At its most basic level, winning and losing in football comes down to who runs, catches, throws, blocks and tackles better. Go a level higher and winning and losing comes down to opportunity – taking advantage of them, creating them and avoiding creating them for your opponents.
- And that’s what makes the Pittsburgh Steelers loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers so disheartening.
The Pittsburgh Steelers created plenty of opportunities for themselves to win; unfortunately, the created more opportunities for Tampa to do the same, and the Buccaneers took full advantage.
First Half – Steelers React Instead of Dictating
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers almost underachieved their way to the 0-3 record they brought to Heinz Field. They also benefited from 10 full days to prepare, and arrived as a team with something to prove.
The last thing you can do against a team like that is to give them a quick confidence builder and the consecutive sacks which led to Tampa’s quick touchdown did just that. 6 plays later the Steelers did it again when a Cam Thomas face mask gave Tampa all but 3 of the yards it needed to knock in a field goal.
- With only 5 minutes elapsed, the Steelers found themselves down 10-0 at home vs. an 0-3 team.
Instead of setting the tempo of the game, Pittsburgh was forced to react to it. For the record, the Steelers responded well, first with a field goal, and then taking the lead on two Antonio Brown touchdowns while the defense forced 3 straight Tampa punts.
Yet the late in the second half a sack of Ben Roethlisberger forced Shaun Suisham to kick it from 50 into Heinz Field’s open end; he missed it, and the Steelers lost the chance to firmly establish control at the half.
Don’t Blame this One on Dick….
The “Fire Dick LeBeau” lynch mobs will find no voice here.
- Yes, his defense was below the line in the second half
- Yes, offensive coordinators are making the famed “second half adjustments” with a little too much ease
- Yes, his pass rushers disappeared in the second half
However, the blunt truth is that the Steelers made enough plays in the second half to overcome all of that, where it not for a few “buts.”
To those of you rolling your eyes consider some of the individual performances of the Steelers in the second half:
- Heath Miller had 5 catches for 56 yards, including a touchdown and a 19 yard catch on 2nd and 17
- Le’Veon Bell delivered in the clutch, ripping off a 10 yard gain on 3rd and 2, and a 14 yard catch in 3rd and 13
- The Steelers defense did managed to stop Tampa on 4 straight attempts to convert on from Pittsburgh’s 14
While none of above qualifies as “heroic” they were performances of a team that has players who were both willing and able to make the plays necessary to win. And those feats would have been enough, if not for the “Buts….” Such as:
- Cortez Allen (gasp) made an interception late in the third quarter, yet the Steelers failed to convert
- Troy Polamalu’s facemask penalty aided the Buccaneers field goal drive
- Antonio Brown, who had an otherwise excellent game, dropped a bomb if not sure touchdown
- When trying to burn out the clock Maurkice Pouncey committed a false start penalty, costing Pittsburgh precious real-estate
- Brad Wing, who has average 44.8 yards punting, chose to make his first piss poor punt of the season with :50 remaining while standing at Pittsburgh’s 17
Yes, Dick LeBeau’s secondary stumbled badly on Tampa’s game winning drive, but the fault from the loss is far from theirs alone. The Steelers defense was expected to struggle early in the season, and playing without 3 starters certainly did not help.
No, borrow the words of Behind the Steel Curtain’s Jack Finn, this loss was a total team failure and a failure that could have been avoided, were it not for a few “but’s.”
And that’s what makes this one hurt so badly.