By Ed Bouchette, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
The Steelers have a Juggs machine they use to spit out footballs to their receivers in practice. In games, however, those receivers act as if passes were thrown by Juggles machines.
Through three games, Steelers receivers have dropped at least eight passes and caught 50. Many of the drops came on third downs and could have kept drives moving.
The most glaring examples occurred in the fourth quarter Sept. 24 against Cincinnati. Cedrick Wilson dropped a pass on third-and-5, and then Nate Washington dropped two -- one on third-and-6, the other in the end zone.
The previous week in Jacksonville, Steelers receivers reversed that style, dropping them early and often. Wilson dropped a pass on third-and-5 and Hines Ward dropped one on third-and-8, each killing a first-quarter drive that could have put the Steelers on top early in a game they lost, 9-0. Verron Haynes also dropped a pass in the second quarter.
Washington, who dropped the first pass thrown to him on the first series of the season against Miami, leads the unofficial list with three drops. Wilson and Haynes have two apiece.
"We have had some critical drops on third downs," coach Bill Cowher said.
Every team has dropped receptions and most every receiver will miss a pass now and then. Good teams overcome them. The Seahawks notoriously are the worst in the league dropping passes and they reached the Super Bowl last season.
But drops can lose close games, too. The six drops in the Steelers' past two games are to blame as much as anything for their two losses and seem abnormally high for them.