- Scott Brown, ESPN Pittsburgh Steelers reporter
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Clock (mis)management: The Steelers had two choices, neither appealing, when they didn’t get a horse-collar call late in the game. They opted for the wrong one. With the play clock winding down following a 7-yard catch by Le'Veon Bell, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger called the Steelers’ first timeout of the half instead of taking a delay of game penalty that would have given Pittsburgh a second-and-8 from Oakland’s 17-yard line. “There was a horse collar on the play,” Roethlisberger said. “The one ref said to the other, 'I was going to call it but I couldn’t tell. What did you see?' We couldn’t tell what he was going to do so we got caught in a bad situation. By the time we got back to the huddle you look up and there's three seconds left on the play clock.” But there were less than two minutes on the game clock, and using a timeout instead of wasting a down when the Steelers had two more to play with cost them dearly. They pulled to within three points after a Bell touchdown run and Emmanuel Sanders’ 2-point conversion, but the Steelers but did not recover the ensuing onside kick, essentially ending the game. “I know timeouts are valuable,” Roethlisberger said, “but for an offense scoring touchdowns, so was 5 yards.”
Out of whack: When Roethlisberger talks about the importance of establishing balance on offense, he isn’t just paying lip service to the notion. The Steelers have thrown the ball 69.8 percent of the time in their five losses compared to 49.5 percent in their two wins. The Steelers ran the ball just 19 times against the Raiders while Roethlisberger threw 45 passes -- and exposed himself to the kind of punishment that the organization wanted to limit when Todd Haley was hired as the offensive coordinator. Game circumstances and injuries along the offensive line compelled the Steelers to get away from running the ball in Oakland, but the ground game regressed after a 141-yard output against the Ravens. And as promising as Bell has looked, he is averaging just 3.3 yards per carry after four games.
The good old days: Once upon a time, the Steelers beat inexperienced quarterbacks as well as veteran but suspect signal-callers. Not this season. Three of their losses have come against quarterbacks who are short on starting experience (Jake Locker and Terrelle Pryor) and a journeyman Matt Cassel, who held onto the No. 1 job in Minnesota for one game after lighting up the Steelers in London. The Steelers' other losses were against Andy Dalton and Jay Cutler, and the two have experienced success but also have just two Pro Bowl appearances between them.
Too little too late: The Steelers’ defense allowed but one first down to the Raiders in the second half. It also yielded just 35 yards of total offense. Not that the players took much consolation in how they clamped down on Oakland after allowing three rushing touchdowns in the first half, including one on Pryor’s 93-yard run. "In fairness to them maybe they didn’t go into their complete playbook in the second half,” Steelers strong safety Troy Polamalu said. “Their defense outplayed our defense and their special teams outplayed our special teams.” No argument here.