Harris: Steelers have work cut out for them
BALTIMORE — So much for the Steelers playing wide-open football against the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday night.
And so much for the Steelers preventing another loss — 20-17 in overtime at M&T Bank Stadium — their third setback in a row.
New quarterbacks, old quarterbacks, potential locker room disharmony. Where to begin for the defending Super Bowl champions?
End at the beginning, I suppose.
Second-year quarterback Dennis Dixon started for Ben Roethlisberger and was 12 of 26 for 145 yards, one touchdown and a costly interception that lead to Baltimore's winning field goal in his first NFL start.
Roethlisberger, who didn't play because of doctors' concerns about a concussion he suffered in Kansas City last week, made headlines even while on the sideline — courtesy of Hines Ward, his favorite receiver.
During a pregame interview on NBC, Ward expressed unhappiness about Roethlisberger not playing because of a head injury.
Citing the importance of the game, Ward said after last night's defeat that it was "very shocking" when some players learned on Saturday that Roethlisberger would miss the game.
When pressed about his comments, Ward said he wasn't questioning Roethlisberger's willingness to play.
"Me calling him out; that wasn't my intention," Ward said.
Said coach Mike Tomlin: "I'm not worried about a problem in our locker room."
That's because the 6-5 Steelers have bigger problems on the field.
Contrary to popular opinion (i.e., offensive coordinator Bruce Arians and Tomlin), the Steelers don't have to throw the ball 40 times a game to be productive. And — surprise, surprise — their offense didn't fall apart without Roethlisberger.
Seventeen points should have been enough to defeat Baltimore — it wasn't.
Of the Steelers' 64 plays from scrimmage, 38 were runs and 26 were passes.
Seven of the Steelers' first eight plays were runs. This from an offense that attempted a total of 84 passes in the previous two games.
The Steelers ran to establish the pass, instead of passing to set up the run.
Finally turned loose, Dixon completed a 19-yard pass to Ward on first down, followed by a 33-yard laser to Santonio Holmes for a touchdown that tied the score at 7-7 early in the second quarter.
Last night, common sense prevailed.
With Dixon making his first career start, the offense resembled past Steelers' offenses.
Of course, Roethlisberger wasn't playing, a fact that Ward was extremely candid about during his NBC interview.
Ward's response to Roethlisberger inactivity was so out of the ordinary that studio analyst Rodney Harrison, recently retired from New England, said Patriots' players would never question quarterback Tom Brady's decision to miss a game, even if he had something as minor as a hangnail.
Ironically, the Steelers trailed, 14-7, at halftime because the league's top-ranked defense permitted two long Baltimore touchdown drives — not through any fault of the Dixon-led offense.
Dixon was 8 of 10 for 87 yards and a touchdown with a 136.2 passer rating in the first half. He didn't throw an interception.
For a player who didn't receive many first-team reps in practice, Dixon's performance right out of the gate was exceptional for his first pro start.
Ultimately, though, it came down to Dixon's inability to engineer the type of game-winning drive that Roethlisberger is famous for.
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.
- Prime time not kind to Heinz Field
- Steelers offense puts up gaudy numbers in season’s 1st half
- Steelers notebook: Roethlisberger, offense must adjust with CB Smith out
- Steelers wide receiver Brown getting accolades as one of NFL’s best
- Greene expects Steelers jersey retirement ceremony to get emotional
- Steelers notebook: Offensive lineman Adams returns to reserve role
- Roethlisberger’s performance arguably among NFL’s greatest
- Steelers notebook: Shazier returns just in time
- Rossi: Middling Steelers must make a statement
- Rossi: Roethlisberger’s 100th was legendary, maybe more
- Steelers’ receivers enjoy being part of Ben’s record day