Questions, Questions

Here's Dale Lolley's take from the Steelers' 16-9 loss to the Titans:

As the play unfolded, I couldn't understand why the Steelers weren't calling a timeout.

Players in the huddle were looking at the sideline. Players on the sideline were looking at the coaches.

Felix Jones was halfway out onto the field before being called back.

The play I am referring to, of course, is the ill-fated fullback dive to Isaac Redman that was fumbled into the end zone, finishing off the Steelers' first possession and marking their lone trip inside Tennessee's 10-yard line until late in the game.

Aren't third-down plays - it was third-and-one - important enough situations in which to call timeouts? Isn't that especially the case when you're at the opposing 6?

In the mind of coach Mike Tomlin and quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, apparently not.

Best that I can tell, those two guys are the only ones who are capable of calling a timeout in that situation.

But in this case, it was confusion among the troops be damned, the Steelers were running that play, even if they didn't get up to the line of scrimmage until there were about eight seconds remaining on the play clock.

The Steelers had worked on that play in practice. But they had always done it with LaRod Stephens-Howling or Felix Jones lined up behind Redman. In this case, the deep back was tight end/fullback David Johnson.

Yep, that will fool anyone.

But fooling the Titans in this situation wasn't needed. The Steelers had Tennessee on its heels following an inexplicable safety on the game's opening kickoff.

Pittsburgh had then marched from its own 41, converting a couple of big third downs, into scoring range - despite the loss of center Maurkice Pouncey a few plays before.

Redman said following the game that the timing of the dive was thrown off because Kelvin Beachum's center exchanges weren't as fast with Roethlisberger as those between Roethlisberger and Pouncey.

So maybe we can blame the whole thing on that.

Regardless, if the Steelers score there instead of fumbling the ball into the end zone, it says here that the outcome of the game would have been different.

Nobody would have complained about the Steelers using a timeout in that situation.

* It was a tough day all around for Redman, who started at running back in place of injured Le'Veon Bell.

Redman finished with 9 yards on 8 carries, but fumbled twice - recovering one of them - and catching 2 passes for 7 yards.

Redman said earlier in the week that he wanted to make it hard on the coaching staff to pull him out of the game once Bell returned from injury - something that can't happen soon enough judging from Sunday's performance.

Instead, he made it hard for them to put him back into the game after he fumbled a second time.

Stephens-Howling was getting the carries after that, until he went down with a knee injury in the third quarter.

Jones? He didn't get a chance, and Tomlin said that was because he wasn't up to speed on a lot of the no-huddle stuff the Steelers wanted to do in the second half.

* Of the two major injuries the Steelers suffered Sunday, the one to inside linebacker Larry Foote - a torn bicep - might be more important.

Foote made the defensive calls.

I asked Kion Wilson, the player who would presumably replace Foote at inside linebacker, if he would be comfortable doing that moving forward.

He looked at me like I was crazy, saying if that was the case, he'd expect some help from Lawrence Timmons, Troy Polamalu, Ryan Clark, etc.

Then again, in losing Pouncey, the Steelers lost the centerpiece of their offensive line and the guy who helps the other offensive linemen identify blitzers.

More importantly, with Kelvin Beachum replacing Pouncey - at least Sunday - the Steelers lost any depth they had on the offensive line, perhaps the most thin spot on the team.

* Emmanuel Sanders left the locker room rather quickly following this game. In fact, he was so quick out of the room that he was still wearing his eye black.

Sanders made a couple of nice plays in this game, finishing with 7 catches for 57 yards, but he didn't make anyone forget about Mike Wallace.

In fact, if anything, Sanders made some miss Wallace when he missed a couple of catchable passes.

* The injury to Pouncey meant the Steelers couldn't use Beachum as a tight end as they would have liked. We can blame the complete lack of a running game on that, right?

* The rest of the AFC North also lost, which is both good and bad news for the Steelers.

The good news is that they are still tied for the division lead.

The bad news is that they head to Cincinnati next week and the loser of that game is going to be 0-2.

After that, the Steelers come back to Heinz Field to face the Bears, the team that beat the Bengals Sunday.

Looking at that, 0-3 is a possibility before heading to London to face Minnesota and running back Adrian Peterson.

(Dale Lolley is courtesy of the Washington Observer-Reporter. Click on the message board to discuss his column.)


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