Call me Mr. Obvious, but it looks like the Steelers need Ben Roethlisberger to have a good game in order to have any chance to win. That statement might be quite apparent, but there's certainly no denying it.
In Pittsburgh's 35-32 loss to the Saints at Heinz Field on Sunday (a game that wasn't nearly as exhilarating as the prevent-defense-induced score would indicate), Roethlisberger clearly didn't have a good game. This despite his 435 passing yards and two touchdowns. The last time a losing quarterback passed for 400 yards at Heinz Field, it was Andrew Luck in the Steelers 51-34 victory over Indianapolis in Week 8.
As the above-score would indicate, Luck may not have been on the losing end, if not for Roethlisberger's history-making performance against the Colts, in which he became the first quarterback in NFL history to throw for 500 yards in a game twice (522); he also threw six touchdown passes for the first time in his career.
Pittsburgh's defense pressured and harassed Luck for most of the evening and even forced two interceptions (one returned for a score by William Gay), but the unit certainly didn't stop him, as he threw three touchdown passes to go along with his 400 yards.
Unfortunately, the Steelers' defense couldn't harass or pressure Drew Brees much at all on Sunday, and the result was an efficient and deadly performance that saw him average 13.5 yards on his 19 completions, as he passed for 257 yards and five touchdowns.
The Saints came into Heinz Field with a 4-7 record and on a three-game losing-streak (all at home) but played so well as a team and looked so flawless on offense (Mark Ingram added 122 yards on the ground), the defense probably wouldn't have been able to put up much of a fight if New Orleans had also decided to steal the Steelers now 7-5 record before skipping town.
Roethlisberger didn't look sharp for most of the afternoon and, despite the Saints coming into the week with only 18 sacks, the pass rush was just enough to make him uneasy in the pocket, as he was high on several passes and had several more tipped at the line of scrimmage--including one that was intercepted (his second of the afternoon).
The Saints defense came into Sunday ranked low in just about every key area, and as Pittsburgh's offensive numbers would indicate, New Orleans' really isn't that good at stopping anyone. Unfortunately, Roethlisberger was just bad enough to tilt the turnover battle in the favor of the visitors (2-0), and those two picks were turned into 14 points with the ease you'd expect from someone like Brees when he's facing a mediocre defense like Pittsburgh's.
Sadly, that's the new reputation of Pittsburgh's defense.
Thanks to a good friend, yours-truly had the great fortune of attending Sunday's game. And we sat right below the Steelers team box, where Lynn Swann, John Stallworth and Joe Greene graced our lucky section with several appearances throughout the afternoon, as the Steelers honored them and every other member of the 1974 Super Bowl IX team.
It's too bad Swanny and old Stallworth weren't 40 years younger and in their primes, because the team could have used their Hall of Fame skills to catch the many off-the-mark passes thrown by No. 7 on Sunday.
It actually is quite fortunate the legendary No. 75 isn't as crazy as he was in his younger days, because he may have marched down to the field and taken up residence along the line of scrimmage. I say this was fortunate because, had he done so, Mean Joe, at age 68, may have been the best defender in black and gold on Sunday.
The days are long gone when the Steelers can ride a stout and dominant defense to victory when their quarterback is having a bad game. Now, more than ever, the Steelers need Roethlisberger to play at an elite level on a consistent basis to have any shot at winning week-in and week-out.
Again, that's an obvious statement, but, unfortunately, it's the truth in 2014.