The Steelers were at a total disadvantage entering Sunday night’s critical game in Baltimore aganist a Ravens team that was equally as desperate to try and stay in the AFC playoff race. The team was down to their third QB, Dennis Dixon, and still was missing Troy Polamalu on defense.
Not to say that Dixon was the problem, as he ran for a score and threw for another, and actually had the team up 3 with just over 6 minutes left. The defense, which again allowed a fourth quarter comeback, and didn’t stop the run as they normally did should squarely be to blame for this one. Anytime you score 17 points in Baltimore, you have to find a way to win.
The issue on this gloomy Monday is how the situation with Ben Roethlisberger was handled. The team and fans felt all week he would play, and it wasn’t suddenly till Saturday about 11am that he was ruled out for the huge contest. The story goes that Ben was fine all week, passed all tests, but then told the club he was having headaches on Friday.
It was then that doctors said he shouldn’t play, and despite a NBC report that said Roethlisberger begged to play, the team said no.
That’s where the issue comes in.
The team knew full well that there was a chance, big or small that Roethlisberger would have a setback. Yet instead of spending the week making sure that Dixon got enough reps to make sure he was ready if called upon, they just kept pushing forward that Roethlisberger was going to play.
Then he didn’t.
The club also spent time trying out possible emergency QB’s – Todd Bouman and Patrick Ramsey, yet decided to make Tyler Palko the 2nd string as they pulled him from the practice squad. Ugh.
Hines Ward also shed some light on the way the situation was handled, saying that he felt Roethlisberger should have played. It was in an interview that played before the game where Ward pointed out that he’s even played with a concussion.
“This game is almost like a playoff game,” Ward told NBC-TV in a Saturday interview broadcast last night. “It’s almost a must-win. I could see some players or teammates questioning, like, ‘It’s just a concussion. I’ve played with a concussion before.’ It’s almost like a 50-50 toss-up in the locker room. Should he play? Shouldn’t he play? It’s really hard to say.”
It was a must-win. And yet the team seemed to almost play it safe. Bad move.
While the broadcast crew kept harping on how important it was for the Ravens to win the game, no one seemed to mention how big it was for the Steelers to break a two-game losing streak and stay in the race in the AFC North. Now there’s almost no shot for them to win the division, and they are almost going to have for sure win the final five games to have a shot at a wild card.
Mike Tomlin and the organization botched this one. I know it’s never easy to lose your two best players and win, but in the case of last night, they gave themselves a great shot, only to see it again slip away due to all the things that have haunted them all year – attention to detail.
Another slip up, and you can kiss the season good-bye.