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Bleeding Black and Gold: Bye-passed

September 23, 2012 - Ray Eckenrode

The score: Oakland 34, Pittsburgh 31

The headline: STILL CURTAIN: With no pass rush, Steelers defenseless to stem Raiders big second half

The bottom line: The Steelers defense looked this bad last year against Houston and rebounded to have a good season, but we’re having a hard time imagining a repeat of that, barring the return of fully functional versions of #43 and #92.

It was over when: The Steelers sent six rushers on a 1st-and-10 play from the Pittsburgh 43 with 0:48 left and couldn’t get near Palmer, who calmly waited for Derek Hagan to cross into the open middle of the field then hit him for a 17-yard gain to set up Sebastian “Never Misses In These Situations” Janikowski, who lived up to the nickname we just gave him.

Play of the day: The Steelers sent five rushers on a 3rd-and-10 from the Oakland 25 with 1:23 left and couldn’t get near Palmer (noticing a trend here?), who calmly dropped a pass over Lawrence Timmons and into the hands of tight end Brandon Myers for a critical 15-yard conversion.

Hot topics:

+ On one hand, you can say the Steelers played that game without their two defensive leaders and, had they played, it likely would have been a different outcome. But that’s football. Players get injured. You have to be building your next defense now. James Harrison is very close to the end of the line, as is Brett Kiesel, and Troy Polamalu is not that far behind them. The fact is the Steelers have failed miserably in recent years on the defensive side in the draft and there are no young playmakers to replace the aging ones. Lawrence Timmons was the 15th pick – 15th! – that should equal a game-changing player. He’s virtually invisible out there and has been with the exception of a handful of games in his career. Ziggy Hood is playing at an average to below average level. Cam Heyward is still young, but has shown zero promise. It’s a scary situation.

+ We know Antonio Brown is trying to earn those big dollars he signed for, and we admire him for it, but it might be best if he follows Mike Wallace’s lead and just falls to the ground when there’s a hint of contact in the general vicinity.

+ With Kelvin Beachum playing a handful of plays Sunday the Pittsburgh offensive line is officially “in shambles.”

Game (mis)management:

+ Steelers fans should be very, very concerned that Mike Tomlin shows no signs of learning from previous mistakes in the game management department. This week, it was a Tomlin specialty, the unnecessary first-quarter challenge. Dude acts like he’s got a pocketful of challenges and might inherit more when Dan Rooney dies. Those things are precious, as are timeouts. The only way you use a challenge in the first quarter is on a scoring play or on a critical play in the red zone AND if you are sure you’re right. In this case, Tomlin challenged a borderline play ON SECOND DOWN. That’s idiotic and might have cost the team four points in the form of the field goal on the two-minute drive instead of a touchdown. And wouldn’t four points have come in handy.

In the booth:

+ We listened to the first half of this game in the car on Steelers radio and arrived home thinking the Steelers were getting hosed as the trio of Bill Hillgrove, Tunch Ilkin and Craig Wolfley all agreed that Heath Miller’s critical first-half catch should have been upheld by replay and the Brett Kiesel’s critical second-quarter offsides penalty was bogus. Once we jumped on Twitter, we saw most of the rest of the world disagreed and once we saw the plays we chuckled. We don’t mind homer announcing (this is a homer blog), but we’d like it to be based in reality.

+ We like Kevin Harlan, he’s solid. Dan Fouts did not have a good second half (which is all we saw). He did virtually zero analysis.

Zebra hunting:

+ Again, it’s not the calls as much as the Keystone Cops administration of the game. Those guys looked like a crew of jayvee officials who never worked together before. Take the botched onside kick by the Raiders as an example. The fans knew what the call was, the players did, the Steelers offense went out, the Oakland defense went out, and it took a six-person conference and TV timeout to eventually get the ball back in play.

+ Officiating did not cost the Steelers that game, but to think that LaMarr Woodley wasn’t held once on the afternoon is just not rational.

A word from our sponsors: Geico finally ditched that 5-year-old Caveman/Brian Orakpo/cheerleader spot … to resurrect the 5-year-old Caveman/Brian Orakpo/pancake social spot. Ugh.

Sweet tweet: “@shawncurtis430: “I know that the NFL is doing all it can to eliminate headshots but do the networks have to show said headshots from 195 different angles?” (Blogger’s note: After all the bogus illegal hit penalties called on the Steelers, it’s ironic and sad that probably the most egregious violation they’ve ever committed doesn’t get flagged.)

Next week: The bye week the Steelers were trying so desperately to get to at 2-1 is going to seem like an eternity at 1-2. Pittsburgh better hope that Harrison and Polamalu are able to return in some semblance of their former selves for Week 5 because the prospect of THAT defense chasing around Michael Vick doesn’t seem too promising.

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