Steelers Short on Domination

Dale Lolley wasn't impressed with Carolina QB Jimmy Clausen. And it follows that the Steelers should've won more handily.

PITTSBURGH -- The final score would suggest a dominant performance by the Steelers last night against the Carolina Panthers.

But the 27-3 beating wasn't nearly as outstanding as it could have been And was more a result of playing against a ridiculously raw quarterback in Carolina's Jimmy Clausen as much as it was about anything the Steelers did.

I don't want to be the Grinch on Christmas, but this was the kind of game the Steelers, if they were clicking on all cylinders, could have won 42-0.

Clausen was 10 of 23 for 72 yards, more than half of which came on Carolina's first two drives. He was sacked four times and intercepted once.

That kind of effort from the opposing QB usually adds up to a huge Pittsburgh victory.

But a couple of lost fumbles on bad exchanges, one of the quarterback-center variety and the other a quarterback-running back handoff, showed how sloppy the Steelers really were in this game.

There were also some missed blocking assignments in the running game, One that forced coach Mike Tomlin to yank left tackle Jonathan Scott out of the game briefly in the first quarter when he failed for the second week in a row to seal the end when guard Chris Kemoeatu pulled.

Last week against the Jets, Scott's failure to seal the end resulted in a safety. This time around, it was a 5-yard loss on a run by Rashard Mendenhall.

That play was symptomatic of what happened in the Steelers' running game throughout the game.

The Panthers used some five-man defensive lines to slow the Steelers on the ground, something that helped open up some deep passes, but this game had all of the look of a game Mendenhall should have dominated.

He finished with 65 yards on 18 carries, which doesn't sound bad until you consider his first run of the game went for 35 yards after dodging a defensive lineman in the backfield.

And defensively, for the second game in a row, the run defense wasn't up to its usual dominating fashion.

Carolina running back Jonathan Stewart pounded through the Pittsburgh defense for 71 yards on 18 attempts, which doesn't sound all that bad until you realize that's the second-highest total by an individual running back this season.

With Cleveland's Peyton Hillis coming up next week in what figures to be a must-win contest -- unless Baltimore loses to the Browns Sunday -- the run defense had better shore things up.

A healthy Troy Polamalu would help that greatly. Coming off of three weeks of rest, Polamalu figures to play in Cleveland if the Steelers need to win the game to grab the No. 2 seed in the AFC playoffs.

That's very important to the Steelers for a number of reasons. Not only Do they need the week off, but they would only need to win two games to get to the Super Bowl if they lock up the second seed.

"Once you get into the playoffs, anything can happen," said nose tackle Casey Hampton.

Hampton is right about that.

But there won't be any Jimmy Clausen's around to pick on in the postseason.

© Maybe I'm in the minority here, but Antonio Brown isn't giving me a great deal of confidence in him as a return man.

Yes, he has the potential to break a long one at any time. But he also makes some bad decisions, such as running backward after fielding a punt at the Pittsburgh 9 in the fourth quarter.

Brown could have taken the ball to the sideline for a short gain and at least gotten the ball outside the 10. Instead, he tried to reverse field, gave ground and got tackled at the 5.

The Steelers punted from their own end zone and after a 19-yard return, gave up a 27-yard field goal for Carolina's only points in the game.

It didn't matter in this game and I'm sure Mike Tomlin will use it as one of his teachable moments, but those are the kind of mistakes that cost you against a good team.

© You'd like to see more Isaac Redman to at least close out games, but his fourth-quarter fumble may have hurt his chances there.

Yes, Redman redeemed himself slightly by breaking off a powerful 23-yard run a little later. But that only came after he had been pulled from the game in favor of Mewelde Moore, who then suffered a knee injury.

© Moore and rookie linebacker Jason Worilds both suffered knee injuries in this game, though the extent of those injuries won't be immediately known.

The Steelers made it out of the game relatively injury free outside of that.

© Finally this from Keisel Claus:

"Merry, merry Christmas, Steeler Nation. It's a great weekend for us."?

It will be even better if the Browns somehow beat the Ravens.

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

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