I honestly don’t know where to start this article, Steelers Nation. I really don’t. It has been days since the Steelers’ last game and none of it makes sense to me.
I’m sure you all see the same things I see, but I’m going to break it down for you and try to predict what you might see next Sunday when the Titans visit the Steel City.
The Offensive Line is Worse Than I Have Been Saying
My friends at Football Outsiders (footballoutsiders.com), who use innovative stats to break the game down in ways I can’t begin to explain, show that the Steelers’ offensive line is just that: Offensive.
Football Outsiders rates the Steelers’ offensive line number 21 in running block and 23rd in pass blocking. Not for nothing, Ben was sacked another five times on Sunday (14 for the year) and very nearly had his right knee twisted into a pretzel.
The Steelers averaged a touch more than 120 yards per game on the ground last year. This year, they are averaging 93.8 yards rushing per game. They lost more than 21% of their rushing productivity from last year. Granted, they have played a team with a stifling run defense (Baltimore), but they have also played at least one cupcake. If you can’t run against Seattle, you have problems running the ball. It’s just that simple.
Who knows how many rushes Mendenhall attempted before he left the game with an injury, but curiously, Isaac “Redzone” Redman and Mewelde Moore both seemed to have success in Mendy’s absence. Mendy had nine rushes for 25 yards on Sunday. Moore and Redzone combined for 74 rushes on 10 carries.
Think about that, Citizens. The two “backups” combined for nearly 3 times the production on one more rushing attempt. I asked my friend during the game if he thought Mendy was the problem. He said he didn’t think so. That led me to ask why Redzone and Moore having success when Mendy didn’t. All I heard was crickets.
He may not be the problem, but Mendy’s dancing around in the backfield sure as hell ain’t the solution.
The fact is, the running game is gone and Big Ben is running for his life one virtually every drop-back.
Keep in mind that the Titans are the only team to beat the Ravens this year. In that game against the rat-birds, they sacked “Unibrow” Flacco three times, picked him twice and forced two fumbles, one of which they recovered.
The only good thing to come out of this against the Texans is that the Steelers committed no turnovers, which leads me to…
The Defense is a Shadow of Its Once-Dominant Self
In case you missed the graphic during the game, the Steelers have created a single turnover this season. That is the lowest total in the first four games for any Steelers team since “Mean” Joe Greene’s second year on the team. That was 1970, Citizens.
The Steelers have no interceptions this season. Want to take a guess how many other teams have no picks this year? Zero. None. Friends, the Steelers are the only team in the league not to have an interception this year! Did I mention they have two men who have won defensive Player of the Year in the last three years?
The Steelers are 21st in sacks this year with 7.0, and allow teams to run on them at an alarming rate. They are averaging 119.5 rushing yards allowed this year, good for 23rd in the league.
Want some good news? The Titans are last in the NFL in rushing yards per game. The bad news is that Matt Hasselbeck is channeling his inner Joe Montana and the Titans are 8th in the league in passing offense.
The Steelers continue to be ranked 1st in the league for passing defense, but that could be due to the fact that they have not faced anyone you could consider an elite quarterback and other teams haven’t had to throw the ball on them. Opponents are doing plenty of damage running the ball.
Chris Johnson is coming off a 101-yard game against the Browns. It looks likely he will have another one against the porous Steelers.
And that is what it all comes down to, Citizens. The Steelers are not stopping the run, which is what this defense is built on. Without stopping the run and then pressuring the opposing quarterback into bad decisions with the ball, they have no real hope of winning consistently.
James Harrison will miss the game because of a broken bone in his face. Casey Hampton and Aaron Smith are nursing injuries. The list of injuries (on both sides of the ball) is starting to look like a celebrity guest list on an episode of MASH.
It will be very hard for this banged up, under-performing defense to do much to stop the last man to rush for more than 2000 yards in a season.