Steelers laugh, cry after loss to Colts

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There is absolutely no truth to the rumor that Steelers safety Troy Polamalu's wife, Theodora, refused to allow him to hold their infant son, Paisios, last night out of concerns for the child's safety.

You know, that Polamalu would drop the little guy.

Even Polamalu had to laugh at that one.

What else was there to do but laugh after this fall-from-ahead, 24-20 Steelers' loss to the Indianapolis Colts at Heinz Field? It sure beat the heck out of crying, which is what quarterback Ben Roethlisberger looked as if he wanted to do as he buried his head in his locker for several long minutes after the sickening defeat, which left the Steelers tied with the Baltimore Ravens atop the AFC North Division.

"We had a chance to really hurt [the Colts] by winning this game," Polamalu said. "We also made it a lot tougher on ourselves by losing."

There was plenty of blame to go around and no shortage of players willing to stand up and take it.

On his side of the locker room was Roethlisberger, who fingered himself for the loss, which is exactly what a $102 million quarterback is supposed to do. It doesn't matter that Big Ben's right shoulder is aching and his left thumb is bad. He was out there playing and threw two killer interceptions which led to Indianapolis touchdowns at the end of the first half and the end of the game.

Sitting at his locker was Polamalu, who was so eager to beat himself up that he took blame not just for his dropped interception late in the second quarter, which should have gone for about a 70-yard touchdown and a 24-7 Steelers' lead, but also for a blown coverage on the decisive 17-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Peyton Manning to running back Dominic Rhodes with 3:04 left. As it turned out, Rhodes was linebacker James Farrior's man. Polamalu tried to cover for Farrior's mistake and nearly made a fabulous play but couldn't quite leap high enough to bat away the Manning pass.

Polamalu just shrugged and smiled when he was outed over the Rhodes touchdown play.

There really was nothing funny about Polamalu's drop or the lame jokes it produced. Terry Bradshaw always said if defensive backs could catch the ball, they would be wide receivers. Manning threw the ball right to Polamalu and he couldn't grab the darn pig.

"Did [intended receiver, tight end Dallas Clark] get his hand in there?" Polamalu asked. Before waiting for the answer, he added, "I've got to make that play no matter what. I guess I didn't look the ball in."

It was one of several plays the Steelers' secondary failed to make. Perhaps you'll argue the Steelers would have won if Polamalu had caught the ball and scored a touchdown or Roethlisberger hadn't thrown those horrid interceptions or the Steelers' offense had found the end zone on one of its two cracks by running back Mewelde Moore from the Colts' 1 midway through the final quarter instead of settling for a field goal. But in Indianapolis, they should be thinking the Colts would have won easily if not for a couple of drops by future Hall of Fame wide receiver Marvin Harrison. On the first, Harrison, after turning cornerback Deshea Townsend inside out with a post move, couldn't quite bend down far enough to catch a Manning ball that should have gone for a 50-yard touchdown. On the second, Harrison blew by cornerback William Gay and just flat dropped what would have been an 18-yard touchdown.

Townsend had two defensive holding calls against him before leaving late in the third quarter after hearing his right hamstring "pop."

Then, there was cornerback Ike Taylor.

Poor, unlucky Ike.

Not once, but twice Taylor had perfect coverage on wide receiver Reggie Wayne only to deflect the ball in the air and allow Wayne to catch it for big plays. The first resulted in an early 65-yard touchdown. Yeah, that was a big play, all right. The second produced a 16-yard gain on third-and-8 from the Colts' 27 late in the third quarter. That was pretty big, too.

"It's a disgusting feeling," Taylor said. "It's frustrating because you're in position and their guy still comes down with the ball."

Everyone from LeBeau to Polamalu to Taylor was disappointed that the Steelers' defense -- the NFL's best, at least before yesterday -- couldn't bail out Roethlisberger after either of his interceptions. The Colts turned them into 30- and 32-yard touchdown drives.

"Number one, you try to force a turnover there," Polamalu said. "Number two, you try to force them into a field goal. We didn't make either happen."

Polamalu figured he would hear about it when he got home.

"My wife will ask me, 'How could you drop that interception?'"

Better the ball than the ...

Sorry.

That still isn't funny.


Ron Cook can be reached at rcook@post-gazette.com .


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