Just when you thought it couldn’t get much worse than last week’s embarrassing loss at Oakland, your last-place Pittsburgh Steelers outdid themselves with Sunday’s clunker.
Fifty-five points and 610 yards allowed. Both franchise records.
Along with a record number of bruised egos in Pittsburgh’s locker room, too.
“It’s embarrassing,” Ryan Clark said, “not just for us as players, but for the Steelers franchise.”
And you know what? Ben Roethlisberger might have been on to something when he said in September the Steelers might be the “worst team in the league.” If they’re not the worst, they’re not far behind.
Forget the Steelers’ standard. Forget the playoffs. Forget a winning season.
At this point, a six-win season would be an accomplishment considering the way this team has performed this season.
There is no longer a doubt that this is a rebuilding or retooling team.
Not that the Steelers or coach Mike Tomlin are willing to accept it.
“I’m angry. I’m disappointed. We don’t have time for perplexed,” Tomlin said. “We’re capable of better than that. We’ve got to be better than that. We weren’t so we’re going to fix it.”
No, this team isn’t much better than that.
This edition of the Steelers doesn’t have what it takes to be a competitive NFL franchise, let alone a winning or playoff team. After a short two-game winning streak that had the Steelers and fans alike believing a turnaround was realistic, the past two Sundays confirmed this is a lost season in Pittsburgh.
It starts with a defense that’s not earning its keep or living up to expectations. Four of the top five highest-paid players on the roster are on the defense, and each of them is earning $7 million or more.
Two of those players — Troy Polamalu and Ike Taylor — headline a secondary that was supposed to be the veteran-laden strength of the defense this year but instead looked like a bunch of rookies Sunday.
Polamalu might have had his worst game since joining the Steelers. He was flagged for three penalties, including a rare pass interference call, and he was directly responsible for two long plays in the passing game, including a first-half touchdown.
Patriots quarterback Tom Brady averaged 18.8 yards per completion, and even a staggering 13.1 yards per pass attempt. The latter figure includes Brady’s 10 incompletions.
“We just gave up some big plays, and we can’t do that,” LaMarr Woodley said.
Yet they’ve done it all season.
The Steelers’ once-feared defense is near the bottom of the NFL in turnovers forced and sacks. Opponents strike for big plays with regularity, and tackling seems to be a fundamental that’s escaped the Steelers.
And don’t forget an offense that desperately lacks a deep, vertical threat in the passing game or any semblance of continuity along the offensive line, which especially makes it next to impossible to have a successful running game.
This isn’t about the Steelers being old and slow anymore. It’s about the fact that they have very few playmakers on the roster.
This team isn’t nearly as good as Tomlin would like to believe, and this team won’t live up to the standard.
The sooner Tomlin and the Steelers’ front-office brass accept that, the better.