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Bleeding Black and Gold: HOLIDAZE

December 23, 2012 - Ray Eckenrode

The score: Cincinnati 13, Pittsburgh 10

The headline: COAL BOWL: Steelers stagnant offense gives fans holiday clunker

The bottom line: We’re not suggesting anyone should be fired, benched or traded, but in the 2012 season, Pittsburgh’s quarterback, wide receivers, offensive coordinator and head coach did not get the job done. Period.

It was over when: Keenan Lewis did yeoman’s work all day on one leg, but with the game on the line with 0:14 left, he couldn’t keep up with A.J. Green on a pretty out route that Green pulled in at the Steelers 26 to set up Josh Brown’s game-winning field goal.

Play of the day: One play earlier, Ben Roethlisberger scrambled right, as we’ve seen him do so many times before making a big play at crunch time, but badly overthrew an open Mike Wallace at the Cincinnati 45, leading to Reggie Nelson’s gimme interception that set up Dalton and Green’s heroics.

Zebra hunting:

+ So apparently it’s illegal in the NFL to go to your knee while celebrating, even though Brett Kiesel has been doing it without being flagged since 2010, when the rule went into effect. Let’s set aside the inconsistency of application for a second (remember the Chiefs’ team dance that wasn’t penalized?) and just talk about the rule. Just like last week’s stupid “process of the catch” rule, why complicate things needlessly? Any celebration that doesn’t delay the game or target an opponent should be legal. We’ve said it before, the fact that so much time is spent on stuff like this while they can’t get the pass interference rule fixed poses a bigger threat to the NFL’s future than violent hits.

Game mismanagement:

+ Mike Tomlin gave a preview of things to come when he foolishly risked a second-half timeout to challenge an obviously bad spot ON SECOND DOWN and ON HIS OWN SIDE OF THE FIELD. We understand the frustrations of the bad call often lead to the knee-jerk challenge, but you’ve got to think these things through beforehand and be prepared.

+ Of course, both Marvin Lewis and Tomlin went for silly long field goals late in the fourth quarter when it was obviously smarter to punt (especially for the Bengals, who have a pro bowl kicker) and play defense against two borderline inept offenses. Tomlin’s decision was doubly infuriating (and led to his team’s ultimate demise) because it came after he just watched the other guy make the same mistake.

Hot topics:

+ Mike Tomlin still has an excellent body of work, but in his last 16 games (this season plus the Denver playoff game last year) he’s been decisively out-schemed, out-strategized, out-motivated and out-coached. There can be no argument about that.

+ When Rashard Mendenhall is the bright spot on offense, you know you’ve had a rough day, honestly, one of the worst performances by a Steelers offense we can remember in the Tomlin era. And it started up front where both rookies on the right side were abused time and again by the Bengals’ stud defensive linemen. But, it goes well beyond that as Roethlisberger did not throw one ball (not ONE) in rhythm all day. That indicates and coordinator, a quarterback and a whole group of wide receivers who are not on the same page.

+ On special teams, Drew Butler continued a forgettable rookie season by booming two more punts into the end zone for touchbacks and getting off another short, clutch kick from his own end zone. Meanwhile, Greg Warren’s bad snap on a second-quarter field goal attempt that Shaun Suisham eventually duck hooked might be the under-the-radar big play of the game.

In the booth:

+ Jim Nantz might hate the Steelers in general, but he loves him some Ziggy Hood, implying on the game’s second play that Hood was pressuring the quarterback when, in fact, he was unblocked on the play and pretty much wandering around aimlessly while Lawrence Timmons made the sack.

+ Phil Simms gave a perfect example of what’s gone wrong with his analysis on an obvious but uncalled DPI penalty on Pacman Jones, who grabbed Mike Wallace’s jersey and held on for several seconds while the ball was the air. First, Simms said good call, incidental contact. Then Nantz pointed out the jersey grab and Simms said it was just pushing then a few seconds later changed his mind again and said there was a grab but it didn’t impede Wallace (which doesn’t matter in the context of the rule). Shortly thereafter, Mike Pereira tweeted that he thought a penalty on the play was obvious.

+ No snarky, inappropriate jokes this week, just this: As recently as two seasons ago, we regularly cited examples of Simms’ insightful analysis in this space. We’d now be hard pressed to find two examples of it in the half dozen games we’ve seen him do this year. Not sure what’s behind it, but it’s obvious to viewers.

+ On the other hand, give credit where it’s due, Nantz has been very good on play-by-play the past two weeks, immediately pointing out things Simms’ misses, which have been numerous.

And now, a word from our sponsors…: A few weeks late with this, but the Coors Light iceberg excavators spot is a great idea well executed.

Sweet tweet: “@937LateShift: #Steelers should utilize the Full House backfield, by that I mean they should sign Dave Coulier, Bob Saget and John Stamos at RB.” (Blogger’s note: That is a long way to go for the punch line, but it works!)

Next week: We’d expect to see the Pittsburgh jayvees in a home game with Cleveland that means nothing and with a whole boatload of veterans nursing injuries. We can’t imagine what attendance might be.

Playoff picture: The Steelers are eliminated from the playoff picture with the loss, as is fitting after losing to Oakland, Tennesee, Cleveland and San Diego. If the Ravens lose the late game today to the Giants, next week’s game with Baltimore will be for the AFC North title.

Next year: We’ve heard a lot of fans expressing the sentiment for a few weeks that Pittsburgh should just lose out and get better draft position. And while they might get their wish on the losing out part, there’s not a ton of great draft position to be gotten. Entering this week, there were already 15 NFL teams with eight losses or more, so even at 7-9 Pittsburgh will likely wind up somewhere between #18 and #20 (where they’re surely going to select a defensive player, right?).

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