If there is one thing that I hate more than a Steelers’ loss, it’s a Baltimore win. Unfortunately, I got both this weekend. The Steelers lost to the Titans 31-14, and the Ravens beat the Cowboys 33-24. I think I’d better hide all of the cutlery in my house, or I might slice my wrists.
The thing that hurts even worse than the fact that the Steelers lost, is the fact that they allowed a team to gain 300+ yards for the first time this season. I don’t think I’m the only Steelers fan who would have loved to have seen the team go the entire season without yielding 300 yards to a team.
Despite the loss, I still believe that the Steelers are a better team than the Titans, and that they can beat that team. So what happened? In short, Big Ben happened. I’m not saying that Ben lost the game for the Steelers. The Steelers win as a team, and they lose as a team. However, Ben didn’t have the best game of his career.
Bill Cowher used to keep Ben under a tight leash. He never really gave Ben the freedom or responsibility of having to win the game. Instead, he simply asked Ben to manage the offense and to try not to lose the game for the team. I didn’t think that was the right way to use Ben back then, and I definitely don’t think the organization can shackle him now that they’ve made him their $100 million franchise quarterback. Nevertheless, there are times when I wish Ben would remember some of the lessons that Bill Cowher tried to teach him.
On Sunday, Ben appeared to try to do too much, and it came back to haunt the team. His two interceptions and four fumbles (although 2 were recovered by the Steelers) were more than even the Steelers’ defense could compensate for. It’s tough to beat any team when you give up 4 turnovers. It’s nearly impossible when the team you’re playing has the best record in the AFC.
Anyone who watched the game knows that it was much closer than the score indicated. I’m hopeful that the Steelers will get another crack at the Titans in the AFC championship. I believe that things will be different if the two teams meet again.
The Titans will probably be an even stronger defensive team if we meet them again. Both Albert Haynesworth and Kyle Vanden Bosch are expected to be back for the playoffs. However, the Steelers’ defense should be better too. Linebacker James Harrison got hurt early in the first quarter, and was originally thought to be out for the game. He ended up returning on the next possession, but he didn’t seem to be his normal dominant self.
If given another shot at the Titans, I have the utmost confidence in Dick LeBeau to prepare a game plan to stop them. Now that he’s seen them firsthand, LeBeau will go back to his laboratory and create a new concoction especially for them.
But the most important difference that I would hope to see if the two teams face one another again is a more careful Ben Roethlisberger. When Big Ben turns the ball over, bad things happen for the Steelers. But when he protects the ball, good things tend to happen. Big Ben merely needs to play like he used to for Bill Cowher. He needs to stop trying to do too much, and simply manage the offense and avoid turnovers. Sure, he can go down the field every now and then. But don’t force the ball unnecessarily. An when he feels pressure, he needs to get rid of the ball rather than giving up a sack, fumble, or interception.
There was a time when Steeler Nation wanted LenDale White. When he was coming out of college, many thought that he was the “big back” that we needed to replace Jerome Bettis. But after his antics after the game, I want him for a completely different reason. I want the Steelers to put a hurting on him. A national audience saw him stomp on a Terrible Towel after the game. Not a smart move. If the two teams meet again, I think LenDale will be reminded of his little act of disrespect.
Next week, the Steelers close out the season against the Cleveland Browns (yawn!). After that, the playoffs start. Despite the lopsided loss today, I want to face the Titans again more than ever.
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