Just when you thought it could get no worse than the Steelers no-turnover defense it got worse.
Unveiled this afternoon in London was this: The Steelers no-turnover/big-play surrendering defense and the result was a 34-27 loss to the Minnesota Vikings that sent the team spiraling to an 0-4 record.
The last time that happened was in 1968. Which also was the last time the Steelers fired their head coach.
In conjunction with all of this, the Ben Roethlisberger turnover machine continued. Roethlisberger threw one interception, which set up a touchdown, and was stripped of the ball in what turned out to be the Steelers last offensive play just when it looked like they might stave off defeat.
The proper phrase for the day would be bloody ugly.
The Vikings scored in the first half on plays of 60 and 70 yards to build up a 10-point lead they never surrendered to win their first game of the season.
Once again, the defense failed to force a turnover. That is has been unable to even luck into one this season is almost unfathomable.
The Steelers drove from their own 23 to the Vikings 6 on their final possession needing a touchdown and point after to tie the game.. But after two incompletions, on third down Roethlisberger was sacked and stripped of the ball as he fell.
ting 36 of 51 passes, and had one touchdown to go along with his interception. Normally, that kind of yardage and the points the offense produced would be enough for victory. But on this night at historic Wembley Stadium, as the defense crumbled, it was not.
Roethlisberger was sacked five times, with four of those coming in the first half, when he was often running for his life on pass plays. The protection was better in the second half -- until the final play.
Greg Jenning went 70 yards with a Matt Cassel pass midway through the first quarter to up the Vikings lead to 10-0. The Steelers cut that margin to three with a touchdown of their own, which was set up by a 36-yard pass from Roethlisberger to Emmanuel Sanders. The 10-7 score at the end of the first quarter was as close as the Steelers would get.
Early in the second quarter, the great Adrian Peterson burst through the right side of his line, broke one tackle, dodged another and outran the Steelers defense to the end zone for a 60-yard score. Peterson finished the game with 140 rushing yards.
The Steelers cut it to three again early in the third quarter with a 48-yard pass interference penalty setting up a touchdown.
But the defense was never able to fully stop the Vikings and even when it did it was not done easily. The Vikings ran a crucial five minutes off the clock early in the fourth quarter. They did not score on the possession -- missing a long field goal -- but the time elapsed proved costly.
The Steelers did stop the Vikings' final full possession after one first down with 1:43 remaining in the game. That was enough time, but the Steelers, needing a touchdown, could not move it in from the 6 in three tries.
Where do they go from here?
If ever a team was in need of a bye week, it's the Steelers. They are off until Oct. 13 when they play the New York Jets. Bye weeks are usually a time for injuries to heal. The Steelers appear to be in about as good as physical health as an NFL team might be, but they need this off week for their confidence to return and their psyches to heal.
The only positive of the days was that their two biggest North Division rivals, Baltimore and Cincinnati, lost. The AFC North standings look like this:
Who would have believed it?