The Steelers' reeling season may have completely unraveled Sunday night in a blizzard of turnovers, with quarterback Ben Roethlisberger as the primary culprit.
In a game in which both the offense and defense showed signs of playing at a level of respectability or more, turnovers wrecked any hope of victory in a 40-23 loss to the Chicago Bears at Heinz Field.
Roethlisberger had four turnovers -- two fumbles and two interceptions. Two of them resulted in scoring plays for the Bears, and a third set them up for an easy touchdown.
The Steelers are 0-3 and in last place in the AFC North on a day in which the three other teams in the division won. Their season is not yet doomed, but 0-3 starts are exceedingly difficult to recover from in the NFL.
They have turned the ball over nine times in three games, and in what is now a three-year trend, have yet to force a turnover.
After the Bears moved 51 yards on 13 plays off the opening kickoff to take a 3-0 lead, the Steelers lost control of the game based on Roethlisberger turnovers.
A Roethlisberger fumble on the Steelers' first possession gave the Bears the ball on the 17, from where they scored on four plays to take a 10-0 lead. A 55-yard run by Matt Forte set up a second Chicago TD before the end of the quarter to make the lead, 17-0.
The Steelers scored on a Shaun Suisham field goal early in the second quarter but that was undone when Major Wright intercepted a Roethlisberger pass and returned it 38 yards for a touchdown to give the Bears an insurmountable 24-3 lead.
In the midst of the carnage, there were positive signs.
The defense allowed the Bears only three drives of more than 17 yards: The opening 51-yard drive that resulted in a field goal; a 60-yard drive that featured Forte's 55-yard run; a backbreaking 74-yard drive in the fourth quarter that ended on a spectacular 17-yard touchdown catch in the end zone by Earl Bennett, which initially was ruled incomplete.
The defense held the Bears to 258 yards on 60 plays.
The Steelers gained 459 yards on 65 plays. Roethlisberger completed 26 for 41 passes for 406 yards and two touchdowns, along with two interceptions. He had a passer rating of 92.1.
What's more, there were hints the running game might eventually show some life, although Felix Jones had a crucial fumble. Jones carried seven times for 34 yards. Jonathan Dwyer had a 22-yard run and finished with 39 yards on 12 carries.
But with the five turnovers, the final one coming on the Steelers' final possession when the game already was lost, that wasn't nearly enough offense.
The Steelers play in London next Sunday against the Minnesota Vikings in a game of 0-3 teams that should have the United Kingdom bored to tears.
If they can win that game, after a bye week they play the New York Jets, another chance to get better. But after that, two of the next three games are against Baltimore and New England, competition, based on what they've shown so far, the Steelers do not seem ready to handle.
First Published September 22, 2013 4:00 AM