The Pittsburgh Steelers dropped a game to the lowly Tennessee Titans by a score of 26-23 in an embarrassing affair on Thursday Night Football. But who or what deserves the most blame for this humiliating loss under the national microscope?
In reality, the Steelers played a great game.
Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger set the Steelers career passing yardage record, as he had 363 yards with a touchdown and an interception. Running back Isaac Redman caught four passes for 104 yards and receiver Mike Wallace added 94 yards and a touchdown, as well.
So what went wrong?
The Steelers were favorites headed into the match-up and rightfully so, as they are the far superior team. Unfortunately for Pittsburgh, the roster was simply ill-equipped to handle the onslaught of injuries that the team has suffered, which resulted in an astonishing number of players dropping like flies.
Pittsburgh lost its star center, Maurkice Pouncey, to a serious looking injury early on in the game. This proved to be foreshadowing, as the rest of the night would be littered with injuries for the Black and Yellow.
Next was right tackle, Marcus Gilbert, a cog along the offensive line and a mauler in the run game. He suffered what appeared to be a leg injury and failed to return to action.
Running back was another position that was simply decimated throughout the night. Starting back Rashard Mendenhall, who had just returned from a serious injury from last season, went down in a heap with an Achilles injury.
Isaac Redman, despite having an outstanding night catching passes out of the backfield, went down with an ankle injury and also didn't make it back on the field.
On the defensive side of things, the Steelers were without Troy Polamalu to begin the game and his replacement, Will Allen, ended up going down with an injury as well.
It would be easy to blame the loss on a player like cornerback Ike Taylor (who had a horrendous night all things considered). Or even James Harrison or Antonio Brown, who both had quiet games. Some blame could even go on Roethlisberger for his lazy interception.
In the end, it is hard to blame anything but injuries. It's difficult for a team to not be offensively one-dimensional when its starting running back is Baron Batch, who mustered only 22 yards and a touchdown on 10 carries.
It's also hard to put the blame on Roethlisberger, not only because of Batch, but because his starting center (who is one of the best in the league and who he has outstanding chemistry with), along with his right tackle were no longer in the game.
The entire ebb of the offense had shifted to the passing game, which simply was not ready for injuries. The Steelers had seven active offensive lineman going into the game, but were left with only five who were healthy enough to play—a crippling situation for any team.
At the end of the day, the Titans were the better team when it mattered. Especially in crunch time with the game on the line. Pittsburgh even had a shot to win it in the final minute, but kicker Shaun Suisham missed.
The Steelers deserved to lose on Thursday and did so in embarrassing fashion in the final seconds of the game. The team's inability to stay healthy and beat a lowly team like the Titans is an issue.
For Pittsburgh, the future is blurry. Getting healthy is the only way to salvage the season. A depleted roster, like the one that blew it in Tennessee on Thursday, is not going to cut it in the NFL and especially not in the AFC North.