Monday, November 29, 2010

Giving thanks

Steelers 19, Bills 16, OT

By Mike Batista

In the final hours of Thanksgiving weekend, the Steelers gave us one more thing to be thankful for.

This win.

Let us give thanks that Bills' receiver Stevie Johnson dropped the winning touchdown pass in overtime. He'll probably be as infamous as this Stevie is famous.

Let us give thanks that Leodis McKelvin tripped over Arthur Moats, his own blocker, on the opening kickoff of OT. Otherwise he'd have had a touchdown.

Let us give thanks that McKelvin fumbled Daniel Sepulveda's punt from the Steelers' end zone, costing the Bills 15 yards of field position. Were the Steelers lucky to dodge the upset and not follow Black Friday with a Black Sunday? Absolutely. But let's give them credit for winning despite being backed up inside their own 1-yard line during overtime. That's usually a recipe for disaster.

Speaking of recipes, let's break down this game by turkey parts, in honor of Thanksgiving:

The Leg

The leg I'm talking about here is that of Steelers kicker Shaun Suisham (pronounced SWEEZE- um). Cutting Jeff Reed seems like a smart move. For now.

To some degree, Suisham probably knew what was going through Johnson's mind Sunday. Last season, kicking for the Redskins, Suisham missed a 23-yard field goal that would have finished off the 11-0 Saints and given them their first loss. That choking legacy followed him to Pittsburgh.

Suisham made four field goals Sunday, all of them longer than 40 yards, including the 41-yard game-winner in overtime. Guaranteed the 2010 Jeff Reed would have missed at least one of those field goals.

Now let's see how Suisham kicks at Heinz Field.

The Wing

Troy Polamalu usually takes flight after an interception. His flight Sunday was more of a puddle jumper. The Bills were at the Steelers' 12 with three minutes left when Polamalu picked off a pass deflected by William Gay at the Steelers' 1. Polamalu returned it five yards to the Steelers' 6. Polamalu's fourth interception of the year temporarily preserved the Steelers' 16-13 lead.

I know it's beating a dead horse to say that Polamalu's absence last season was the main reason for the five-game losing streak that ruined the Steelers' season. It's so much of a dead horse that flies are starting to swirl around it. But the evidence just continues to mount.

Aside from his acrobatic interception, Polamalu also recovered a fumble at the Steelers' 19 on the opening drive of the second half, at least delaying the Bills' comeback. He also had a pass breakup which helped hold the Bills to a field goal on their final drive of regulation, and a key pass breakup and tackle in OT.

This game was taking on the mood of other late-November stinkers by the Steelers, like last year's loss to the Chiefs in overtime, when they were without Polamalu; the 2007 loss to the 1-8 Jets, by the same 19-16 score in overtime, by the way (even though they had Polamalu for that one) and the Thanksgiving loss to the Lions in OT. Guess what the final score of that game was.

But thanks to Polamalu, this will not be one of those years that the Steelers suffer a late-November upset that derails their season.

Keep in mind that Polamalu isn't 100 percent healthy. He's had hamstring issues, but has been able to play on Sundays by limiting himself in practice.

When Polamalu went down for good last season during the home game against the Bengals in Week 10, I was watching at The Public House, a Steelers bar in Manhattan, without the benefit of audio. A fellow Steelers fan receiving cell phone updates broke the news that Polamalu was hurt. Not what I needed to hear.

Due to schedule commitments, I watched Sunday's game at Bob Hyland's Sports Page in White Plains, just a general sports bar but not a Steelers bar in particular. So of course I couldn't hear the announcers.

I'm now so paranoid about Polamalu getting hurt that I became worried that I didn't see him on the field early in the fourth quarter when the Bills faced a third-and-10 at the Steelers' 11. The Steelers led 13-7 at the time and were in danger of losing the lead. Ike Taylor broke up a pass to Lee Evans, forcing the Bills to settle for a field goal. I was relieved when I saw Polamalu lined up on the other side of the field when they showed the replay.

After Polamalu's interception, they showed Polamalu on the sideline, and I didn't know if he was hurt or just praying. Next time Polamalu prays on the sideline, I wish he'd use a rosary so we know he's not hurt.

The Breast

I'm going to talk about the offensive line for the "Breast" portion of my column, because most of these guys have man boobs.

Problems on the offensive line are nothing new for the Steelers. Still, I'd like to dedicate this song to Max Starks and Willie Colon, who might have been seen as part of the problem before being lost for the season with injuries.

The Steelers were poised to dominate this game. They scored a touchdown on their opening drive, taking up nearly half of the first quarter. They ate up another six minutes and ended up with a field goal to take a 10-0 lead early in the second quarter.

But the offensive line kept the Steelers from breaking the game open. Roethlisberger was sacked five times, and six holding penalties were called, four of them on left guard Chris Kemoeatu. The offensive linemen aren't talented enough to block straight up, so they have to cheat.

Steelers reject Kraig Urbik, chosen in the third round of the 2009 draft, started at right guard for the Bills. Does this mean the Steelers missed the boat on him? Or does it mean that the Bills are so bad he can start for them? All I know is Urbik never got called for holding on Sunday.

The Wishbone

This isn't a suggestion about the kind of offense the Steelers should run. It's a reference to the way Marcus Stroud and Moats yanked on Roethlisberger and twisted his knee after sacking him in the fourth quarter. This was after Roethlisberger apparently sprained his right foot in the first half.

Roethlisberger showed some major balls, and not in a women's bathroom kind of way, with his 18-yard run in the fourth quarter. The Steelers had blown a 13-0 lead and faced a third-and-17 at their own 29. On his bad foot, Roethlisberger slipped a sack and scrambled for the first down. Rashard Mendenhall then took advantage of the Steelers' regained momentum with a 22-yard run, his longest in a 151-yard day, that set up Suisham's longest field goal of the afternoon, a 48-yarder that gave the Steelers a 16-13 lead.

In Tuesday's press conference, Steelers coach Mike Tomlin seemed optimistic Roethlisberger would be able to play Sunday in Baltimore. I'm a little worried. He wore a protective boot on Tuesday and it didn't seem likely that he'd practice Wednesday. I just hope this isn't one of those injuries that's more serious than the team is letting on. Roethlisberger needs his feet more than most quarterbacks.


Did James Harrison rough Bills quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick? Probably. But he didn't lead with the crown of his helmet, and at the very least there should have been an offsetting penalty on Fitzpatrick's beard. ... So there's no way the Steelers can win in Baltimore after their performance Sunday in Buffalo, right? Well, things change from week to week in the NFL. Let's hope the Steelers got a wakeup call on Sunday.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

I like the new kid ... so far. Suisham FG makes it 16-13 Steelers
Steelers 13, Bills 13. Sick feeling.
13-7 ... Bills right back in this game. Steelers letting them hang around. This is exactly the kind of game the Steelers lost last year.
Tomlin's pissed about Harrison penalty. He's gonna go from Omar Epps face to Bernie Mac face
Doesn't look like Pouncey's having a good game. Crappy O-Line is keeping Steelers from breaking this game open.
Shot heard 'round the world! Suisham 45-yard FG, his first for Steelers. 10-0

Monday, November 22, 2010

Just like old times

Steelers 35, Raiders 3

By Mike Batista

As Steelers fans, we have grown accustomed to certain spectacles being part of games in recent years.

A couple of these have been missing this season.

Until Sunday.

The only time the Steelers' 35-3 victory over the Raiders was even remotely threatened, Troy Polamalu eased any budding worries with his first high-flying interception of the year.

It wasn't Polamalu's first pick of the season, it was his third. But it was his first since Week 2, and the first that involved that signature return with his flowing locks blazing behind him like the tail of a comet.

We hadn't seen that all season. It was nice to finally see it, especially with one of the antagonists of the Steelers' 2009 collapse, Bruce Gradkowski, on the verge of getting the Raiders back in the game, kind of.

The fourth of the Steelers' five straight losses last season came at the hands of Gradkowski and the Raiders. In that game, the Steelers only could manage a 10-6 lead after three quarters before a see-saw fourth quarter.

The Steelers (7-3) had the screws tightened a lot better Sunday, leading 21-3 when Gradkowski replaced Jason Campbell late in the third quarter. But Gradkowski, who showed a much quicker release than Campbell, moved the Raiders 76 yards to the Steelers' 24. Not that I was really worried about the Steelers blowing the game, but it was starting to at least look like the Raiders were going to hang around until the end like an annoying kid brother, much like the Browns did earlier this season.

Polamalu took care of that, picking off Gradkowski and returning it to the Steelers' 46. Two plays later, the fourth quarter opened to Ben Roethlisberger's 52-yard touchdown pass to Mike Wallace and a 28-3 Steelers lead.

As distinctive as his appearance is, Polamalu had been pretty much invisible since Week 2. During last week's loss to the Patriots, NBC commentator Cris Collinsworth said that the "roaming" role in the Steelers' defense, which Polamalu used to perform, now belongs to Lawrence Timmons. He said that Polamalu's role with the Steelers' defense is more "structured." If that's true, it's a mistake.

Polamalu's better when he covers a lot of ground. With six tackles to go with his interception, he had his best game since his Pro Bowl-caliber play the first two weeks of the season. It will help to have that hair whipping around down the stretch as the Steelers fight for a playoff spot.

Polamalu's interception wasn't the only bit of Steelers theatrics to make a revival after being absent this season.

No more Seymour

It seems that since his suspension, the new and rehabilitated Roethlisberger has kicked his habit of writhing around in pain after stubbing a toe.

It looked like the old Ben was back when he went down after throwing a 22-yard touchdown pass to Emmanuel Sanders, giving the Steelers a 21-3 lead late in the second quarter.

At the Irish Exit, a Steelers bar in Manhattan, the customary playing of the "Steelers Polka" after every touchdown stopped abruptly when it became apparent Roethlisberger was hurt.

It turns out Roethlisberger was hit in a place that has felt some impact before: his face. Fortunately, Richard Seymour's hand is a lot softer than the pavement at the intersection of Second Avenue and 10th Street in Pittsburgh.

Seymour apparently ejected himself from the game for the incident. Maybe he wanted to get out of there because there was a 3 p.m. showing of "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows" at the South Side Works Cinema. Who knows.

That brings us to the penalties. I believe there were a few of them in this game.

Flag Day

The Steelers won despite a team-record 163 penalty yards on 14 infractions. One of those was called on Chris Kemoeatu when he and a bunch of other Steelers bum rushed Seymour after he hit Roethlisberger.

You can talk about how the league's getting soft with all these penalties. I see it as the Steelers winning this game in a bad-ass way. They were ornery after getting pushed around by the Patriots last week. They didn't want to lose five games in a row again, and here was one of the teams that got them during that stretch. The Steelers were in a fighting mood.

Seymour-Roethlisberger might not have been much of a fight, but Roethlisberger showed some toughness by running for a 16-yard touchdown on third down. Unlike Super Bowl XL and this year's game in Miami, there was no doubt the ball got across the goal line. The touchdown gave the Steelers a 14-3 lead and essentially put them in control of the game.

The Raiders (5-5) seemed even more dangerous than the team that burned the Steelers last year. They entered the game having won three in a row, beating the Broncos, Seahawks and Chiefs.

If you can beat an up-and-coming team like that by 32 points -- the Steelers' biggest margin of victory since 2006, by the way -- despite getting flagged on just about every other play, then you're a damn good team. Or at least good enough to bring a team that's a little full of itself down a few pegs.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Maybe last year won't happen again after all. Final: 35-3 Steelers
Wallace TD makes this an official bitchslapping. 28-3 Steelers
1st high-flying Polamalu pick of season. 21-3 Steelers after three quarters.
As long as Steelers have this game under control, they might as well go for a penalty record. This is great!
How many O-Linemen are the Steelers gonna lose?
Sanders TD and tackle on ensuing kickoff. He does it all! Seymour, pick on someone your own size. 21-3 Steelers at halftime
Big Ben TD. Now THAT's how u score in the red zone. ... I'm concerned with Suisham's short kickoffs. 14-3 Steelers
Trai Essex at left tackle? Steelers=fucked
TD for Mendenhall. I still say he's gonna break a long one. 7-3 Steelers
Start a new streak, Hines! Raiders 3, Steelers 0. End of 1st quarter
Mendenhall's gonna break one. I can feel it.
Glad Clark's OK, but he could use a haircut.
Johnny Lee Higgins? That sounds like a country music singer.

Monday, November 15, 2010

You Bastards!

Patriots 39, Steelers 26

By Mike Batista

When Tom Brady sets foot in Heinz Field, the Steelers turn into Kenny from "South Park" or Georgie from "The Sopranos."

Sunday's 39-26 loss to the Patriots followed the same plot line, to the letter, as the Steelers' 41-27 loss to the Patriots in the 2004 AFC championship game at Heinz.

Not only were the scores almost identical, but in both games, it was clear the Patriots had the Steelers figured out early. In both games, the Steelers fell behind by three touchdowns. In both games, the Steelers made it mildly interesting, getting as close as 11 points in the second half.

Steelers fans had seen this show before. When the Steelers mounted their futile comeback attempt Sunday night, the sea of yellow seats at Heinz Field were speckled by the foolish few who thought they had a chance.

It was the same predictable television as Kenny dying in every "South Park" episode or Georgie getting bludgeoned with a phone receiver every time he rubs Tony the wrong way on "The Sopranos."

Only once have the Steelers beaten Brady, when they ended the Patriots' 21-game winning streak in 2004. But even then Brady, the Hoodie and his henchmen had the last laugh when they went back to Pittsburgh and won the AFC championship game that season.

The Steelers beat the Patriots at Gillette Stadium during their 2008 championship season, but those Patriots were quarterbacked by bed wetter Matt Cassel.

The last decade, which has included two Super Bowl wins, certainly has been a glorious one in the history of Steelers football. However, the fondness of this era will be tempered somewhat by their inability to beat Brady.

One of the main reasons Brady has been impervious to the Steelers' feared defense is his quick, short-range passes, which neutralize the Steelers' blitz and serve the same purpose as running the football. That's exactly how he carved up the Steelers' defense in 2007 during the Patriots' perfect regular season.

The Brady who beat the Steelers Sunday is a lot different from the one who beat them in 2007. Brady now sports long, romance-novel hair. That new look, combined with the drama he displayed when he screamed at his teammates after a failed third-down conversion in the first half, make it clear that he's auditioning to be either a model or an actor after football. He knows where the cameras are.

Despite the fact that he's as much of a pretty boy as ever, Brady out-toughed the entire Steelers' defense in the third quarter by plowing through for a 3-yard touchdown run, giving the Patriots a 23-3 lead and officially making the game a bitchslapping.

If Brady's life after football involves walking on the red carpet, he got a lot of practice Sunday night, because the Steelers defense only got close enough to take pictures of him. They didn't sack him and barely even touched him.

Sure, the Steelers might get another shot at Brady. But from what I've seen over the past few weeks, I have my doubts whether they will this season.

Not only did the Steelers (6-3) suffer their most lopsided loss at Heinz Field since Mike Tomlin became coach in 2007, but they haven't won impressively since beating the Browns 28-10 nearly a month ago. Since then they got a favorable replay review to beat the duller-than-dogshit Dolphins by a point; lost to the Saints and nearly blew a 20-point lead to the Bengals. And let's face it, the Bengals flat-out suck.

The Steelers' win over the Browns seems like a long time ago. Are they still better than the Browns? For the second time in three weeks, the Steelers lost to a team the Browns kicked the shit out of the week before. The Steelers once again couldn't pick up the chick their roommate banged.

Now historically, failing their BBT (Beat Brady Test) doesn't mean the Steelers can't win the Super Bowl. They recovered from an early-season, 23-20 loss to the Patriots to win the Super Bowl in 2005. But it took a last-minute drive in that game to set up Adam Vinatieri's winning field goal.

If the Steelers want to show that they're good enough to win a championship, they have to at least stand up to Brady. They didn't do that Sunday.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

That's nice, but Steelers won't win this game without a turnover 23-10 NE
I don't think Reed is long for Pittsburgh. Patriots 17, Steelers 3
As long as Ward doesnt have concussion he should play 2nd half. Steelers can beat Oak & Buff without Ward, but not Patriots
Memo to Steelers: Don't let Patriots answer before the half. Stop their tight ends. Patriots 10 Steelers 3
Memo to Polamalu: You might want to make an appearance tonight. Patriots 10, Steelers 0
Just like 2001, 2004 & 2007 all over again. 4th & 37? Really? 7-0 Patriots.
e alarm goes off
Good idea for Steelers to wear throwbacks. Maybe they'll throw the computer chip in Belichick's brain out of whack. He'll be like Rain Man when the smok
The site of Dungy & Rodney Harrison together in suits is hilarious. I got a feeling Dungy would love to shove his Bible up Harrison's ass.
Steelers flag up in front of house in North Kingstown, RI, heart of Patriots territory. It's gameday!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Happy Mondays

Steelers 27, Bengals 21

By Mike Batista

Now the season can finally start.

For the fourth straight year, the Steelers won on a Monday night to complete the first half of the season with a 6-2 record.

It's the fifth time in the last six seasons the Steelers have been 6-2 at the turn.

In 2005, they recovered from a three-game losing streak in the second half and won the Super Bowl.

In 2007, they experienced a slow, steady decline in November and December and lost in the first round of the playoffs.

In 2008, they went 6-2 again in the second half and won the Super Bowl.

In 2009, they completely collapsed.

That covers all the possibilities, right? I've just described every way the second half of an NFL season can unfold. There's no way the Steelers can show us anything we haven't seen before, right?

Well, they tried their hardest to do just that Monday night.

Just like old times

The Steelers were on the verge of blowing the first 20-point lead in franchise history. Not even those horribly dressed, laughable Steelers teams of the 30s, 40s, 50s and 60s managed to blow a 20-point lead.

With 40 seconds left in Monday's game, the Steelers were 12 yards away from not only blowing a 20-point lead, but blowing it all in the fourth quarter. They'd have been the first team to do that since the Giants in November of 2006.

Bengals quarterback Carson Palmer threw to Jordan Shipley on fourth down. Had Shipley held onto the ball, the Bengals, trailing by six, would have had a first-and-goal at the 5.

But Ike Taylor and James Harrison did the Malachi Crunch on the rookie, the ball popped out of his hands, and it was Happy Days for the Steelers.

To give the Steelers their 20-point lead, Antwan Randle-El didn't quite turn the clock back to the days of the Fonz, but he did make like it was 2005 again when he took the ball from Ben Roethlisberger on an end around and fired a 39-yard touchdown pass to Mike Wallace to open the fourth quarter, making the score 27-7.

Unfortunately, the defense took its foot off the gas pedal, letting the Bengals back into the game with Terrell Owens' second touchdown just 98 seconds later.

Then Roethlisberger threw a lollipop to Heath Miller that was intercepted by Robert L. Williams, and the Steelers entered full collapse mode.

On a day in which the incompetence of the Cowboys was highlighted with the firing of Wade Phillips, Flozell Adams paid tribute to how much his former team sucks by getting called for unsportsmanlike conduct on the interception, giving the Bengals the ball at the Steelers' 36.

The officials then got into the spirit of 2005 when they flagged Casey Hampton for roughing the passer. Hampton approached Palmer's knee much the same way Kimo von Oelhoffen did five years ago, but he just grabbed his calves and flipped him down. Palmer's knees were not in danger. Nonetheless, a five-year-old makeup call was issued, putting the ball on the Steelers' 21.

Next was a pass interference penalty on Ike Taylor in the end zone. The flag came late after Terrell Owens bitched and moaned for it. What a diva wants, a diva gets.

The penalty moved the ball to the 1. A drive that featured more flags than the United Nations ended with Cedric Benson's touchdown, pulling the Bengals to within 27-21 with 9:21 to go.

The Steelers appeared to restore order by going back to their smashmouth roots and handing off to Rashard Mendenhall seven straight times. Mendenhall gained 43 of his 99 yards on the clock-chomping drive. But Jeff Reed, despite looking like Big Foot with his monstrous beard, came up very small with his foot, missing a 46-yard field goal and keeping the Bengals in the game.

Damage control

This whole scene was reminiscent of the Steelers' inability to put teams away last season, when they didn't have Troy Polamalu. The Steelers do have Polamalu this season, but even with his flowing locks, he's been invisible at times. After performing at a Pro Bowl trajectory in the first two games of the season, there's been a curious lack of "splash" plays from Polamalu.

Monday night was no different. However, Polamalu was in position to prevent further damage on the biggest play of the Bengals' final drive. Like a one-man stone wall, he whacked Terrell Owens right after he caught the ball at the 17 after a 20-yard pass from Palmer with 1:01 left.

That stop seemed to stall the Bengals' momentum just enough. A holding call on the next play dragged them back to the 27, and three of Palmer's final four passes fell incomplete.

Dick LeBeau, the Steelers defensive coordinator who 40 years ago Monday was on the Lions team that was beaten by the Saints and Tom Dempsey's record 63-yard field goal, raised his arms over his head in relieved celebration when Taylor and Harrison broke up Palmer's final pass.

A way with words

In the grand scheme of things, however, there isn't much to celebrate. We now know that a Steelers season is far from over after their standard 6-2 start. The season really begins -- and ends -- Sunday night.


You see, the Steelers host the Patriots in The Game You Must Not Lose. The Steelers have the upper hand -- kind of -- in this rivalry right now, having won two Super Bowls since the Patriots' last championship, and beating them in New England the last time the teams met. But the Steelers' only win over a Tom Brady-led Patriots team came on Halloween in 2004.

This is the third straight time the Steelers face the Patriots after beating the Bengals in prime time. In 2007, they were home on a Sunday night before going to Foxboro, Massachusetts the following Sunday. In 2008, it was a Thursday-night game, giving them a 10-day break before facing the Patriots.

This time, the prime time win over the Bengals costs the Steelers a day of preparation. When the weary Steelers got back to Pittsburgh in the wee hours Tuesday morning, Cranky Pants Belichick already had been at work for a full day, thumbing through a dozen dictionaries trying to find a meaning for the word "scalded" that might make good bulletin board material.

Steelers coach Mike Tomlin labeled the Patriots as "scalded" Monday night, alluding to their 34-14 loss in Cleveland on Sunday. Tomlin might be too articulate for his own good.

Sure, the Browns bitchslapped the Patriots Sunday, but they did the same thing to the Saints two weeks ago and the Steelers couldn't beat them.

That puts another layer of importance on Sunday's game. A loss to the Patriots would suck not only because it's the Patriots, but also because it would hint that the Steelers aren't even as good as the Browns.

Yep, 6-2 means nothing.

Monday, November 8, 2010

That's it, Harrison! Way to seal the win. Don't let that geeky commissioner screw up the way you play. Steelers win 27-21.
Dammit, Skippy! And what's the deal with that beard?
What's this? TO moans and wines for a flag and he gets one? 27-21 Steelers.
Penalty on Flozell Adams is last thing the Steelers need after that pick. You can take Flozell out of Dallas, but you can't take the Dallas out of Flozell.
Steelers D took that drive off. 27-14.
What's Facebook? I've never heard of Facebook, because Antwan Randle-El made it look like 2005 again with that TD pass. 27-7 Steelers.
Always nice to see Ochocinco and TO bickering. 20-7 Steelers after three quarters.
Maurkice Pouncey, No. 53, makes a miraculous comeback just before halftime, and the Steelers kick a 53-yard field goal. And TO's getting pouty. 20-7 Steelers at halftime.
Mike Tirico almost said Marvin Lewis will throw the challenge "fag." Hee hee hee
What's this? Pouncey's out and all the Steelers can do is run screens?
Not quite the knockout punch I was looking for. 10-0 Steelers.
Sanders forces fumble and Worilds recovers. Let's hear it for the Steelers' 2010 draft. ... Heath hangs onto football ... AND Steelers score at goal line. ... Not a bad start. 7-0 Steelers.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Finding religion

Saints 20, Steelers 10

By Mike Batista

It figures God finally got me when the Steelers played the Saints.

In 2007, my rookie year as a Steelers blogger, I coined the nickname "Hands of God" for Heath Miller after he helped the Steelers come from behind for a 31-28 win over the Browns.

He now has been stripped of that moniker, just like he was stripped of the ball Sunday night.

The Steelers trailed 13-10 with less than seven minutes left when Miller took a pass from Ben Roethlisberger near midfield and rumbled to the fringe of field goal range.

The Saints' Marvin Mitchell jarred the ball loose.
Darren Sharper recovered the fumble before it even hit the ground, and the Saints eventually scored the clinching touchdown in their 20-10 victory.

That's what I get for comparing the skills of a Steelers player to God.

Miller's gaffe is my penance for violating Section 2, Paragraph 12, Line J of the First Commandment.

Or maybe it's penance for my blatant disregard for the Second and Third commandments every Sunday during football season.

Or maybe it was just God's way of telling me that He never would have fumbled in that situation.

On KDKA the Fan, Vinnie Richichi and Ron Cook were preaching forgiveness for Sunday night's loss. Oh, the Saints (5-3) needed this game more than the Steelers. Oh, the Steelers are still 5-2.

Folks, in this era of Steelers football, it's very difficult to excuse a loss. The Steelers have won two of the last five Super Bowls and are expected to make a run at a championship every year as long as Roethlisberger and Troy Polamalu are healthy.

The Steelers will need to go to confession for this loss. They easily could have won this game. Momentum was squarely on their side when Miller coughed up the ball.

Rashard Mendenhall ran 38 yards for a touchdown to pull the Steelers to within 13-10 with just under 11 minutes left in the game. The Saints reached the Steelers 20 on their ensuing possession when Bryant McFadden sacked Drew Brees and forced a fumble. LaMarr Woodley recovered at the 27.

A 12-yard pass to Matt Spaeth (yes, he's still on the team) and a 2-yard gain by Mendenhall was followed by Miller's flub.

A turnover into the hands of Darren Sharper almost would have been forgivable last season, when the Saints seemed blessed during their championship run. Turnovers were a big part of the Saints' success, and Sharper seemed to be in the middle of it all.

But this isn't 2009. The Saints struggled going into this game and were slapped around by the Browns in the Superdome the week before.

That's hard to swallow. The Browns beat the Saints in New Orleans but the Steelers couldn't. It's like going out with a girl you know put out for previous boyfriends, but never getting any yourself.

The most basic sign of football virility is the ability to penetrate the end zone from the 1-yard line, and the Steelers again failed to measure up in that department Sunday.

Antwan Randle-El finally did something besides fair-catching punts when he took a 12-yard pass from Roethlisberger and scored an apparent touchdown early in the second quarter. But it was overturned by replay, giving the Steelers a first-and-goal from the 1.

On first down, Isaac Redman lost a yard. Redman, an undrafted free agent from Bowie State, was dubbed "Red Zone" Redman in 2009 for his prowess in goal line drills during training camp.

Guess what. There's a big difference between practicing on the campus of a quaint little college in August and playing for real in front of Guinness world record mass of Halloween revelers in New Orleans.

Not even in the Big Easy is scoring in goal line situations easy for the Steelers. It never has been since Jerome Bettis retired.

Mendenhall, who ended up with 71 rushing yards on 15 carries, might turn out to be a better overall running back than Bettis, but he couldn't get the ball into the end zone, either. He at least made up for Redman's lost yardage on second down. Then on third down, he was stopped.

What I can't understand is why Mendenhall went to his right on both of those plays and not just up the gut. The Steelers were in their power formation with tight end David Johnson lined up in front of Mendenhall.

The Steelers settled for a field goal (not even Jeff Reed is going to miss from 19 yards out) to take a 3-0 lead. That's at least four points the Steelers left out there. Who knows how many points Miller's fumble cost?

After Miller's fumble, NBC ran a graphic that said Miller didn't fumble in the first 58 games of his career, but has fumbled four times in the last 27 games.

Maybe it's time for Miller to carry the ball everywhere he goes around the Steelers' practice facility, with $100 going to anyone who can take it away from him.

Hopefully Miller won't need that treatment. Maybe the steep price of Sunday's fumble will be a wake-up call for him to take care of the ball like he did earlier in his career.

Perhaps it's a blessing in disguise that the Steelers got this stinker out of their system now. Next week, they're at Cincinnati in a division game and the week after they host the Patriots in The Game You Must Not Lose.

Wins in those games might put me in a more forgiving mood.