Following Sunday night’s loss to the Broncos, Ben Roethisberger shouldered the blame for the loss. Sure, the offense seemed off balance, but perhaps Peyton Manning’s words following the loss summed it up best.
“Roethlisberger was awesome on third down,” Manning said of Pittsburgh’s 11-of-19 conversion rate. “Wasn’t much fun sitting on the bench there all night. Great job by our defense in the end, getting that turnover.”
That’s right––11 of 19, and in most situations, that should be good enough to win a football game. So forget the thought that his interception was the reason Pittsburgh lost the game. It wasn’t.
Todd Haley’s scheme worked. He utilized the backs and used the short pass to keep the ball out of Manning’s hands. Problem was it was done without a solid run attack. Isaac Redman, who ran wild in the playoff last last year, was an afterthought. Rashard Mendenhall, who as of Monday, was still listed as questionable, was on the bench.
That left the bulk of the carries to Jonathan Dwyer, who didn’t get enough touches.
Dwyer showed bursts of speed and proved he is more than capable of carrying the load while Mendenhall heals. In Week Two again the New York Jets, Dwyer is expected to take the bulk of carries and perhaps can duplicate what he did against the Tennessee Titans last year when he rushed for over 100 yards.
The defense, once again, had trouble against the pass and the no-huddle. Denver burned them in the playoffs with the long play and it was evident again on Sunday. That problem needs to be fixed.
What most forget is that Ryan Clark was missing and that is a pivotal player in Dick LeBeau’s scheme. James Harrison was also missing, and while the team stunted early on, when Manning went to the shot gun, it created mismatches.The fact that Manning was able to manage three long drives against a defense that was ranked No. 1 last year was embarrassing to say the least.
If there is something to be learned from the opening loss, it is who can really stand the test of playing against the elite. Keenan Lewis had trouble on his side, but can’t shoulder all the blame as it was Ike Taylor who was burned. Give Cortez Allen a shot. He played well.
So does the Steelers’ loss on Sunday mean the season is over? This is the NFL, anything can happen. The Eagles nearly lost to the Browns.
No, what this all means is Sunday’s loss is just one step of a long journey. With Clark back this weekend and James Harrison in the lineup if healthy, Pittsburgh fans will get a chance to see what the 2012 Steelers are made of.
Mike Wallace, who had a touchdown Sunday night, played the Steelers’ card with his holdout, and unlike some players in the past, won’t be getting a new contract until at least the season is over.
Even if talks don’t go well again with the speedy receiver after the season, there is still a chance the Steelers can put the franchise tag on him again. Should they do that, this time the chances are good that he won’t be a no show in camp, as he will receive a salary comparable to the top five in the league.
Although some may say this casts a negative aura on the team throughout the year, following the loss Sunday, Wallace told reporters it was the last thing on his mind at this juncture.
“It was nothing about me,” Wallace said. ” I just want to go out and put points on the board. I didn’t care about personal things. It was no where on my mind.”
With another week in Haley’s system, Wallace should be more effective against a stingy Jets’ defense on Sunday.
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Matt Pawlikowski is a veteran journalist covering all things Steelers. His work can be found on Examiner.com.