All season long it had been this way so why should anyone be surprised? When the offense scored points the defense gave up points. When the offense struggled, the defense played well and kept the games close. This, for the most part was the 2012 Pittsburgh Steelers with only a few minor exceptions.
For the second straight week, Ben Roethlisberger threw an interception which ultimately cost his team any chance at victory and while there was much blame to go around on this day, the 13-10 loss to the Bengals was clearly on the back of #7.
His poor read and pass in the first half was returned for a pick-six by Leon Hall and then his errant throw with under :30 seconds remaining allowed the Bengals to get into field goal position for the game-winning kick with just four ticks left.
Roethlisberger has not been the same since his injury against Kansas City earlier in the season in my opinion. He missed the next three games and has never really been able to gain the consistency in his throws he had during the early part of the season.
The offensive line struggled most of the day with rookie David DeCastro having a day he’d like to forget as he was abused along with Ramon Foster several times on the afternoon. The poor blocking led to sacks of Roethlisberger that just almost seemed destined before the snap even occurred.
What is clear to me is that there is most certainly problems between Roethlisberger and offensive coordinator Todd Haley. While last week’s comments may only have been the first ‘public’ ones, there is a clear divide between the two men and you can see it in the frustration of Roethlisberger.
Whether you are in the crowd that believes Haley was a hire by Art Rooney II in his efforts to make the Steelers a “running team” once again is frankly a moot point now. We saw this offense click as it was supposed to many times in the first half of the season. Roethlisberger was making quick throws and good reads and the time of possession was frequently dominated by the Steelers and then suddenly it all went haywire.
It was obvious to me that between the injury issues on offense and defensive coordinators adjusting, that the offense slowly lost its’ mojo and ability to sustain anything. For a team that was supposed to become more balanced and run the ball more effectively, that didn’t happen with the exception of three games at mid-season.
While Todd Haley would not have been my choice to take the place of Bruce Arians, I felt his offense could do exactly what it did early in the season which was keep Ben Roethlisberger healthy and upright and keep an aging defense off the field while chewing clock. Once those things stopped happening, the offense fell apart.
The lack of creativity and stale play-calling made the situation worse and not even Roethlisberger could overcome it. We can argue ad nauseum whether Roethlisberger truly ever bought into this offense but what cannot be argued is that he clearly regressed as a player as the season wore on. With no running game and a different offensive line seemingly every week, the passing attack was doomed.
What gives credence to those who say Rooney, Jr. meddled in the hiring of Haley is the fact that every time this offense went to a no-huddle or spread formation, the offense moved. Yes there were still issues, but Todd Haley and Mike Tomlin refused to adjust and so on and on the double tight end, tightly-packed formations went with little success.
The failure of the offense cannot all be placed on Roethlisberger or Haley however because the young receivers did their share as well with turnovers and more mental errors than they had made in the previous three seasons.
The defense was valiant today in holding Cincinnati to just six points especially with the injuries to the secondary. Cortez Allen and Keenan Lewis were very good as was Lawrence Timmons in basically shutting down the Bengals all day with a few minor exceptions. Unfortunately the effort went for naught on a day that clearly fell on the ineptitude of the offense.
Next week’s final game against Cleveland is meaningless. Yes, it’s the Browns, but who really cares at this point? There are many Steelers who will be playing their final game in the black ‘n gold who probably deserve better, but they have unfortunately reaped what the entire organization has sewn. Steelers fans expected better from a team with such experience and talent but it wasn’t meant to be so let the blame game begin.
Marc Uhlmann writes for and co-owns www.steelcityblitz.com. Follow him on Twitter @steeldad and follow the website at @SCBlitz. He can be heard Mondays on Trib-Live Radio at 4pm ET talking Steelers.