November 18, 2009
Plenty of blame to go around in Steelers offense
BY ALAN ROBINSON
Associated Press

PITTSBURGH — Ben Roethlisberger felt out of sync all day in the Pittsburgh Steelers’ offense. Santonio Holmes felt just fine.

[HIGH-LIGHT]Holmes disputed the quarterback’s notion that the Steelers had “something missing” during a 18-12 loss to Cincinnati[/HIGH-LIGHT] that moved the Bengals (7-2) ahead of the Steelers (6-3) in the AFC North race.

[HIGH-LIGHT]Holmes took umbrage on Wednesday when a reporter asked why the Steelers couldn’t find their rhythm[/HIGH-LIGHT] while producing the sixth fewest yards (226) they’ve had in a home game since moving into Heinz Field in 2001.

To Holmes, the problem was that the Steelers didn’t finish the drives they had, settling four times for field goals, not that they couldn’t find their game.

“How could we not find a rhythm when we drove the ball all the way down the field?” Holmes said. “We just didn’t put up points on the board.”

Still, the Steelers didn’t exactly mount a lot of long drives. Eight of their 11 possessions didn’t move the ball more than 26 yards and their longest was for 49 yards, or the equivalent of advancing from a team’s own 20 to the opposing team’s 31.

The Steelers’ 226 yards – 146 passing and 80 rushing – were only 19 fewer than their lowest offensive production at Heinz Field, 207 yards against Washington in 2004.

[HIGH-LIGHT]“There was just something missing all day, and I don’t know what it was,” Roethlisberger said. “Something was weird about the day. I don’t know if it was the (mid-60s) weather in November or what it was. Even the crowd at the beginning – everything was just kind of different. No excuse.”

Holmes suggested that if Roethlisberger felt that way, it explains why the Steelers lost.

“He’s the quarterback. He’s got control over everything, who touches the ball,” Holmes said. “He dictates where the ball goes, and if he felt that way, it’s probably why we didn’t win the ballgame.”[/HIGH-LIGHT]

Of course, Holmes (seven catches, 88 yards) had a much better day than Roethlisberger (20 of 40, 174 yards, one interception) so the offense’s repeated stalling might not have seemed as evident to him.

To Holmes, it would have helped if the Steelers had run the ball more. Rashard Mendenhall was coming off a 155-yard game in Denver, but he was limited to 13 carries for 36 yards.

“The last game (in Denver) those big plays opened up for us,” because the Steelers ran the ball effectively, Holmes said.

[HIGH-LIGHT]Holmes, the Super Bowl MVP, also offered this suggestion: “Get the ball to the playmakers.”

Left tackle Max Starks also wanted to run more than 18 times, the fifth fewest carries the Steelers have had in any game since 2001. Of course, most offensive linemen wouldn’t mind running on every down.

“I’m going to say yes all the way. But that’s not the game plan that they saw from what they (the Bengals) were giving us,” Starks said. “You look at a team and see what the weaknesses are and try to attack those weaknesses.”

The Steelers, who have slipped to No. 17 in rushing, probably want to get back to running more often Sunday against the Chiefs (2-7), who are sixth from the bottom in rushing defense.[/HIGH-LIGHT]

“I think there’s a shot of working more into that,” Starks said.

Not allowing the third kickoff return touchdown the Steelers have yielded in four games might have helped against Cincinnati, too. But kicker Jeff Reed isn’t about to take the blame for being one of the 11 would-be tacklers who missed Bernard Scott during his pivotal 96-yard return.

Reed was surprised to be singled out for not bringing down Scott, especially since he had to run from one side of the field to the other to try to make the play.

“That was about a 50-yard sprint for me, and my job is to make him cut back inside and he went inside of me,” Reed said. “I just look at those people (who were critical) like they don’t know what they’re talking about.”

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