Hey everyone did you miss me??? I took the Steelers bye week to re-coop and revive myself as we move on from the WORST first-third of the NFL season the Steelers have played since 1968. These are dark times ladies and gentlemen. Our season has never looked this bleak in all my 25 years of being a Steelers fan. But what does steel town need to do to return to their former glory?
Pray…but here are some other suggestions that might feel more realistic:
1) O-Line Consistency
Ever since the moment Maurkice Pouncey went down, our offensive line has looked like it reverted back to the leatherhead age of football. We are not protecting Ben. Not by a long shot. Of course that responsibility does carry with it certain “strings” in weekly operations. For example, you could have the offensive line that protected Tom Brady for the better part of his career and STILL struggle to protect Ben if he held onto the ball for a period of time longer than the play clock can count down from.
Bottom line is Ben is a gunslinger. Even after Ryan Clark recently called him out in an interview for his play style, Ben just shrugged his shoulders and said that he was going to keep playing the way he plays football. And why should he change? You adapt to your players strengths and exploit them. That’s what a good coach does. If you caged Ben he probably would look more like Blaine Gabbert than Matt Ryan. This far into his career, it’s best to assume the offensive line will need to adjust to their franchise QB’s style.
The trick is consistency. You cannot play o-line bingo all year long and expect any kind of camaraderie. Kelvin Beachum is being moved to LT. Keep him there. He has a high football IQ. Let him settle into the position and give him a chance to earn it. The addition of Levi Brown from Arizona is a slight upgrade over Mike Adams but not by much. He was a bust in Arizona, but perhaps could revive his career behind the stricter standards the Steelers have for their players. Ramon Foster is still dealing with a pectoral injury. Most likely Guy Whimper will fill his spot. This needs to be short short-term if we have any hope of running the ball on the right side. Whimper will be the pulling guard behind Marcus Gilbert on the right side of the line and the only thing I have seen him “pull” up until this point is a sled. Le’Veon Bell is going to have his work cut out for him this week.
2) Rejuvenated Running Game
Speaking of Bell, what an intro! Did you happen to find my previous Le’Veon article? We all know his name now and it’s time the league took notice as well. He is the real-deal Holyfield. The total package Lex Luger. The Heartbreaker, the show stopper…whoops forgot what sport this was for a second. In short, he is the answer Steelernation has been hoping he would be when the Steelers took him in the second round. We have been limping along ever since The Bus broke down in Detroit back in 2005 and had his tires stolen before being put up on blocks.
He looked sharp against the Vikings front four. His first career touchdown was a thing of beauty. He cuts quick and just motors. No hesitation, no dancing at the line, no sideline to sideline running, just smash mouth football and I for one am excited with where this might lead. We are only down four games. A lot can happen and with the Steelers ringing the bell three downs at a clip on a consistent basis, I am more than excited to see where Bell will take us from here.
3) Hungrier Defense
Like the Joker says, “If you are good at something never do it for free.” Dick LeBeau is one of the best defensive minds of all time and preached all offseason about the lack of turnovers and the importance of generating them this season. So what happened? Did your balls drop off?
We have NONE! Zero, zip, zilch, nada, nothing. We have not generated one turnover this season and by week 6 it’s starting to get a little scary. In four games we are averaging 1 sack a game. Are you fricken kidding me? We played Tennessee in week 1! Last year if you sneezed on Jake Locker you could sack him. We could not get to him more than once?!?!
Now is the time to start starving the defense. Put them in a dark room with only a pinhole sized ray of light shining through the boarded up window. Maybe even project the music video for Panama by Van Halen on the far wall without a way for the unit to escape the thundering bass and repetitive lyrics. Come on Steelernation, let’s all feel the pain, PAN-A-MA-A-A-A-OH-OH.
But in all seriousness, we need to attack the ball moving forward. Troy cannot do it all and defense are starting to figure out when he is going to shoot the gap and when he is going to drop back in coverage REGARDLESS of how close he plays to the line. Start stunting Thomas and Polamalu in nickel formations more to keep defense on their toes. We have made progress with Heyward finally starting over Ziggy Hood. Not to take anything away from Hood because he is the strongest member of the Steelers team, we just need more pressure on the QB and Heyward is the one to do it. It’s a start that’s all I am saying.
4) Better Coaching
This is not the segment where I trash Haley. I honestly cannot stand that he has become the scapegoat for the bad start when his play calling has improved each game in succession so far. The play calling against the Vikings was superb; we just could not stop the big play from killing any kind of momentum we were generating.
What I am referring to here is Tomlin’s management of his team. It is HIS team, not Todd Haley’s. The sword will always swing towards the man in charge and Tomlin has taken this start as a wake-up call for the increased need for discipline and passion. No more toys in the clubhouse, maybe even forever. Tomlin sacked the locker room over the week and removed the pool table, table tennis, shuffleboards, and dart boards so 100% focus can be on turning this season around.
Chuck Knoll would be proud. This is the most decorated football organization in the NFL in terms of when it matters, not a frat house run by Owen Wilson. It’s time to set the example for the younger players and keep the tradition alive. We only want winners on this team and Tomlin has shown in the past that when he sends a message to his squad, they respond in spades.
5) Let Ben be Ben
Yes, for the love of Ditka PLEASE just let Ben be Ben. If the goddamn Red Sox could let Manny be Manny than certainly a QB that has proven he is at his BEST when he runs the show can garner some leeway. We are 0-4 for Christ sake. How much worse can it get?
Or is it maybe a pride issue?
Perhaps Haley doesn’t want to let the brass know that he isn’t needed to win? I doubt it. But it could not hurt to run the 2-minute offense more than just before half-time or when we are behind. We need to score and score fast. Keep the heat on the defense. Keep them guessing with short passes and punishing runs from Bell. We have all the tools that Ben needs to get the job done.
If the O-line can buy him the time he needs, I am confident that Brown, Sanders, and Miller can create the space needed for Big Ben to be Ben F**king Roethlisberger, 2-time winning Super Bowl Champion. If they can’t? Well…it’s going to be a long sad season.
That’s all folks,
Find me @rickyboyles.