New Castle News
NEW CASTLE —
Five words separated the Pittsburgh Steelers from making a game of it yesterday.
Charlie Batch to Hines Ward.
Had only the Steelers started Batch and brought Ward out of retirement, they would not have been embarrassed as they were 34-24 to San Diego at Heinz Field.
Says here they would have won.
That is not to say that Pittsburgh should have started Batch, of course. Since Ben Roethlisberger was healthy, obviously he plays.
But the pathetic performance just put on by the Steelers speaks to the psychology of the game. More to the point, it speaks to their fragile psyche at this late stage of the season.
Apparently passion is needed to play this sport.
Last week in Baltimore, playing inspired ball behind Batch, they had it. Yesterday, as Bill the Cat would say, “Thbbft!”
Imagine the reception Batch would have gotten from the locals yesterday, one week after the hometown boy made the hometown fans proud with a comeback win over the hated Ravens. Sensing their need to maintain their intensity, the Steelers would have rallied around him and done what everyone expected them to do, coasting past the Chargers.
But with Big Ben back, the opposite happened. They coasted all right, putting it on cruise control in anticipation of an easy win. They won’t admit it, but they were looking past San Diego and ahead to sexier matchups against Dallas and Cincinnati over the next two weeks.
With Batch in there, the Steelers win 17-16 yesterday. (Go ahead, prove me wrong.)
As for Ward, that one wasn’t a serious suggestion — though his leadership was sorely missed — but was meant to illustrate a point or five.
Great hands are more valuable than great speed.
Both Mike Wallace and Antonio Brown dropped potential huge gainers in the first half, either of which would have flipped field position and dramatically altered the momentum of the game.
Wallace wasn’t able to outrun the boos that came cascading down upon him after his whiff. If he had Ward’s hands (in addition to about a dozen other intangibles), Wallace would be headed where Ward surely will end up in a few years — Canton.
As it is, the young burner might be headed to Ohio all right, as some smitten franchise like Cleveland will surely overpay for his services next season.
Five words for Wallace’s two Oscar-worthy (as in The Grouch, as in garbage time) touchdowns: too little, far too late.
Ward also would have had the football IQ to knock a loose ball out of the back of the end zone and save five points, unlike Brown, who apparently had visions of scooping up Roethlisberger’s lateraled fumble and running 108 yards for a touchdown.
Good idea, Antonio. If you’re playing Madden 2013.
Not only would Ward’s fire have been nice in the huddle yesterday, his no-quit attitude might have nudged coach Mike Tomlin into keeping his head in the game.
What in the sacred name of Art Rooney was Tomlin doing booting the PAT after Wallace’s second touchdown made it 34-16? Let’s see, a two-point conversion there makes it 34-18 … and a two-score game! Who is the team mathematician, Bill the Cat?
There was still 6:07 left to play!
When Brown scored his Oscarian TD with a minute left, Tomlin sent out the PAT unit … because two points there would have only made it a nine-point game.
No point at that point for the two-pointer, eh?
Perhaps Tomlin knew that the outcome was largely irrelevant. With Cincinnati losing as well, a playoff game is now set for Heinz Field in two weeks. Steelers vs. Bengals. The winner is going to qualify for the postseason.
Turns out the San Diego game really meant very little.
And the Steelers played like it.
(Steve Treu covers the Steelers for The News.)