Kicker Jeff Reed hangs his head as he walks off the field after missing his second field goal of the game against the Bears yesterday in Chicago.
By Ed Bouchette Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
CHICAGO -- There have been worse performances in Chicago. Dillinger, Daley in '68, St. Valentine's Day, Mrs. O'Leary's Cow.
Approaching that infamy, though, are the Steelers of the past 75 years. They came here to play a game for the 13th time since 1934 and came away with their 12th loss.
This one had to hurt the deepest for them because of how they lost, 17-14, on Robbie Gould's 44-yard field goal with 15 seconds remaining. Both teams now have 1-1 records.
Gould did what Jeff Reed could not; he kicked the ball through the uprights in the fourth quarter. Reed had two chances in the final 11:37 and missed both wide to the left.
"Of course this is uncharacteristic of him," Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said. "He just kicked the game-winner in overtime last week, and that's what we're used to. We aren't used to what happened with him today."
Reed's first miss came from 38 yards out when he seemed to slip slightly on new, bad turf made worse by rain. The Steelers were ahead by seven at the time.
Reed's second miss occurred with 3:18 to go and the score tied, 14-14. It came from 43 yards out and it appeared as if Reed tried to adjust by taking choppy steps on his approach, but the result was the same.
The Bears took over at their 33 and drove against last year's top defense to the Steelers' 26, and Gould knocked home the winner.
"There's no excuse," said Reed, who insisted he did not slip on the soggy field. "I missed two kicks and basically what it was, I was trying too hard on both of them. That's what happens to a right-footed kicker -- you hook them.
"I'm just embarrassed because these guys fought their tail off to win the game. If there's one player who can single-handedly lose a game, I'll take credit for it."
No, he had company.
Santonio Holmes dropped what would have been two big catches along the sideline. He appeared to drop a perfectly thrown pass over his shoulders from Ben Roethlisberger in the end zone on third down before Reed's final miss. Holmes said cornerback Charles Tillman slightly deflected it.
"He tipped it just enough," said Holmes, who acknowledged that wet balls might have contributed to the many drops on both sides.
"You had to fight the elements. The rain did play a big part. You have to be professional about it."
There also was the matter of the Steelers' defense, which not only allowed the Bears their winning drive at the end, but also a touchdown drive of 97 yards to tie the score, 7-7, with 19 seconds left in the first half. In between, there was a second Chicago touchdown drive of 72 yards to tie it, 14-14, with 6:21 left.
Quarterback Jay Cutler, unpopular in Chicago after his four interceptions contributed to Green Bay's victory in the Bears' opener, accounted for both of his team's touchdowns with passes of 6 yards to tight end Kellen Davis and 7 yards to rookie wide receiver Johnny Knox.
Cutler did not throw an interception and was sacked just once. He completed 27 of 38 passes for 236 yards on a day in which the Steelers held Matt Forte to 29 yards on 13 carries and the Bears just 43 yards rushing.
"I thought Jay Cutler was very good with the football," Tomlin said. "In the face of pressure, he made very good decisions."
Roethlisberger could have had a day as equal if Holmes had come down with the pass in the end zone and if he had not been hit when he threw an interception that was caught at the Chicago 5 in the first half.
He completed 23 of 35 throws for 221 yards, including a 1-yard touchdown pass to tight end Matt Spaeth for a 7-0 lead in the first quarter. That play capped a 92-yard drive.
Roethlisberger also scored the Steelers' second touchdown on a 2-yard bootleg in the third quarter for a 14-7 lead. That drive came courtesy of Rashard Mendenhall.
The second-year back had his first signature moment in the NFL, his broken shoulder in the fourth game of his rookie season aside. Mendenhall ran 39 yards to the Chicago 2 to set up Roethlisberger's go-ahead touchdown.
Earlier in that drive, Mendenhall fell down as he caught a pass thrown behind him in the flat, got up, ran the other way and ended up gaining 13 yards on the broken play.
The Steelers were more productive on the ground yesterday than they were in the opener. They had 105 yards rushing and a 4.8-yard-per-carry average. Willie Parker had 47 yards and Mendenhall had 39 on three carries.
"I'd rather run for no yards and win," Tomlin said.
That is something the Steelers historically do not do in Chicago, where they last played in 1995, and came away with their only victory in this city. But then, they also do not often lose these types of close games.
"Usually, we find a way to pull it out at the end," defensive end Aaron Smith said. "Unfortunately for us, they pulled it out."
It looked at one point as if Roethlisberger would add to his 20 career winning drives when the Steelers' offense moved to the 25 to set up Reed. His 33-yard field goal in overtime beat Tennessee in the opener and was his ninth career winner.
It's the first time Reed missed two field goals since Sept. 26, 2004, at Miami. He also did it twice in 2003.
"It was a tough one today," linebacker James Farrior said. "We could have made some plays when we were supposed to, we just didn't. Chicago's got a good team and just hung in there to the end. That's usually what we do."