MIRZA ZUKIC: Steelers can't get in step
PITTSBURGH — For every step forward they take, the Pittsburgh Steelers seem to take two steps
backward. They just can’t seem to make much progress this preseason.
For every positive play, there seem to be two negative ones. And for every smile we see from coach Mike Tomlin on the sidelines, we see two scowls.
That again was the case Saturday night against the Kansas City Chiefs.
The night started out very promising for the Steelers. By the time the stands emptied at Heinz Field, those good vibes were long gone.
For starters, not only did the Steelers lose 26-20 in overtime to fall to 0-3 in the preseason, but they squandered a 10-0 lead in doing it.
And that’s only the tip of the iceberg.
The offense’s fast start quickly fizzled out, and the group’s play reverted back to the ugly form of the first two games. The first offensive unit finally scored its first touchdown of the preseason, and looked pretty good doing it.
The offensive line played better (save for Maurkice Pouncey, who is too busy making fashion statements), and the young tackles, Marcus Gilbert and Mike Adams showed improvement. And there was Ben Roethlisberger being himself, dancing around the pocket and making things happen.
On defense, the Steelers were sharp to start the game, stymieing a pretty decent Chiefs running attack. Pittsburgh forced a pair of three-and-outs on the Chiefs’ first three possessions, and the Steelers’ defensive line finally delivered some pressure to keep Jamaal Charles largely under wraps.
But as the game progressed, the Steelers seemed to regress. Pittsburgh started getting careless, and the penalties started to accumulate while the holes in the defense got bigger and bigger.
Neither the offense nor the defense were immune from the boneheaded plays, as the defense extended Chiefs’ drives with its mistakes while the offense seemed to lose its concentration after the opening quarter.
“Obviously, we were highly penalized,” Tomlin said. “In my opinion, some of those calls were suspect, but such is life in August. It’s preseason for those guys as well.
“I liked the effort of a lot of people, but we’ve got to make the necessary plays, though, to get out of the stadium in situations like that. We let the quarterback get away from us. We were penalized on drives that they scored on. That’s been kind of characteristic of us. If we remain penalty-free defensively, we’re a tough team to drive the ball on. We’ve got to understand that. We’ve got to be cleaner.”
While it’s true a couple of the penalties called on the Steelers last night were questionable, that doesn’t change the fact that penalty-filled, sloppy play is becoming common in Pittsburgh this preseason. It’s extending opponents’ drives while keeping the Steelers defense on the field longer and longer.
Let’s not even mention the special teams. It doesn’t matter much that Shaun Suisham’s blocked field goal attempt was a 52-yarder. It was a special teams failure, plain and simple. And of course, the Chiefs’ 109-yard kickoff return for a touchdown … well, that speaks for itself.
Taking two steps backward for every step forward is no way to get ahead, but it’s also a part of August football, Tomlin said.
With that in mind, it’s no time to panic yet, but progress will be hard to make without change.
“That’s just a part of team development. It happens this time of year,” Tomlin said. “Not that you accept it, it’s just that unfortunately, a characteristic of this time of year, We better get it fixed quickly because we’re obviously running out of time.”
PHOTO: The Steelers' Troy Polamalu dived to tackle Chiefs running back Jamaal Charles during Saturday night's game at Heinz Field.