By Jeremy Hritz
What a frustrating team the Pittsburgh Steelers are at 7-7.
Despite having a seven point lead, being on the verge of starting another drive with an offense on-fire in Dallas territory, and getting the ball to start the overtime period, the Steelers managed to find ways to continue to make mistakes and lose a game that ultimately they should have won.
The evidence in this 2012 season is unavoidable: this is a team that is error-prone.
Consider how the absence of any of the following plays would have impacted the Steelers season:
- Ben Roethlisberger’s interception for a touchdown in the fourth quarter against Denver in what had been a close game.
- Antonio Brown’s fumble after a 20 yard reception against Oakland in the 4th quarter that was recovered by the Raiders.
- Roethlisberger’s interception near the end of the first half against Tennessee; the drive would have concluded in a field goal had the pick not been thrown.
- The blown punt coverage against the Ravens at Heinz Field that resulted in Baltimore’s only touchdown that essentially won the game.
- Pick your turnover against the Browns.
- The backwards pass against the Chargers that resulted in a touchdown.
- Against Dallas, Brown’s fumble and Roethlisberger\' pick in overtime.
You can make one hell of a highlight tape for the Steelers’ opponents from this list. Discouragingly, these blunders are one of the many factors contributing to the Steelers underwhelming performance this year.
The Steelers organization is first class and professional, so you cannot argue that this team is not prepared for play come Sundays. You can rule out the age factor because how old a player is does not determine whether or not he fumbles the ball or throws a pick.
Earlier this season after the loss to Tennessee, Tribune Review writer Mark Kaboly asked the question, “are the Steelers really just not good?” Following the losses to San Diego and Dallas, and based on the overall performance of the Steelers this year, this question has to be reconsidered.
Though Roethlisberger is having a solid year statistically, he has made at least three plays that influenced the outcome of the game in a negative way. All three of our “talented” young-money receiving crew have an inescapable case of the drops and the fumbles, killing potentially successful drives. LaMarr Woodley, for the one game he is not injured, is out of position against the run and ineffective against a poor offensive tackle. And Troy Polamalu makes the occasional pedestrian tackle, while struggling to help an injured secondary make plays.
It’s not that these players are not good, it’s just that they have not been good and good consistently this year.
The injuries and the lacking continuity are definitely a factor that cannot be ignored, but when coaches and fans keep waiting for the other shoe to drop for some of these players, and it doesn’t, it is difficult not to develop some serious skepticism about how effective they really are.
If Mike Wallace, Emmanuel Sanders and Brown are as good as advertised, then why are we not seeing shoestring catches and touchdowns instead of drops and fumbles?
If Woodley is still the pass-rushing force and dependable linebacker against the run that he was in recent years, then why isn’t he punishing quarterbacks and stuffing the run?
If Polamalu, even though he has slowed a bit, is still an effective player, why aren’t we seeing at least the occasional play in the secondary?
And if Roethlisberger is as clutch as he has proven to be during his career, why does he continue to make debilitating mistakes rather than making comebacks?
You can point to injuries. You can point to age. You can point to lack of preparedness. You can even point to Todd Haley as Dejan Kovacevic did in Monday’s Tribune Review.
Where you point really doesn’t matter right now as all the pointing in the world may not be enough to get the Steelers’ arrow pointing upward this season.
It’s very hard to believe that their arrow is sharp enough to take down a Bengal this Sunday.