That was about as maddening a game as the Steelers have had the last couple years. They came out on the opening drive and marched it down the Bears D for a touchdown, were doing much the same on the subsequent drive until a well-timed hit on Ben Roethlisberger by a Bears lineman forced a duck that was intercepted, sapping the Steelers of the considerable momentum they had going up to that point. Then the rain started, which is always going to complicate things for a team that is depending mostly on the pass. Don't get me wrong, the run game was much improved over last week (108 total yards on 4.8 per carry against the Bears) but it's clear the coaches still don't trust the run blocking in key short yardage situations.
So here's a litany of gripes and issues to air before I go drink the pain away.
Jeff Reed - About as obvious a goat as you're gonna find. For a guy in a contract year, he's not doing much to raise his stock or keep it on par. Remember that last week he gave Steelers fans a start by sending a knuckler through the uprights to tie the game late against the Titans. Tonight, even taking poor field conditions into mind (that should be something he's used to by now), he let loose consecutive shanks when it counted, one from 28 yards. Simply inexcusable.
Santonio Holmes - His stat sheet was decent enough that AP reporters who clearly didn't watch the game will pronounce it a "solid" performance. Yes, Santonio made a few plays (five catches for a team-high 83 yards) but he also had four key drops that would have resulted in easy first downs, as well as had what would have been the winning touchdown go through his hands in the endzone. This was an unfortunate return to the brainfart heavy outings that marked the middle of last year for Holmes.
Tyrone Carter - Not a terrible game overall - he did put a monster lick on Greg Olsen to force an incompletion - but the guy was beaten for both Bears touchdowns in the red zone. I think that puts to bed any notion that the Steelers won't miss Polamalu for the next few weeks.
Pass rush - Fairly nonexistent until the second half. It did pick up from there, as LaMarr Woodley got a few nice pressures and forced Jay Cutler into an intentional grounding call. That said, still only one sack today. And one sack last week. Not a trend that can be allowed to continue.
Run blocking - As mentioned above, it was better today, but it's still lacking. Enough so that Tomlin and Arians are looking for any possible alternative to running up the gut on short yardage situations. Won't be long until other teams learn to expect that.
Bounces - The team was just plain unlucky on a number of decisive situations. For example, James Harrison forced Matt Forte to cough the ball up on the Chicago side of the field late in the 4th and the ball hops right to Greg Olsen for an easy recovery. It happens, obviously, and there ain't shit you can do about it. That's why you don't make the boneheaded plays above that leave it up to chance.
The Steelers have an early blemish on their record and it's one they probably could have easily avoided. I suppose it's better than getting trashed by the opponent, but there are certainly lessons gleaned from this one. This is a game that could have been won handily, but it became the kind of close game the Steelers are used to taking from opponents.