But when you lay an egg in your biggest game of the season against your most hated rival, that will happen.
And that’s exactly what the Steelers did in their 20-17 loss to the Ravens Sunday.
“It can’t get any worse this year than it is right now,” said Steelers linebacker James Harrison. “They came out, they out-executed us, they outplayed us. That’s really it. You’ve got to give credit where credit is due. We didn’t do the things necessary to win.”
“It’s a downer. It makes me mad as a leader of this team that we didn’t get the job done,” said defensive end Cameron Heyward. “We’ve got to look right in the mirror because this is unacceptable.”
The F-word was thrown around the locker room a little bit. No, not that one. This F-word is one that just seems unacceptable for a team playing for a postseason berth – flat.
“I feel like we came out flat a little in the first quarter,” said Harrison. “We were a little flat. But they executed, so it’s six in one hand, a half-dozen in the other.”
If that was, indeed, the case, Heyward is correct. There are a lot of players who need to take a good, long look at themselves in the mirror.
“I felt like some of the guys were intense,” said linebacker Arthur Moats, who was imploring his teammates late in the game to get a stop and get the ball back for the offense. “If you don’t get motivated for this, I feel like that’s something you’re dealing with inside. I didn’t feel like people were flat. I feel like people were definitely motivated. We just didn’t execute what we needed to execute.”
Lack of execution or flatness, the result was the same.
The Ravens played keep away from Pittsburgh’s offense, running 73 plays compared to 57 for the Steelers and keeping Ben Roethlisberger and company standing on the sidelines for long periods of time.
The defense was largely the same as it ever is, allowing 386 yards and 9 of 18 third down conversions.
It was the offense, however, that just never seemed to get into any kind of rhythm.
The Steelers ran the ball effectively, with DeAngelo Williams gaining 84 yards on 11 first-half carries against a Baltimore defense that generally played its two safeties 20 yards downfield.
But Ben Roethlisberger’s usually excellent accuracy was off. And with the Ravens taking away the deep passes, he didn’t seem willing at times to continue checking down to receivers underneath.
By the time he did do that – in the fourth quarter – it was too late.
As a result, they’ll head into next Sunday’s game at Cleveland needing a win and some help, either with a Jets loss or Denver, which plays Monday night, to lose its final two games.
“All we can do is tune everybody out and focus on beating the Cleveland Browns,” said Heyward. “It sucks knowing that we need another team to do our bidding for us. It’s tough to look at another team and say, “Please do the job for us.” We never want to go into a situation like that. I just hope we get another chance. That disturbs me to know that as a leader of this team, I didn’t get the job done.”
@ Speaking of disturbed, Harrison was quite upset at being named in an Al Jazeera report for receiving Human Growth Hormone from an Indianapolis-based anti-aging clinic.
The pharmacist who was caught on secret video naming Harrison, among other sports stars, has said that everything he said on tape was fabricated. But the damage is largely done.
And Harrison wasn’t happy about it.
“They never supplied me with anything,” he said. “I’ve never taken steroids, point blank period. End of discussion.”
But Harrison didn’t stop there.
“I don’t know man. I guess it’s just easy,” he continued. “Ya’ll want to believe it. You know what, ‘James Harrison is strong because James Harrison is taking something.’ (Heck) no. James Harrison is strong because he worked at it.”
@ The Steelers scored 20 points in a loss with Michael Vick at quarterback earlier this season. Sunday, they scored 17 with Roethlisberger, who had his worst game of the season.
But it’s continued a season-long trend for the Steelers’ star quarterback. In five road starts, he now has two touchdown passes and seven interceptions.
He threw 16 touchdown passes at home this season.
The Steelers had scored 30 or more points in six consecutive games, but that obviously went by the wayside in this one.
“We’ve always said we can only beat ourselves,” Roethlisberger said. Obviously, they did a good job of stopping us today, but we still had a couple of times to make plays.”
Roethlisberger, who typically takes the blame when things go wrong, even when it’s not his fault, did so in this game. The difference was, however, that he didn’t play well.
“Really, that’s our fault, my fault,” Roethlisberger said of the team blowing a chance to continue to control its own playoff fate. “We controlled our destiny, but we gave the ball away and we can’t do that. I can’t do that.”