It wasn't the usual demons that plagued the Steelers in their 34-13 blowout at the hands of the Patriots. Instead of the offensive line and special teams, which played adequately if unspectacularly, it was the heralded defense getting little to no pressure on Tom Brady in the second half and blowing coverage on deep pass plays.
A few days ago, I was forgiving of Anthony Smith's misguided guarantee. That forgiveness was predicated on his ability to not bite on every play action pass and get ridiculously out of position on the same play the Steelers pulled on the Bengals in the 2005 playoffs. The fact that it wasn't run cleanly - Moss bobbled the catch then threw a wobbly ball back to Brady - made Smith's inability to catch up with Jabar Gaffney all the more maddening.
Taking away a lot of the big plays, which were only, y'know, the difference in the game and all, the Steelers did a decent job in executing their gameplan on offense, moving the ball well on the ground with Willie Parker's 124 yards and long clock eating drives with precise passing.
Not that it can make a huge difference in a three touchdown game, but the officials weren't doing the Steelers any favors. Mike Vrabel jumped offsides at least two or three times on critical plays, including the last third down on the Steelers' opening drive, drawing nary a flag. Rodney Harrison practically got away with mugging Nate Washington on Pittsburgh's final drive into the red zone.
To take a more hopeful tack, the game resembled the Steelers first contest against the Colts in 2005, when Ike Taylor got burned by Marvin Harrison for a deep TD and Ben was still rusty coming back from injury. In this case, Polamalu was out and Santonio Holmes clearly wasn't 100 percent, missing large stretches of the game. If the Steelers get another chance at the Patriots, they can most assuredly put up a better fight.
Whether that rematch comes about is going to take some doing, including what will be at least one road playoff win. This was the first game this year the Steelers looked genuinely outclassed and lost by more than one score. Coming as it did in a game when the Steelers didn't commit a ton of turnovers or look entirely flat make be even harder to take. It wasn't their best shot they gave New England, but it was a good one, and it was nowhere near good enough.