Criticism of Dick LeBeau isn't something readily offered or even reluctantly accepted among most Steelers fans, but he has to take a bit hit for the gameplanning against the Patriots on Sunday night.
That was every bit what the Patriots do every single time they play the Steelers and Pittsburgh looked wholly lost in their efforts to stop the New England offense or adjust to what they were doing. Underneath shit open all night. Outside stuff under 10 yards wide open.
That isn't to say all the throws were immediately there for Brady. It was another masterful performance against the Steelers, evidenced by the pinpoint accuracy on the first touchdown pass to Rob Gronkowski, who was actually well covered by William Gay.
LeBeau was also done no favors by James Harrison or LaMarr Woodley, who generated little to no pressure on Tom Brady. Woodley in particular was taken out of the game by Sebastian Vollmer. Timmons was by far the most impressive of the linebackers on Sunday night, which made it all the more distressing when Timmons left the game in the third quarter with a hip pointer.
Analysts and fans will gripe that most of Roethlisberger's stats came in mop-up duty and technically that's true, but I don't think Ben really played a poor game. He was done no favors in the first half with critical drops by Randle El and Wallace in the end zone.
Wallace excelled in more complex routes later in the game, which might be one of the few bright points to take away from this game. He'll need to continue to step up and be able to get open on patterns where he's just not streaking down the field when the rush comes.
Combine the drops with how little time Roethlisberger had to throw behind the patchwork offensive line and give him some credit for not even hanging in there. Losing Hines Ward in the first half on a helmet-to-helmet hit certainly didn't help matters, either.
The Hines hit sucks, but I'm fine with no penalty being called. It was a case similar to the Austin Collie concussion in the Colts-Eagles where a second defender hit the receiver with his helmet after the first defender started bringing him to the ground. Of course, the Collie hit was penalized in that game, but that was a mistake and I'm not advocating for the officials being wrong as long as it helps us. What does irritate me is the huge amount of attention given by the NBC announcers to a completely benign hit by James Harrison on Tom Brady later in the game. This is the second helmet hit that Hines has taken this season, along with the one issued by Saints DB on Sunday night a few weeks back, and no one cares. No stink is made. This one might be legal, but the Torrence one wasn't. Just imagine if that's James Harrison hitting Wes Welker. Never hear the end of it, regardless of the rules.
As for the line being a mess, I don't know what could possibly be done except hope for incremental gains from Jonathan Scott, the quick return of Chris Kemoeatu, Trai Essex sucking less and no one else getting hurt. That's not the most reassuring plan, but it's all we have until the off-season.
I'm willing to attribute some of what we saw to a fired up Patriots team coming off a loss, but that doesn't begin to cover what a monumental clusterfuck this game was. The line was slow and useless. The defense looked bamboozled and afraid to play aggressively.
Then there was this asshole:
I'll be the first to say I'm terrified of having Shaun Suisham as the team's kicker after the Steelers finally bid a long overdue smell ya later to Skippy. But there was no way the team could hold onto him at this point.
The team tolerated so much idiocy that Reed had no choice but to play well enough to make looking for a replacement unthinkable. And he really tried to test that by bitching about his contract during the preseason even after the team was made to look bad by bringing him back while ditching other so-called trouble cases like Santonio. Then he followed up shanking a 26-yarder at home in a still-competitive game by knocking fans, the media and the grass at Heinz. All of that might still have be forgiven if this year hasn't been one extended string of missed critical kicks.
If there's one minor solace it's that Suisham's try-out occurred at Heinz Field, which suggests that he fared at least halfway well at the stadium. But who knows just how desperate the team was to find ANYONE to take Reed's spot. Just as we'll found out how the line tries to rebound, that's something we're likely to discover with gritted teeth.