Last Sunday afternoon, the Pittsburgh Steelers lost a hard fought 21-14 game to the Baltimore Ravens in what can only be described as the “thriller by the bay.”  Chesapeake Bay that is. However Pittsburgh performed as if they were the opening act for the late Otis Redding, performing as backup for him while he performed his signature hi, “Sitting on the Dock of the Bay,” from somewhere other than the land of the living because for most of the game at times they appeared to just be going through the motions.

The Steelers hemmed and hawed until 8:38 remained in the 4th quarter before they cracked the goose egg on the scoreboard. The last play of the game by the Steelers was an ill-fated onside kick. After covering the Steelers and the NFL for more than three decades, this was the strangest attempt at an onside kick that I have ever witnessed. The following is from the NFL Rulebook in regards to executing and recovering a successful onside kick.

“A kickoff is illegal unless it travels 10 yards OR is touched by the receiving team. Once the ball is touched by the receiving team or has gone 10 yards, it is a free ball. Receivers may recover and advance. Kicking team may recover but NOT advance UNLESS receiver had possession and lost the ball.”

Just before that game ending kick, Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger had scrambled and ran for a 4 yard score with just 0:48 left in regulation. Enter Steelers placekicker Chris Boswell. There was tension in the air, the Steelers and the Ravens had all hands on deck, all good hands from both teams that is, in anticipation of the slippery, greased pigskin kickoff that was surely to follow.  The teams lined up.  The Ravens called a timeout after they got a glimpse of the Steelers pre-kick formation. After the timeout Pittsburgh’s special teamers lined up again ready and willing to put it all on the line with just under a minute left in the game. What sure to follow was going to be a series of violent collisions, not a meeting of the minds but a tangled mass of bodies, writhing, and twisting above and below the pile trying to gain possession of the football and the game.

When the fireworks were lit, instead of the Boswell’s kick off traveling the required 10 yards to begin the mayhem that was setting of the mass of fireworks that would surely follow, it fizzled like a soaking wet dud traveling less than 9 yards or 5 yards or 3 yards or even one yard, the ball traveled approx. 10 inches! Not 10 feet, 10 inches.

However, I refuse to hang the entire albatross of failure around the neck of the Steelers kicker because the Pittsburgh offense did not score until there was less than 9 minutes left in the game. All of this tripping and boasting about this high powered offense might just turn out to be hot air. No matter how many weapons that an offense has, if those weapons aren’t utilized, you might as well be trying to peddle a truckload of “Super Soaker” water guns at an AK-47 convention.

Dropped passes, missed throws. There is no sense of having a firearm if you miss the target. As to what took the Steelers so long to get in sync, Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger had this to say. “We just started throwing the ball, picked up the tempo, no huddle, started clicking a little bit.”

H’mm, maybe the Steelers offense with all of their “feared weaponry” should start off the game running their no-huddle offense to put instant pressure on opposing defenses. Something has got to give if the Steelers are going to compete for ring number 7 because right now the Pittsburgh Steelers are standing near a cliff without a safety net waiting below. They can’t afford to wait until their quarterback and his offense to heat up because by the time that they get warm. They are getting beat up and that ain’t good. The Steelers missed recovering an onside kick that traveled ten inches. It might as well have been 10 miles.

(Aubrey Bruce can be reached at: or 412-583-6741. Follow him on Twitter@ultrascribe.)



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