Kovacevic: Ben's audible on Haley loud, clear
TribLIVE Sports Videos
ARLINGTON, Texas — Antonio Brown's eyes were beet red, bloodshot almost beyond recognition. One could easily hazard a guess why, after his litany of late mistakes loomed so large in the Steelers' knife-twisting 27-24 loss to the Cowboys on Sunday.
“It's my fault,” Brown fairly whispered.
No, actually, it wasn't.
Not entirely, anyway.
Ben Roethlisberger stood equally tall in manning up for his overtime interception, one that not only sealed defeat but also — maybe most crushingly — conjured up nightmares of Neil O'Donnell and Larry Brown.
“This is on me, 100 percent,” Roethlisberger said. “I let my team down, the fans, everybody.”
Nope. Sorry again, but that's just not the whole truth.
Not after this maddeningly inconsistent team has stumbled all season to find an identity even when one is thrust in its collective face.
Not after simple results show again and again how it operates best and, yet, the team still sticks by what it wishes it could do.
Not after Heath Miller is targeted six times in the first half, catches all six for 85 yards and a touchdown, then never has his number called in the second half by offensive coordinator Todd Haley and, ultimately, coach Mike Tomlin. Not once.
That's not just stubborn. It's stupid.
So good for Roethlisberger for being bluntly candid when I asked if Dallas' defense had done something to take away Miller after halftime.
“No,” he replied without hesitation, “I just don't think we called the right plays to get him the ball.”
You know, there have been occasions going back to Bruce Arians' retirement/firing and Haley's hiring where Roethlisberger has made veiled — even thinly veiled — criticisms of his newly imposed coordinator. But none came close to this.
And he wasn't done.
Roethlisberger was asked about the no-huddle, which the Steelers used Sunday when they looked most fluid — kind of like always — and he said, after a lengthy hesitation: “I don't … that's tough for me to answer right now. In the second half, we really didn't do much of it. And, um, that's disappointing.”
But wait. Even in describing his shining moment, the eternal scramble that led to Miller's touchdown, this was his Roethlisberger's recap: “The play got called, and they went to a prevent defense, so the play that was called wasn't a good play. At all. So we just started making a play, I saw Heath and just tried to get it to him.”
Hat trick of whoas!
Make no mistake: What the Steelers have right here is a 100-percent legitimate, non-manufactured quarterback vs. coordinator controversy.
And I'll say it again: Good.
Maybe that's what this team needs to regain its identity: Take it by force.
This game wasn't lost in overtime. I don't even think it was lost with Brown repeatedly losing his mind.
Ask me, and it began to get lost on the Steelers' opening drive of the second half, after Brown returned a punt to the 50 and continued all the momentum Miller had generated almost singlehandedly to that point.
Here was your go-for-the-jugular play-calling from Haley:
• Jonathan Dwyer over right guard, 4 yards.
• Dwyer up the middle, 1 yard.
• Roethlisberger incomplete short pass to Dwyer in right flat.
Yeah. Way to step on that Texas rattlesnake, gentlemen.
If it ended there, OK, no big deal. But when play after play kept getting called without No. 83 involved, it became clear that Haley was doing exactly what the Cowboys couldn't: He was shutting down Miller.
Miller didn't see another ball until the first play of overtime, which, naturally, he caught.
I asked Miller if he was disappointed, and he kept to his low-key profile: “That's just the way the game goes. I understand it.”
I'm not sure why anyone would.
Tomlin's got his work cut out for him. His team is spiraling downward at 7-7, he's got to get them to show up for a critical showdown with the Bengals next Sunday — hardly a given — and, on top of that, be sure that he'll have to deal with the Roethlisberger-Haley situation.
No team can function without its quarterback and offensive coordinator on the same page, and these guys aren't in the same library right now.
I don't know about you, but I'm with the quarterback on this. I really don't care how smart Haley is, really don't care if the Steelers ever find a way to run between the tackles (they've had one outside run the past two games), really don't even care if Haley's with the team beyond this season or not.
The franchise player, that's different.
It's well past time the Steelers start hearing what he has to say before he starts calling far more serious audibles.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Nearing season’s midpoint, Steelers still have issues to sort out
- Rossi: Fleury is, and will remain, Penguins’ soul
- Ross brothers ordered to pay fine, remove debris from Christmas display
- Police seize phones of some Norwin High School students
- Testing legs, giving backup goalie a chance are Penguins’ priorities
- Steelers film session: Watt kept under control
- 7 in custody after New Kensington drug raid
- Calgon Carbon poised for explosive growth
- Rostraver woman victim of home invasion
- Penguins notebook: Newcomers get 1st taste of rivalry with Flyers
- 2 stores robbed in Alle-Kiski Valley