By Mark Madden
Beaver County Times
October 6, 2014
After the Steelers mangled most of football’s general principles in a loss to previously winless Tampa Bay last week, coach Mike Tomlin vowed to “fix it.”
He didn’t. Not yet, anyway. It’s still broke.
A win is a win. But it’s difficult to be impressed by Sunday’s 17-9 victory at 0-5 Jacksonville. The Steelers lugged around the NFL’s worst team for far too long.
Jacksonville had previously been defeated by 17, 31, 27 and 19 points. The Jaguars had allowed an average of 38 points before Sunday. The Steelers scored 17 points, and seven of those came via defense.
The Steelers “only” took seven penalties. Most annoyed rather than damage, the potential for calamity relieved by Jacksonville’s severely limited capability. The Jaguars have lost eight straight, but never truly seemed out of this one.
Lance Moore spiked the ball after a pedestrian catch, drawing a delay-of-game penalty and Tomlin’s ire. When Tomlin jawed at Moore, Moore jawed back.
The Steelers went offside twice in a row on kickoffs.
Robert Golden committed two penalties on special teams. Golden is the special-teams captain.
Troy Polamalu went offside on a Jacksonville spike, taking the Jaguars five yards closer to a field goal in pursuit of a big play that was literally impossible to make.
Do the Steelers even listen to Tomlin?
The Steelers indulge an outdated version of football. They pass a bit more than they run, but many of Ben Roethlisberger’s passes might as well be runs. Fifteen of his 26 completions yesterday went to backs and tight ends. If bubble screens carried the Ebola virus, Jacksonville would be a wasteland of corpses.
Le’Veon Bell is the new “best all-around back in football,” except he’s not. In a quick-strike, score-often league, what will that get the Steelers?
Another 8-8 season, probably.
The notion of wearing the opposition down, then winning in the fourth quarter still works. As long as you play a team that hasn’t won since Dec. 5, 2013.
Then, it barely works.
If you’re tired of reading my tepid punch lines, I’m no less tired of watching the Steelers doggedly refuse to modernize.
I’m no less tired of watching offensive coordinator Todd Haley turn Ben Roethlisberger into Mike Tomczak. I’m no less tired of red-zone inefficiency. Memo to Haley: Yards aren’t points.
I’m no less tired of hearing what a miracle worker offensive line coach Mike Munchak is, yet Roethlisberger has already been sacked 15 times.
I’m no less tired of hearing about Dick LeBeau’s timeless defensive wisdom even as his bend-but-don’t-break defense bends and breaks. (Yesterday was an exception. But, QB Blake Bortles’ ample potential duly noted, Jacksonville’s rookie-infested offense would have a hard time scoring much in WPIAL Quad-A.)
The Steelers have the rep, but their results are limited. All hat, no cattle.
Perhaps it’s part of a building process. But right now, the Steelers stink.
Tomlin can’t “fix it” as long as the Steelers overestimate themselves, and where they should be. As I have little doubt they do. The Steelers’ biggest problem has always been their inability to recognize problems.
Next Sunday’s visit to Cleveland looms big. The Steelers blew a 27-3 halftime lead when the Browns visited Heinz Field for the season opener, only to salvage victory when Shaun Suisham hit a tiebreaking field goal as time expired.
Brice McCain saved the day Sunday with his pick-six. But McCain literally made me change the station when he said, during the radio post-game, that he was blessed, the Steelers were blessed and everybody was blessed.
If God watched yesterday’s dumpster fire at Jacksonville, I feel very confident in saying He would not want to be associated with it.
I bet God watches NFL RedZone.
Mark Madden hosts a radio show 3-6 p.m. weekdays on WXDX-FM (105.9).