New Castle News
NEW CASTLE —
Apparently Ryan Clark isn’t the only one who can’t play in the high altitude.
The rare air of Denver left nearly all of his defensive teammates gasping for oxygen last night.
Seemingly breathless throughout most of the evening against Peyton Manning, the Steelers were no match against the no-huddle from No-Neck.
Manning, he of the four anterior cervical fusion surgeries since the last time he played, carved up the opponent’s defense like he so often did in his prime.
It barely mattered if his neck was stiff, he was able to bend and bend and bend Pittsburgh’s top-ranked defense from a year ago until it broke into pieces.
Hey, if Tim Tebow can break these guys, certainly Manning can.
Last we saw them, the Steelers were getting Tebowed in the first round of the playoffs last season. Last night, Manning was almost as good as Tebow. (And that’s the first and last time anyone will ever write that sentence.)
Tebow throttled the alleged best past defense in the NFL for 316 yards, two touchdowns (including an 80-yard scoring strike to Demaryius Thomas), no interceptions and a 125.6 rating. Manning just picked apart the same unit for 253 yards, two touchdowns (including a 71-yard scoring strike to Demaryius Thomas), no interceptions and a 129.2 rating.
What, does Peyton Manning study game film or something? He was certainly channeling his inner Tebow. (There’s another seven words that have never fallen in that particular alignment before in human history.)
Manning ultimately stole the spotlight from what should have been a column featuring the lowlights of head-scratching coaching decisions, led by new offensive coordinator Todd Haley repeatedly calling for runs when the Steelers should have been throwing and for throws when they should have been running.
Pittsburgh ran on eight of nine first downs in the first half, except when they were inside Denver’s 5. That close to the end zone, when there is oh so much room for the receivers to operate, they passed six times and never ran once.
Haley was so unpredictable he was predictable.
One of those passes inside the 5 was a Ben Roethlisberger spike to stop the clock after picking up a first down with 36 seconds left in the first half. There’s 36 seconds left and you clock it? Certainly Mike Tomlin should have a play for that situation so that they don’t waste a down. If there’s 15 seconds left, the spike makes sense. But with 36 seconds left?
Apparently the Steelers don’t watch game film and notice how the Tom Bradys of the world know how to fake spike and toss a safe fade into the corner of the end zone.
Finally, don’t the Steelers have The Chart? Can’t someone in the front office Google it for them? And if The Chart actually exists, does it really say to go for 2 when ahead by 5 with 14 minutes left in the game so that two field goals can beat you?
When Tomlin went for 2 and failed, it was a fait accompli that when the Broncos scored their go-ahead touchdown they would nail their 2. By then, the defense was gassed.
Without Clark (sickle cell concerns) and James Harrison (knee), the Steelers were about as effective in the defensive clutch as Manning and Deion Sanders are at selling Directv’s NFL Sunday Ticket package. (Do tell, why are fairies going to convince someone to watch football?)
If there’s any good news to highlight, it’s that this loss wasn’t as bad as last season’s opening disaster at Baltimore. The Steelers recovered from that debacle quite nicely and came within one late pass defense in the home game against the Ravens from winning the division.
There’s not much shame in losing to Manning on the road in a difficult venue in front of hyped-up fans before a national TV audience without two of your best defenders.
Clark will certainly be happy to see his first action of the season next week at Heinz Field.
Perhaps his teammates will show up and play their first game as well.
(Steve Treu covers the Steelers as a correspondent for The News. Have a question, complaint or kudos for Treu? Contact his editor, Kayleen Cubbal, at (724) 764-6651, ext. 617.)