Miss by 10 Yards; Miss by a Mile

The defense gambled and lost in Denver, but the offense had a chance to win the game -- and should have, says Mike Prisuta.

DENVER -- The extent to which the Steelers are a family was revealed beyond the parade of teammates and administrators attempting to console Ike Taylor in the loser's locker room -- Ben Roethlisberger and Kevin Colbert were among them -- and became most apparent as the players boarded the buses for the airport and the long flight into the off-season.

There in the bowels of Denver's statdium late Sunday night, Broncos offensive tackle Tony Hills was waiting for his former teammates.

That it was Hills who was offering the embraces of condolence this time confirmed that the Steelers, like all other families, are flawed.

Their 29-23 overtime loss to the Broncos, after all, is on tape for all to see and must be acknowledged.

It's the extent of those flaws that we'll have between now and August or whenever it is that training camp will open to chew upon.

Maybe I spent a little too much time in the Mile High air, but in the wake of a game in which Taylor had suddenly and stunningly de-evolved into Harvey Clayton I keep coming back to the offense.

The end of regulation was perhaps the signature moment of the season along those lines.

After finding themselves 14 down at the half and 10 down with 13:10 remaining in the fourth quarter, the Steelers had pushed back to knot the game at 23-23 and had advanced the ball to the Denver 45-yard line with 29 seconds of fourth quarter still to play.

"I think we were 10 yards out of (field goal) range," Heath Miller assessed.

But they didn't finish.

As they hadn't at the end of the first half when second-and-4 from the Denver 32 with 45 seconds left in the second quarter turned into zero points, as they couldn't in the first quarter when a first-and-10 from the Denver 21 resulted in a field goal rather than a touchdown, as they too often didn't this season.

After losing a shootout to the Packers in last season's Super Bowl the challenge this season was to better maximize their obvious potential on offense and be that team that could stand toe to toe, or, more accurately go throw for throw and score for score with the likes of the Packers and Patriots and Saints.

That's how you win in today's NFL. That they were ultimately unable to outgun a team quarterbacked by Tim Tebow was a bit of a stunner. But it was going to happen at some point given the inconsistent play of an offense that too often failed to meet expectations.

"It's always disappointing (when) offensively you feel like you can do so much more and you don't do it," Roethlisberger said. "Give 'em credit, they're a good defense.

"They're a good team. It's hard when they beat you and you beat yourself."

Added Miller regarding the offense: "It needs to be better."

That can happen with a continued honing of Roethlisberger's game. He's a franchise quarterback and one of the best in the business, but he can be even better with a little more patience and a little less zest for one big play after another.

His challenge is to cut down on the sacks and the sack/fumbles by any means necessary; that has to be acknowledged as a crippling problem that must be solved.

It would also help if the Steelers can do something about the black hole left guard has become (this was a 12-5 team that went 5-4 when Chris Kemoeatu started there).

And the disappearing act pulled by Mike Wallace over the final 10 games needs to be addressed. He's most definitely part of the solution but in Denver he was part of the problem.

"We've got great potential to be a really good offense," Roethlisberger said. "We can be great."

What they are right now is not good enough.

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