NEW CASTLE —
This one may come back to haunt them, of course.
September losses, especially inside the conference, often look much worse in December when postseason positioning is on the line.
But if the Pittsburgh Steelers are to even make the playoffs this season, yesterday’s 34-31 loss at Oakland may turn out to be a turning point in a positive direction for one important reason.
They seemingly figured out what to do with their offense.
OK, it was against the Raiders’ defense, one hampered by injuries, and that cannot be discounted from the equation.
Yet, the decision to attack so much through the air was a welcome sight, hearkening back to offensive coordinator Todd Haley’s high-flying days with Kurt Warner in Arizona as opposed to his ineffective run-oriented offensive stint in Kansas City. And putting to rest any concerns you should have about this team committing to the run when there isn’t one.
This is Ben Roethlisberger’s team to lead in every way he can. (It’s just a shame he can’t help put pressure on the other team’s quarterback.)
On one side of the ball, there was a lot to like about this game.
You gotta like 36 for 49, 384 yards, four touchdowns — counting the one Antonio Brown fumbled and recovered as a passing score — no interceptions, a 123.2 rating and 31 points from your offense.
You gotta like stud wideouts Brown and Mike Wallace combining for 15 receptions and 210 yards.
You gotta like 10 different players catching the ball, a huge number of targets that underscores the strength of this team.
And you gotta really love Roethlisberger going to Heath Miller so often. He collected 60 clutch yards and two touchdowns on eight receptions, his highest number of grabs in his past 47 games.
Forget about establishing the run every week, establish Miller. He’s been underutilized in the passing game his whole career. His presence over the middle and in the red zone loosens things up for the run, something Tom Brady has perfected in New England throughout his career.
It’s now more clear than ever that the Steelers should abandon the ground game. Everything they did yesterday worked, from quick outs to five wides to the no-huddle to scrambles turned into big plays ... it was vintage Big Ben.
Much to the dismay of Pittsburgh purists, teams can win this way in the NFL. The Packers, Saints, Colts and Patriots have all won Super Bowls in the past decade with elite quarterbacks and pass-first offenses.
Add to that Mike Tomlin’s bold decisions in critical situations — including throwing on fourth-and-1 on their first possession and going for it on fourth-and-1 in their own territory on their last possession — and the personality of this team started to take an interesting shape yesterday. On one side of the ball, at least, it felt downright Belichickian.
Steelers fans should hope it stays that way.
As for that defense, they should hope for a backward pass to 2008, when this team last had a great blend of veteran leadership, youthful enthusiasm and opportunistic ball hawks.
Don’t count on the return of Troy Polamalu and James Harrison to cure all that ails them, either. They are both aging and injury prone. They should be a boost, but three weeks in the makeup of this team is clear.
The Steelers are going to have to win a lot of games 31-27 if they plan on playing deep into January.
(Steve Treu covers the Steelers for The News.)
NEW CASTLE —
This one may come back to haunt them, of course.
Pro Football: Munchak to join Steelers’ staff
Mike Munchak is going back to his roots, and heading closer to home in the process. A person familiar with the decision said Wednesday night the former Tennessee Titans head coach will join the Pittsburgh Steelers as offensive line coach.
Steelers humbled but optimistic after 8-8 finish
The Pittsburgh Steelers have seven long months to think about what exactly happened in 2013. Are they closer to the team that looked lost and overmatched at times during a 2-6 start? Or are they closer to the one that went 6-2 over the final eight weeks and came within a shanked field goal and a botched penalty call in San Diego from making the playoffs?
Steve Treu: Chiefs’ missed field goal left Steelers where they belonged
A successful boot by the Kansas City placekicker was all that separated Pittsburgh from a wildly improbable postseason berth.
Steelers win, but fail to reach playoffs
Pittsburgh played like it didn’t want its season to end. Cleveland looked as though it couldn’t wait to pack things up and go home.
Steelers somehow still alive for playoffs
The math remains tricky. The circumstances remain less than ideal. And yet, the Pittsburgh Steelers are still alive for the playoffs entering the final week of the season.
Steve Treu: Steelers up the ante at the end of lackluster season
That was worth it. No matter what happens next weekend, that was worth it. Yesterday’s high-fiving, head-scratching, jaw-dropping, curse-inducing, postseason death-defying 38-31 victory by the Pittsburgh Steelers over the Green Bay Packers made this otherwise forgettable 2013 season at least somewhat memorable.
Steve Treu: Steelers make easy work of Bungles
For one day, at least, Steelers fans got to turn all those frowns upside down. The recent study by two Emory University professors that described Steelers fans as the most negative in the NFL certainly would surprise no one around these parts, especially not if they have followed this season at all.
Steve Treu: Steelers not done yet — yeah, and Cleveland may win a Super Bowl
Let’s give credit where credit is due. We’ve all seen that multiple-lateraling, fumblerooski-type of play from scrimmage or on a kickoff return at the end of some game virtually every week.
NFL fines Steelers coach Mike Tomlin $100,000
Here’s another adjective Pittsburgh Steelers coach Mike Tomlin can call his ill-timed two-step onto the field last week against Baltimore. Expensive.
Steve Treu: Steelers turn it around with turnovers
Troy Polamalu attempted his patented psycho blitz into the line of scrimmage, only to be stopped cold in his tracks. He bounced off right guard Shawn Lauvao and swiftly doubled back to his original position near midfield, five yards off the line.
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