Season Slipping Away? Familiar Culprits Doom Steelers

Lee HeislerCorrespondent INovember 23, 2009

KANSAS CITY, MO - NOVEMBER 22: Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger #7 of the Pittsburgh Steelers tries to avoid a sack in NFL game action against the Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium on November 22, 2009 in Kansas City, Missouri.  The Chiefs defeated the Steelers 27-24.  (Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)
Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

The Steelers lost again yesterday, this time to the now 3-7 Kansas City Chiefs,  in large part due to the familiar culprits: poor special teams and even worse play calling.

The Chiefs returned the opening kickoff for a TD, the 8th straight game that the Steelers have allowed a return (fumble, INT, or kick) for a touchdown.

Bruce Arians also seemed like he was out to doom the running game—well actually the whole team in general.

At one point the Steelers had to move RG Trai Essex to LT, insert rookie Ramon Foster at LG, and fellow rookie Doug Legursky at RG. 

Basically, three backup offensive lineman were in the game, so what does  Bruce Arians do?  He called three straight deep pass plays with seven step drops against a heavy blitz.

As if that wasn't bad enough, Arians' way to get the running game involved was to run on dang near every 1st down (with nearly the same play every time—a counter to the short side of the field) and then pass every play after that until a 1st down was gained, a punt, or a turnover occurred. 

Arians also continued to seem determined to keep using his beloved "empty backfield" formation until it worked. 

Problem is, it's yet to work. 

Teams continue to counter this formation with heavy blitzing.  That results in Ben Roethlisberger taking a pounding, getting sacked, throwing incomplete passes, turning the ball over, or if the Steelers are lucky, a four yard gain.

And then there was Arians basically saying: "F-you critics, here's your run." On 3rd-and- 3 Arians called a toss to the short side of the field (imagine that!) using the Steelers' 3rd string RB.  This was after Rashard Mendenhall had gained 8, 7, and 13 on his previous three carries.

Needless to say the Steelers didn't convert the attempt, and lost yardage to knock them out of field goal range.

Injuries also mounted for the Steelers.

Ben Roethlisberger left the game with a possible concussion. Charlie Batch left with a wrist injury that will likely end his season. Chris Kemoeatu left with a knee injury. Max Starks missed time with a leg injury.

Add to that the fact that Troy Polamalu and Travis Kirschke are still out and Aaron Smith and Darnell Stapleton have been on IR.

The Steelers play the Ravens next week and could have Dennis Dixon, who has attempted one pass in his NFL career, at QB.

The Steelers will have a few QBs in Pittsburgh on Tuesday for tryouts. Jeff Garcia and Cleo Lemon both will reportedly be there.