The Pittsburgh Steelers return from their bye week to face the New York Jets in Week six. The Steelers 0-4 start has been well documented and analyzed from every angle. Coaching, poor quarterback play and turnover differential have all been pointed to as reasons for the Steelers slow start. The Steelers issues lie in two places from my point of view: 1) Lack of execution, 2) Lack of talent.
The Steelers -11 turnover ratio is second worst in the National Football League, behind only the New York Giants (-13).
The Steelers are the only team in the NFL without a takeaway on defense. The writing has been on the wall for several years now in Pittsburgh. In 2012 the Steelers finished the season with a -10 turnover ratio and in 2011 they finished with a -13 turnover ratio. The downward spiral of the defense has been masked by high season ending rankings in total yardage allowed. Plain and simple, the key to a successful defense in the NFL is turnovers. The Steelers inability to create interceptions and fumbles is a trend that should have already been addressed. The Steelers organization must realize that the system is broken. Dick Lebeau is one of the greatest minds to ever coach football. Some believe he has earned the right to leave when he sees fit, however, the NFL is a results driven business. The results are not there right now for the Pittsburgh Steelers and they have not been for several years now. It is time to shake things up in the Steel City.
On defense, cornerback Cortez Allen was a bright spot late in 2012 but has been threatened with demotion for his terrible play against the Vikings. First round pick Ziggy Hood has been benched in favor of Cam Heyward on the defensive line. Heyward has been a much more productive player than Hood for some time now; this move should help the Steelers front seven. Vince Williams will start at middle linebacker next to Lawrence Timmons for the foreseeable future. Williams is a young linebacker but someone that is good in run support and can learn quickly. Fellow linebacker Kion Wilson has been released due to poor play and a gimpy hamstring. After being release earlier in the year, Steelers draft pick Stevenson Sylvester is back on the roster to take Wilson’s place. Veteran safety Will Allen was also signed this week to replace the injured Damon Cromartie-Smith. The fact that the Steelers are moving toward their young players is an encouraging sign. Players like Ryan Clark and Brett Keisel are likely playing in their final year with the Steelers so the young players need to get experience for future seasons. It is important that Jarvis Jones and Shamarko Thomas continue to progress moving forward. Their presence on the field should help the Steelers in their ability to create turnovers and sacks.
On offense, the Steelers continue to run a lackluster offense managed by Todd Haley. The only time the offense has been explosive all season is in comeback mode late in the 2nd half. The dink and dunk offense is not working with Ben Roethlisberger’s style of play. Will the Steelers coaches continue to bang their heads into the wall, or will they adjust starting this Sunday against the Jets? The Steelers have only scored 69 points through four games this season, good enough for 30th in the NFL, ahead of only the Buccaneers and Jaguars. If Todd Haley cannot right the ship over the next month of the season, I believe the Steelers need to look elsewhere for a spark on offense. The running game received a boost with the return of rookie Le’Veon Bell. Bell scored the Steelers first two rushing touchdowns of the season against the Vikings, but still managed only 3.6 yards per carry. The struggles of the offensive line have not been fixed with plugging in high draft picks Mike Adams and Marcus Gilbert. Instead, the Steelers are looking to 7th round pick Kelvin Beachum and trading for washed up left tackle Levi Brown. According to Pro Football Focus, Mike Adams is ranked 69th out of 72 qualifying tackles, while Levi Brown is ranked 60th. The move may pan out to be a lateral move when the smoke clears. I respect Coach Tomlin and GM Kevin Colbert for trying to put together the puzzle but I do not believe this is a long term fix for the real issues that the Steelers are facing at Left Tackle. On top of the poor offensive line play, Ben Roethlisberger is playing some very poor football right now. The franchise quarterback seemingly has costly turnovers in every game since his return from a major rib injury last year. In four games, Roethlisberger has thrown five interceptions and been sacked 15 times. The way Roethlisberger is playing has to be a huge concern for the Steelers organization. Coming into the season, I believed the Roethlisberger would be the constant force that would allow the Steelers to overcome the weak links on the roster. He has been anything but that in the first quarter of the season. If the team has any chance of turning this season around, Roethlisberger must return to his pre injury form from early in 2012.
The Steelers face a multitude of questions and concerns coming out of their bye week. It is truly win or go home this week for the proud organization. Whether or not the Steelers can rebound to make the playoffs, as Ryan Clark proclaimed this week, is yet to be seen. The issues are plenteous for a team that is so used to be sitting atop the NFL ladder. The poor start is a reality check for a franchise that has tried to patch holes for several years in a row without properly managing the roster. There are 12 games remaining for the team and their fans to see what the 2013 Steelers are truly made of.
– Tony DelSignore Jr. (@TonyD_12)