The Steelers bye week couldn’t have come at a better time. After the stunning 34-31 loss to the Oakland Raiders they have to stop and take a good hard look at their defense, running game and special teams.
Granted they were playing without their two best defensive players against the Raiders, with James Harrison and Troy Polamalu out with injuries, however a good team is supposed to beat a bad team without all its weapons. The Steelers defense totally broke down in the second half making Carson Palmer look like Tom Brady. He picked them apart with no pressure at all from the Steelers front line or linebackers, and the secondary couldn’t defend at all without holding the receivers.
Even though the offense looked great as they marched up and down the field dominating the Raiders defense in the first half and most of the second half, two critical turnovers gave the ball to the Raiders and the defense wasn’t able to hold which led to two scores, or 14 points. And even the offense fell into its old habits failing to score in the fourth quarter.
Ben Roethlisberger had great stats 36 of 49 for 384 but was ineffective in the fourth quarter as the Raiders picked up their defense against the pass, not having to worry about the run. Jonathan Dwyer and Issac Redman combined for just 26 yards on 12 carries. The receivers had a great game. Mike Wallace, 8 catches for 123 yards, Antonio Brown, 7 catches for 87 yards and Heath Miller, 8 catches for 60 yards. But for some reason the Steelers chose not to stick with the air attack late in the fourth quarter.
The Steelers had four fumbles, with two leading to touchdowns, which they were not able to overcome.
Their next opponent, after the bye week, will be the mysterious Philadelphia Eagles. Picked by just about everyone to be one of the best teams in the league, they have yet to put together a good game, winning their first two mostly by luck, before getting blown out Sunday by the Arizona Cardinals 27-6. This team is loaded with talent at just about every position, but has under achieved the past two years to such a degree that most believe if they don’t make it far into the playoffs Coach Andy Reid will be fired.
Michael Vick is considered to be one of the better quarterbacks in the league but he hasn’t been consistent. He has thrown more interceptions than touchdowns, with a QB rating of just 66.5. He has great young receivers to throw to in DeSean Jackson and Demaris Johnson, and a very solid runner in LeSean McCoy.
Their defense is every bit as impressive on paper as the offense, and was actually able to keep them in the first two games against Cleveland and Baltimore. But they weren’t able to withstand all the mistakes by the offense against the under rated Cardinals.
Which means this game will be huge for the 1-2 Steelers, whereas the Eagles will either be 2-2 or 3-1, depending on what they do against the New York Giants this weekend in New York.
The Steelers don’t want the Baltimore Ravens, 2-1, to get too far ahead of them because last season proved how important the home field is, and the division winner gets home field in the first round of the playoffs. If the Steelers had been at home last season they would have had Ryan Clark and no way would they have lost to the Denver Broncos.
Harrison, Polamalu, and Rashard Mendenhall should all be ready to play against the Eagles.
A healthy Mendenhall should solve the running problem. And maybe once and for all the critics will be shut up. This guy has been one of the better backs in the league but everyone wants him to be another Franco Harris, or Jerome Bettis. He’s not. He’s a good solid back who’s going to get you 1,000 yards a year as a complimentary runner to the passing game. He combines speed and power which is the perfect fit for the new offense, especially if they run him around end instead of up the middle.
Look for a mean hungry Steelers team versus the Eagles in Heinz Field after the by, because they can’t afford to drop to 1-3.