Monday, October 5, 2009

3 out of 4 quarters aint bad

Mendenhall barely escapes the paws of this guy, just as the Steelers barely escaped the evil clutches of the daunting fourth quarter.

So lets say the person you were dating was attractive, smart, and kind, but really doesn't like your sports teams... maybe they're even a fan of a rival team. You, of course, are a rabid sports fanatic. You could ignore it for a while and tell yourself that 3 / 4 ain't bad. But sooner or later, there will come a Sunday afternoon where you're snowed in and forced to watch a game together and you are at each other's throats fighting for the remote and who gets to watch their team's game on the 'good tv' in the living room, if the ref's call was 'bull' or not and whether he should get glasses, and the sexual proclivities of each others' quarterbacks. At some point during the game, you realize 3 / 4 ain't bad, but it ain't gonna cut it all season. Steelers' fans are having this same epiphone.

For the first three quarters of the Steelers' game against the Chargers, they looked every bit the Super Bowl Champions everyone knew they were and believed they would be all season.

Pittsburgh scored touchdowns in their first two drives of the game and continued on their power trip until they lead 28-0 until the last few minutes of the third quarter.

The absence of running back 'Fast' Willie Parker due to turf toe proved to be no obstacle for Pittsburgh. They substituted Rashard Mendenhall, who ran 165 yards in 29 carries; 2 of which resulted in touch downs. Comparatively, Chargers' running back LaDainian Tomlinson had 7 carries and produced only 15 yards against the Steel curtain.

Ben Roethlisberger threw another two touchdowns and 333 yards before all was said and done. Usually when Big Ben puts up stats like that, we also see a correspondingly high number of interceptions, but this game there were none. One of his touchdown throws was to running back Mewelde Moore, who himself later threw a touchdown pass to Heath Miller.

San Diego finally got on the board with little more than 3 minutes remaining in the third quarter. In a fourth quarter 'wtf' moment, the Chargers stripped the ball from the hands of Stefan Logan as he was being tackled on top of a pile of more Charger players, in a play that resulted in a San Diego touchdown. I can't blame this one on the Steelers because neither they, nor the crowd, nor the announcers, nor even the referees really knew what was going on. Game announcers didn't even announce the Charger touchdown and were silent. Viewers were left with the 'it seemed like there should have been a referee whistle somewhere...' feeling. The episode had the makings of one of those where play has clearly ended, but a player will run the ball into the endzone anyway, juuuust in case... Luckily for San Diego, thats exactly what they did. Coach Mike Tomlin's challenge only succeeded in a wasted Steelers' time out.

At this point Pittsburgh once again met with what has proven to be their biggest challenge this season; the fourth quarter. In their last two games against the Chicago Bears and the Cincinnati Bungles [sic], the Steelers have managed to fritter away their leads in the fourth quarter. Yesterday, San Diego quickly scored touchdown after touchdown until they were within one touchdown of Pittsburgh; 28-35.

Thankfully, with the large lead Pittsburgh had built up in the previous 3 quarters, there just wasn't enough time for San Diego to rally. Equally as thankfully, kicker Jeff Reed was on top of his game, making a crucial 46 yard field goal to secure a 10 point lead with less than a minute left in the game. James Harrison locked up the win with a sack and forced fumble which Pittsburgh recovered from the Chargers' final drive.

Still, one has to ask how the Chargers' were able to come back from a 28 point deficit in a game where they were simply getting smashed in every statistic, most notably time of possession, in which Pittsburgh lead by more than 20 minutes.

Now realizing Reed's missed kicks were a problem (that seems to have been resolved), but not the heart of the Steelers' issues, Pittsburgh is going to need to address their fourth quarter shortcomings which have dogged them to only a 2-2 record this season. The Steelers' offense is solid; scoring again and again and securing strong leads which is the only reason they managed to hang on to this week's win. And no Steelers' fan ever thought we'd see the day where our defense has become our problem. Specifically, theyre running out of gas in the fourth quarter. One thing is for sure, if any team can set themselves straight, its the Steelers, who always manage to do whatever they need to win.

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