FLATTENED

Bad Ben, worse line play front and center in another road clunker

The score: Chicago 23, Pittsburgh 17, OT

The bottom line: As we promised, Ben Roethlisberger was terrible, the Steelers offensive line was worse and the injury-riddled defense was overwhelmed by the heretofore underwhelming Chicago Bears in yet another road clunker under Mike Tomlin.

It was over when: Our impending sense of doom began when Eli Rogers lost the first punt of the game in the sun, heightened when Mike Mitchell missed a tough but catchable fourth quarter interception and took over full throttle when Tarik Cohen ripped off the apparent game winner early in overtime only to be ruled out of bounds. Given that gift, the Steelers responded by immediately allowing three more big runs with Jordan Howard’s 19 yarder setting the final.

Play of the game: Yes, the Bears Marcus Cooper pulled a boneheaded play by stopping before the end zone with what looked like an easy scoop and score on a blocked kick on what should have been the last play of the first half, but the bottom line is three Bears points instead of three Steelers points and that was the ballgame.

Players of the game: Perhaps the biggest takeaway from this game is that Marcus Gilbert, Stephon Tuitt and T.J. Watt are very, very important to Pittsburgh’s success.

Game mismanagement:

+ The Steelers called a needless timeout with 5:29 to go in the second quarter that they could have desperately used on their last drive of the half to preserve two chances at scoring rather than the ill-fated field goal attempt they ended up with.

In the booth:

+ Still waiting for CBS to recognize the penalty on the Bears second kickoff was not on William Gay.

+ Greg: There was some early contact there. Trent: I think that’s good coverage. Me: No, Trent, that’s pass interference.

+ Jesse James left the game after an illegal headshot in the second quarter that was not mentioned by CBS live or during an extended replay.

Zebra hunting:

+ The no call on the obvious illegal hit on James makes the borderline roughing the passer call on Cam Heyward all the more infuriating.

+ A big part of the growing dissatisfaction with the product the NFL is putting on the field is not just the number of penalties being called but the way the administration of those penalties with huddles and booth reviews is sucking energy and flow out of games. Sunday’s pame was the poster child for that problem. Yuck.

Hot topics:

+ Although the site of Alejandro Villanueva standing alone with his hand on his heart singing the National Anthem is one we won’t ever forget, it didn’t mesh with Mike Tomlin’s prepregame message of absolute team unity in staying out of the controversy. It will be very interesting to see how Tomlin couches Villanueva’s actions and what the Steelers do next week.

+ No one can deny now that Bad Ben is a real thing on the road as Roethlisberger was especially bad Sunday on third down. And it only gets worse with a trip to Baltimore on deck where Roethlisberger has played some of his worst games.

Next week: The Steelers open up AFC North play by traveling to Baltimore, where the Ravens were expected to be Pittsburgh’s chief competition this year before getting obliterated in London Sunday by Jacksonville. Now. With the Steelers stinker, it becomes almost a “war by attrition” game.

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