Pittsburgh Steelers Playing Russian Roulette

<b>PITTSBURGH - </b> When you look at the time of possession advantage St. Louis enjoyed over the Steelers Sunday - 40 minutes to 20 - it's amazing that the score was just 33-21 in favor of the Rams.

Allowing an explosive offense like St. Louis' to have 15 possessions and run 76 plays against your defense is like playing Russian Roulette. Sooner or later, something bad is going to happen.

Given it was on the field so much, the Steelers defense actually didn't play all that poorly. In fact, while the Rams scored four touchdowns and two field goals, that's still not all that much given the fact they were on the field so much.

Which leads me to a question: What exactly was offensive coordinator Mike Mularkey's offensive philosophy Sunday? Jerome Bettis ran the ball well and hurt the Rams . when he actually got the ball.

But 12 carries aren't enough to convince a team you are willing to run the ball, even when you're doing it pretty well. The fact that the Steelers ran the ball just 18 times in a game in which they trailed by three points at halftime and actually led 21-20 midway through the third quarter is appalling, especially on a wet, muddy field.

I'm surprised defensive coordinator Tim Lewis didn't take a Buddy Ryan-like swipe at offensive coordinator Mike Mularkey for that one.

St. Louis, on the other hand, gave the ball to undrafted free agent rookie Arlen Harris 34 times. And even though Harris got just 81 yards on all of those carries, he did just enough to keep the Steelers honest and scored three touchdowns to boot.

I'm not suggesting the Steelers should have given the ball to Bettis 34 times - they would have had to scrape him off the field - but 20 would have been nice.

© When the Steelers put pressure on Rams quarterback Marc Bulger, he reacted by making poor throws.

Of course they only pressured him about seven or eight times on the 39 times he dropped back to pass, choosing instead to rush three guys about 75 percent of the time by my estimation. Watching the Kansas City Chiefs play Sunday night, I noted about five or six occasions where they sent eight guys up the middle at Buffalo quarterback Drew Bledsoe.

And on one occasion, five defenders hit Bledsoe for a sack at the same time.

When they got up off of him, Bledsoe was curled up in the fetal position with his thumb in his mouth. He was done playing for the night, as were the rest of the Bills.

My point? The other quarterback must go down and he must go down hard.

© Overall, the offensive line played pretty well Sunday. Tommy Maddox was sacked just two times and had a decent amount of time to throw the ball.

© Lost in the shuffle Sunday was the fact that the Steelers finally let James Farrior play the middle in the dime defense and allowed Joey Porter to move around and rush from different spots.

It resulted in two sacks for Porter.

© Can more changes be in the works? We can only hope so.

© Brent Alexander is a stand-up guy and a true professional, but the time has come to get Chris Hope some playing time.

They are willing to live with Troy Polamalu's mistakes, but are unwilling to do the same with Hope.

Sometimes you have to bite the bullet and let the young guys run.

© I am not of the belief that they should bench Jason Gildon in favor of Clark Haggans, not if they are going to continue to play defense the way they have been.

At least Gildon gets a hand on the ball dropping into coverage every once in a while.

Now if they want to turn that position loose and let the outside linebackers rush the passer more, by all means, start working Haggans in there.

© Shock and disbelief. That's what I saw in the locker room following that loss Sunday.

They can't believe what's happening to them and they don't know how to stop it.

That's a bad sign.

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