It’s been a strange 2012 season across the NFL. Up is down, left is right, and interceptions are touchdown catches. But most strange of all is the uncharacteristic behavior of the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Maybe it was the installment of the replacement refs that messed with the mojo of the season. Maybe it was the particular injuries that occurred in the offseason. Or maybe the team is going through some unexpected evolution due to the changes in personel. Regardless of the how, the Pittsburgh Steelers are not themselves lately in just about every facet of the game.
The defense is as porous as ever. It is mediocre in its effectiveness in stopping offenses in either the pass or the run. The inconsistencies with the inconsistencies is frustrating to watch unfold. One minute the secondary can’t cover, the next a running back is breaking out a 50+ yard run. They struggle to hold onto a lead and fail to sustain pressure on the quarterback in the second half – as if they almost forgot how to blitz.
The offense is becoming a pass heavy group relying on Ben Roethlisberger to carry this team on his back. The team has more yards in penalties (346) than they do in rushing yards (331) in four games. In fact, the team leads the league in penalties averaging 9.2 per game. I wouldn’t imagine that by playing the usually penalty crazed Oakland Raiders that the Steelers would themselves become penalty crazed. Mental mistakes on the offense, aggressive physical play on the defense, and a few illegal hits have put the Steelers on pace to break a franchise record for penalties this season. This team of veterans are making mistakes like a team of rookies. Oh and that 331 rushing yards – worst start in that department in a looooooong time. A team that is so reliant on ball control and a run game that knocks defenses flat on their keister is averaging 82 yards per game. I couldn’t help but be full of envy watching Arian Foster and the Texans run all over the Jets on Monday night. Foster punished would be tacklers and helped lock up the Texans’ 5th win and stay undefeated. Their average? 143 yards per game and a rank of 6th in the league in rushing. Tell me rushing doesn’t play a key factor in winning football games.
This is all far from the Steelers we are used to.
The Steelers are on a short week and have little time to reflect and work out how to correct everything that is going on. The defense won’t get figured out overnight. The offense won’t find a balance for quite some time. One thing they can do and correct immediately are the penalties. Focus and play smart and most of those penalties go away. Although, I have a sneaky suspicion that most of the penalties have a direct correlation with the lack of running game and the inability for the secondary to cover receivers.
I wonder what the over/under is in Vegas for penalties on Thursday night?