Where Was The Leadership?

In his wide-ranging notebook, Dale Lolley wonders about Ben Roethlisberger's leadership skills, among much more.

Perhaps it is time for the Steelers to come to the harsh realization that Ben Roethlisberger isn't quite the leader that he needs to be.

That seemed to be the missing ingredient in this team all season long - leadership - particularly on the offensive side of the ball.

Given a chance to will this team to the postseason in each of the last two weeks - make that three with the game against San Diego - and Roethlisberger crashed harder than the Hindenburg, saving his worst for last.

But unlike the previous week, when Roethlisberger was brilliant before throwing a game-deciding pick in overtime, this time around, the quarterback was off the entire game, throwing the ball into coverage and generally looking inaccurate.

The Steelers wasted a first half in which they ran the ball right through the Bengals, gaining 73 yards on 17 carries, because the only play Roethlisberger made was on a 60-yard touchdown pass to Antonio Brown in the closing moments.

Outside of that play, he was 5-11 for 53 yards in the first two quarters.

Is it a matter of Roethlisberger not clicking with offensive coordinator Todd Haley? I don't know. But I do know this, they didn't seem to have a problem earlier in the year when the quarterback was the best in the NFL on third downs and had only thrown 4 picks in the first 8 games.

He's now thrown 4 interceptions in the past three weeks, forcing the ball into places it shouldn't be. And the last three came in the no-huddle offense that he so loves to run.

* Rashard Mendenhall gave the Steelers a boost in their running game, leading the team with 50 yards on 11 carries.

I hate his attitude at times, but he's got a lot of talent.

If the Steelers can't find a comparable replacement in the offseason - and that will be difficult - they have to consider re-signing him.

He has the speed that neither Jonathan Dwyer or Isaac Redman - as hard as they run - possess.

* Shame that Heath Miller went down with a season-ending knee injury. But I do have to wonder if he hadn't already partially torn the ligament earlier in the game when Chris Crocker went low on him to take him down in the second quarter.

Miller immediately got up following that hit and uncharacteristically got up in Crocker's face to express his displeasure with the play. He then limped to the sideline and continued to flex his knee before later returning.

The blocking play that Miller was injured on was bad enough to tear a knee ligament in itself. But it would easily do so on an already partially torn knee.

Thank Roger Goodell for that one.

* Like the Cowboys did in the second half last week, the Bengals were doing what they could to limit Miller's effectiveness.

Unlike last week, when Roethlisberger looked elsewhere when Miller was covered, he forced the ball to him on occasion in this one. The results? Three catches on nine targets.

* Those people who think Troy Polamalu should retire at the end of this season need to watch this game tape.

Polamalu has been back a few weeks now, but his return coincided with the Steelers losing all of their corners.

He was playing a lot of deep safety.

Sunday, Dick LeBeau turned him lose at the line of scrimmage and he wound up with 8 tackles, a sack, a tackle for a loss, a hurry and a pass defensed.

And those might not have even been his best plays - though the sack was vintage Polamalu timing the snap.

He completely blew up an offensive lineman on one third-and-short run, allowing somebody else to make a play, and forced a bad throw by Andy Dalton on another play by leaping high into the air while blitzing.

* Perhaps the Steelers found their playmaker in waiting on this defense in Cortez Allen, who had 2 interceptions - and could have had a third - and a forced fumble.

* Keenan Lewis had his entire knee taped up and was limping around the locker room. You feel bad for players like that, who put it all on the line only to have the postseason taken away from them.

Lewis has proven a lot this season and earned himself a nice paycheck.

* The Bengals took advantage of the youth on the right side of the Steelers' offensive line with a number of stunts and blitzes.

But David DeCastro will be better in the long run for having played these final three weeks, even though it won't be enough to get the Steelers into the postseason.

(Dale Lolley appears courtesy of the Washington Observer-Reporters.)


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