By John Harris
Monday, October 30, 2006
They played a good game and fought the good fight.
By all rights, the Steelers overtaxed defensive players should have been mad as hell at their offensive counterparts in general, and quarterback Ben Roethlisberger in particular, following Sunday's dreadful 20-13 loss to the Oakland Raiders at McAfee Coliseum.
Roethlisberger's play was as maddingly inconsistent, as the Steelers defense was exceptionally consistent.
Roethlisberger had a season-high 301 passing yards with one touchdown, but he tossed a career-high four interceptions -- two of which were returned for Raider touchdowns, including a back-breaking 100-yard return in the fourth quarter.
It was enough to make anyone question whether Roethlisberger was still feeling some of the ill effects from the concussion he suffered a week ago against the Atlanta Falcons.
You really have to hand it to the Steelers defenders, who refused to play the blame game and rat out the offense.
If anything, inside linebacker James Farrior blamed the Steelers defense for allowing Oakland's defense to outscore them, 14-0.
"We got outplayed by their defense," said Farrior, who quietly leads the team in tackles this season.
Replace the first letter in Farrior's last name with a "W" and that would describe his performance against the Raiders.
"Their defense scored two touchdowns," Farrior said. "We didn't score any."
Of the Raiders' two field goals, linebacker Clark Haggans said, "We can't have that. We don't play for them to get field goals. We play to stop them."
Oh, really now.
If it's come down to this for the Steelers, if their defensive players truly believe it's their job to score touchdowns to compensate for yesterday's lack of offense, the 2-5 Steelers are in more trouble than we were led to believe.
The Steelers defense played close to a perfect game against Oakland. The Raiders amassed 98 total yards and only nine first downs -- and won.