The Pittsburgh Steelers fell to the defending Super Bowl champion New Orleans Saints Sunday night by a final score of 20-10. The final score, however, gives no indication of just how poorly each team played offensively for the first three-and-a-half quarters of a game that was supposed to compete with and steal substantial ratings from the World Series.
On Halloween night it was pretty spooky to see the boys in black and gold masquerading like the 2009 version of themselves.
The Steelers were standing at a crossroads as a team this week after regaining Ben Roethlisberger and losing Aaron Smith in the last two weeks.
To the left loomed a return to their 2009 form whereby they caved defensively without their run-stopping, pocket-collapsing defensive end and abandoned the run game in order to live and die by the deep pass. To the right, a decision to stick with what has made them successful thus far offensively and defensively, while incorporating a more potent passing game into a much improved and balanced running attack.
What did the Steelers do?
Instead of hanging a hard right, they plunged headlong through the fork in the road and refused to do either entirely.
While the front seven were simply outstanding defensively, despite not having starting defensive ends Aaron Smith (IR) and Brett Keisel (hamstring), the Steelers continued to struggle against the pass once they stopped applying pressure in the fourth quarter. Despite the common theme of fourth-quarter let downs, the Steelers showed no breakdown against the run in Smith’s absence.
The offense, however, brought back nightmarish memories of a the team that began the season 6-2 before becoming a pass-happy, flag football team that didn't have the meddle to punch the ball across the goal line with a shortened field in the red zone in 2009.
Are the wheels falling off once again in Pittsburgh?
For those of you on the ledge, don’t jump off the hot, metal bridge just yet. While there are reasons to feel uneasy about the team going forward, the 2010 version of the Steelers certainly provides you with more positives to keep you on this side of eternity than last year’s version of the team.
While you may have to wade through the ugly to get to the positives, there may be more good to take away from Halloween night in New Orleans in this week’s edition of the good, bad and ugly than you may have seen at first glance.