It’s Not Ben’s Fault – By Greg Stephens
Steelers Fever Exclusive Editorial
|Wow. I have just turned off my television after watching San Diego soundly defeat the Pittsburgh Steelers 23-13. Simultaneously, I can hear panic begin to engulf the Steel City.
Everyone considered this a make-or-break game. The Steelers entered tonight’s game off a bye week, after losing a heartbreaker to arch-rival Cincinnati two weeks ago at home, in the face of numerous turnovers and many key mental errors. Ben Roethlisberger had not looked good in his first two games of the season.
Nine days ago, I wrote an article encouraging Steeler Nation not to give up on Roethlisberger, stating this was his time to work through adversity and encouraging patience. Most of the numerous responses I received agreed, but a few disagreed, arguing that Ben was not the same Ben from last year, and that Charlie Batch is the one who won the Steelers’ last victory, so now it’s his shot to restore the Black and Gold.
Tonight, Ben Roethlisberger did not look any better than his first two games. He did pass for over two hundred yards, but had no touchdowns with two interceptions. That second interception was a terrible decision by Roethlisberger. He found himself under pressure and just threw the ball in the air. It was a haphazard throw with a predictable result. There is no excuse for that pick.
So at this point, I retract my last article and join the minority, or what was the minority prior to Sunday night’s game, in calling for Charlie Batch, right? Wrong.
Ben Roethlisberger played terrible against the Chargers, but the entire Steeler team lost that game. As I write that, I am not spewing the typical ‘we win as a team and we lose as a team’ philosophy that coaches try to beat into the T.O.s and Chad Johnsons of the world. I mean there is plenty of genuine blame to spread around for the Steelers’ collapse after going into halftime with a 13-7 lead.
The Chargers came into the second half with some momentum, looking good toward the end of the first half. The Steelers had played a good first half, particularly on the defense. Farrior and Haggins kept the pressure on Philip Rivers while taking Ladainian Tomlinson out of the game in effect. In the second half, everything fell apart.
The Steelers’ offensive line collapsed in the second half. Willie Parker finished the game with a sub-par fifty-eight yards and a first-half touchdown. The line could do nothing to open holes for Parker in the second half, as the Chargers’ defensive line stayed in Parker’s face for thirty straight minutes.
The offensive line couldn’t keep the Chargers’ defensive line or backers away from Roethlisberger, either. He was constantly under pressure and didn’t have adequate time to find his receivers. He also spent some time on his back, the last time being a crucial sack with about thirty seconds left in the game on the Steelers’ own five yard live, effectively killing already slim comeback hopes.
The Steelers defense has yet to play an entire four quarters, and must accept its share of the blame as well. The defense that contained Tomlinson for the first half while keeping Rivers under pressure played the second half against the Chargers the same way it played the second half of the Jacksonville game. The Chargers found the right combination of a rush/pass game to render Pittsburgh’s monster defense harmless, scoring sixteen second-half points and moving the ball at will down the field.
The big talk in Pittsburgh, and this web site, this week will be about how to fix Big Ben. Spending all season focused on that question will spell disaster for this team, however, as Ben’s problems are but a part of the overall equation. What will be Bill Cowher’s next move in solving the ever-increasingly complex formula of the Pittsburgh Steelers?