In Pittsburgh, it's very popular to blame Big Ben Roethlisberger every time the Steelers lose. However, if you actually watched the game last night, you would know it's really hard to blame him for the loss.
The next obvious choice would be the coach, and in this case that would be the right answer.
I rarely blame the coaching staff for a loss. They can only do so much as far as preparing their players for their next opponent. Well, from the very start it looked as though the Steelers weren't prepared to face the Saints.
Offensively the Steelers, on paper, looked like they had a great matchup versus the Saints defense. However, the Steelers apparently weren't ready for the very good blitzing scheme the Saints were hell-bent on bringing last night.
About 75 percent of the time, the Saints brought six, seven and even eight guys in for an all-out blitz. The Steelers countered that by having receivers run 10- to 15-yard routes that took about four seconds to develop. Most of the plays developed into Ben running for his life, getting hit by more than a defender often.
So who's to blame? How about blaming Ben? I know that's what typical Steelers fans love to do. Ben didn't audible enough last night. He held on the ball as he normally does and didn't look like he was very cerebral last night.
I'm hearing things like, "Ben just can't read defenses like Peyton Manning and Tom Brady." If you saw last night's game, you would probably agree with statements like that.
However, Ben is not the reason the Steelers lost last night; he was actually one of the better players on the field. He didn't call most of the plays, and in fact the one time the Steelers went to a "no-huddle" offense, Ben got to call some plays, and it was very effective as usual.
It also wasn't Ben's fault that Heath Miller fumbled at a key moment or that Antwaan Randle El didn't score on a play that should have been a touchdown.
I don't blame Ben for this loss, and neither should you.
Do you blame the offensive line? The Steeler offensive line also took a step backwards last night; actually, they were taking a lot of them, because the Saints had them on their heels, giving Roethlisberger little time to throw and play the style of football that he's used to playing.
The offensive line also wasn't winning many one-on-one battles with the Saints defenders. The offensive line looked confused and overwhelmed. However, I won't blame the offensive line for the loss; they weren't prepared well enough for what they encountered last night.
Do you blame the receivers? Hines Ward is the leader of the receivers, as he often reminds us. Last night he shouldn't be proud of that. The receivers got smothered all night last night. NBC even gave some great shots downfield during the game, showing the blitz coming and the receivers being 15-plus yards downfield, covered and not looking for the ball.
Even when they were going against man coverage, the Steelers receivers got little separation.
Also, it's the receivers' responsibility to readjust their routes accordingly (a hot route) if the other team brings a blitz. The receivers also have to look back for the ball if they feel a blitz. Last night this didn't happen. The receivers often left Ben out to dry.
However, the receivers don't get the blame, or at least not the main blame for last night's game.
No, to me Mike Tomlin and Bruce Arians are to blame. They had all week to prepare the offense for a Saints team that blitzes a lot.
The Saints defense showed Arians what they were going to do from the very first series. Then he had halftime to readjust the offense for the blitz. He obviously wasn't able to counter the blitz. He continued to call plays that took way too long to develop, having Ben take five-step drops and having receivers run 15-plus-yard routes.
No slants, short crosses, running back screens, delayed pop routes by the tight ends and running backs? These are routes that can be effective via the screen. I've defended Arians in the past, but last night he failed as the offensive coordinator for the Pittsburgh Steelers.
In fact, the only time the Steelers offense got into a real rhythm was when they finally went to a no-huddle toward the end of the fourth quarter. Ben got to control the offense and moved the ball downfield, completing a big play to Heath Miller, which would have had the Steelers in field goal range. Unfortunately, Miller fumbled the ball, and the Steelers would go on to lose the game.
I think last night shows that on most weeks, the Steelers offensive players overcome their horrible offensive coordinator by making big plays. Think about it: Most of the Steelers' big plays in the passing game come from Ben scrambling and making a play. Ben makes this offense look better than it really is.
Why wait till the end of the game to run the no-huddle? Ben is one of the best quarterbacks at running it, and the offense almost always produces when it's in it. That's on head coach Mike Tomlin.
Speaking of Tomlin, he's right there in guys to blame for last night's loss. Tomlin coached not to lose instead of coaching to win the game. His conservative coaching was a big reason why the Steelers lost.
For example, when the Steelers had the ball on first down at the half-yard-line, they tried a standard handoff three times and got stuffed. Why not run a QB sneak behind your best offensive lineman, center Maurkice Pouncey? Why not run a play-action pass and roll Ben out on one of those plays? Why not go for it on fourth down? If you don't make it, the Saints take over from their own one.
Tomlin was very unimpressive last night, and if this team wants to win a Super Bowl this year, the coaches are going to have to do a better job.
So go ahead, blame who you want to blame, but the coaches were responsible for that loss last night.