Observations following the Steelers' loss to the Seahawks

SCI publisher Jim Wexell is critical of some decisions, but believes there's still hope for the Pittsburgh Steelers.

From the notebook of a sportswriter who was stuck in a line of traffic stretching from Long Island to State College on Sunday and had to listen to what sounded like a classic football game on the radio:

* A sportswriter who's getting ready to watch the tape of said game at 2 in the morning.

* The requests to rip the coach are pouring in from all over, and frankly it makes me want to go the other way, non-conformist that I am.

* But, yes, I was plenty torqued by most notably the decision to kick a field goal with the Pittsburgh Steelers down five and three minutes remaining.

* Of course, it seemed -- at least from the drowned-out voices of the radio broadcast crew -- it was a tremendous prep job by the coaching staff. The Steelers committed only one pre-snap penalty, a delay-of-game call, in the land of pre-snap penalties.

* I presume that's been forgotten in the rush to fire the coach for a couple of his in-game decisions.

* Regardless of what I see when I turn on the projector before this next note, the Steelers proved they have the ability to win in the most difficult place in the league, and with the right breaks are a team to be feared should they make the playoffs.

* ...

* OK, I'm back. The first comment I'll make from the tape is that the crowd wasn't nearly as loud on the TV feed. Hearing the game on radio made the task seem all the more difficult.

* The fake field goal didn't look as dumb on tape as it sounded, with Landry Jones throwing back to his left to the left tackle. It wasn't Lonesome End II, but I thought the pattern by the 6-9 Alejandro Villanueva was fairly well designed with him coming underneath the line of scrimmage from the right side. That part wasn't described on the radio as I scratched my head in frustration while sitting in yet another Interstate 80 traffic jam.

* One, I'm sure the play looked much better in practice (and they should remember to take that into account the next time they get an idea). Two, let Ben Roethlisberger run such a play from under center the next time. Three, a 6-0 lead meant very little, I supposed, at the time, so the part of the FIRE TOMLIN argument about "being in control of the game" is sheer hyperbole.

* I was taught long ago never to lean too hard on one play in writing game analysis. And NEVER press the analysis because of a play in the first half.

* The field goal with three minutes left in the game, on fourth-and-goal from the 3 (a long 3), is certainly the bigger issue. All I could think of was the idiot Browns coach who kicked a field goal against the Steelers with 3:21 left in 2008. The Browns did get the ball back, but at their own 26 with 26 seconds left. They, of course, lost.

* But I realized, once I looked up the details, that the Browns had cut into a seven-point lead with that field goal and still trailed by four. The Steelers only needed a field goal to win after the decision yesterday.

* The call isn't a fire-able offense, as it was with Romeo Crennel, but I still would've gone for the touchdown. A fail there and the Seahawks are backed up inside their five.

* Still, the Steelers had the Seahawks in a third-and-9 situation before the Seahawks clinched the game. No cigar, but certainly no reason for this fan uprising I'm seeing and hearing.

* The Seahawks also fumbled on second down. If the Steelers had fallen on it, game over and no one's saying boo.

* The fact these decisions -- which can be argued on either side -- played a factor in this game speaks to how closely the Steelers came to winning in the most difficult stadium in the league.

* And fan expectation and subsequent anger speaks to how good this Steelers team is.

* The discipline of the first half speaks to how well this team was prepared coming into the game. No sacks allowed and only one penalty for 10 yards (on the play preceding the end-of-half kneeldown) has to be a feather in the staff's cap, not to mention the offensive line's.

* Throwing deep to the wideouts and hitting Heath Miller over the middle seems to be the way to attack these Seahawks. Miller took a shoulder in the ribs from K.J. Wright after catching five catches for 45 yards in the first quarter and was missed badly down the stretch.

* Although, rookie Jesse James showed off some of that Mark Bavaro after-catch bullishness that analysts sold to us on draft day.

* During the week a reporter asked Roethlisberger how he was going to get Markus Wheaton more involved in the offense. I thought it was kind of a dumb question -- until I watched Wheaton catch nine passes for 201 yards and a touchdown. Now I think that reporter is pretty shrewd.

* Wheaton's numbers this season coming into the game were 16 catches for 273 yards and a touchdown.

* So, Wheaton gets the first helmet decal. Cameron Heyward gets the second. He only made three tackles but one was a sack. He also blocked an extra point and stuffed a two-point conversion attempt that, well, allowed Tomlin to foist his end-of-game field-goal strategy upon us.

* Maybe Cam shouldn't get that decal.

* The third helmet sticker goes to DeAngelo Williams, who reminded me of Mewelde Moore in some late-game heroics of a few years ago. Williams broke a tackle on a third-and-12 checkdown pass to get the first down on the final Steelers scoring drive.

* Williams had rocked DE Michael Bennett with a chip block before catching a 13-yard pass to kickstart that drive.

* Williams only carried eight times for 29 yards, but caught seven passes for 88 yards. You have to go back to 2006, Williams' rookie season, when he caught seven passes for 101 yards, for anything matching and/or exceeding those receiving numbers.

* "DeAngelo Williams might be the pickup of the year," was TV analyst Phil Simms' only usable quote of the broadcast.

* Roethlisberger threw for 456 yards, the third-highest of his career, the most for which he's thrown on the road, and the most anyone's ever compiled against Seattle. But he doesn't rank among the top three stars here for two reasons: his two interceptions, and the fact I can take him for granted in an attempt to bring new names into the column.

* Playing couch doctor, my guess is that Roethlisberger became woozy (and placed in "concussion protocol") from his face hitting the ground on that third-down scramble to the Seattle 3-yard line.

* Although logic would indicate that Bennett's blow to Roethlisberger's head, for which Bennett was penalized earlier in the drive, was the cause.

* Roethlisberger was making points with officials and alertly checking with his sideline immediately after Bennett's hit, though. I know very little about concussions, and can only wonder if there was a delayed effect.

* I would probably give WR Doug Baldwin top billing on Seattle's side, but am amazed that 6-1 cornerback Richard Sherman was able to stick with Antonio Brown so well throughout the game. The ultra-quick and shifty Brown normally tears up tall cornerbacks. That's why I assumed Sherman would be assigned to Martavis Bryant. But color me impressed by Sherman holding A.B. to six catches for 51 yards.

* The Steelers' corners are being excoriated, but was there something about their play that was surprising Sunday? For as bad as they've played at times this season, I still think the Steelers can win with those guys.
 
* But first check Antwon Blake's shoulder. There has to be something physically wrong that doesn't allow him to wrap up his tackles.

* Yes, I said they can with with those guys, and that includes the coaching staff, which no doubt will be shredded by fans and media all week. I just thought the game was too well-played, and coached, in general to jump to that conclusion.

* The last time the fan base was this angry came on the heels of a loss to the one-win Kansas City Chiefs.

* Turns out losing to the Chiefs, in the second-most difficult stadium in the league, wasn't such a crime.

* Losing to the two-time defending NFC champs in a nailbiter at THE most difficult place in the league isn't a crime, either. This game no doubt sharpened some iron.

* Now the Steelers just have to beat the teams they should beat and we'll understand in the playoffs the degree to which that iron's been sharpened.


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