What we learned after Week 4 in the NFL:
- The Dream Team is now 1-3
- Romo blows as 4th quarter league and is no longer everyone’s hero
- The Bengals stun the Bills to the delight of the dozen fans who showed up to the game
- Ravens defense dominates Sanchez and the Jets
- Steelers offensive line and run defense troubles highlighted in their loss to the Texans
Blah, blah, blah other games were played. Now WTH is going on with the Steelers? I usually spend the first part of the Monday Morning Quarterback going over some of the highlights and lowlights of the other games that were played but I can only seem to relive the Steelers game in my head over and over again. So what when wrong? Basically, the Steelers have 2 giant weaknesses so far this season; the offensive line and the run defense. That’s what opponents are focusing on when watching game tape in preparation for the Steelers and that’s what they are exploiting when playing them. After the Steelers were manhandled by the Ravens in Week 1 I urged everyone to calm down and not panic. Is it time to panic yet?
I’m still not ready to panic. Maybe it’s just my blind faith in the black & gold, maybe it’s my stubbornness, or maybe because it’s only Week 4 and these issues can and should be resolved. In Mike Tomlin’s post game presser, he talked about the major issues being fundamental football; tackling and blocking. Texans RB Arian Foster ran all over the Steelers, a sight Steeler fans aren’t used to seeing, thanks to the Steelers inability to stop the run so far this season. Ben, already with 9 sacks going into the game, was sacked another 5 times and hurried on what seemed like every play. Ben’s pocket is dissolving quicker than Phil Simms’ manhood when he’s talking about Tom Brady.
The Steelers were fortunate to go into halftime down only 10-0 thanks to repeated penalties by the Texans that nullified a fumble recovery and a blocked field goal returned for a touchdown. The Texans completely dominated the first half in possession of the ball and control of the line of scrimmage. The Steelers came back in the second half, tying the score, only to allow a scoring drive by the Texans that was capped off by a 42 yard touchdown run by Arian Foster. The teams then traded possessions and the Steelers finally got the ball back with 1:02 at their own 1 yard line. What could have been an epic comeback to tie the game and send it to overtime ended up in an interception with :10 left on the clock.
Still I can’t believe how not panicky I am. After a Steelers loss I am usually pouting like a child and storm out of whatever room I’m watching the game in and ignore football for the rest of the day. I’m not giving up on this team so quickly. I can’t seem to believe that this offensive line, which for the most part is relatively the same group of guys who took the Steelers to the Super Bowl a year ago, is just so awful and so outmatched the same way I can’t believe our defense, who is essentially the exact same squad that was the #2 ranked defense in the league a year ago is old and also outmatched.
These are fixable issues. I go back and forth on which is more important to fix, the O-line or the defense. First and foremost, for Ben’s safety and health, the offensive line needs to protect him better. Ben isn’t doing them any favors by holding onto the ball as long as he does. We all love it when he wiggles his way out of a sack and throws downfield for a big gain, but he makes like 1 of those plays a game compared to the 3.5 sacks he is averaging so far this season. As much as they need to step up and hold their blocks, Ben needs to realize he doesn’t have the protection to be able to run around and wait for a play to develop.
As far as the run defense and lack of take aways, these are fundamental issues the Steelers are getting beat on, just like Tomlin said. Tackling and blocking. They aren’t tackling great, and we’ve seen piss-poor tackling across the league so far this season. Also, they aren’t getting out of their blocks fast enough. This defense struck fear in the faces of offenses across the league just a season ago. I refuse to accept that they’ve somehow aged so extremely between then and now. If the defense can turn it around and go back to the domination we all know and love, the offensive woes might not seem so bad. Last night against the Jets, Joe Flacco did his best Trent Dilfer impersonation playing sub-par behind a stellar defensive and special teams performance.
What is important to remember is this is what the Steelers are putting on film for their opponents to study. The oppenents we face now can see clearly how to run the ball effectively against our defense and how to continually get to our quarterback. If these fundamental issues aren’t fixed, this is what we’ll be seeing for the next 3 months. The only reason worth panicking is the losing of AFC games. The Steelers cannot put themselves in a hole in the AFC like they did in 2009. Lose too many conference games and it doesn’t matter how much you want to be in the playoffs, you won’t get in.
I’m not willing to subsribe to the fire Bruce Arians, resign Flozell and Max Starks, and force LeBeau into retirement sentiment that I saw all over Twitter yesterday afternoon. The Steelers have little to no room left under the salary cap and Adams and Starks aren’t signing for league minimum salaries, it just isn’t happening. Arians and LeBeau aren’t the ones out there missing tackles and not holding their blocks. Thankfully, this is a team that does not point fingers, no one goes into the locker room and starts calling other people out. This is a team that wins together and loses together. I predict the Steelers turn it around and more wins are coming our way. Bring it on Week 5!
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