Without Holmes, offense stalled
Share with others:
A small but still alarming portion of yesterday's bitter postgame rehash in and near the Steelers locker room was devoted to complimenting a Mr. Limas Lee Sweed, who caught three whole passes in a 21-14 loss to the defending Super Bowl champion New York Giants, two of which resulted in first downs.
"There is no question that there was some improvement," Mike Tomlin said of his second round draft choice who finally made it onto a professional stage last week in Cincinnati, "but he is in the process of writing that story."
Thankfully, having some experience in that area, I think this portion of the story should be written in letter form:
Until I better understand everything that's required of a wideout in the National Football League and particularly within the wonderfully complex Bruce Arians offense, do you think you could manage to drive home in the middle of the week without getting arrested?
I appreciate the opportunity to get off the sideline and hold up your end of the passing game against the best football team in the world while you're cleaning any allegedly illegal substances out of your SUV, but this kind of disruption in the game plan probably couldn't have come at a worse time.
LL Sweed Jr.
No one wants to blame what was only Pittsburgh's second loss in seven games on young Limas, and no one wants to stash it in Santonio Holmes' police-inspected SUV either, but you can't help but notice that when Holmes is part of Ben Roethlisberger's starting offense, it generally does better on third down than 1 for 10.
Yesterday's 1-for-10 (and a combined 1 for 14 on third- and fourth-down conversion attempts) went a long way toward defining the first home loss to an NFC team around here since the St. Louis Rams beat Tommy Maddox and company, 33-21, five years ago yesterday. In between, the Steelers had beaten eight consecutive NFC teams at Heinz Field by an average of 16 points.
"Obviously you miss what Santonio brings," said Roethlisberger, who brought four interceptions into a stew that ran cold with the worst third-down offense since the Steelers went 0 for 8 at Green Bay on Nov. 6, 2005. "I want to give a lot of credit to Limas Sweed."
You'd suppose we should have seen this miserable offensive performance approaching like a suspicious vehicle all week. Holmes' ridiculous arrest was only part of it, as Hines Ward probably spent too much time re-interpreting remarks by NFL jurisprudence veep Ray Anderson regarding his season-ending wallop on Bengals linebacker Keith Rivers.
Ward wasn't exactly the picture of concentration yesterday either, false starting on one series and lining up incorrectly to draw an illegal formation flag on another. Throw in offensive penalties against Chris Kemoeatu and Willie Colon, whose calf-roping of New York's Justin Tuck nullified a second third-quarter touchdown by Nate Washington.
"I started to run down the field and I saw that flag coming out of the corner of my eye," Roethlisberger remembered. "But I'm not going to talk about the officials; we didn't play well enough today. They played great defense on third down and they did a great job on what in my opinion is the best tight end in the game."
Heath Miller caught as many passes as Sweed for 52 yards, including what would have been the longest completion of the day had Roethlisberger not found Washington behind a secondary for the third consecutive week on the second possession of the second half. Washington caught Ben's 65-yard touchdown pass at the Giants' 15, and somehow got an end zone escort from New York safety James Butler, who turned and ran with Nate rather than attempt anything very logical, such as a tackle.
Perhaps it was that spectacular play, which gave his team a 14-9 lead, that led Tomlin to largely exonerate Roethlisberger on the occasion of his worst passer rating of the year, 38.5. Tomlin thought the Giants merely made great plays on two first-half interceptions ("flashing into windows" was how the head coach put it). In the quarterback's defense, he was under heavy pressure, particularly in the second half. The Giants sacked him five times and hurried him at least as often.
"It's not like I'm talking to you guys for the last time this year," Roethlisberger said. "We already knew we weren't going undefeated. It's a loss. We never like to lose, but we move on. We stay together. OK?
"Be safe driving home."
Ya hear that, Santonio?
First Published October 27, 2008 12:00 am