Despite passing for 383 yards and nearly bringing the team back from a 34-17 deficit, it was two mistakes by Ben Roethlisberger that helped seal their fate. His interception in the third quarter was quickly converted into a touchdown. And his near-intentional fumble on third down at the Vikings 6 with :06 to play ended any chance of getting one more play to tie the score. Still, he was under a lot of pressure from Jared Allen and managed to complete 36 of 51 passes.
With one 8-yard touchdown run in the first quarter, Le'Veon Bell showed why the coaches are excited about him, taking an inside handoff and breaking it untouched to the right corner. Bell's debut was solid, rushing for 57 yards on 16 carries and two touchdowns. He also caught four passes for 27 yards. But how about Isaac Redman? The team's highest-paid running back and short-yardage guy was deactivated.
Antonio Brown followed a nine-catch game with a career-high 12 receptions, the most by a Steelers receiver in 10 years. Jerricho Cotchery went over 100 yards on just five catches and Heath Miller had four of his six catches in the first half. Emmanuel Sanders made a nice 36-yard, over-the-shoulder catch to help set up the first touchdown.
Could Mike Adams have had a worse performance? He allowed two sacks to DE Jared Allen and was penalized for holding on another sack-to-be in the first half. Then he was blown up for another sack by LB Chad Greenway in the third quarter. When Ramon Foster was injured, Kelvin Beachum had to play left guard, forcing Adams to stay in the game. Roethlisberger was sacked five times, 2 1/2 by Allen, and was under lots of pressure most of the game.
A couple big plays by DE Brett Keisel and Cam Heyward do not compensate for the number of big plays against the defense, especially Adrian Peterson's 60-yard touchdown run. Peterson finished with 140 yards on 23 carries and added an 8-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter. That's six rushing touchdowns against the Steelers this season, one more than they allowed in the entire 2010 season.
One of Mike Tomlin's postgame themes was missed tackles, and there were plenty of those by the linebackers. What's more, the Steelers had only one sack on backup QB Matt Cassel, and that was by LaMarr Woodley. Lawrence Timmons got stiff-armed on Peterson's 60-yard touchdown and got caught inside on his 8-yard score. Woodley's personal foul penalty on first down after Roethlisberger's interception only shortened the field for the Vikings and resulted in a two-play touchdown drive.
It was a long afternoon for CB Cortez Allen, who got beat for two touchdowns by Greg Jennings, including missing not one, but two tackles on a 70-yard catch-and-run score. CB Ike Taylor got his hands on a couple near-interceptions, but he also missed a diving tackle on Peterson's long touchdown run. Cassel passed for 248 yards and Jerome Simpson had seven catches for 124 yards.
The Steelers get no big plays from their return units, especially kickoffs where Felix Jones looks as though he's running at half speed. Also, punter Zoltan Mesko has done nothing since the Steelers cut Drew Butler. After punts of 38 and 21 yards against the Bears, his first two punts against the Vikings were 33 and 31 yards. Something has to change on both fronts. The kick coverage, usually solid, allowed rookie Cordarrelle Patterson to average 28.5 yards on five returns.
Roethlisberger said the Steelers are the worst team in football right now, and he might not be too far wrong. Their defense has allowed 94 points and way too many big plays in the past three games. And they still don't have any takeaways. Conversely, the offense continues to have its mistakes turned into scoring opportunities for the other team. Tomlin and the players talked about sticking together from here on in. That's what losing teams with little cohesion like to say.
First Published September 30, 2013 4:00 AM