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Ben Roethlisberger's mistakes place spotlight on bigger issues for Steelers

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It wasn't a good day for Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger, who seemed to float passes and miss targets early vs. New Orleans, putting the Black-and-Gold in a hole. In the end, his efforts were only a small part of the glaring issues facing this team after 12 games in 2014.

Jason Bridge-USA TODAY Sports

It wasn't the best afternoon for Steelers quarterback Ben Roethisberger against the New Orleans Saints at Heinz Field this past Sunday. After 30 minutes of action, Ben and the Steelers, who had dominated play during the first 15 minutes, found themselves down 14-6 at the half and heading toward further trouble.

As things would turn out, the Steelers and Ben didn't have their best afternoon of play. Ben clearly was off of his game, and when Ben isn't at his best, or at least close to it, the Steelers suffer. Routinely, he was missing targets high and wide, while throwing a bad pick in the end zone with his team down 7-6 midway through the second quarter and leading to the Saints' second touchdown of the day.

He followed that up with a second interception early in the third quarter which led to another Saints touchdown and eventually to a 35-32 loss to a team tied for their divisional lead at 5-7.

During the game, social media flared up as Ben became an easy scapegoat for the team's woes. Over the years (and this isn't a phenomenon strictly in Pittsburgh), when any quarterback struggles and his play adversely impacts the team, he's going to be a target. Particularly for Roethlisberger, however, given his larger-than-life status in winning two Super Bowls, along with a few missteps off of the field in the past, he becomes an even more appealing target for critics.

Slow your roll, people. This team has far greater issues than the guy playing quarterback.

When you peel back the layers of the onion, you get to what stinks. For this edition of the 2014 Pittsburgh Steelers, there are far greater issues than Ben's inconsistent play this season. When he's up, as in the Indianapolis game and the following week vs. Baltimore, there might be nobody better at controlling a game or setting the tempo.

But when you get the Ben who played like he did vs. the New York Jets, or in the first half on Sunday against the Saints, then you've got problems because this team simply isn't good enough to carry itself when its best player is having a bad day.

Let's look at the offensive line's play on Sunday. Not their best effort. Ben was harassed by a Saints defense that came into the game as one of the worst in the NFL. They only recorded one sack, but put plenty of pressure on Ben while only rushing four down-linemen all afternoon. Mike Adams was blown up several times, including the play early in the third quarter that led to Saints DE Cameron Jordan recording his first-ever NFL interception.

Then there was Ike Taylor. While I've never been a big fan of his, he'd be a shoo-in Hall of Fame candidate if he could have kept the handle on the 50 dropped interceptions during his career. But give the guy credit for lasting this long in the league. On Sunday, he played for the first time after that broken arm he suffered against Carolina back in Week 3. 

To say his return was a triumphant one, well...let's not go there. Taylor was burned in the third quarter on a double-move by Saints WR Kenny Stills for a 69-yard touchdown catch that not only answered the previous Steelers TD, but also gave New Orleans back a double-digit lead that they would not relinquish.

So what's the point to all of this? It's simple. This team doesn't have the talent to survive a bad day like the one it's quarterback had. Ben's gaudy numbers against the Saints were more the by-product of playing from behind after the game was out of reach than anything. Admittedly, Ben wasn't good on Sunday but, outside of another stellar day by Le'Veon Bell, and the usual numbers for Antonio Brown, who played well for the Steelers?

I said before the season began that this is, at best, a 9-7 team that misses the playoffs. Since 2008, you can count on one hand the number of truly great draft picks that currently contribute on a regular basis. That's not Ben's fault, but the responsibility of Mike Tomlin and Kevin Colbert, who are charged with building a team around their franchise QB. In my view, they've both failed in that department.

Remember, it's easy to blame Ben when he's not playing well and the Steelers lose. It's harder to blame others for not doing their jobs in choosing the players around No. 7 to complement his efforts.

John Phillips is a radio personality for 93.7 The Fan in Pittsburgh and a columnist for Behind The Steel Curtain. Check him out on Facebook and follow him on Twitter.