Steelers who deserve the most blame for early-season struggles

Pittsburgh Steelers running back Najee Harris (22). Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
Pittsburgh Steelers running back Najee Harris (22). Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports /

The Steelers are struggling right now, and here are the four players most deserving of blame for the slow start to the season.

It has been a notably bad start for the Steelers this season, as their defense has had its struggles and the offense has been slow-paced. While the surprise win in week one was a nice morale boost, it hasn’t yielded many results. The 1-2 start is a sign of things to come, and there is plenty of blame to be passed around.

While coaching is owed its own spot on this list, I just wanted to focus purely on what players have contributed to this slow start. There is plenty of faults to be passed around, but these players in particular have been issues. From players that were expected to be stars to backups that have struggled, these four Steelers are the primary reasons for the slow start to the season.

Reed has slowed the Steelers defense

Replacing T.J. Watt is an impossible task but count me as someone that figured Malik Reed could at least hold his own. Traded by the Broncos right before the season began, Reed is an experienced backup who has more than held their own when starting. Since being promoted in place of Watt though, he has been mostly nonexistent.

To be fair, he is on a bit of a learning curve right now as he had to learn the defense quickly due to how late the trade occurred. With Alex Highsmith holding up the other side though, Reed has quickly turned into a liability on run plays and an almost nonexistent pass rusher. He needs to flash some better traits soon, as the defense will struggle to win with playing so poorly.

Trubisky has been as advertised

The signing of Mitchell Trubisky has been mostly as advertised. The former first-round pick flashes great arm talent and mobility but lacks a lot of the fundamental traits of a winning quarterback. The fanbase was more divided, as some saw him as the future of the franchise while others viewed him as a waste of cap space. While his play has been very lackluster, it is very much on par for a quarterback being paid like he is.

When the defense is firing on all cylinders, Trubisky can manage a game and get the win. The issue is when he needs to be the reason the team can score and win, he doesn’t have the ability to make the big play. While he has been far from a disaster, Trubisky is a key factor that is holding this offense back. His inability to sustain drives is harming the effectiveness of the unit.

Witherspoon hasn’t locked anyone down so far

One of the more exciting returns for the Steelers during the offseason was Ahkello Witherspoon. While he was a late bloomer last year for the defense, once he saw the field, he was arguably the best cover cornerback on the roster. He had the chance to have a similar impact this season, as he has the best physical traits and ball skills on the cornerback roster.

Instead, he has been inconsistent, and for the most part, he has struggled to be a great player in the secondary. This group hasn’t been that great overall, but Witherspoon clearly seems like the weakest link right now in the group. Levi Wallace and Cameron Sutton are finding their footing, and if Witherspoon continues to struggle, he may be in line to be the third cornerback as opposed to one of the top two.

Harris has been ineffective so far

Najee Harris has, to this point, been the biggest disappointment for the team so far. While the offensive line was never expected to be great, they have actually progressed over the past few weeks into a serviceable unit. Harris hasn’t looked good though, as he is still completely ineffective on most carries and makes some poor decisions in terms of what hole to run through.

It is pretty damaging that an undrafted rookie in Jaylen Warren has looked as effective as Harris has in limited work. The Steelers took him in the first round to be the bell cow of this offense, but he hasn’t lived up to that so far. There are no more excuses now. Harris has to look like the star that he did in college in order to get this offense back on track.

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The Steelers haven’t had the start to the year most hoped that they would. While football is a team sport, these four players, in particular, have stood out as some of the biggest reasons for the team’s poor play.