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Bleeding Black and Gold: HURTIN' FOR CERTAIN

November 13, 2012 - Ray Eckenrode

The score: Pittsburgh 16, Kansas City 13, OT

The headline: SEPARATION ANXIETY: Roethlisberger injury overshadows sloppy Steelers win

The bottom line: Make no mistake, Byron Leftwich (and the Steelers) offense will be better with a week of preparation, and the Baltimore Ravens can be run on, and Joe Flacco is still Joe Flacco. No, all is not lost if we’re talking about next week’s AFC North showdown. But let’s not kid ourselves, if Ben Roethlisberger and Ryan Clark are out for a prolonged period (should separations are four-week injuries, minimum, and rotator cuffs are longer; and it looked like Clark suffered his second concussion in three weeks), the Steelers chances of contending for a Super Bowl are gone.

It was over when: Matt Cassel heaved a quacker on the second play of overtime that Lawrence Timmons easily stepped in front of and returned inside the Chiefs 10 to set up Shaun Suisham’s 23-yard game winner. After a bad start, Timmons came on with a handful of splash plays in the final 20 minutes or so, none bigger than his pick.

Plays of the day:

+ For the second week in a row, Mike Wallace was invisible for 59 minutes and 30 seconds and changed the game in the blink of an eye, this time with a one-handed, two-knee’d, tumbling, rolling grab that held up for Pittsburgh’s only touchdown on the evening.

+ Just as big was the Chiefs TD that wasn’t, a 22-yarder to Dwayne Bowe (on which Timmons whiffed on a squared-up tackle attempt) that was called back on a controversial holding penalty on Kansas City’s Brandon Albert. The call appeared to be ticky tacky but we’ll say about it what Jim Nantz would say if it were called on the Steelers: Albert grabbed the defender right on the white “2” on his jersey, making his clenched fist easy to see. (Note: That is something Nantz actually said once in justifying a hold against Pittsburgh.)

Zebra hunting:

+ We were initially puzzled by the “swearing at an official” call, reasoning, as most did, that there’s a whole lotta swearing at officials going on during a game. But Mike Pereira clarified via Twitter that there is a magic phrase (that begins with an “F” and ends with a “you”) that draws a flag every time.

+ After the weekend’s peculiar replay calls, we were sure Carl Cheffers (anad the dreaded super slow mo) was going to rule Wallace out of bounds without control on his amazing touchdown catch. We think he got it just right in ruling there wasn’t enough evidence to merit overturning the call on the field.

+ The Steelers should have kept the ball on the play Roethlisberger was injured on as Tamba Hali and Justin Houston did a choreographed sack dance afterwards, a two-man celebration that is, by rule, an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. Of course, the out-of-control Chiefs were later correctly assessed the same penalty for doing a team dance after what they thought was a fumble return TD (which, of course, was overturned by replay as an incomplete pass, cc: Bill Leavy). + Pereira made a good point on the Twitter about the offensive pass interference call on Tony Moeaki. At regular speed (the speed at which the officials call the game), it looked worse than it appeared in slow mo. Not saying it was the right call, just saying it should be looked at in the proper context.

Game mismanagement:

+ Aside from the confused timeout late in the fourth quarter (understandable with a backup QB on the field), not much to look at here this week. Romeo Crennel did everything right with his timeouts down the stretch.

+ We agree wholeheartedly with Tomlin’s decision to kick on first down. If Roethlisberger were in the game, maybe you run one play to center the ball, but no reason to take a chance on an exchange problem with Leftwich on the field.

Hot topics:

+ Wow, the Steelers defensive line, which had been playing better, was absolutely manhandled in this game. Ziggy Hood, especially, was blown 5-7 yards off the line of scrimmage on many of those early bursts by Jamaal Charles. On one play, Hood was knocked so far backward he tumbled into Charles’ legs from behind and got credit for an assist on the tackle (true story). It got so bad, we even saw Al Woods for a play or two in the third quarter. While it’s still too early to call Cam Heyward a bust, it’s obvious he isn’t any better than the guys who are out there, which means Dick LeBeau is going to have to use that 4-2-5 lineup, with Harrison and Woodley playing as stand-up ends, more often than he’d probably like. With the washout of Alameda Ta’amu, who was cut before the game (although he still might end up on the Pittsburgh practice squad), the Steelers almost certainly have to look for help at D line in the offseason.

In the booth:

+ You know how we love the Solomon Wilcotts pronunciation of ROT-lis-berger, but we had totally forgotten about Jon Gruden’s even worse Roth-ELS-berger. Maybe one day science will be able to meld the minds of the two and get one announcer who can say it right.

+ We saw again just how useless sideline reporters are at NFL games as Twitter provided much more information on Roethlisberger’s injury much more quickly than Lisa Salters could.

A word from our sponsors: Over the past few weeks, ESPN has quietly put the SportsCenter commercial Roethlisberger shot when he was a rookie (the one where he’s “saving” people from a burning building during a fire drill) back in rotation. That’s a major step in Roethlisberger’s ongoing efforts to reclaim his Q score and the revenue-generating opportunities off the field that go with it. It’s also ironic since ESPN’s shoddy reporting on the Milledgeville bar incident was a co-defendant in losing that Q appeal to begin with (a co-defendant along with Roethlisberger’s own boorish behavior, of course).

Sweet tweet: “@DemetriusThorn: I'm going up to every white guy I see tomorrow and yelling "HEAAAATHHHHH" in their face. I just want to see the reaction.” (Blogger’s note: Seriously, David Paulson ought to legally change his name to Heath to make it easier on the fans.)

Next week: If the Steelers want to win the AFC North, they’re going to have to beat the Ravens next week at home on Sunday night (and again in three weeks in beautiful Baltimore). The Steelers will be ultra banged up but so are the Ravens, who will be without Ray Lewis and will see Terrell Suggs, Haloti Ngata and Ed Reed playing through injuries. Despite the lofty record (which is all that matters), this is not your usual Ravens squad. Until Sunday’s laugher vs. the Raiders, Baltimore had been struggling mightily to score points and stop the run, but winning anyway. As has been the case for the past five years, the Steelers formula for winning this game begins with stopping Ray Rice (or having Cam Cameron stop him for them).

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