The win last week at home against Tennessee felt good didn’t it? Yeah I liked it too. Whether or not any Steelers players will admit it, the game was a must-win. Of course, that statement is always as little suspect anyway because it’s not like there are many games in a 16 game season that aren’t a must-win. This season has already been quite the roller coaster and we are only on Week 6 at this point. After starting with such a disappointing loss in Baltimore, the Steelers rebounded with a shut-out at home against Seattle but then squeaked one out in Indy and fell short to Houston. The Steelers have yet to put 2 consistently solid games back to back and it’s left me to wonder if it’s important they get hot now after the win against Tennessee or if it’s better to spark in November and December.
The Steelers have 2 very winnable games coming up against the Jags and Cardinals before facing the Patriots and the much anticipated rematch against the Ravens. There’s no reason to look too far ahead, though. Having being bit by the injury bug awful early in the year, the Steelers could have the luxury of being at full strength later in the year while other teams are wearing thin. But, in a league where momentum makes all the difference in the world you are only as good as your last game. As it stands now, the Steelers are good but can improve.
What needs to improve for the Steelers to remain hot?
First off, the offensive line isn’t perfect now that Max Starks is back. Yes he surprised everybody, probably even himself, by coming off of his couch to solidify a line that has been crumbling like a coffee cake for the first 4 games. But that’s just one game so far. Ben is already playing hurt and for him to stay healthy he needs to stay off of the grass. For that to happen this line needs to maintain the protection they provided Ben against the Titans.
The rushing game needs to improve as well. The Steelers rushed for 174 yards against Tennessee but 76 of those yards came in one rush by Jonathan Dwyer. Those kinds of runs won’t happen every game and we know it. What also won’t be happening every game is Ben throwing for 5 touchdowns. We’ve all had a lot of fun this week debating over whether or not Mendy should get his starting job back after coming off a hamstring injury, and even the PG’s Ed Bouchette speculated that after Tomlin’s presser on Tuesday, Mendy might not automatically earn his spot coming back like a James Harrison would. The fact is that Mendenhall is a 1st round draft pick, he gained over 1,300 yard last season, he’s our guy. As long as he stops dancing at the line (and an improved O-line should help in that) he should return to form as the premier back on the team. A little competition never hurts, though. While I’m not confident that a “running back by committee” style would be the best for the Steelers this season, I think that you give the ball to the back that’s going to gain the yards. Whether that’s Mendy, Redman, Method Man, or Dwyer, I’m all in. The running game is key to the Steelers success.
The Steelers defense needs to get stingy. We need turnovers and we need them badly. Polomalu seems to have been inches away from a couple interceptions so far this season and those need to turn into actual interceptions. The Steelers are sitting at a -10 turnover ratio so far and that’s unacceptable. Ben seemed to have put the team in a hole to start with when it comes to the turnover ratio, accounting for 10 turnovers himself. The turnover ratio along with the run defense has allowed for the Steelers D to come under some serious scrutiny. Thanks to the efforts from Ray Rice and Arian Foster, the Steelers opponents are averaging over 100 rushing yards a game, after allowing the first 2 100+ yard rushing games in over 50 games. The Steelers run defense, which dominated last season, now sits at the 17th rank. We all know what the Steelers defense is capable of, and I’m more than confident we will see it in the next 2 games.
Although the Steelers shocked everyone with the fake-punt by Sepulveda against Tennessee, the Steelers special teams has not been perfect so far this season. Even though Antonio Brown’s return skills have been solid, the Steelers have had a field goal and a punt blocked so far and those kinds of mistakes will always cost a team. Giving up those kinds of plays can bust a game wide open no matter how good the offense or defense is playing.
Winning at home against the Jagoffs won’t be enough. For the Steelers to be considered “hot” right now, they will have to dominate on every side of the ball. The Jacksonville Jagoffs have at some times been considered a rival of the Steelers, but in recent years that rivalry has gone into obscurity. The Jagoff’s inability to compete even in their own division, let alone the conference has had a lot to do with that. Jacksonville comes into Heinz Field this Sunday at 1-4, but there are no guaranteed victories in the NFL. Playing strong in November and December is important, but it might not mean a whole lot if October isn’t hot. I’d like to feel even better after this game than I did last Sunday, wouldn’t you? Go Steelers!
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