Pick-sixes and boobirds: Ben Roethlisberger, Steelers offense hit dangerous low

PITTSBURGH -- The sheen of the Pittsburgh Steelers' offense is long gone.

The Jacksonville Jaguars' defense drove that point home Sunday with a pair of pick-sixes off Ben Roethlisberger, who became the first Steelers quarterback since Mark Malone in 1987 to throw five interceptions in a game in Pittsburgh's 30-9 loss.

The boos from the the Heinz Field crowd were so persistent that Steelers offensive players were left staring at the video board over and over, wondering what the heck just happened on each maligned play.

That is, when they weren't watching Leonard Fournette streak downfield for 90 yards in the final minutes.

Sunday's loss to the Jaguars punctuates a five-game sample from which troubling trends are emerging about what previously had been a high-powered attack.

Forget finding the long-overdue explosion: The Steelers simply can't count on gaining large quantities of yards on opponents like the did a few years back.

Asked about concern with the offense, coach Mike Tomlin said he's concerned with losing.

"I'm concerned when we don't take care of the ball," Tomlin said. "We did not do that today."

With his first game of multiple pick-sixes since 2006 against the Oakland Raiders, Roethlisberger hasn't quite looked like himself since late-2016, at least based on production. But he had been mostly a sure bet at home. Turning into Scott Tolzien in Heinz creates little confidence for the Steelers to carry into Arrowhead next week in hopes of putting up points on the Kansas City Chiefs.

Even without gaudy numbers, the Steelers started the year 3-1 largely because of their turnover margin. Roethlisberger was taking care of the ball. But Sunday, the Jaguars' first 19 points came off Roethlisberger's first three interceptions. Starting 0-for-3 in the red zone was manageable when the Steelers held a 9-6 lead early in the third quarter.

But from there the team fell apart.

The Steelers have loaded up on offensive talent to be "all-in" behind what could be Roethlisberger's last season, but Antonio Brown is the only pass-catcher with consistent chemistry with the quarterback.

If the constant 300-yard games are a things of the past -- and Roethlisberger's 312 yards Sunday marked his first 300-yarder in his past 11 regular-season games, oddly enough -- then winning with ball control and defense is the recipe. They would have beaten Jacksonville with that. In two losses, the Steelers defense has given up 40 total points, six of which came in overtime in Chicago. That should be good enough to win.

"Nobody in this room ever has that doubt," Roethlisberger said about the team staying faithful despite the brutal outing.

But it's not just the picks. From shovel passes to sacks, the timing and rhythm of the offense is all over the place. And Le'Veon Bell's 47 yards on 15 carries didn't elicit much faith in a Steelers offensive line that was punishing people just a year ago.

The Steelers' locker room has had to extinguish fires over botched anthem protests and sideline outbursts, but those could look like welcome problems based on where this team seems to be headed.

Center Maurkice Pouncey ensures that same locker room will keep the Steelers together.

"Good thing it's early in the season -- we're seeing things now and can adjust to it," Pouncey said. "This team's strong. It's been fighting before. We've been through adversity. We'll be all right."