Not Exactly What I Had In Mind

Mike Prisuta sees one step forward and two steps back at times with the Steelers.

This was almost another one of those games that restores faith.

Through three quarters on Thursday night against the hapless Carolina Panthers, the Steelers' offense did pretty much what it wanted when it wanted at frigid Heinz Field.

Through three quarters Ben Roethlisberger had 307 yards passing, and five of his targets had a long reception of at least 18 yards: Mike Wallace 43, Emmanuel Sanders 35, Hines Ward 23, Heath Miller 20 and Rashard Mendenhall 18.

And through three quarters the offense had achieved that much-sought-after and rarely-realized point-a-minute-or-better ratio Bruce Arians covets (27 points in 26:14 of possession time). That had been the case at the end of a game only two times previously through the Steelers' first 14 outings (35 in 32:47 against Oakland and 38 in 26:54 at Tampa Bay).

It wasn't that they took their foot off the gas thereafter that contributed to a 27-3 triumph which somehow, at least in this corner of the press box, was less than satisfying.

It was what happened on those rare but noticeable occasions when the Steelers' offense wasn't doing pretty much what it wanted when it wanted.

Let's start with the Steelers' first possession, when it took all of five plays for Jonathan Scott to be replaced by Trai Essex at left tackle.

Do a lot of Super Bowl-bound teams pull their left tackle mid-series on the first series of the regular-season home finale?

Mike Tomlin had seemingly put Scott's status in play back on Monday when he said he didn't care to discuss whether or not he was considering benching Scott in the wake of the missed-block safety in the Jets game.

Tomlin had a great deal to discuss with Scott upon yanking him so abruptly, a conversation that took place after Scott's position coach, Sean Kugler, had ripped into Scott. But by the next series Scott was back at his post.

"We weren't on the same page," Scott said. "Minor corrections."

It doesn't look or feel minor.

It looks and feels unsettling.

So does the amount of hits Roethlisberger continues to take.

Just four days after giving such a good accounting of themselves against the Jets, the line got leaky again at times. Part of the problem continues to be Roethlisberger holding the ball too long. But when he's getting slammed to the turf repeatedly and they're sticking things up his nose on the sideline again, the major issue needs to be getting the problem solved as opposed to identifying how much of the responsibility is on the quarterback and how much is on the blockers.

The quarterback isn't going to change; something up front must.

Fumbled center-quarterback and quarterback-running back exchanges likewise aren't confidence inspiring at this late juncture.

Neither is Hines Ward dropping a couple of balls, or the need to sneak it in from the 1-yard line after two "Bronko Package" blasts into the line had gained nothing.

Against Carolina those are minor details.

In the playoffs they might mean everything.

And as the playoffs draw closer it's looking like there's a better than even-money chance the Steelers will eventually exit lamenting what their offense didn't get done, what it could have gotten done, what it should have gotten done.

If it comes to that no one should say they didn't see it coming.


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