Share This Page

After latest debacle, Steelers eye consistency

| Monday, Dec. 10, 2012, 7:28 p.m.
Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger takes off on a second-quarter run against the Chargers on Sunday, Dec. 9, 2012, at Heinz Field. Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review

The voices of disgruntled fans leaving Heinz Field resonated with the Steelers as they jettisoned a rain-soaked stadium after getting embarrassed by an underachieving San Diego team Sunday.

The Steelers didn't resemble the team that a week earlier delivered a Herculean effort in beating AFC North leader Baltimore in its backyard. Instead, this was a hapless, disinterested bunch that played without any semblance of urgency despite uncertainty about its playoff fate.

The Steelers, now 7-6, lost to a team they had beaten in 14 consecutive regular-season home games. They lost to a team that manufactured defeat in seven of its previous eight games.

The Steelers have developed a knack for this sort of thing this season. They consistently play down to the competition.

“If guys play down to the level of their competition, then shame on them,” said nose tackle Casey Hampton. “We are professionals. No matter who we are playing, we are supposed to get up for the game and be ready to play.”

The Steelers have gone on the road and handled top-ranked heavyweights: the defending Super Bowl champion New York Giants (8-5), Baltimore (9-4) and Cincinnati (7-6). But they have faltered against bewildered lightweights in Oakland (3-10), Tennessee (4-9), Cleveland (5-8) and San Diego (5-8).

If the 2-11 Kansas City Chiefs hadn't gift-wrapped an overtime victory last month, the Steelers would be 0-4 against the AFC West, a downtrodden division in which Peyton Manning's Denver Broncos (10-3) account for half of its victories this season.

“It wasn't difficult getting up for (San Diego),” said running back Jonathan Dwyer, limited to 32 yards on eight carries. “They just wanted it more. We didn't do our jobs.”

Is it that simple?

Are the Steelers in the habit of coming to play only against playoff-caliber teams? Can they not conjure up the proper motivation against below-average teams?

If coach Mike Tomlin's history is a barometer, then this season of oft-apathetic performances is an aberration. The Steelers were 25-1 against nonplayoff teams at home under Tomlin before the Chargers caught them playing as if they were looking ahead to Sunday's game at Dallas.

Or were they sluggish after an emotional win in Baltimore?

“We're trying to get to the playoffs,” Hampton said. “So that's never going to be an excuse, us being flat after playing a supposed rival.”

Still, it's a perplexing pattern of inconsistency even the players find difficult to explain. They are hesitant to point fingers but dispensed equal fault in the locker room.

“Everyone took turns making mistakes,” linebacker Jason Worilds said. “We can't play like this and expect to win.”

The Steelers can't expect to make the playoffs, either, with similar performances in their final three games against Dallas, Cincinnati and Cleveland.

Ralph N. Paulk is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at rpaulk@tribweb.com or 412-320-7923

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.