Steelers notebook: Losses to bad teams baffle Steelers players as much as their fans
December 29, 2015 12:00 AM
Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger walks to the sidelines after being sacked on third down against the Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore.
By Ray Fittipaldo / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
The Steelers entered Week 16 as the only team in the NFL with two victories against 10-win teams. Beating good teams hasn’t been a problem for coach Mike Tomlin over the years.
Beating bad teams has been. If the Steelers miss the playoffs for the third time in four years, the reason will be their inability to beat NFL bottom-feeders.
Of the Steelers’ six losses this season, two came against the 10-loss Ravens. In the first meeting they blew a 20-7 second-half lead and lost in overtime. In a 20-17 loss Sunday in Baltimore they failed to beat career backup Ryan Mallett 12 days after he was signed to the Ravens roster.
“It is frustrating because we know the caliber of team we are,” linebacker Lawrence Timmons said. “We’re a playoff team, and we should beat the necessary opponents that we should beat. We didn’t do that. That’s plaguing us right now. We have to make the necessary corrections.”
The only problem is, the Steelers have had the opportunity to make those corrections for the past four years, and they haven’t been able to solve the problem.
Losing to bad teams is the reason the Steelers missed the playoffs in 2012 and 2013 as well.
In 2013, the Steelers lost to Tennessee (7-9), Minnesota (5-10-1) and Oakland (4-12). They also lost to 8-8 Miami and Chicago at home that season.
In 2012, the Steelers lost to Oakland (4-12), Tennessee (6-10), Cleveland (5-11) and San Diego (7-9). They also lost to the 8-8 Cowboys that season.
Even when the Steelers made the playoffs in 2014, they lost to Tampa Bay (2-14), New York Jets (4-12), Cleveland (7-9) and New Orleans (7-9). The Steelers won the AFC North Division with an 11-5 record, but had they won just two of those four games they would have been 13-3 and earned the top seed in the AFC playoffs. That would have meant not playing on the opening week of the playoffs, when they lost to the Ravens in a wild-card game at home.
“It’s hard for us to understand it, too,” offensive lineman Ramon Foster said. “It’s frustrating … I don’t want people to think we’re out here being lackadaisical and just go about our business like we didn’t lose to an incompetent team. That’s what hurts the worst, knowing that, and then having to live in a football city where everyone knows it. Everyone is well-informed. We are, too. That’s a monster we have to continue to beat down. We can’t play down to anybody. We have to play up every freaking week.”
Care package for Karlos
In one of the scenarios for the Steelers to make the playoffs, they must beat Cleveland and have Buffalo beat the Jets. That means Steelers inside linebacker Vince Williams will be pulling extra hard for his little brother. Karlos Williams is a rookie running back for the Bills and has 493 yards and six touchdowns as LeSean McCoy’s backup.
“I don’t even know if he’s even looking at it like that, but obviously, I root for my little brother every game,” Vince said. “I want him to be successful. This time I’m going to put a little more effort into it. It’s going to be a little more critical, at least from our end. I’m pretty sure they’re going to get the job done”
Foster said he might provide a little more incentive for Karlos.
“We’re going to send him an Edible Arrangement[s], a care package, something to welcome in his New Year right,” he joked.
No legal action
Linebacker James Harrison, who was named in an Al Jazeera report as one of several NFL players who received HGH from an anti-aging clinic in Indianapolis, consulted with lawyers and decided he won’t sue the network.
“They said it wouldn’t be worth it,” Harrison said. “From what I understand the report really discredits itself. I was upset [Sunday], probably because we lost. Looking at it now, I mean, any Tom, Dick or Harry can name-drop or say this or that. It’s not even a topic of conversation for me anymore.”
First-year fullback and special teams ace Roosevelt Nix has a fractured fifth metatarsal in his right foot and was placed on injured reserve. The Steelers promoted linebacker L.J. Fort from the practice squad to take Nix’s place on the active roster.
Ray Fittipaldo: email@example.com and Twitter @rayfitt1.
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