“We had them on the ropes a couple of drives. For whatever reason, they got the stops and we weren’t able to put them away. If you let good teams in this league hang around and hang around all game, sooner or later, they’re going to make some plays, and that’s what happened today.”
That was Heath Miller of the Pittsburgh Steelers, talking about his team’s loss to an Oakland Raider team that, while probably not good but only average at this point, was a team that the Steelers dominated for most of the game.
This is to take nothing away from the Raiders’ win. When they needed to put together plays they did so, and the Steelers’ usually-great defense was unable to stop them. It was the Raiders that made the plays at the end to win the game.
What’s particularly upsetting for myself as a Steelers fan is that this is not the first time this has ever happened–far from it. Most good teams know how to put a team down and keep them there, but for what seems like many times that I can remember, there have been games when the team lets an opponent that really wants to just go through the motions and get the game over with–so it can hit the showers and go home–off the hook. Worse, the longer that team hangs around, the more they start to get the idea that they might actually win the game. That’s a dangerous mix.
Imagine the two teams represented by two combatants engaged in a hand-to-hand struggle:
(WHAM) Warrior #1: Okay, I’ve got you now. You’re on the ground and not moving. My foot is on your neck. Do you give up?
Warrior #2: (silence, not moving)
Warrior #1: Playing dead, eh? Well, you can’t fool me! I’ll bet you’re only pretending to be knocked unconscious.
Warrior #2: (More silence, more not moving)
Warrior #1: Hmmpf. (Examines Warrior #2) I guess maybe you are knocked out. Okay, I’m going to get something to drink. Be right back. (Warrior #1 leaves the room)
Warrior #1: (returning with a beverage after a few minutes) Okay I’m back. I’m…HEY WHERE DID YOU GO?
(POW) (Warrior #2 emerges from hiding behind the door with a golf club, swings hard and hits Warrior #1 in the midsection with it.)
Warrior #1: OOOOF! (He falls to floor in fetal position)
Warrior #2: (Places foot on Warrior #1’s neck) Now…you were saying?
You get the idea.
The Steelers dominated the Raiders in just about every way imaginable for most of three quarters…but they let them hang around and ended up losing the game.
Considering that the Houston Texans are now 3-0, having won their contest against Denver–another team that is looking more and more like one the Steelers should have clobbered in the season opener, and with the Ravens emerging from the Sunday night game against the New England Patriots with a win, this puts more pressure on Pittsburgh.
The Pats/Ravens game featured yet another installment–this one possibly the worst yet–of the replacement officials playing their own little game, “Spin the Wheel and Guess the Penalty.” (“Free space! There wasn’t any infraction that we saw!”).
True, it’s only the third game of the season, September isn’t even over yet. But it’s been said that the seeds sown in September will bear fruit in January. Looks like it could be some nasty bitter fruit indeed.