Steel Sensations…Is this what Tomlin had in mind?

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Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin walks the sideline as his team is losing to the Chicago Bears in the fourth quarter of an NFL football game on Sunday, Sept. 22, 2013, in Pittsburgh. The Steelers lost 40-23. (AP Photo/Don Wright)

 

“I’ll see you at stadiums in the fall,” Mike Tomlin bristled this past March when responding to the very idea the Pittsburgh Steelers were in decline. He called the very notion “March Talk”.  Mike en the reality of a decline for ourselves. The Steelers won 12 games in 2011, dropped to 8 in 2012 and currently in 2013 they sit at 0-4. That doesn’t even include the losses in all 4 of their pre-season games either.  

See you at Stadiums in the fall.

So far we’ve seen the offense look like one of the worst in the league. They are 17th in total yards and tied for 25th in points per game at a mere 17.3 average through 4 games. The inability to protect the football has been abysmal as the team ranks 30th in the league having turned it over 11 times through the first quarter of the season.

Part of the turnover problem is the the offensive line, which is a complete disaster. Through four games they’ve allowed Big Ben to be sacked 15 times, pacing him to be taken down 60 times on the year. That number doesn’t include the number of times he’s been hit or hurried. Without time to throw or even drop back to pass, Ben has been forced into mistakes he normally doesn’t make. Nobody on the line has played well.

The best player they have, Maurkice Pouncey, was lost for the year in week one and his replacement, Fernando Velasco; was signed off his couch. By the way, he’s been the best of the group since his arrival.  

To further indict the line, the team just traded for Levi Brown to seemingly replace Mike Adams on the left side. Both men are swinging gates so the trade is curious. Perhaps the thought is Adams lets everything through and Brown may let slightly less through.  

It’s not just the line. The running game hasn’t been there until LeVeon Bell arrived in week four. The line contributed to the lack of yards on the ground but the lack of talent with Isaac Redman, Jonathan Dwyer and Felix Jones is obvious as well. Fortunately Bell should help improve this low producing unit which currently ranks 29th in the league. The Pittsburgh Steelers rank 29th in the league in rushing. That doesn’t even feel right to write, let alone to read, but its reality.

While Big Ben is still in his prime and Antonio Brown has begun to really shine in recent weeks as the teams’ top receiver, the play calling has been questionable.  
There isn’t a good mix of play calls when it comes to deep routes, screen passes, run plays and anything in-between. The obvious factor here is Todd Haley is unable to comprehend where his strengths and weaknesses are and he’s not adjusting the plays accordingly.

Haley was brought in to keep Big Ben “in check” but that’s not what this team needs. In fact, Ben is best when he’s allowed to call his own plays or when a play is broken and he can make something out of nothing. Ben is not a “dink and dunk” quarterback and it’s blatant that the Haley hiring, to date, was a massive mistake. That’s not to say Bruce Arians should have been retained but Arians wasn’t let go in favor of Haley to have the 25th rated scoring offense.

See you at stadiums in the fall.

We’ve seen the vaunted Steeler defense fail to create one single turnover through four games, ranking them dead last. There isn’t one other team, including the Jacksonville Jaguars, who have failed as miserably in that department.  

The team ranks middle of the pack in terms of yards allowed on the year at number 12. In a stat meaning more than any other, they rank 24th, allowing 27.5 points per game.  The have failed to get off the field on third downs and they have failed to get to the quarterback, only having four sacks on the year, three of which are owned by LaMarr Woodley; and they have failed to play fundamental football in terms of wrapping guys up.

Are they afraid of the fines they may obtain? Have they lost a step or are they just not talented on this side of the ball either?

It’s a little of everything.

The loss of Larry Foote has forced changes to be made that have impacted the rest of the team and how they have to play; however, the teams of the past would have been able to handle this change with ease. This one can’t.  

Ziggy Hood wouldn’t start on most other teams in the league, but he does for the Steelers. Cam Heyward can’t even crack the starting lineup. Jason Woirlds can’t crack the starting lineup and William Gay unfortunately plays a lot of downs at cornerback, which is bad news.  

This team lacks talent.

Ryan Clark, Brett Keisel and even the great Troy Polamalu are getting older and can’t be expected to pick up everyone’s slack. Troy, however, has done his best to do so as he looks like the Troy of old.

See you at stadiums in the fall.

The coaching has failed to adjust to anything so far. They seem to think their game plans are working. What makes them conclude this is beyond anyone’s comprehension. Continuing to try something that doesn’t work over and over is the definition of insanity.

Tomlin needs to prove he’s worthy of the position he holds at this point. He’s never found himself in this hole before, how will he respond and more importantly how will his players respond to him?  It’s not a far stretch to say that going back to last year and moving through this year thus far Tomlin has lost the respect of his team. They’ve tuned him out.

Todd Haley needs to rework his game plans to enable his team to move the ball more effectively. Perhaps that’s more shotgun play, letting Big Ben call the 2 minute drill more often or using additional blockers via a full back or half back. Something has to give.

Dick LeBeau needs to adjust his schemes as well as it appears the league no longer fears the black and gold and the hidden blitzes that no longer work.

See you at stadiums in the fall.

More evident than anything thus far may be the swings and misses via the draft. Kevin Colbert may need to be looked at long and hard this off season if some of his guys don’t turn it around immediately. Recent high round draft picks brought in by Colbert include David Decastro, Mike Adams, Marcus Gilbert, Ziggy Hood, Cam Heyward and Jason Woirlds.  

Would anyone say that any of these players have accomplished anything worthwhile to date?  

These guys aren’t getting it done and most wouldn’t see the field on other teams. These are players that should be expected to deliver in big moments at this point in their career and at this point they are just filling up roster spots because the team needs players. It’s a true indication that Colbert may actually be in over his head.

If you can’t block, can’t score consistently, turn the ball over often, can’t obtain turnovers, can’t sack, can’t get off the field on third downs, can’t make adjustments at halftime and can’t bring in talented players, you can’t win many football games. It doesn’t matter what you say off the field, it doesn’t matter what you think you can do, it only matters what you actually do. So far this team is one of the worst in the league and it’s hard to say that may not hold true throughout the remainder of the season.

See you at stadiums in the fall.  

Mike Pelaia hosts the website Steel Nation Association http://www.steelnationassociation.com- Covering the Steelers and helping Children’s Hospital All Day Everyday. You can e-mail him at mike@steelnationassociation.com.

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