Antonio Brown runs out of bounds on the final play of last Sunday's loss to the Cowboys.
The Steelers stink. That, I don’t mind.
But the in-house rhetoric is growing quite wearisome.
-- Mike Tomlin said he spoke to Antonio Brown about lamely running out of bounds to end Sunday’s loss to Dallas instead of trying to extend the play. Brown says no such talk occurred. Someone is lying, and the Steelers don’t wear it well either way.
-- Regarding that play, Brown said, “We lose a game, and everyone finds a reason to say that one play was the reason we lost.” Absolutely nobody said that. Continued Brown, “What should I do, just get tackled in bounds?” Yes.
-- Ben Roethlisberger absolved Brown of blame for scooting out of bounds (and padding his stats by a few yards) in that instance. Before and after the loss to Dallas, Roethlisberger preached accountability. Then he helps Brown dodge it.
-- After Jarvis Jones lost his starting job at outside linebacker to James Harrison, fellow ‘backer Art Moats said Jones wasn’t being singled out: “That’s just the outside looking in.” But the Steelers’ defense is a dumpster fire, and exactly one guy got demoted. That is literally the definition of being singled out.
Few mentioned Brown going out of bounds rather than risk a collision with the punter. Maybe he was racing home to use the Skittles vending machine he’s got.
The headlines downtown invoke the problems of injuries, suspensions and luck. No other teams, you see, have players hurt or suspended, and all their luck is good.
Why can’t anybody just say the Steelers stink?
The AFC North may stink worse. That may be the season’s saving grace.
It’s actually to Roethlisberger’s credit that he exonerated Brown. Not because Brown didn’t chump out. He definitely did.
But leading these Steelers is like trying to herd cats. Roethlisberger always forces the ball to Brown at garbage time. Brown gets the boo-boo face when his stats lag, and Roethlisberger rightly thinks the Steelers need Brown fully engaged.
Brown had 35 consecutive games with at least five catches that totaled 50 yards or more. That is a random, invented, totally convoluted and absolutely meaningless mark. But Brown bought into it, so Roethlisberger fed it. It ended last season while Roethlisberger was hurt, and that was no coincidence.
Brown isn’t the only attitude problem the Steelers have. He’s just the noisiest. Thank God he’s not married to Kate Upton.
Outlooks change when teams win, and it’s not too late for that. Sunday’s game at winless Cleveland is suddenly a nervy situation even though the Steelers are favored by eight. It’s supposed to be cold and windy, maybe rainy. That won’t help.
The Steelers’ defense figured to be historically bad. But the most surprising and damaging problems are on offense.
-- No one has come close to replacing suspended Martavis Bryant at No. 2 receiver. Sammie Coates has been the most visible and disappointing failure.
-- Jesse James just isn’t yet a No. 1 tight end. Perhaps the return of Ladarius Green (finally) from injury will solve that.
-- The offensive line isn’t as advertised. Alejandro Villanueva is a great story but a mediocre left tackle. Guard David DeCastro personifies the Steelers by not being nearly as good as he’s supposed to be.
-- Since returning from NFL pot jail, Le’Veon Bell’s stats are more than adequate, especially catching the ball. But Bell hasn’t been as impactful as needed, maybe because offensive coordinator Todd Haley uses Bell every way but the usual. In motion, in the slot, split wide – but not often enough as a conventional back.
It all adds up. The Steelers were supposed to average 30 points per game, but are averaging 24. Those extra six points aren’t all missed two-point conversions.
Mark Madden hosts a radio show 3-6 p.m. weekdays on WXDX-FM (105.9).