Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger (7), bottom right, is assisted by his teammates after he was sacked during the NFL football game against Minnesota Vikings at Wembley Stadium, London, Sunday, Sept. 29, 2013. (AP Photo/Sang Tan)
by Ulish Carter
Courier Staff Writer
The winless Steelers went into the game with the winless Minnesota Vikings in London, England, knowing it was a must win game if they were to have any chance at a successful season. Yet the end result was the same, another loss, 34-27.
But all may not be lost.
Even though the defense joined the offense in illustrating how NFL teams should not play, the offense had its most productive games of the season.
Although it was against one of the weakest defenses in the league, once again Ben Roethlisberger and company had impressive numbers.
Ben was 36 for 51 for 383 yards, with a touchdown pass and one interception. Antonio Brown had 12 catches for 88 yards, and Jericho Cotchery had his best day with 5 receptions for 103 yards, and rookie running back La’ Veon Bell made his debut with 57 yards on 16 carries and 2 touchdowns. But they lost the game.
Once again the offensive line looked like a group of college students playing against pros, allowing 5 sacks. And once again Ben refused to get rid of the ball in a timely manner to avoid some of the sacks. But with all that said. All is not lost.
Playing in what was supposed to be one of the strongest divisions in the NFL, the AFC North, the Steelers are still in the race.
Of course they have to win sometime?
The Cincinnati Bengals and the Baltimore Ravens were supposed to be among the elite teams in the league not only battling for playoffs spots, but possible Super Bowl berths.
Well, they have not looked much better than the Steelers. Both have 2-2 records after Cincinnati looked terrible in their 17-6 loss to the lowly Cleveland Browns, who are also 2-2, and Baltimore lost to the lowly Buffalo Bills, 23-20 behind 5 interceptions thrown by Joe Flacco.
Remember, there’s 12 games left. And if the Ravens, and Bengals don’t get their act together the winner of the AFC North may be 9-7, which the Steelers could still possibly achieve considering they have another meeting with Cincinnati, two with Cleveland and two with Baltimore.
Otherwise they could be in line for the cream of the crop coming out of college in the draft if they finish 4-12, but they will have a lot of competition as there are still four other winless teams in the NFL and three at 1-3. There may be more poor teams in the NFL this season than there’s been in years. Unless things change drastically, there’s a clear divide between the good teams and the poor teams, which was not the case in the past.
The Steelers next opponent after the bye will be the up and down New York Jets. With starting quarterback Mark Sanchez out with an injury they may have found themselves a quarterback for the future in rookie Geno Smith who has looked very impressive at times season but he’s still an inconsistent rookie.
The Jets, 2-2, may or may not be contenders this year with the New England Patriots and the Miami Dolphins in their division.
Coming off a lopsided 38-13 beating by the Tennessee Titans, the Jets look very beatable, which means that first Steelers victory could come after the bye week.
After looking impressive in a victory the previous week, Smith’s four turnovers led to 28 points which pretty much buried the Jets. The supporting cast is not that impressive either with Bilas Powell at running back, 66 yards on 14 carrie; Kellen Winslow was their top receiver with 6 catches for 73 yards; and Jeremy Kerley had 4 catches for 65 yards. Former Steeler Santonio Holmes only had one catch for 25 yards. He may be hurt again.
Even though no one wanted to say it, or admit to it, this is a rebuilding year for the Steelers. Especially after Maurkice Pouncey and Larry Foote went down to injuries in the first game. These two were the leaders on both sides of the ball.
Now there are youngsters battling to make their mark on the offensive line and linebacking corps. Yes LaMarr Woodley and Lawrence Timmons are great young players, but the other two positions are manned by new untested players who by the end of the year should be very solid performers but for now they are struggling.
The team has given up 40, and 34 points in the last two games which has to be corrected. But this is not just a defensive problem, in many cases some of those points came about because of an ineffective offense.
The problems on defense will be corrected because Dick LeBeau is the best defensive mind in football. But it will take time to blend in the young new players, with the young veterans. Remember, the only four players with any kind of age on them are Troy Polamalu, Ryan Clark, Ike Taylor and Brett Keisel who are all playing solid football.
Why the Steelers didn’t go after offensive linemen in the 2013 draft is still a big mystery. So they are going to have to live with what they have, and may have to find one or two more players if they sustain anymore injuries. But if something doesn’t change offensively a good hard look and a lot of changes will have to be made among the coaches at the end of the season, or before.