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Bleeding Black and Gold: SAFETY SQUEEZE

September 8, 2013 - Ray Eckenrode

The score: Tennessee 16, Pittsburgh 9

The headline: s*M*A*S*H*e*d: Steelers titanic-ally beaten and beaten up in disastrous opener

The bottom line: Since we’re not the type to say “we told you so,” we’ll … wait, who are we kidding? We are exactly that type. WE TOLD YOU SO. That is a bad football team that got worse via injury Sunday. On top of the lack of talent, which is a product of an ongoing string of poor drafting and personnel decisions, there’s now a curse-like spate of injuries to deal with.

It was over when: Seriously, have you ever seen a crowd or team more deflated by an injury than what happened after David DeCastro accidentally cut Maurkice Pouncey and trashed his right knee?

Play of the day: If Pouncey’s injury wasn’t enough, the botched exchange between Ben Roethlisberger and Isacc Redman, who should never have been in the starting lineup, inside the Titans 5 a few plays later sealed the deal for the afternoon.

Hot topics:
+ While that was a bizarre injury to Pouncey, we’re having a hard time understanding the level of shock being expressed by media and fans (as well as the fact that the Steelers were unprepared for it – again – with only seven offensive linemen dressed). Pouncey has been one of the most oft-injured players in the NFL over the past four years.
+ Larry Foote’s ruptured biceps most likely means the end of the line for him with the Steelers. We’ll remember Foote as a good soldier who always played in someone else’s shadow, but almost always was where he was supposed to be.
+ It’s now sounding like Larod Stephens-Howling’s knee injury will require surgery and even if it’s just a scope the Steelers are in a bind because they’ve already used their one injured reserve exception (meaning the player can come back to the roster after six weeks) on backup tight end Matt Spaeth. (Have we mentioned a string of poor personnel decisions?)
+ We’re not sure why there wasn’t more preseason buzz about how overmatched Mike Adams would likely be at left tackle early in the season, but we told you several weeks ago that he would be and he did not disappoint Sunday (meaning he was very, very disappointing). And next week, he’ll face some real pass rushers. Oy vey.
+ Cortez Allen’s ankle injury is likely the least serious of Sunday’s batch as far as a return date, but very serious if it requires Bill Gay to play corner. Fortunately, the Steelers aren’t playing one of the most dangerous passing teams in the league next week. Wait, check that. D’oh.

Zebra hunting:
+ You have to hand it to Jerome Boger’s crew for getting the opening kickoff safety right the first time because it was a) so close and b) such a rare play.
+ The officials had a fairly clean remainder of the afternoon, too. The only bump was the apparent illegal challenge by Tennessee on the sack of Ben Roethlisberger at the end of the first half. We say “apparent” because we never saw a challenge flag, only heard broadcasters say there was one. If Mike Munchak, in fact, did throw a flag, that would have been an illegal challenge in the final two minutes of a half. The penalty for an illegal challenge is loss of a timeout or 15-yard penalty if the team has no timeouts remaining. The Titans did have a time out, but the official game log doesn’t indicate they were assessed one, only that the replay assistant challenge the complete pass call. Since the clock keeps running on either a completed pass or a sack, there was no reason to put any time back on the clock. The CBS broadcasters theorized that had the play been called a sack, Tennessee would have called timeout, but the rules don’t include anything to address such a hypothetical.

Game mismanagement:
+ We’ll call it roster mismanagement, but as noted here and elsewhere the release of Jon Dwyer made no football sense and it’s only fitting it came back to bite Mike Tomlin and Todd Haley in the rear end in Game #1. Now, you’ve lost Larod to injury and Felix Jones is already in the doghouse Dwyer vacated with Redman right beside him. You know we’ve said all along the position of running back is eventually going to disappear in the NFL and the Steelers might lead the way in making that happen.
+ Also, the Steelers timeout to save :02 down scores with 2:02 left in the game made zero sense and actually cost the team about :30 when they didn’t score immediately after the timeout. We’ve said it before, Mike Tomlin is a game management nightmare and he’s getting worse because he refuses to change/learn.

In the booth:
+ Eagle and Fouts were good, not great, with the biggest issue being the failure of anyone on the broadcast team or in the truck to clarify if the Titans had illegally thrown that challenge flag. + Eagle got off a nice, in-context Cliff Clavin reference after Fouts noted the term “running downhill” was coined at Syracuse where Archibald Field actually had a 2 percent grade to it. (Note: If that’s true, doesn’t know about it.)

Sweet tweet: “@CdrEck: Ziggy Hood getting push 5 yards off the line of scrimmage is even more impressive live!” Blogger’s note: The good commander was attending his first game at Heinz Field.

Next week: A Monday night visit to Cincinnati for an AFC North rivalry game might be just what the doctor ordered for the Steelers. Or it might be a bloodbath as the talented Bengals could take out a lot of frustration against the wounded and wobbling Steelers.

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Blog Photos

After Maurkice Pouncey's injury, Ben Roethlisberger looks like a man heading for the gallows. (Mirror photo by J.D. Cavrich)