Steelers sinking out of sight
The Sports Xchange
NFL Team Report - Pittsburgh Steelers - INSIDE SLANT
Miami Dolphins on a snowy Heinz Field, 34-28.
Big plays did them in again, as well as dropped passes and the inability to run the ball.
They have not been 5-8 since the 2003 season, when they finished 6-10, tying for their second-worst record since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger.
They may not be used to their position at this point in the season, but as cornerback Ike Taylor said, "We still got jobs, we still got games to play. Ain't got no time to be whining and talking about the season, talking about the playoffs. We still got three left. So, we got to go out there and show what we can do for these last three games."
Changes are coming to the Steelers in the offseason and those changes might be made easier if they go, say, 6-10 rather than 8-8. That is one reason Taylor expects his teammates to play hard to the end.
"It's going to show on tape," Taylor said. "That's one thing that tape is going to do. That tape don't lie. Regardless what the record is, you still got to play football."
Mike Tomlin and his staff have taken some heat, but while the head coach appears to be safe, all bets are off for some of his assistants. The same can be said for many veteran players. Among those who could go are Brett Keisel, Ryan Clark, Troy Polamalu, LaMarr Woodley and Taylor.
"We take responsibility for whatever transpires," Tomlin said. "We understand the gravity of these moments."
NFL Team Report - Pittsburgh Steelers - NOTES, QUOTES
--The Steelers have scored 20 or more points in six consecutive games and have lost three of them. They have lost three games at Heinz Field with two left.
--Despite reports to the contrary, the Steelers have not been told by the NFL that they must definitely forfeit a draft choice because of Mike Tomlin's sideline infraction in Baltimore Thanksgiving night.
According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the Steelers have been told only that they might have to forfeit a pick in the 2014 NFL draft, not that the decision already has been made.
NFL Team Report - Pittsburgh Steelers - STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
--LB Jason Worilds had two sacks for the second consecutive game to increase his team lead to eight. He also was second with eight tackles to go with two quarterback pressures.
--LB LaMarr Woodley started on the right side for the first time in his career. He had three tackles, no sacks, no pressures.
--DE Cameron Heyward continued his excellent play with a team-high 10 tackles, a sack, a hurry and a batted pass.
--DE Brett Keisel (foot) did not play and has played only seven snaps in the past four games.
--LT Kelvin Beachum (sprained right MCL) did not play. Mike Adams started in his place.
REPORT CARD VS. DOLPHINS
PASSING OFFENSE: B plus -- Ben Roethlisberger completed 23 of 39 passes for 349 yards, three touchdowns, no interceptions and a 114.2 passer rating. He was sacked three times and lost a fumble on one of them that led to Miami's first touchdown.
RUSHING OFFENSE: C minus -- They averaged 4 yards a carry but they did not try it much. After rushing 16 times in the first half, the Steelers rushed only five times in the second against a poor rush defense. Le'Veon Bell led them with 61 yards on 15 carries, the 21st straight game in which Pittsburgh has not had a 100-yard rusher.
PASS DEFENSE: C plus -- Ryan Tannehill completed 20 of 33 passes for 200 yards, three touchdowns, one interception and a 95.5 passer rating. They sacked him three times. That interception was returned 19 yards for a touchdown by Troy Polamalu that put the Steelers back in the lead in the third quarter 21-17 after they trailed 17-7.
RUSH DEFENSE: F -- The Dolphins ran for 181 yards and a 7.5-yard average. However, they got most of those on two runs - a 48-yarder on an option by Tannehill that set up a field goal and a 55-yarder by Daniel Thomas that led to the winning touchdown. Thomas finished with 105 yards on 16 carries and one TD.
SPECIAL TEAMS: D -- One punt was deflected and carried one yard. Troy Polamalu ran a missed 52-yard field goal try eight yards deep out of the end zone instead of allowing his offense to take it at their 42. A penalty on a kickoff pinned the Steelers back to their 10 late in the game. They had no returns to speak of.
COACHING: F --- Mike Tomlin said he put Polamalu back there to return the missed 52-yard field goal rather than take the ball at the 42 with about 15 seconds left in the first half. Tomlin also went for it on fourth-and-10 at his 10 with 2:33 to go, trailing by three, instead of punting. Then, he used a time out before going for it. Despite having two leads, the Steelers ran only five times in the first half.