Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports
Joe Starkey of The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review had the following to say about the Pittsburgh Steelers in the aftermath of their 20-10 loss to the Bengals on Monday Night Football earlier this week:
"Sad as they are, the Steelers could hang around. They could even wake up Monday tied for first in the AFC North if they beat the Bears while the Bengals lose to the Packers and the Ravens lose to the Texans. Not an unrealistic scenario."
Let me begin by saying that I love Starkey’s optimism regarding the 0-2 Steelers. Moreover, I believe that a strong possibility exists that both Baltimore and Cincinnati will lose this weekend in their respective games. Those two losing however only matters if Pittsburgh can actually find a way to emerge victorious over Chicago on Sunday night.
Unfortunately for the Steelers, they have been nothing short of an unmitigated mess right now and their issues are not ones which can be easily solved up in a span of six-days.
The team’s offensive coordinator seems unable to tailor his scheme to the talent on his roster, and some of his best players (Ben Roethlisberger, Mike Wallace, and Antonio Brown) have been his biggest critics since he arrived last year.
I will however not place the entirety of the blame of the offensive woes on Todd Haley, especially since he has no competent running backs at his disposal, his Pro Bowl tight end is still rehabbing his once-mangled knee, and the make-shift offensive line in front of his quarterback is not blessed with any sort of ability in the pass-protecting department.
Although they have not struggled as mightily as the offense, Pittsburgh’s defense has been completely deficient when it has come to pocket-collapse and forcing turnovers. In “today’s” offensive-minded N.F.L., rushing the passer and forcing turnovers are the two most important things which defenses must do if they wish to be successful.
Sure, limiting opponents when it comes to total yards is nice, but defenses like that who are unable to sack opposing signal-callers and take the ball away are “paper champions” like the Steelers’ defenses were in 2011 and 2012. Through their first two games, Pittsburgh’s defense has only recorded one sack and forced a grand total of ZERO turnovers.
As far as the Mike Tomlin is concerned, Pittsburgh’s head coach seems to be content to spew out his weekly sound bytes at his press conferences and letting the problems be settled on their own. Yet how are people supposed to take someone seriously if they claimed that this team’s performance was “not that bad” against Tennessee? Furthermore, what head coach is unwilling to hit the proverbial “panic button” after his team’s 20-10 “egg laying” against Cincinnati?
This team is 2-7 over its last nine regular season games, and the same types of problems will continue to remain unless necessary changes are made. How Pittsburgh expects to stay competitive against the disciplined 2-0 Bears on Sunday night baffles me, and I will be as interested as anyone to see how they can respond to their critics.
I just hope the Steelers don’t collectively embarrass themselves on national television for the second time in six days.
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