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Tomlin: Stilted offense was Steelers' 'Achilles' heel'

| Monday, Dec. 31, 2012, 1:14 p.m.
Jasmine Goldband
Steelers coach Mike Tomlin speaks to the media during his final news conference of the season on Monday, Dec. 31, 2012, on the South Side. Jasmine Goldband | Tribune-Review
Christopher Horner
Steelers safety Ryan Clark said he believes the Bengals do not respect the Steelers.

On a day coach Mike Tomlin spent considerable time discussing the myriad injuries that helped wreck the Steelers' once-promising season, he disclosed a previously unrevealed malady.

Offense: Achilles' heel, out for the season.

Tomlin didn't blame the offense's second-half stagnation for short-circuiting the season, but he said Monday that the lack of progress was significant as the Steelers (8-8) lost five of their last seven. Not coincidentally, those were three games Ben Roethlisberger missed with a major injury, and the four in which he struggled to return to playing the way he did pre-injury.

“I thought we started out on the right foot in terms of dominating time of possession and converting third downs,” Tomlin said. “We did what was required to possess the ball and win football games. Obviously we didn't ascend in the second half of the season in those areas. It was an Achilles' heel for us.”

Or, perhaps more specifically, it was a shoulder and a rib that effectively doomed a season in which the Steelers (8-8) appeared to be peaking, with four straight wins, before the quarterback was hurt Nov. 12 against Kansas City.

At the time. Roethlisberger was on pace for his best season statistically; afterward, his numbers dipped.

“I felt like early on in the year, in the Oakland game (Sept. 23), we were coming on the sidelines and looking at the (scouting) pictures and it was like, ‘We've got everything we want,' ” wide receiver Jerricho Cotchery said Monday. “We were moving the ball so well, and I felt like we were growing. All of a sudden, Ben gets hurt and that slows the progression. … Once Ben got back in, we were just trying to recapture what we had early on in the year, but it just didn't take place.”

Because the offense was so effective early on, Cotchery doesn't doubt Haley and Roethlisberger can work well together.

“I think this year guys did a good job of welcoming change and just trying to get better in the offense, and I think it will be better going forward,” Cotchery said.

Cotchery said the potential was there for much more.

“You look at the Oakland game, you look at the Tennessee game, games pretty much that you had in control, and for some reason they slipped away; the Browns game,” Cotchery said. “You (beat yourself) up the entire night, the entire offseason looking back at those games.”

And now they'll have nine months to do it.

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

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