer x-ray photo, and that the decision was made between Bradley, Roethlisberger and general manager Kevin Colbert to “see how this plays out” in regards to Roethlisberger’s return to the game.

“Let’s let our defense hold them, and let’s let Josh get this thing done,” Roethlisberger said, quoting what Colbert said.

Roethlisberger said without a diagnosis there was concern the injury could be aggravated further – or that Roethlisberger could not perform his duties well.

”If I take the field, am I going to make my team worse?” Roethlisberger said. “You want to play unless you think you will make the team worse.”

Backup Josh Dobbs played four series in the second half, and was largely ineffective in leading the Steelers to no points. Roethlisberger was back on the sidelines after two of those series – he said it took that long just to get back in full uniform – but did not play until the Raiders took a 17-14 lead.

Roethlisberger said he and coach Mike Tomlin were in communication throughout the sequence and that Tomlin told Roethlisberger he was coming back into the game for the possession that he did – regardless of whether Oakland had scored.

“He asked how I was doing and I said ‘Alright,’ and he said let’s see how this plays out,’” Roethlisberger said.

Analysis: Don’t bank on Steelers replicating 2005 Super Bowl run

By: Tim Benz, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

A reader sent me a tweet yesterday, claiming I was being too hard on the Steelers.

After losing three in a row, two against sub-.500 clubs, I didn’t realize such a concept was possible. But OK.

The woman included this link to a tweet sent by former Steelers tackle Trai Essex.

Yeah. It’s not the first time I’ve heard that one advanced. I heard that notion pushed before the Oakland trip, too. At least then it made more sense because the Steelers started their Super Bowl push in 2005 with four games left. Not three.

They also started their surge in Game 13 by beating a good Bears team. This edition just lost to a rotten Raiders team. Game 13 in 2005 was a positive turning point. This year, it’s rock bottom.

Continuing to advance that analogy with just three games left feels like we’re moving the goalposts.

There are a couple of key differences between this year and that season.

• The last three foes for the Steelers in 2005 were the Vikings, Browns and Lions. None of those opponents made the playoffs. This year’s team faces New England and New Orleans in the next two games. Teams that have a combined 20 wins.

• The 2005 Steelers’ three-game losing streak prior to Game 13 included defeats to the Colts and Bengals. They were playoff teams. The Steelers of 2018 lost to Oakland and the Broncos. Neither of them has a winning record.

• Early in that season, the Steelers’ other losses were to the Jaguars and Patriots. They combined for 23 wins. There was no tie against a losing Browns team.

• That Steelers club had four wins against teams with records above .500. This year’s team has one.

• The 2005 unit had to endure injuries to Hines Ward, Ben Roethlisberger for three games, Willie Parker and Marvel Smith along the way. Imagine this team without Big Ben for three games. And those Steelers managed to win two of them.

• By the time Week 17 hit, the Steelers didn’t need help. They just needed to post a win over Detroit. This year, unless they beat the Saints or Patriots, these Steelers may need the Browns to beat Baltimore so they can claim the division at 8-7-1.

Mark Madden: It’s time the Steelers consider firing Mike Tomlin

By: Mark Madden, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

Whenever a caller broaches the subject of firing Mike Tomlin on my radio program, I dismiss it out of hand.

First off, it won’t happen. The Steelers employ coaches even longer than long term.

Second, it shouldn’t happen. Tomlin never has had a losing season. His regular-season winning percentage of .653 is second among active coaches who have worked three seasons or more. He’s won a Super Bowl and lost another.

That part of Tomlin’s resume obscures his recent playoff failings: Just three postseason wins in the last seven seasons.

Whoever the Steelers hired to replace Tomlin would be worse and do worse. That includes Greenfield product Mike McCarthy, recently pink-slipped by the Green Bay Packers.

But if there’s ever been a time to seriously consider the wisdom of the Steelers continuing to employ Tomlin, it’s now.

That’s in the wake of Sunday’s debacle at Oakland: yet another Tomlin loss to a much lesser team where the Steelers appeared to be absurdly not ready. Heck, wide receiver Ryan Switzer didn’t even wear the right shoes.

Since Tomlin took the helm in 2007, the Steelers are 6-5 straight up in road games where they’ve been favored by nine points or more. The rest of the NFL is 52-10. That’s embarrassing and alarming.

Tomlin’s clock management is putrid. After Oakland ran the ball on first and goal from the Steelers’ 7 on their final (winning) drive, Tomlin let 38 seconds run off the clock despite having two timeouts. Those 38 seconds would have come in handy after the Raiders scored.

Situations like that are Football 101, and Tomlin keeps flunking. Same with his replay challenges.

The Steelers’ special teams are the NFL’s most penalized and among the league’s worst. But special teams coach Danny Smith remains on duty and continues to yell, scream and mangle.

Kicker Chris Boswell has missed a league-worst five extra points and is just 10 for 16 on field goals, missing two at Oakland. (Do the math. If Boswell makes them, the Steelers win.) Yet, he keeps his job because of, one supposes, some twisted sense of loyalty that no NFL team has applied to a kicker in recent memory, if ever.

But that mostly pales to how Tomlin handled the quarterbacking situation at Oakland.

Ben Roethlisberger suffered a rib injury near the end of the first half. But he was cleared to play the second half.

Yet, Tomlin opted to not play him. Tomlin said Roethlisberger could have returned “a series or so sooner, but we were in the rhythm and flow of the game.”

“Rhythm and flow of the game?” What does that even mean?

The Steelers’ four second-half possessions with Josh Dobbs at the helm went as follows: punt, turned over on downs, interception, punt. (That’s an early look at the Steelers’ offense post-Roethlisberger, BTW.)

Roethlisberger came in for the last two possessions, leading the Steelers to what should have been the winning touchdown and a tying field goal. (He got none of the above.)

Why did Tomlin choose to play Dobbs instead of Roethlisberger? What sane reason could there possibly be?

Was he saving Ben for an “emergency?” Because if you’re up by only 14-10 at halftime against a 2-10 team, that’s an emergency.

Roethlisberger critics (and they were plentiful on social media despite Roethlisberger’s late-game Willis Reed impersonation) assume Roethlisberger made the decision or that Roethlisberger should have demanded to enter the game.

Who plays is the coach’s call. It’s not Roethlisberger’s job to keep Tomlin from looking like an imbecile.

Said Roethlisberger, “I was just waiting for Coach to tell me when to go.”

Before Tomlin opted to use Dobbs over Roethlisberger in what boiled down to a must-win game, I never gave serious consideration to the idea that replacing Tomlin was a good idea.

Now I can’t help but.

The Steelers look screwed.