Enough Blame to Go Around

Dale Lolley says this was an easy one with which to find blame, starting with the game plan.

PITTSBURGH – It's easy to point fingers following a close loss like the one suffered by the Pittsburgh Steelers Sunday to the New York Jets.

After all, in a 22-17 loss, in which you give up a kickoff return for a touchdown and a safety, there's plenty of blame to go around.

Steelers receiver Hines Ward wasn't afraid to point that finger.

"Special teams, offense, defense, coaches, we all contributed to this," said Ward. "We all helped contribute. No one person in this locker room can tell you that they didn't help contribute to this loss."

At this point, many are probably looking at backup tight end Matt Spaeth as well.

Spaeth, starting in place of injured Heath Miller, who missed his second consecutive game with a concussion, stepped in front of intended receiver Emmanuel Sanders on a second-and-goal pass with two seconds remaining in the game, deflecting it incomplete.

Then on third down on the game's final play, Spaeth missed a third-down pass attempt from Ben Roethlisberger.

"Guys made plays all the way up and down that field and in the end, I couldn't step up like everybody else," Spaeth said.

But it begs the question why is Spaeth even in that position? Not as Miller's backup. That is understandable. In today's NFL, it's difficult to have quality backups.

It is questionable to have Spaeth on the field on your two most important plays in the game.

The Steelers had a great deal of success with four and five wide receivers throughout this game. Sanders, their third receiver, had a field day, catching 7 passes for 78 yards. Fellow rookie Antonio Brown had 2 for 15 yards. Even Antwaan Randle El had a catch for eight yards.

As for Spaeth, he was targeted eight times and caught three.

The Steelers worked all week on involving their tight ends in the game plan. Miller had been cleared to return from his concussion and play in this game. But he had headaches after practicing on Wednesday and Friday and the Steelers did the right thing. They shut him down for this game.

But they didn't scrap the tight end portion of their game plan, targeting Spaeth and David Johnson nine times in this game.

Once they saw how effective their receivers could be, the plan that included so much work for the tight ends should have been balled up and thrown away.

© While on the subject of coaching, you should never, ever run a draw from your own end zone.

It's just bad football and is another reason why Ward was pointing a finger at the coaching staff as well as everyone else for the loss.

© The Steelers backed into the playoffs Sunday despite their loss and still have the inside track on winning the AFC North.

All they have to do is win their final two games. If the Steelers do that, it doesn't matter what Baltimore does.

Safety Troy Polamalu likely won't play again this Thursday against Carolina. But you can bet the house that he'll be back to play against Cleveland if it comes down to the Steelers needing to win that game to clinch the division and a first-round bye.

© Lost in the shuffle of Sunday's loss was how well the Steelers' offensive line played.

The line did not commit a holding penalty and Roethlisberger was sacked just three times despite dropping back to pass nearly 50 times.

And New York's blitzing defensive scheme is as complicated as any in the league outside of Pittsburgh.

The running game also produced 147 yards, with Rashard Mendenhall getting 100 yards on 17 carries.

© Mike Tomlin said after the game that the Steelers didn't make any significant plays to win it.

That was something Polamalu had provided the last couple of games.

It makes you wonder where linebackers LaMarr Woodley and James Harrison were at all day?

(Dale Lolley appears courtesy of the Observer-Reporter.)

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