I said Huddle up! Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Are the Steelers Done?

One game a season does not make. That is unless that one game is one of the ugliest “efforts” ever put onto the field, not to mention one that has season long ramifications. Losing two key, if not vital players threw even more salt onto Sunday’s wounds which grow more painful every time we revisit it.

Only an eternal optimist could find much of anything positive to say about Sunday’s game. I will say I think Jarvis Jones is well on his way to being something special.He flashed glimpses of his potential all throughout preseason and it continued against the Titans. I’m sure DC Dick Lebeau will use every opportunity to place Jones all over the field in an effort to make plays. The defense as a whole played their usual solid game. However, when we dig a little deeper, there are still some troubling facts. Keeping with the theme from last year, against the Titans, the Steelers D was STATISTICALLY stout, as they held Tennessee to a net 225 total yards in offense. However, they did not force a single turnover and could only generate one sack.

With all the talk about creating more turnovers and sacks, the Steelers defense was beyond futile in this department. I think Steeler fans need to stop thumping their chests how they Pittsburgh had the number one defense last year (statistically speaking by the way) and start looking a little closer.With Larry Foote lost for the year, it’s time for Lawrence Timmons to insert himself into a position of leadership. Foote’s injury will also provide special teams ace Kion Wilson and rookie Vince Williams with a chance to prove their worth. I like Wilson, but I’ve been saying all summer I think Williams could be a hidden gem and now he needs to prove it.

When looking back at Sunday’s game. in my opinion, there are two people to place the blame for the debacle squarely on: Todd Haley and Mike Tomlin.
I wasn’t a huge fan of Haley’s hiring, and I’ve tried to keep an open mind on him. When Haley was brought on, the Steelers had evolved into a more vertical attack offense under Bruce Arians (who we knew was destined to be a head coach), while Haley brought more of a west coast, ball control feel in an effort to keep Ben healthy and bring some balance to the offense. And while Roethlisberger was having a nice season last year, he did wind up missing time due to injury. All season it looked like the QB and his OC could never quite get on the same page. Fans and observers alike were wondering how the Haley-Roethlisberger marriage was going to work, and let’s just say, unless things improve, it’ll be over soon.
The team’s best deep threat, the eternally pouting Mike Wallace left for south Florida in the offseason and rookie Markus Wheaton was drafted with the idea of taking Wallace’s role as the speed guy. Much like Jones on defense, Wheaton did flash his big play potential in the preseason. However, against Tennessee, he was a non-factor, and in fact none of the team’s young receiving corps did much of anything against the Titan’s secondary aside from veteran Jerricho Cotchery.
Aside from losing their best player (Pouncey) off of their worst unit(the OL), the offense could only generate thirty-two net yards rushing for the day and did not have a single first down via the ground attack. They were 30% on third down conversions and could only muster 195 net yards of offense. Coupled with the fact that they gave up five sacks, someone explain how Haley’s hiring has been a plus. No, he’s not out there blocking and running, but under his leadership, the Steelers have regressed offensively. In all honesty, unless drastic improvement comes, I’d be shocked if Haley makes it through the season.

Which brings us to the man most responsible for Sunday’s effort: head coach Mike Tomlin. Back in the summer, I pitted Tomlin against former coach Bill Cowher to see who I felt was a better fit for what the Steelers identity is supposed to be. Upon picking Cowher, I received an avalanche of replies that were…well, generally not positive. After sunday’s game, I am becoming more and more convinced that Tomlin just isn’t right for this team. We keep hearing about “the standard is the standard” and all about “the Steeler way”, but what is it? It makes for nice bumper stickers, but what is the Steeler way? What is the standard? Guys, be honest here, Tomlin won his first Superbowl with a team that was 85% Cowher’s players, and made his second Superbowl with a team that was still 60% assembled under the former head coach.

This is now chiefly Tomlin’s team with players assembled under he and GM Kevin Colbert (who is not innocent in this either)and they have been on a steady slide talent and effort wise since losing to Denver in the playoffs two years ago. And while Cowher was not the best at making in game adjustments, Tomlin is downright horrid. If it wasn’t for Lebeau’s defense, this team would have no identity at all. While I’d love to slip on some rose colored glasses and look at things that way, I can’t.

When I previewed the Steelers 2013 season game by game in the summer, I didn’t pick them to beat Tennessee. The Titans are one of those teams (along with Oakland,) that seem to have Pittsburgh’s number. But I expected a much better effort than what we got. The bright spots were few, the trouble spots numerous. I look for them to have a better effort against a potent Bengals team Monday night. There are times when Pittsburgh seems to be playing to the level of their competition.

Against the Bengals they must create turnovers, stretch the field with Wheaton and find some semblance of a running game, but most of all, keep Ben upright and healthy. 0-2 is a tough but not impossible hole to claw out of, but Monday night’s game will go a long way in telling all of us what kind of Steeler team we have. No, they aren’t done, but with Chicago, Green Bay, New England, and Baltimore(twice) still to play, Monday becomes nothing less than a need- to- win.

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Tags: Ben Roethlisberger Pittsburgh Steelers

  • Carl Eagan

    Dion Sanders claims to have interviewed Tomlin and claims that Tomlin said he is involved in all phases of the game plan and personally makes adjustments when he feels it’s necessary. Mike Tomlin first said he wanted Ariens and LeBeau to stay after the Denver game then after months said it was his decision to change offensive coordinators and he brought in Haley. Alot of people believe that Rooney didn’t have confidence in Tomlin to choose correctly and forced Haley on him. But go with Tomlin bringing in Haley and Tomlin bringing in the offensive line coach and special teams coach. The offense can only do as well as it’s line hows that working out? Pouncey’s injury isn’t an excuse he has been over rated for 2 years and his best game in 2 years was when he played left guard. Special teams is supposed to provide decent field positioning for the offense and pin the other team back for the defense hows that working out?

  • richard

    I don’t believe that the Haley hiring was bad , in Arizona he had one of the best passing attacks. When he went to KC he turned that team into a top rushing team. The Steelers biggest problem is that the O-line can’t block, and the blame falls on those who drafted them. Usually a player is better at run blocking or pass blocking, and we haven’t seen them be able to do either.

    • scott sinclair

      When Arizona went to the Superbowl with Haley as their OC, their rushing attack was ranked near the bottom. Edgerrin James was their leading rusher with 514 yards, and their OL wasn’t very good either. Their saving grace was having Kurt Warner at QB throwing to Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin.They were 3rd in points scored and 4th in yards gained in the league. While the Steelers have nobody near the level of Fitzgerald and Boldin yet, Haley hasn’t done much with what he has with Pittsburgh. He’s not calling his plays to the strength of the team which is their passing attack. The short passing game isn’t working. They need to stretch the field deep with Brown, Wheaton and Sanders, run the TE underneath and stretch the field. That will open up things for whatever pedestrian RB the Steelers trot out. It’s as if Haley has cut out half the field. I’d love to see a deep ball on the first play from scrimmage for the Steelers, open it up and loosen that Bengals D.

      • richard

        Thank you for confirming what I said, that when he was in Arizona they raked near the top of the league in passing. When he was in Kansas City their strength was running so that is what he went with. There’s only one flaw in trying to have receivers go deep , and that is it gets Ben hit . (5 sacks I believe) What I see is a OC trying to keep the franchise QB healthy, Ben is the strength of this team, but in passed years it has been the QB doing all the work, till receivers get open. In Haley’s system it is the other way around, Ben gets the ball out quick and the recievers are supposed to work to get open. If by some strange miracle Ben can get some more time in the pocket I am sure you will see things come together.

        • scott sinclair

          No I know the plan is to keep Ben healthy, I just think Haley is best when he’s tailoring his offense to his team’s strength. Yes, they need balance, but they have no back like a Bettis who they can hand the ball to 20-30 times a game. And I have no answer on how to solve the OL problem. Cut them all and start from scratch? For years these guys haven’t been able to stay healthy or play with any level of cohesion when they are together. I just don’t know

  • richard

    As much as it kills me to say it , the ship appears to be sinking, and I don’t think they can bail fast enough. What I can’t understand is every Steelers fan, all the sports writers can see that the O-line has been neglected for years, but those who should fix it just ignore it. Look at this years draft, the 17th pick and they go defense. Teams were looking to move down, but of course why move up and take a Real tackle, when Ben can run for his life every game. The hurry up offense might be the only solution, keep Ben in the shotgun at the very least it would give him a bit more time.