Mercifully, the Pittsburgh Steelers bye week came this past week, and after what can only be considered a disappointing start, this team has to take a long look at what has gone right and wrong so far in the 2012 NFL season, and how to go forward. In this installment, we look at the offense.
Quarterbacks-Week one I gave quarterback Ben Roethlisberger the Goat of the Week award for throwing a brutal pick that cost them the game. But in the 2 games that followed, I have praised Roethlisberger for throwing this team on his back and doing everything he can to keep them in the game. He’s not exactly following the script of the offense, but at some point the rest of the team needs to get on his page and not the other way around. There are few quarterbacks in the league who can make more plays when things break down like Roethlisberger can, and as long as the rest of this offense is going to give so little, he’s going to have to continue to make plays like that. Grade-B+
Running backs-The run game has struggled. Rashard Mendenhall is still healing from a torn ACL from last season, and while Jonathan Dwyer and Isaac Redman have done their best to fill in the gaps, there is just no explosion in the run game, and they aren’t doing enough to keep defenses honest and out of Roethlisberger’s face. The best thing the Steelers can hope for is that Mendenhall can get well in a hurry and provide a presence in the run game that this team is really lacking. From a schematic standpoint, using more spread formations perhaps to forces safetys out of the box and making blocking assignments more simple for the line. One thing is for certain, there’s no way this team can be successful if the running game doesn’t improve. Grade-C-
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends-As a unit, this team is overflowing with talent. Mike Wallace, Antonio Brown, Emanuel Sanders, and tight end Heath Miller are as talented as any in the league. The speed on the outside is a match up nightmare for defences, but even with all that, this group has not been as productive as you would hope for. This is a function of the lack of running game, and the poor play of the offensive line. I can’t fault this group for having to work with one hand tied behind their back so to speak, and I fully expect to see the coaching staff to return from the bye week with new wrinkles in the passing game to make better use of all this talent. Grade-B+
Offensive Line-In the offseason, the Steelers front office made a concerted effort to improve a porous offensive line via the draft by taking guard David DeCastro in the first round, and tackle Mike Adams in the second. And so far that has paid no dividends at all. DeCastro suffered a serious knee injury in the preseason and is shelved for the bulk of the season, and Adams has struggled to stay healthy as well as get up to the speed of the NFL game. There is no easy fix for this group. The talent across the line is very much average, and there’s really no upgrades out there to be had. The best the coaching staff can do is try and come up with quick hitting runs and pass plays, make use of heavy sets and multiple tight end formations to max protect and try and minimize the shortcomings of the group. Grade-C-
Overall, at the bye week, things could be worse, but they are not good. 1-2 is hard to dig out of, and if this team is close in December, go back and circle an inexcusable loss to the Oakland Raiders in September as the reason why they don’t make it. Week 5 the Steelers get a huge home game against the Philadelphia Eagles, and watching them and their ability to rush the passer I have to hope that the staff are making significant wholesale changes to the offensive gameplan to optimize the strengths of this team, namely Roethlisberger and the wide outs, and minimize the weaknesses, obviously the running game and offensive line.
Offensive coordinator Todd Haley’s offense only works when all these units are doing what they need to do and right now with only 2 of 4 groups carrying their weight, Haley is going to have to rip it up and start fresh over the bye to salvage this team’s playoff hopes.
What do you think Steelers fans? Is the season over or can they turn it around? Come find me on Twitter @nfldraftboard and let me know.