Several Culprits In Late Collapse

A look behind the late collapse that allowed the Bucs to beat the Steelers, 27-24.

The pass defense will no doubt take the bulk of the criticism for blowing a late lead in the Steelers' 27-24 loss to the Tampa Bay Bucs on Sunday. But there were other culprits immediately leading up to the disastrous finish:

1. Maurkice Pouncey committed a five-yard penalty for an illegal snap when the Steelers needed one first down to kill the clock.

"They said I double-clutched it," Pouncey said of referee Walt Anderson's crew.

Did he?

"Well, they called it," said the disgusted center, "so I guess I must have."

2. Brad Wing's 29-yard punt gave the ball to the Bucs at the Pittsburgh 46 with 40 seconds left.

The first-year punter entered the game averaging 45 yards per punt. His other three punts Sunday averaged 40 per.

3. A lack of a pass rush allowed the secondary to become exposed.

Jason Worilds grabbed quarterback Mike Glennon on the first play of the final Bucs possession, but Worilds couldn't bring Glennon down. Glennon threw it away and lost only five seconds.

"It's a game of inches," said Worilds. "I was an inch away from making a play."

So the Bucs lined up and trotted out some Pittsburgh deja vu.

"I thought back to it," Steelers backup QB Bruce Gradkowski said of his 2009 rally at Heinz Field with the Oakland Raiders, "and I said, 'I don't want to see a flashback today.'"

But he did. Louis Murphy, old No. 18 for the Raiders, teamed with Gradkowski to beat the Steelers 27-24 with a touchdown -- his second of the quarter -- with nine seconds left in the 2009 game at Heinz Field.

This time, Murphy, the new No. 18 for the Bucs, caught a 41-yard pass after the missed sack and it gave the Bucs a first down at the Pittsburgh 5. Three plays later, Vincent Jackson was celebrating the game-winning touchdown with seven seconds remaining.

"In crunch time like that, you know they're going to 83," cornerback William Gay said of Jackson. "So I was expecting them to go to 83. He won. I didn't."

Gay had broken up a fade pass to Jackson on second down, but couldn't stop Jackson's "pivot route" on third down as Jackson bellied off the Steelers' corner and dove to catch the pass from Glennon.

But the killer, once again, was Murphy, who has only eight touchdowns in six NFL seasons. On Sunday he ran a deep slant after Cortez Allen released him inside, but Lawrence Timmons didn't drop deep enough, the safeties didn't come up quickly enough and Murphy ran to the 5.

"We talked about that in practice," said Murphy. "They were going to run cover-two late and that hole was going to be open. Coach said that we needed to make that play."

The Steelers were actually in their familiar cover-three, but Murphy and Tampa Bay Coach Lovie Smith were right about the hole in the Steelers' zone defense.

"For me, personally," said Troy Polamalu, who eventually made the tackle, "in that coverage I felt that I should've been much closer to that play, perhaps even make the play. That's the disappointing part for me."

Perhaps more disappointing is the fact the Steelers couldn't apply any more pressure on Glennon, a 6 feet 7 second-year passer who comanded so little respect from the new coaching staff that they brought in a journeyman free agent to start the season.

Glennon had been sacked 40 times last season, or once every 11.4 dropbacks. On Sunday, the Steelers got to Josh McCown's replacement only once in his 43 dropbacks.

"Yeah, he seemed to step up and make good throws," said Brett Keisel. "We were coming after him and that's something that we have to do better at if we want to win. We have to get consistent pressure on the quarterback. ... Rush and coverage work together, and we have got to pin our ears back and get to him if we expect to win."


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