Monday, September 10, 2012

Picking up where we left off

Same place, same result.  A slightly different cast of characters, but still:  Last night in Denver, the Steelers entered the game thin at offensive line and linebacker, and it cost them.

The pass protection was leaky, the running lanes were clogged, and, on defense, there was no pass rush to speak of  -- and the absence of Ryan Clark (though no fault of his own) cost the Steelers once again.

Ryan Clark will return next week.  The problems on the offensive line and at linebacker, however, do not bode well for the rest of the season.

Without injured first-round pick David DeCastro, whom the Steelers were counting on to start at right guard, and with second-year right tackle Marcus Gilbert leaving the game early with a knee injury, the line's performance was shaky, at best.  Rookie tackle Mike Adams looked unready for prime time and was overmatched by Denver's speed-rushing defensive end Aldon Smith.  Because the Steelers needed to keep a tight end at the line to help Adams, that limited their receiving options in the passing game. 

It's tough to evaluate the Todd Haley offense off last night's performance.  Antonio Brown and Heath Miller showed up, as always, but the running game failed to gain any traction -- mainly, so far as we could see, because there was little room to run.

The offense is a big cipher at this point.  It didn't show much.  Ben Roethlisberger was his maddening self.   Although he showed flashes of his typical brilliance, Roethlisberger didn't exactly put the team on his back and carry it.  Then again, with the offensive line in shambles yet again, that might have been too much to ask of 'most any quarterback.

On defense, there was no pass rush when it mattered.  The Steelers missed James Harrison, out with an injury, but it's possible they also missed James Farrior (waived/retired) and his veteran savvy.

Young linebackers Stevenson Sylvester and Sean Spence -- whom the Steelers were counting on to infuse some energy into an aging linebacker corps -- those two key players were missing with injury.  Harrison's replacements, Jason Worilds and Chris Carter, did nothing special, the sack by Worilds notwithstanding.

At inside linebacker, Larry Foote looked steady but unspectacular, which is his game, but Lawrence Timmons seemed to be a half-step or so off too many plays -- notably the Knowshon Moreno touchdown run.  Lamarr Woodley did okay, but without Harrison, teams can account for Woodley.

The secondary was spotty.  At safety, the Steelers missed Clark, badly, and we'll leave it at that. 

Time to regroup.

Oh, and the Pirates?  They're done.  Since reaching their season high-water mark of 16 games over .500 on August 1, the Bucs have gone 12-23.  The good times were fun while they lasted.  The Pirates are just five games over .500 and need to win 10 of the remaining 23 games to finish the season with a winning record.  We'll keep our fingers crossed.

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