When you lose a must-win game, what exactly does that mean?
The Steelers are about to find out after dropping a 35-32 decision to the New Orleans Saints Sunday at Heinz Field.
Ben Roethlisberger was the one who tabbed this game a must win. He then promptly went out and played a first half as if he'd just taken up the game for the first time.
Roethlisberger finished the first half of the first of five "must-win" games for the Steelers 8-22 for 115 yards and an interception.
The only thing that stopped it from being worse than that was that cornerback Patrick Robinson apparently is the New Orleans' version of Ike Taylor. Robinson dropped a sure pick-six early in the game, then dropped another in the end zone later in the first half with some help from Steelers receiver Antonio Brown.
"It was just one of those days that the balls were coming out high," said Roethlisberger. "I have to make throws early on that I didn't make today and I usually do."
It was also Roethlisberger earlier in the week who said the Steelers needed to be playing their best football in their final five games. They didn't do that against the Saints, not by a long shot.
And Roethlisberger was the main culprit.
@ Once the Saints figured out that the Steelers could be run on, the defense followed suit, matching their quarterback's poor play.
Mark Ingram, who had been bottled up to the tune of 15 yards on four carries in the Saints' first three possessions, broke off runs of 13 and 12 yards on the fourth series and the rout was on.
"As soon as they started to get their run game going, it opened up a whole different aspect," said Steelers linebacker James Harrison. "The first quarter, we were (shutting it down). But after that, they started running the ball. It led to play-action passes, double routes."
Against Drew Brees, that's a recipe for disaster.
@ The Steelers likely lost defensive end Brett Keisel for the rest of the season. Though coach Mike Tomlin wouldn't confirm that Keisel's season was over after suffering a triceps injury, the 13-year veteran's teammates certainly were.
"You don’t want to see anyone go down, especially something like that where he won’t be back for the rest of the season," said Harrison. "It’s disheartening."
"I’m really disappointed. I’ve seen it happen with Aaron (Smith)," said safety Troy Polamalu. "There are very few guys in this locker room that I’ve experienced a lot with, the ups and downs and you know that you can carry through with them. We’re definitely going to miss Brett and his leadership."
At 36, there was already a chance that this was Keisel's last rodeo. If this is the way he went out - in a loss like this - it would be a shame.
"It makes you want to cry when you lose a guy like that because he’s so instrumental to what we do," said safety Mike Mitchell. "It’s going to be a tough loss, but we’ve got to rally around everyone else who’s healthy and everybody else has to pick it up. They’ve got big shoes to fill."
@ The Steelers dropped to 2-4 in games that start at 1 p.m. this season. Their remaining four games are all scheduled to start at 1 p.m.
@ The Steelers also fell to 2-4 in games in which they have allowed a 100-yard rusher. That, at least is a situation they can do something about.
@ Everyone wanted rookie Stephon Tuitt to get more playing time. I don't think they had an injury to Keisel in mind as the prime way to do it.
As soon as I figure out what damaging information Cam Thomas has that has not only kept him in the lineup to this point, but also kept Tuitt on the bench, I'll be sure to pass it along.
@ Roethlisberger banged his hand on linebacker Curtis Lofton late in the first quarter, and the QB apologists in the press box were quick to point at that as the reason for his first-half struggles.
But he was just 2-7 for 31 yards before smacking his hand on Lofton.
By the time the Steelers did that, it was too late.
@ Bell spent pretty much the entire first half in pass protection when he wasn't running the ball.
The Steelers were wary of the New Orleans' blitz packages. But sometimes you have to throw caution to the wind and, you know, try to win the game.
@ Bell finished with 159 yards receiving and not only went over 1,000 yards rushing for the season, but topped 500 receiving yards as well.
He's the first Steelers running back with 1,000 yards rushing since Rashard Mendenhall. More impressively, he's the first Steelers running back with more than 500 yards receiving in a season since Ray Matthews in 1958.