| Sports

Larger text Larger text Smaller text Smaller text | Order Photo Reprints

Another late-game collapse has exposed Steelers' many woes

Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Tennessee receiver Kenny Britt catches a touchdown pass between the Steelers' Ike Taylor and Will Allen during the fourth quarter Thursday of the Titans' 26-23 victory at LP Field in Nashville, Tenn.

Steelers/NFL Videos

Email Newsletters

Click here to sign up for one of our email newsletters.

'American Coyotes' Series

Traveling by Jeep, boat and foot, Tribune-Review investigative reporter Carl Prine and photojournalist Justin Merriman covered nearly 2,000 miles over two months along the border with Mexico to report on coyotes — the human traffickers who bring illegal immigrants into the United States. Most are Americans working for money and/or drugs. This series reports how their operations have a major impact on life for residents and the environment along the border — and beyond.

By Alan Robinson
Friday, Oct. 12, 2012, 7:56 p.m.

Almost indefensible.

The Steelers are offering no explanation for it, only promises it won't last all season. Still, the same breakdowns keep occurring game after game, in road stadium after road stadium, in fourth quarter after fourth quarter.

And, it can be argued, against bad opponent after bad opponent.

They can't rush the passer. They can't hold a lead. They can't stop an experienced quarterback after he gets going. They can't defend downfield. And when it's over, another apparent victory now lost, they can't find a reason for it.

There once was a time under Bill Cowher when the Steelers couldn't win the big game. Now they can't win the small one. They've lost to the Raiders (1-3) and Titans (2-3) and — this must worry them — they have two games left against the winless Browns (0-5).

Remember, this was supposed to be the soft part of the schedule.

The Steelers (2-3) dropped their fourth in a row on the road dating to their mystifying playoff loss in Denver, a 26-23 setback at Tennessee on Thursday night that seemingly defied logic given how badly the Titans were playing. At the same time, it followed the pattern of the previous two losses this season.

They owned a lead in the fourth quarter, then collapsed. In Denver, it was a 17-point collapse, in Oakland it was a 13-point collapse. In this one, the Titans — the NFL's worst defensive team and one of its worst offensive teams — scored the final 10 points.

Opposing quarterbacks are 35 of 59 for 370 yards, four touchdowns and one interception in the fourth quarter while having been sacked only once.

How did it happen — or, more correctly, how does it keep happening to a defense that statistically is one of the NFL's best at No. 6 but, in reality, is playing with a fragility, uncertainty and lack of cohesion unseen in a Steelers defense in years?

“We've had breakdowns, mental (breakdowns),” linebacker Larry Foote said. “Heavyweight fighters get stronger in the late rounds or you're going to lose. We're not getting strong in the fourth quarter. If you're a champion, play good in the fourth quarter, you get off the field and get the ‘W.' We're not doing that right now.”

The Steelers' problems go beyond not having Troy Polamalu for nearly four full games, not having James Harrison for three, not forcing turnovers (only two interceptions) or pass rushing with consistency.

Against Tennessee, defensive end Ziggy Hood was invisible (his stats line was zeros across the board), while cornerback Ike Taylor was far too visible with a 25-yard pass interference penalty that resulted in a field goal and a holding call that led to Tennessee's tying touchdown. He also was called for interference on a Kenny Britt 37-yard completion.

Keenan Lewis couldn't hold onto a sure interception that would have ended a key Tennessee drive. Titans tight end Jared Cook went undefended on a 25-yard catch that led to the game-winning field goal by Rob Bironas.

Multiple players said afterward there is plenty of time to correct what is going wrong; Foote said, “Ten games from now, people will be laughing at this,”

But the more the Steelers lose, the farther they keep falling behind Baltimore (4-1) in the AFC North race, even though they have yet to play a division game.

That's a lot to get right when so much is going wrong.

“I don't know what the problem is right now, but we got the answer in this locker room,” Foote said. “I know this bunch of guys, the core guys, we hate losing. It stinks, and it hurts. But we've all been there at one point, looked it in the face and attacked it.

“We got to correct it.”

Alan Robinson is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at

Subscribe today! Click here for our subscription offers.



Show commenting policy

Most-Read Steelers

  1. Inside the Steelers: Williams’ quickness out of backfield evident in drills
  2. Starkey: Garoppolo baffles Steelers
  3. Steelers notebook: LB Dupree sits out backs-on–backers drill
  4. Tight ends’ role in Steelers passing game continues to lessen but players remain selfless
  5. Steelers unfazed by Patriots quarterback Brady suspension saga
  6. Steelers’ Wheaton adjusting his game moving to slot receiver
  7. Steelers RB Archer trying to catch up after tough rookie season
  8. Steelers’ Brown arrives in style, vows to be ‘the best in the world’
  9. Goodell doesn’t discount Pittsburgh’s chances of hosting 2023 Super Bowl
  10. Inside the Steelers: Ventrone suffers right ankle injury