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There will be a new world champion in the NFL come February 2010, thanks to the Pittsburgh Steelers following a fourth quarter meltdown at home versus the Oakland Raiders with a shocking 13-6 loss in frigid Cleveland to the previously one-win Browns on Thursday night.
Playing in front of a Cleveland crowd that views apathy and indifference on a weekly basis courtesy of their own franchise, Pittsburgh offered up its own brand of uninspired football. Instead, it appeared the Browns were the ones playing for a playoff spot. Cleveland sacked Ben Roethlisberger eight times and held the Steelers to just 216 yards of total offense.
As was the case in 2006, the Steelers failed to handle the pressure and expectations that come with being a defending champion. Three years ago, Pittsburgh missed the playoffs by going 8-8 after winning Super Bowl XL a season earlier. Fast forwarding to 2009, the team that proudly displays the Terrible Towel, has been just that over the past five games…terrible.
At least in 2006 they had some built-in excuses. Bill Cowher finally won his Super Bowl and clearly had his eye on retirement; and Roethlisberger’s off-season motorcycle accident was followed months later by an emergency appendectomy, which caused him to miss the season opener and a concussion during Week 7. They never got settled in during ’06.
Outside of missing safety Troy Polamalu, this group does not have much to offer explaining these mind-numbing efforts. While it is nothing new to see Roethlisberger take a beating, Pittsburgh’s defense clearly has not been the same play-making unit. A team that is less than a year removed from the Super Bowl is dropping games against the Chiefs, Browns, and Raiders. Color them unfocused and uninspired.
Overall, an unacceptable performance week after week by the Steelers will cost them a playoff spot at 6-7 now. Thanks for playing and leave the Lombardi Trophy in South Florida.