By Mark Madden
Beaver County Times
October 3, 2011
Arian Foster(notes) #23 of the Houston Texans rushes as he is pursued by Keenan Lewis(notes) #23 and Troy Polamalu(notes) #43 of the Pittsburgh Steelers at Reliant Stadium on October 2, 2011 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)
Warren Sapp said it: "The Steelers are old, slow and it's over."
Yesterday, for the first time, we all started to think it.
It's awful early in the 2011 campaign to wave white flags. Problems can be fixed. Strategies can be adjusted.
But Sunday's 17-10 loss at Houston showed the Steelers at their worst. The Texans kept trying to lose, giving back two touchdowns via flag, committing nine penalties total, missing tackles and displaying their usual second-half stumbling.
But the Steelers would not oblige.
Troy Polamalu was brilliant. Ben Roethlisberger was courageous.
But mostly, the Steelers were comical. Their play was downright embarrassing.
Houston rushed for 180 yards, led by a gimpy Arian Foster with 155. The Steelers' once-legendary run defense now gets gashed almost weekly.
The defense let Houston drive 115 yards on its initial possession. That's right, 115 yards. Infractions forced the Texans to cover 20 yards twice. The march took 19 plays and chewed up 10:55.
The Texans' first drive was distressing. Since the first Steelers' dynasty dawned in the ‘70s, the defense has rarely looked feeble. But it sure got bullied at the get-go Sunday. Knocked back. Pushed around. The Steel Curtain looked like Saran Wrap.
Mike Wallace and Maurkice Pouncey took stupid, unnecessary penalties that reflect a lack of discipline often evident in the Mike Tomlin regime. Your best players can't dig the hole deeper.
The Steelers' offensive line was a mess. Management should be ashamed to put a unit like that on the field, and in front of the franchise's $100 million investment. Injuries duly noted, the O-line features several players that are borderline pros at best. Roethlisberger was sacked five times -- knocked down three times on the first series alone -- and drilled in the knee again.
Many clamor for Roethlisberger to get rid of the ball quicker. But that would be counterproductive to Roethlisberger's stunning ability to extend plays. Roethlisberger shouldn't abandon a strength. The Steelers should assemble a better line.
Certain Steelers have had great careers, and deserve respect for their accomplishments.
But ... old, slow and it's over.
Hines Ward had just one catch for 19 yards. He had a critical fourth-quarter drop. Ward is on pace for 52 receptions. He's averaging just 10.4 yards per. Ward simply can't get open anymore.
LaMarr Woodley is struggling. Many believe it's because Aaron Smith, the defensive end in front of Woodley, is toast. Smith exited yesterday's loss via injury, as he too often does.
James Farrior got blocked into oblivion on Foster's game-winning 42-yard touchdown run. He got beat for 30 yards on the preceding pass play. Farrior is fading. He's playing less, and worse.
Management shouldn't be blamed for taking a chance on these guys. But there was always the possibility this could happen.
There's always the possibility things could right themselves, too. Lost youth could be recaptured. Young players could emerge. The coaches could milk improvement. The Steelers' schedule is so weak, it's hard to imagine them not making the playoffs.
But for now, the Steelers' mystique is gone. Houston sucked the Steelers back into Sunday's game, but the Texans were never intimidated. They beat the Steelers despite a plethora of errors and superstar receiver Andre Johnson's early exit because of injury. It should have been 31-10, maybe worse, no better.
New England at Heinz Field, Oct. 30. Baltimore at Heinz Field, Nov. 6.
Still looking forward to those games, Yinzer Nation?