New Castle News

October 28, 2013

Steve Treu: It was over early in Oakland, but Steelers still made it, uh, interesting

Steve Treu
New Castle News

NEW CASTLE — Early in next year's draft the Pittsburgh Steelers need to select a mathematician.

A kid with an elementary school education would suffice.

You know, someone who can teach the team what to do in obvious situations that require simple addition and subtraction skills.

Down by 11 and therefore needing two scores with 1:43 left on a stopped game clock yesterday, the Steelers had a second-and-3 on the Oakland 12. And they had three timeouts.

With the play clock almost down to zero, Ben Roethlisberger had to make a snap decision: call a timeout or take a delay of game penalty.

Too bad my fourth-grade son Aidan wasn’t in the huddle with the big fella.

“Umm, if the play clock gets close to zero Mr. Roethlisberger, it would be far better to take the penalty than burn a timeout,” Aidan would have told him. “Can I have a popsicle?”

Far better indeed to have second-and-8 there with your full complement of timeouts than to lose the precious commodity that stopping the game clock on defense later would turn out to be. Winning the game was practically contingent on keeping those three timeouts, not on the minor difference between second-and-3 vs. second-and-8 in that obvious passing situation.

(Lo and behold, the very next play netted 8 yards anyways, thereby proving this point before this point is actually proven.)

When the Steelers scored and converted the two-point conversion moments later, without that third timeout they were forced to try an onside kick. And when the Raiders recovered it, they simply had to run the ball three times to effectively kill the rest of the clock.

After their third run, there was 1:11 left. And the clock kept ticking like a timebomb on the Steelers’ season.

“I think that would have been a better situation to call that timeout, Mr. Tomlin,” said the fourth-grader to the head coach on the sideline. “But what do I know? I’m 10. Can I go watch SpongeBob now?”

“Can I go with him?” said the quarterback.

As it turned out, the Steelers got the ball back. On their own 2. With 18 seconds to go.

When Roethlisberger threw over the middle on the next play, it was over. (Cue additional advice from Aidan right here on the wisdom of throwing over the middle at that point when you have, ahem, no timeouts left.)

Oakland 21, Pittsburgh 18, Intelligence 0.

Give the Steelers credit, perhaps, for even making it that interesting.

This one was over just 19 seconds into the first quarter.

Oh, sure, it got tighter there at the end of in the fourth, but for all intents and purposes, the result was decided long before.

Over the past two decades or so, only twice does a game immediately come to mind where Pittsburgh was beaten so quickly.

During the “Fog Bowl” in Foxboro in January of 1997 ... and yesterday.

You may remember that postseason contest against New England, where a heavy fog blanketed the field throughout the afternoon and was a harbinger of doom for the Steelers. On the Patriots’ first play from scrimmage, Drew Bledsoe hit Terry Glenn on a 53-yard bomb down to the 2. The game felt over right there and indeed it was, as New England cruised to a 28-3 triumph.

Yesterday it was over even quicker than that.

Terrelle Pryor ran 93 yards for a touchdown on the first play for scrimmage.

“This game’s over,” said wise young Aidan.

If you throw in Shaun Suisham’s awful kicking, Antonio Brown’s sloppy drops, more injuries to the offensive line and poor math skills, 93-yard runs by the opposing quarterback are hard to overcome.

Right about now Steelers fans have to be feeling like Wes Welker in the commercial where the lizards are eating his legs, except without that Old Spice feeling.

“This season’s over,” said wise young Aidan.

Yep, that adds up.

(Steve Treu covers The Steelers for The News.)