If you had told me at the beginning of the season the Steelers would be 4-2 after six games that included road battles at Baltimore, Indy, and Houston to start the season, I think I would be happy with that. But it is the fashion in which the Steelers have jumped out to its 4-2 start that has many fans scratching their heads.
People want to pinpoint a singular issue that is causing the slow start to both the offensive and defensive units this season, and I don’t think you can possibly do that. Sure, the offensive and defensive lines have looked weak throughout most of the season. You can say Big Ben is having a pretty sub-par season for his standards. You can say Mendenhall’s slow start to the year impacted the way the entire offense wanted to run its plays, or you can throw out the tired adage that the defense is just getting too old.
While I think there is a little bit of truth to all of those different problems, I think the Steelers overall issue is a lack of good ol’ fashion desire. It seems to me like the 2011 Steelers want to win by putting out the least amount of effort possible. After getting down big early in the Baltimore game, the Steelers clearly packed it in accepting defeat rather early. Even in the Steelers victories this season, mainly Indy and Jacksonville, it just seemed as though the team wanted to do “just enough” to get the win.
It is hard to complain too much about a 4-2 start, and with all of the veterans on this Steelers roster, one could make a case that this team knows better than any that the season is a marathon and it does not behoove a team to be laying it all on the line so early in the season. If that is the argument you want to go with, then I can follow that. This team knows there are specific times when it has step it up and play its best ball, and I propose that one of those times may be this upcoming week.
This weekend the Steelers will head to Arizona to take on the Cardinals, which by many accounts is a who’s who of players who used to be part of the black and gold. If there is any team in the league that knows the schemes the Steelers will be using this upcoming Sunday, it is the Cardinals. While I do not think Arizona should be that great of a threat to the Steelers this Sunday, the black and gold need to make sure it plays a great game with the ominous schedule approaching.
A loss in Arizona this weekend could be devastating with the Patriots and Ravens coming to town in the following weeks. I know the Steelers do not need to prove anything to themselves; they are about as confident a group of football players you will ever find, but I think I still need to see something to believe. The Steelers need to break out of this funk where the bare minimum needed to get a victory is acceptable. That is no way to get through a season in the NFL, especially for a team with aspirations of getting back to the Super Bowl. If the Steelers want to show it is ready to make that step up to an elite team in the 2011 season, the time is now to pick up the play. A dominating performance over a sub-par Arizona team would be a nice step in the right direction to show the Steelers are ready to make some noise throughout the league, and I am talking about more than a whisper.