If the Steelers season was fading following their three-point loss to the Ravens last week, today’s loss to the Oakland Raiders officially puts their year on life support. For what seems to have been the theme of the 09 season, the defense again was letdown in the fourth quarter, as they allowed Bruce Gradkowski to carve them up for a touchdown drive with 9 seconds left for a 27-24 loss.
“You know, really not a lot needs to be said in regards to how that game ended,” Mike Tomlin said. “I’m not going to make any excuses for it. We didn’t make a play. We didn’t make a play to win that football game defensively.”
You can say that again. The defense allowed big play after big play, and in the end, they had a chance to easily win it but rookie DB Joe Burnett dropped an easy interception that would have bailed out the Steelers against a team that is simply not that good.
Instead, they now have lost four straight for the first time since the 2003 season. They also have now but themselves totally behind the 8-ball for any shot at the playoffs, as they sit at .500 at 6-6 on the season. They have four games left, but right now the playoffs look like light years away.
Tomlin, who in his second year led the team to the Super Bowl, now has to answer the question about how to keep the team together amid all the issues they are having on the field. “They’re professional, I believe that they will. That’s a uniquely close group,” Tomlin said. “Our performance is below the line, but that’s just our performance, it’s not who we are. I’ll reiterate that point to them as we prepare for a short week to go to Cleveland, but I won’t be surprised that that group is able to stay together. Ultimately our focus and our energy needs to be on winning a football game, finishing a football game.”
The Steelers looked to have the game won when Ben Roethlisberger threw an 11-yard score to Hines Ward with 1:56 left to take a 24-20 lead. It came after Oakland burned Ike Taylor on a long ball to Louis Murphy for 75 yards to put Oakland up 20-17 with 5:28 left.
The defense allowed Oakland three touchdowns in the fourth quarter, this after allowing just two field goals in the first three quarters. “You just can’t keep letting it happen – week in and week out,” Taylor said. “Having leads and having opportunities to close a game. This is the NFL. Regardless of what the records are, teams are still good.”
Roethlisberger was 18-for-24 for 278 yards with two TD’s and another end zone pick. Rashard Mendenhall ran for 103 yards and a score as well. The 6-6 club will be in Cleveland on Thursday.