A loss is a loss is a loss.

Did the Steelers play better Sunday at Denver? In some areas, yes. In others, no.">
A loss is a loss is a loss.

Did the Steelers play better Sunday at Denver? In some areas, yes. In others, no.">

It was still a loss

<b>DENVER - </b> The most silly question asked in the locker room following the Steelers' 17-14 loss to the Broncos was one that was asked over and over again: "Do you guys feel like you righted the ship today?" <br><br> A loss is a loss is a loss.<br><br> Did the Steelers play better Sunday at Denver? In some areas, yes. In others, no.

The defense and special teams were pretty strong Sunday. If the Steelers continue to play defense and cover kicks like that, they are going to win their share of games down the stretch.

But that was the worst offensive performance of the season for this team.

And football is the ultimate team game.

This team continues to be unable to generate any kind of running game at all and it's killing it in the red zone. When opponents are still playing a two-deep zone inside the 20 like the Broncos were doing, you're just not going to be able to throw the ball into the end zone without chancing an interception because the back of the end zone acts like a 12th defender on the field. Opponents are stopping the Steelers from running the ball with seven guys and therefore the safeties don't have to worry about play-action fakes. They're staying at home and not biting on the fakes, so there's very little room for quarterback Tommy Maddox to squeeze a throw in.

He made a nice throw to Jay Riemersma in the end zone Sunday only to see strong safety Nick Ferguson smack the ball out of there with a big hit. Ferguson was penalized for a helmet-to-helmet blow on the play, but the message was sent: "We don't respect your running game, so you're going to pay to throw the ball in here."

In the old days, the strong safety would not have been standing in the end zone waiting to deliver a big blow. He would have been up in the box to help out in the running game.

Until the Steelers get some kind of running game going, their red zone offense is going to continue to struggle.

© One of the bright spots for the Steelers was the play of Troy Polamalu.

He had an important quarterback pressure on a blitz to force a third-down incompletion, broke up a pass, and made a nice special teams tackle.

Polamalu was penalized for pass interference on a deep ball to Shannon Sharpe, but in his defense, the Broncos should have been called for holding on the play as Clark Haggans was being mugged by Dan Neil right in front of an official and nothing was called.

And Polamalu was running pretty much stride-for-stride with Sharpe on the play and their feet got tangled up. Question: Had it been Polamalu who fell down and Sharpe had caught the ball and continued running, would they have flagged Sharpe for interference? Didn't think so. These are the problems NFL defensive backs have to deal with.

© Quick baseball note: What the hell was Don Zimmer thinking?

© Second baseball note: David Wells pulled his groin coming out of the dugout to enter the scrum at midfield you only see in baseball. If you get hurt on your way to the fight, you probably shouldn't be going out there at all.

© Back to football.

© I don't have the exact numbers, but when the Steelers go to their no-huddle, hurry-up offense, they move the ball very effectively. And more than one player agreed with me Sunday following the game that they are very effective running that offense.

So why not run it more often than just out of necessity? The no-huddle provides a spark and it slowed down that Denver pass rush Sunday because the Broncos were getting tired. I'm not saying the Steelers should run it exclusively, but three or four times a game wouldn't hurt.

© Antwaan Randle El looks like a man who has lost his desire to be back fielding punts any longer. He's just too indecisive now. Punt returners have to be the most decisive men on your team. There's not a lot of time to think back there.

© The Steelers forced three turnovers that led to six points. Denver forced one turnover that led to seven points. You have to make the most of your opponent's mistakes.

© The Steelers averaged 1.9 yards rushing on first down and .4 (that's not a misprint) passing on eight first-down passing attempts. Overall, they ran 27 first-down plays and gained 40 yards, a 1.5 yards per play average.

That's a lot of second-and-longs.

© Mathias Nkwenti will be the Steelers starting right tackle coming out of the bye. You heard it here first.

© That is assuming, of course, old blood and guts Marvel Smith decides to suit it up and play again this season.

Wayne Gandy wasn't considered a tough guy and he played almost a full season with a torn rotator cuff.

Just throwing that out there Marvel.

© The Steelers come out of the bye with a game at Heinz Field against St. Louis. They then travel to Seattle before coming home again to play Arizona.

The Steelers have to win two of those three games to have a chance to turn this thing around. That would put them at 4-5 heading into a tough Monday night game at San Francisco.

There's no reason to believe this team can't win seven or eight of its final 10 games.

Then again, there was no reason to believe they'd start the season 2-4.

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