There’s a line in the classic film ‘Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid’ in which Butch and Sundance, referring to a group of men doggedly pursuing them constantly ask each other with a growing level of frustration: “who are those guys?” It’s line that we can be easily applied to the 2013 Steelers. This is without question, one of the most frustrating Steeler teams in a very long time. Quite honestly, I don’t even know if they know who they are. The game against Detroit was a great capsule of the season for the black and gold thus far.
In the first quarter, they jumped out to an early lead, with WR Antonio Brown doing his best to prove he deserved to be kept around as the number one receiver, catching two long TD passes. Then came that historically bad second quarter, in which the Lions amassed twenty-seven points and Calvin Johnson posted two TD catches of his own, including a 79 yarder, making the score 27-14 and giving every Steeler fan the uneasy feeling that this was going to be a long afternoon.
Then the Jekyll/Hyde nature of the season came out in the second half in which they shut down the Lions offense and held Johnson without a catch. Will Allen played well, creating a fumble and picking off a pass. Jason Worilds and Ziggy Hood, two of the more embattled defensive players each had a sack and even Ryan Clark played well when it counted. Ben, playing amidst a swirl of controversy, had maybe his best game of the season, throwing for 367 and four TDs. Yet, as great as the passing offense was, the ground game was putrid, going for a whopping 48 yards. Brown continues to be a non factor in the punt return game, fair catching most of the time and amassing a grand total of eight yards on returns. If anything the 37-27 win proved the inconsistent nature that has plagued this team and showed that neither we nor the Steelers have any idea who they are despite being ten games into the season.
How do they lose to the Vikings and Raiders who are combined 6-14, yet beat a first place Lions team? How can the defense be so bad for a quarter then shut out a fairly potent offense the rest of the way? They beat the 4-6 Ravens yet lost to the 4-6 Titans. How do you explain a team that gave up 55 points, the most since the early 60′s? Again, I need to ask who are these guys?
Let’s be frank, this is a team without an identity. These are not the grind-it -out on the ground and play stout defense Steelers that we came to love from 1992-2006. With each year under Mike Tomlin, they have become more reliant on the pass than in any time in their history. They have not had a true stud running back since Jerome Bettis rode out of town, and we all know about the offensive line deficiencies. The defense has been statistically good for the last several years, yet rank near the bottom in sacks and turnovers. Ben once again is absorbing an enormous amount of punishment, yet could be headed for a career year. Nobody in the backfield is proving to be the every down back the team so sorely needs, rookie Le’veon Bell simply has the job by default at this point and neither Johnathon Dwyer or Felix Jones are consistent enough. I know the ‘major’ news was the team signing RB Ray Graham to the practice squad today, but forgive me if this doesn’t send me skipping down the aisle. It’s just another no impact signing. The Steeler waiver wire has been the Kion Wilson/Isaiah Green revolving door, the team still stubbornly holding onto the fact that the cures to what ails the team is on the roster and nobody out there in waiver land is an improvement over what they have. Even the lone trade the team made during the season has blown up in their faces, Levi Brown never even started a game for them, getting injured during warm ups for his first game. I think most people would agree that talent and depth are issues with this team right now, and looming specter of the salary cap is a major albatross for improving in 2014.
The team’s remaining games shape up like this: 4-6 Cleveland, 4-6 Baltimore, 5-5 Miami, 7-4 Cincinnati, 5-5 Green Bay and then the Browns again. It’s not the most daunting of schedules, but they can end up anywhere from 4-12 to 10-6 at this point. In a very mediocre AFC , a record 9-7 might sneak them in the playoffs, so they may be able to absorb one more loss. Do they deserve to be in the playoffs? Are they a playoff team? Who knows. The defense hasn’t played to a playoff caliber this year and the offense is one dimensional. If Ben gets hurt, they’re done plain and simple. Is there anyone of leadership on this team? A vocal leader on the field? A motivator on the sideline? Apparently expressing any displeasure with HC Mike Tomlin is a cardinal sin as I’ve learned and would lead me to ridicule by the Pittsburgh media, so I’m done going that route. Since the Steelers don’t like change at all, we can be certain Kevin Colbert, Tomlin and OC Todd Haley will be back in 2014. And as long as they’re back so too will be the inconsistent nature of this team, in my opinion.I’d love for the real Pittsburgh Steelers to stand up….I just don’t know who they are.
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