Putrid Smell Will Linger

SCI publisher Jim Wexell examines the rotting corpse following the Steelers' loss to the Ravens.

They're the team nobody wants to play in the NFL playoffs.

Unless you're 4-10.

Those teams smack their lips anytime they get the chance to play the Pittsburgh Steelers.

The Baltimore Ravens are 5-10 today after John Harbaugh outcoached Mike Tomlin and Ryan Mallett outplayed Ben Roethlisberger in a game in which the Steelers should've had every motivational edge known to football man.

Revenge is always the best tool in any motivational kit, but it was wasted on a team that refuses to learn its lesson when it comes to dealing with success.

Beat the Colts, Bengals and Broncos to take command of their football situation and lives; lose to a team that can't get out of its own way on most days -- and drawing nearly 100 more yards in penalties on this day meant the Ravens were having that kind of a day once again.

But even though the Ravens had beaten the Steelers earlier, when the Steelers had Mike Vick at quarterback and the Ravens had Joe Flacco, the Steelers couldn't summon up enough dislike to come out with the adrenaline edge in this one.

The team with the injured quarterback was reversed this time. But this time, Harbaugh still beat Tomlin, and for the seventh time in 11 games -- or since the Steelers played in Super Bowl 45.

Those are very real stats, the kind that get real attention. And none of those losses was, or is, worse than this one.

This is the one that will sting the Rooneys. Tomlin won't get fired, but it's not going to help him in any debate anytime soon.

Just as sweeping the Ravens in the 2008 season still finds itself in the plus side of the Tomlin ledger, losing to the Ravens three times in the 2015 calendar year will land itself on the negative half of that ledger, and it will stay there.

Fans turn to sportswriters at times such as these to exact pounds of flesh for them. But that service really isn't necessary when the scoreboard does the job, when the losses are so real and so heavy that they do all the exacting anyone would need.

This is one of those times.

Stating anything more than the score on a day like this is superfluous; however, there are several points I'd like to touch on just out of a personal need to vent:

* First drive goes well but the rookie tight end comes up a yard short on third-and-4. Kick the field goal.

* No, seriously, kick the field goal. The other team has Ryan Mallett. Don't give them life.

* They gave them life. The same team that went out of its way to pass on fourth-and-1 with Vick at quarterback in the previous meeting, now sends a back into the Brandon Williams-C.J. Mosley portion of the Ravens defense and is of course stuffed and a home underdog has a reason -- and a crowd behind it -- to keep playing.

* Mallett converts four third-down plays, including the final one against a three-man rush, and the Ravens are really buzzing with a 7-0 lead.

* The Steelers answer with a field goal and Mallett resumes converting third downs by throwing at Antwon Blake. The alleged run-stopping cornerback misses yet another tackle and the Ravens move in for another field goal and a 10-3 lead.

* Have we seen the end of the great Ball Man Experiment? Does Blake finally sit on the pine? Does it matter with the season practically over?

* A dropped interception on Roethlisberger's pass to the first-year fullback keeps alive the Steelers' opportunity to tie the game, but Daryl Smith didn't drop the next poor pass. The Ravens converted that interception into a 50-yard field goal and a 13-3 halftime lead.

* Mallett realizes he's Mallett coming out of the break in a game that appears to have the same script as the previous week's win against the Broncos. The Steelers take advantage of a three-and-out by the Ravens and a pair of pass interference penalties for 53 yards to score a touchdown and come within 13-10.

* However, another interception by the Ravens put the brakes on the comeback. And the Steelers' lack of pressure from their lighter-and-faster nickel front doesn't compensate for its soft run defense and the Ravens are back on top, 20-10.

* Would it kill the Steelers to use more Steve McLendon? It seems as if I ask this question every week, and every week the light front puts less pressure on the opposing quarterback, particularly from its young edge-rushers. There's a breakdown in this equation somewhere, kind of like the one involving the aforementioned poor-tackling, run-downs cornerback.

* There was still time for the Comeback Kid, though, and Roethlisberger begins this attempt by throwing twice to Heath Miller. It works. Naturally. And a pass interference call and a lucky break that turned a 102-yard pick six into an offsides penalty and first down at the one combine to bring the Steelers within three, 20-17, with 6:33 left.

* The defense holds, the Steelers got the ball back with 2:55 remaining, and Roethlisberger gets sacked. The answer to the third-and-long/fourth-and-long scenario is to throw bombs. They of course fall incomplete.

* The Steelers did get the ball back for a prayer, but instead of throwing deep for one of those freak PI calls and a free field-goal attempt with no time on the clock, the Steelers try an all-laterals play they haven't used all season.

Yes, it would've been the time to actually throw deep, but that's neither here nor there. The point instead is this: scoreboard.

This was yet another awful loss for a team and coach that's been stockpiling them over the last few years. The difference with this loss is the timing. Those other losses fell under the rebuilding phase of the Roethlisberger II era. This loss occurred with what we all assumed was the finished product of that rebuilding phase, or at least finished enough to beat the Mallett-led Ravens with everything on the line.

Not everyone was healthy, but they were healthy enough. And the Steelers came out and laid a rotten egg.

This one is the worst loss of the Tomlin era. This one will hang on this team like stinky gas throughout what promises to be a long and miserable offseason.

Sure, the Steelers can get some help from the Bills next week, or even the Bengals tonight and the Chargers next week, but the odds say it won't happen. The odds say this most putrid smell will linger -- for a long time.

Steel City Insider Top Stories