Mark Madden: Stupidity, stubbornness undoing Steelers season
Boy, are the Steelers stupid.
A linebacker covered Keenan Allen on nine targets Sunday. He’s the Los Angeles Chargers’ No. 1 wide receiver. As a result, Allen had 14 catches. That’s stupid.
Joe Haden was about to snatch an interception. Sean Davis went for a big hit on Allen, the intended receiver. Instead, he jarred the ball from Haden’s hands and into Allen’s for a Chargers touchdown. Was Davis even aware Haden was there? What was Davis watching? That’s reminiscent of Mike Mitchell. That’s stupid.
The Steelers jumped offside three times on the Chargers’ game-winning field goal. That’s a rookie kicker. Let him miss. He did, the first time. But he kept getting do-overs. That’s stupid.
Don’t blame the officials. That’s stupid. Some decisions were egregiously bad, especially the noncall on the obvious false start that preceded Los Angeles’ first touchdown. But Franco Harris trapped the ball, and the Steelers got every call possible in their Super Bowl XL win.
So don’t whine, especially when the Steelers led 23-7 at halftime. Prior to Sunday, the Steelers had 220 wins and two ties when leading by 14 or more at home. They are now 220-1-2 in that situation.
It was the biggest choke in Steelers’ history. If it wasn’t born of stupidity, abject idiocy certainly suckled that disaster.
If stupid was the Steelers’ defining characteristic, weird wasn’t far behind.
Ben Roethlisberger played well, except for a couple throws. That’s becoming his defining characteristic this season. He served up an easy interception off a snap just outside the red zone, and he overthrew Justin Hunter when Hunter had broken free for what should have been a simple touchdown toss.
Hunter got hurt diving for that throw and had to leave the game. Weird.
The Steelers’ defense was rock solid in the first half. In the second half, the Chargers drove 88, 79 and 64 yards for two touchdowns and a field goal.
The Chargers got another touchdown on a punt return. (Aided by a block in the back that was not flagged.) But that wasn’t weird, because the Steelers’ special teams are too often ineffective, penalized (24 times, most in the NFL) and disorganized. Again, witness the chorus line of Steelers going offside on the Chargers’ game-ending field-goal tries.
So, can the Steelers fix it?
That depends on what you mean by “fix it.”
The Steelers lead over Baltimore in the AFC North is down to a half-game. The Steelers’ remaining schedule looks slightly tougher than the Ravens’, but going 2-2 to finish 9-6-1 likely wins the division.
Home field is out of the question. A bye is out of the question. Anything better than the No. 4 seed is unlikely.
That would almost certainly get a rematch with the Chargers at Heinz Field. Uh-oh.
It was going so well, and then it all turned so stupid. The Steelers won six straight, then lost two games they were favored to win.
That bounces back to coaching, except it can’t. Mike Tomlin will never get fired. (That’s your cue to scream his regular-season record at the top of your lungs.) Nor should Tomlin be, because his replacement would be inferior.
But that doesn’t mean the Steelers are up to snuff when it comes to structure and accountability. It doesn’t mean Tomlin coaches perfectly. (Not even close.)
As noted, linebackers covered Allen, the Chargers’ No. 1 wide receiver, on nine targets. It didn’t work, and it just kept happening.
That’s not just stupid. That’s stubborn. Both are traditional Steelers opponents.
Mark Madden hosts a radio show 3-6 p.m. weekdays on WXDX-FM (105.9).