I wish I could say that yesterday’s 34-31 Pittsburgh loss to Oakland came as a surprise, but sadly, the defeat looked strangely typical for the Mike Tomlin era.
It had all the requisite elements: injured starters on both offense and defense, passing proficiency but running ineptitude, and an ultimate defeat to a mediocre opponent that great teams just don’t suffer.
I don’t know what it is about this team, particularly in the last three years, but they just can’t get through a game anymore without some sort of crippling injury. Is it the age of the team? It can’t be, seeing as that youngster Marcus Gilbert joined veterans James Harrison and Troy Polamalu on the bench.
Is it the training and medical staff? Why can’t the offensive line make it through one game without having someone go out? And why does the team constantly seem surprised when it happens, given the frequency with which the line gets banged up?
Maybe the football gods are just frowning on the Steelers, imparting a particularly insane stretch of bad luck that keeps leading to losses like these.
However, luck isn’t all to blame for this loss. There has to be plenty of blame set aside for the running game.
I don’t know where the Isaac Redman of last season has gone, but the team needs him back. Maybe the grind of a starter’s workload is getting to him, the offensive line injuries are piling up, or Todd Haley has somehow drastically changed the running game, but he’s been dismal this year. Where’s the guy that carried the ball 19 times for 92 yards and 17 times for 121 yards in the two games he started last year?
Sure, the team (shockingly) converted on the gutsy 4th and 1 running play late in the fourth, but if Redman had been able to run like his old self, the offense would have been able to keep it out of the defense’s hands long enough to win the game.
But the running game doesn’t deserve all the blame. The fumbles by Brown late in the game were disturbing, but what’s absolutely awful is the defense.
I’m well aware that the unit is missing its two biggest playmakers in Harrison and Polamalu, but that’s no excuse for allowing Carson Palmer to walk down the field in the three biggest drives of the game.
Keenan Lewis has been (predictably) horrible in coverage this season, and I’m beginning to wonder if the team is looking at replacing him with the more capable Cortez Allen, but Lawrence Timmons has to be the biggest goat here.
I’ve talked before about the absence of plays that he’s made this year, but he was actively bad in this game. It was his missed tackle that led to Darren McFadden’s 64-yard score, and he looked slow all afternoon. I don’t what’s caused this mysterious regression, but I hope it’s some undisclosed injury, and not the fact that the team’s franchise middle linebacker has suddenly lost the ability to play football.
Without the two missing stars, it’s clear that Ryan Clark is the lone playmaker left on defense, and it’s scary to think about what the team would do without him.
The team has a bye week to stew on this loss, and it hopefully it will be able to get Harrison and Polamalu healthy, but I’d urge the coaches to take a good, hard look the team and re-evaluate things like their running schemes and starting corners.
Starting at 1-2 seems to be the popular record for prominent AFC teams, as they join the Patriots and Broncos under .500, so here’s hoping that the team can figure things out in advance of the in-state matchup with the Eagles.
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