The blame machine is being overworked after that debacle at Heinz Field, Sept. 16, in which the Steelers were down, 21-0, before many Black churches even said the Benediction.
Everyone’s blaming the Steelers’ defense, which had more potholes in it than E. Carson Street in the winter.
Everyone’s blaming the coaching, with many in the local sports media wanting Mike Tomlin on the next train back to Virginia.
Everyone’s blaming the overall attitude of the Steelers as a team, saying there’s no focus on football, and more of a focus on Facebook Live, Twitter, and “being lit.”
Ben Roethlisberger escaped the blame machine for this 42-37 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs, as the Steelers are now tied for last in the AFC North at 0-1-1. And Big Ben played a big game, going 39-for-60, with 452 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions for a 104.3 QB rating.
But his counterpart, 23-year-old Patrick Mahomes, in just his third career NFL start, threw for a whopping six touchdowns, and was the talk of the league by Sunday night. His arm is strong, his accuracy is top-notch, his poise is veteran-esque, his humility is infectious. The Steelers could barely sack this young phenom, and I hate to be the San Francisco 49ers, whose defense will surely be sliced up by Mahomes on Sept. 23 in Kansas City.
While Roethlisberger and the Steelers looked like a deer in headlights on their first few possessions, and Mahomes and the Chiefs were clicking on all cylinders, it revealed the biggest problem for the Steelers moving forward—Roethlisberger can no longer win a game that’s a shootout.
There is no way the Steelers defense is this bad. It won’t be winning any awards, but they won’t give up 42 points again anytime soon. The bigger concern is that with the NFL doing everything they can to open up the passing game and protect quarterbacks, the young quarterbacks coming into this league are going to be having a field day every Sunday. And the older quarterbacks such as Tom Brady, Drew Brees and Roethlisberger are going to be a step behind.
Even Brady, the righteous one, was outplayed by a younger, fresher Blake Bortles on Sept. 16 in Jacksonville, as the Jags beat the Patriots, 31-20.
And Brees, a surefire Hall of Famer, knows he should have played better against Cleveland, Sept. 16, and probably should have lost the game had Browns kicker Zane Gonzalez done his job and kick the ball through the uprights.
Back to the big fella, Roethlisberger. I’m not saying No. 7 is washed up. I’m not saying Roethlisberger isn’t competent.
All I’m saying is that Halle Berry still looks good, but she won’t be on the cover of Sports Illustrated’s Swimsuit Edition next year.
When Big Ben came into the league, making sizzling play after sizzling play, Mahomes, the Kansas City quarterback, was in the third grade. Carson Wentz was 11 years old. Sam Darnold was 7 years old. Roethlisberger was the hot, fresh sensation in those days. And whaddya know, over the next couple of years, the Steelers won two Super Bowls.
I know, it’s hard for us to believe that it’s been almost 15 years since the Steelers’ savior broke into the league in a Black and Gold uniform. Fifteen years ago, I weighed 40 pounds less, had a full head of Black hair, a beautiful hairline, and lived in a place some 250 miles away. Fifteen years ago, I had a different car, didn’t know what a smartphone was, and a lot of people I knew were still alive.
I’m much more wise now than I was 15 years ago. These days, I’m more apt to think things through before just “doing it.” And the same can be said about Roethlisberger. He’s a family man now, he’s a great father, a great husband, is visible in the Pittsburgh community, is excellent in front of the camera, and just seems more “comfortable” with himself.
But even though he’s slimmed up a bit, he’s still 36 years old, and it’s showing on the field. At least through the first two games of this season for the Steelers, Ben has gotten off to a slow start in each game. Just like any of our fathers’ old cars, it takes a while for it to get going. Yes, he did eventually get it going against the Chiefs, but when you’re down 21 points before you can even blink, all the Steelers did was pass. It’s never a good thing when your quarterback throws 60 times.
Remember…just one week before, he couldn’t outplay the Browns’ Tyrod Taylor, who only completed 15 passes.
This Monday night, Sept. 24, it’s going to be interesting to see how Roethlisberger fares against 35-year-old quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who have surprisingly defeated their first two opponents. I’m hoping that motor on that ole’ Ford Roethlisberger fires up quickly, because I don’t want to believe that Ben has lost a step.
But don’t be surprised if Fitzpatrick, whom, while he is just one year younger but has played in 67 less games (four full regular seasons) than Roethlisberger, is the one who gets off to the fast start.
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