You know, old-school newspaper deadline.
But anyway, I suggested that Steelers fans divest themselves of their intense interest in this team because – let's see, how did I put it exactly – "the time and money invested in football isn't paying off."
Not that I expect anyone to give up rooting for the Steelers. It was more of an urging – overdramatic, perhaps – for fans to tend instead to "family, friends and personal health."
After all, the holidays are coming.
The comment wasn't well received – except from someone who posted this on our message board:
"That last note really hit home. I love the Steelers, but for some reason the joy of watching them just hasn't been there this year. I can't handle the self-inflicted wounds anymore. Every week it seems like there are about 5-10 stupid plays/moments that just make you shake your head and either cost them the game or keep a game against an inferior opponent unnecessarily close. There's nothing fun about rooting for a bunch of undisciplined underachievers."
I'm not sure I agree with the last part, but I was certain that in tape review I could find "5-10 stupid plays/moments" that made me shake my head.
So that was my goal Monday, and here they are, in chronological order:
1. Byron Leftwich falling into the end zone and getting hurt. – Talk about living up to one's resume. This guy has been as brittle as his backup, Charlie Batch, and to injure yourself falling into the end zone after a great run was almost cartoonish. Did that really happen?
2. Running back tryouts. – Throwing deep to Mike Wallace was a great way to start the game, but we never saw it again. The start of the second series would've been an ideal spot, but instead the offense held "hot hand" tryouts. In three plays, the three primary backs were given the ball. So, Tomlin can pick one quarterback and commit to him but he can't pick one running back and commit to him? Hey, the cliché is "hot hand," not "hot foot."
3. Rampant injuries. – The screen was split with shots of Ray Lewis and Troy Polamalu, and announcer Al Michaels said, "It looks like a Pro Bowl roster on the sidelines tonight." And if you count Ben Roethlisberger and Antonio Brown, among many others, he was right. So to what end is the league re-defining the game? I thought it was to prevent injuries. It's not, and it makes it difficult to throw any support behind this league, these owners, and their changes.
4. Hines Ward rule. – I hated the rule when it was created, and really hated it a couple of weeks ago when it was called against Leonard Pope during a critical kickoff return. So why wasn't it called on James Ihedigbo when he surprised Will Allen with a crushing block in the shoulder, out in the open field, in front of Jacoby Jones's punt return for the Ravens' only touchdown?
5. Cut block on Casey Hampton. – Seriously, with all of these nitpicking new rules it's still legal to intentionally lower your helmet and drive it into an engaged lineman's knee? Absurd. Makes me shake my head. Makes me want to call my dear auntie and talk about herbal teas.
6. Chris Rainey ducks. – As you'll see in the next few stupid moments, if you make a single mistake, I'll understand. But when Rainey ducked on a high second-and-10 heater from Leftwich with 30 seconds left in the first half, it occurred after he couldn't return a kickoff past the 12 and fumbled (after, fortunately, he hit the ground). Later, Rainey's tentative return in the third quarter of a 13-7 game put the Steelers in poor position once again. Rainey was lucky that when he ducked, the linebacker behind him had two broken thumbs and couldn't catch the catchable pass either.
7. Jonathan Dwyer taps out. – This also happened twice: Once with 4:27 left in the third quarter after three consecutive carries and again with 7:21 left in the fourth after two consecutive carries. Is he still that far out of shape? Or is he truly being deferential to Rashard Mendenhall? Get in there and show 'em you're hungry, kid.
8. Red zone play-calling. – This was the "stupid play/moment" that enraged me most. It wasn't so much the first down pass from the 11, as Dwyer and the line were really heating up. That bothered me a bit, but what enraged me was the fade pass on third-and-2 from the Baltimore 3, particularly after the Steelers had to use two timeouts. I have little doubt that two Dwyer runs would've at least picked up the first down and probably scored the touchdown. The Steelers were down 6 in the final minute of the third quarter with only one timeout left. A field goal there would leave them short, and it eventually did. This was the time to take the game. This was the moment that kept them from stealing a game from the Ravens with their backup quarterback that they will never get back. This was the moment when the coach had to step beyond the coordinator and make the call to win the game. This will ultimately prove to be Tomlin's grand mistake of the season.
9. Mike Wallace, what the … ? – Actually, the fade pass was Leftwich's best of the game. But everything had to go perfectly, and it didn't. Wallace did not tap his second foot down and the game was lost. But, again, it wasn't his only mistake. Wallace fumbled early because he did not secure a reception, and later he didn't even try to catch a low pass at the Baltimore 32 with 4:45 left that would've resulted in a first down and at least an attempt of the game-tying field goal. Neither happened.
10. Willie Colon picks wrong blitzer. – Again, this happened twice, and both times Leftwich was trucked in the fourth quarter. Perhaps he broke one rib on each sack. After it happened the first time, Max Starks was noticeable in correcting Colon. After it happened the second time, Starks just raised his hands to his facemask and kept quiet. The result, on the third-and-11 play with 4:21 left, spoke for itself.
There were other head-scratchers, like the tripping call on a play in which no one was tripped, the final timeout at 2:04 that allowed the Ravens a chance to pass on third-and-7, and Mendenhall not running out of bounds and costing the Steelers 17 seconds on the final possession.
The night ended with the Steelers two games behind the beatable Ravens, and yes they are beatable. That's why there's a surprising amount of optimism today that the Steelers can make up the ground over the final six games.
But they won't be able to get this game back, a game that was theirs for the taking. As Michaels said on the broadcast when talking about the Steelers' narrow loss to the Ravens at Heinz Field last season that gave the Ravens the tiebreaker between 12-4 teams, "We saw what that meant last year."