Amazing disgrace

The worst that can be said is that the heart seems to be lacking with the 2009 Pittsburgh Steelers.

Let's get this straight: In the span of four days we've seen the Pittsburgh Steelers go from the defending Super Bowl champions who needed to win their remaining games to get into the playoffs, to a team in complete disarray after losing to the Oakland Raiders and Cleveland Browns.

That just about sums it up.

Let's repeat that last part, the Steelers have lost to the Raiders and Browns in the span of four days, two teams that will both be picking in the top 10 when the draft is held in a couple of months.

I'd say that I'm shocked, but that would be an understatement.

The most galling thing about Thursday night's 13-6 loss to the Browns was not that they lost, but how they lost it.

The offense couldn't get its run game going against a Cleveland defense that ranked dead last in the league in total yards against and missing massive nose tackle Shaun Rogers.

Yes, it was cold and windy, which hampered both team's passing game. But the Browns, who entered the game averaging 98 yards rushing per game, found a way to gash the Steelers for 171 yards rushing despite quarterback Brady Quinn completing six of 19 passes for 90 yards.

The Steelers, meanwhile, managed 75 yards rushing on 22 attempts, with a long run of 10 yards on a Ben Roethlisberger scramble. Rashard Mendenhall had a long run of seven yards and gained 53 yards on 16 attempts, a nice 3.3 average.

I'm not sure which one was worse, the fact the Steelers couldn't run the ball or that the Browns did.

You've got to hand it to them; this team has found new and different ways to lose throughout its current winless streak.

© I'm sure the offensive line is taking a lot of heat because Roethlisberger was sacked eight times (!) in this game by a Cleveland defense that entered the game with 24 sacks.

But if you watch those first four sacks, they were completely on Roethlisberger. So were a couple of the later ones, though the receivers are certainly a big part of that as well.

Cleveland pulled out the tape from the Philadelphia game last season and brought everybody up to the line of scrimmage, bringing two or even three guys on blitzes.

That's more than the offensive line can handle. And in those cases, it's on the quarterback to identify the blitzers and hit his hot reads. The receivers, meanwhile, have to get open and communicate with the QB, realizing when he needs them to go hot.

That didn't happen a whole lot.

And late in the game, Roethlisberger admitted to being skittish in the pocket.

© Head coach Mike Tomlin said there might be some changes in this game and there were.

We saw Rashard Mendenhall on third down in place of Mewelde Moore in the backfield - when they didn't go empty set and get sacked.

We saw Moore and Santonio Holmes used more on punt returns, though Moore was out there as the hands guy because of the swirling winds.

We saw safety Ryan Mundy benched in the nickel, with Tyrone Carter staying on the field.

And we saw rookie cornerback Joe Burnett splitting time with William Gay in the base and Deshea Townsend in the nickel.

Because of the weather, we don't really know if those changes in the pass defense made any real difference.

But if the Steelers are intent on using Moore as their "hands" return man, shouldn't he actually catch the ball cleanly?

And if they also want Holmes back there, what purpose does keeping Stefan Logan around serve?

Logan has already been taken off the special teams coverage units. If he's not returning kicks, all he's doing is needlessly eating up a roster spot.

© I heard a lot of words being bandied about in the Steelers locker room following that loss. Embarrassed was one. Angry was another.

It's too bad that anger isn't translating to the team's play.

These Steelers weren't angry. They looked like a team waiting for the Browns to roll over and be the Browns and it didn't happen.

But after also losing to horrific Kansas City and Oakland teams in their current five-game losing streak, why would they expect the Browns to fear them?

These Browns had watched those games and knew the Steelers were ripe for the picking.

© Roethlisberger looked as if he were ready to cry while speaking - if you want to call one and two-word answers speaking - to the media following the game.

He should cry because this pass-happy offense that he has lobbied for hasn't worked out at all.

And when you consider that the last time the Steelers fell in love with the passing game - 2003 - was the last time they finished under .500, you have to figure this philosophy won't be around after this season.

Dale Lolley appears courtesy of the Observer-Reporter.

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