New Castle News

Closer Look

October 12, 2012

Steve Treu on the Steelers: How could Pittsburgh lose to lowly Titans? Too many injuries, too little defense

NEW CASTLE — A wise man once said, “It’s not whether you win or lose, it’s how you place the blame.”

I think it was Beano Cook, rest his witty soul. Maybe it was Gandhi.

Perhaps it was just me.

Whichever of us it was, great insight.

Last night was a game filled with interesting factoids, such as Ben Roethlisberger surpassing Terry Bradshaw as the franchise’s all-time leader in passing yards, Heath Miller moving into third place in team history for career receptions and Isaac Redman being the first Pittsburgh running back in 42 years with a 100-yard receiving game.

 But the statistic that jumps out at you should be this:

 Over the last five seasons, more Steelers offensive lineman (37) have had the back of their legs rolled up on by big hogs than every other team in the NFL combined (35)*.

(*Completely made up statistic, done purely to facilitate the point of this column.)

 Well, it sure seems that way.

 Once Maurkice Pouncey hit the turf (again) as if he had been shot after he had been rolled up on during the first play from scrimmage, I typed “Game Over” on my keyboard. Perhaps I shoulda typed “Season Over.”

 Mike Tomlin likes to say, “The standard is the standard” after one of his top players gets hurt, as if he seriously expects his backups to play as well as his starters.

 Is that right, Mike? Would there be no dropoff if Todd Haley took over for you as head coach?

 Perhaps the Steelers should have won in Tennessee last night instead of losing 26-23 on a last-second field goal, but says here that you can feel free to blame this one on injuries.

 Pittsburgh is 28-9 when Troy Polamalu plays since 2009, now 7-9 when he doesn’t. With Polamalu, LaMarr Woodley and Pouncey out of the action, as they were for 59 minutes and 55 seconds last night, the Steelers are 0-17* in that time.

 (*Yes, another made up stat, but also seemingly true.)

 The standard may be the standard, but Polamalu, Woodley and Pouncey are all Pro Bowlers. How would The Stones play without Mick and Keith? Could Honey Boo Boo fill in for Snooki just because they are both reality TV beauties?

Backups are backups for a reason, and the Steelers are going nowhere with so many stars hurt.

Oh, sure, there was plenty of blame to go around last night.

Ike Taylor covered less than a thong. Keenan Lewis dropped an easy interception on Tennessee’s game-tying touchdown drive. The blocked punt was a killer. Roethlisberger missed two open receivers on his wild scramble right before Shaun Suisham’s missed field goal in the final minute.

Says here that none of that would have mattered had the team been at full strength.

It may sound like an excuse, and it is. A good one. Winning that game without so many elite players in addition to key guys like Redman, Rashard Mendenhall and Marcus Gilbert exiting the game with injuries would have been impressive.

The upside to this viewpoint is that, if healthy, the Steelers (even at 2-3) might still be a legitimate playoff contender in a weakened AFC.

The downside: is there any reason to believe that Polamalu, Woodley, Pouncey and friends are capable of staying healthy?

(Steve Treu covers the Steelers for The News.)


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