Steelers sleepwalk through another one

This version of the Pittsburgh Steelers is one that is difficult to get a handle on.

It used to be I felt I always had a pretty good finger on the pulse of what was going on with the Pittsburgh Steelers.

This year's team, however, has me a bit perplexed. Whereas in the past, you could count on the Steelers to put forth a solid effort in games like the one they had Sunday – meaningless in every way except for pride – now, even that is not guaranteed.

The Steelers laid down like dogs against the Ravens Sunday, something nobody would have thought would happen against a bitter rival.

In fact, the guys who actually took the field looked like players attempting to get through the game without getting hurt.

There were some notable exceptions. James Harrison played hard as usual, as did Tyrone Carter and some others. But generally, the Steelers looked like they were going through the motions in this one.

Heck, nose tackle Casey Hampton got caught offsides, on two occasions, despite the fact he lines up directly over the ball.

I know Baltimore rookie QB Troy Smith is a cagey guy, but you can't tell me that he's already learned the nuances of changing his cadence to draw players offsides.

And the tackling, as it has been the past month and a half, was atrocius once again.

This team has all the looks of a team that is just happy to make the playoffs, one that will be one-and-done in the postseason.

© I think we need to put out and APB on that player who torched Penn State a few years ago in a bowl game for Florida State.

He's either gone missing, or that was somebody else in Willie Reid's uniform that day.

Reid looks like a bust as a return man and he doesn't offer enough as a wide receiver to warrant a roster spot as a wide receiver. It looks like a wasted third-round draft pick.

© The Steelers didn't get much of a chance to learn a whole lot about their new-look running game in this one as they fell behind early.

Najeh Davenport had 27 yards on just 12 carries, while rookie Gary Russell had just six carries, gaining 20 yards.

Hey, what better time to find out if you can run the ball than in the first round of the playoffs?

© If there was one positive to Sunday's game, it was that Baltimore failed to record a sack. That's just the second time this season the Steelers did not allow a sack, with the other being against Cincinnati Dec. 2.

Of course it does make you wonder – again – how much of the protection problems the Steelers have had this season are the line and how much should be laid at the feet of Ben Roethlisberger.

If it's not Roethlisberger's fault, then we're to believe that Trai Essex, who played about three and a half quarters at left tackle after Max Starks was injured, did a good job on Terrell Suggs. I don't know if I'm ready to make that leap of faith.

© How much better is LaMarr Woodley going to be next season when he actually figures out what he's doing?

Woodley gets himself out of position in the run game and has missed some tackles this season because of it, but he sure can rush the passer.

© The most shocking thing about the Ravens rushing for 180 yards in this game was that Baltimore really should not have been much of a passing threat.

Smith was 16 of 27 for 171 yards and was a rookie playing in just his third game. Of course the Steelers helped him out by dropping a couple of interceptions, including one by Ike Taylor that Smith threw right to him.

Had Taylor caught that ball – I know, it's a stretch – he would have been gone for about a 90-yard touchdown. Instead, he dropped it and Baltimore kicked a field goal at the end of the first half. That was the difference between the Steelers going into the locker room down 17-14 instead of 20-7.

Taylor needs to spend the offseason working hard to improve his hands – again. You can't drop the easy ones.

© Even though the Steelers have made the playoffs, this is a team in need of a serious offseason makeover.

It lacks defensive playmakers and the offensive line just isn't that good.

Dale Lolley appears courtesy of the Observer-Reporter.


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