2-3. Just let that marinate for a minute. Doesn’t get any better does it? Thursday night the Pittsburgh Steelers had an opportunity to right the ship, get above .500 and work their way back toward something positive this season. But instead the Steelers came out flat, the Tennessee Titans came out pumped up and ready to play. And just like that, they are sitting firmly at 2-3.
The long and the short of the Steelers loss is fairly simple. They had several opportunities to put the Titans away, but with a team like them, the longer you let them stick around, the more likely they are to win. The Steelers once again had to deal with injuries to key players, untimely penalties and more unforced errors that gave a hard working and committed Titans team all the chance they needed to pull off the upset. It’s a serious challenge for this team to field a competitive squad on a regular basis, and this is something new for Steelers fans to deal with.
During head coach Mike Tomlin’s tenure with the Steelers, his teams have started every season 6-2. Until this year that is. But it’s really more than just the record. This isn’t the same type of team Steelers fans are used to seeing. Obviously I cannot put this all on Tomlin and his staff, and I can’t put it all on the players. There is plenty of blame to spread around, but there are really 2 areas of focus that I believe puts this entire season in jeopardy.
Injuries-The team has been decimated by injuries on a level that I have never seen. In 3 different games this season, the Steelers dressed 7 offensive linemen, and had 2 starting linemen go down with injury, meaning both backups were on the field. Had a third get hurt, it would have either forced an injured player back on the field, or a tight end would have to fill in. This team has been without each of it’s starting safetys for at least one game, and at least one of it’s starting outside linebackers for one.
The Steelers have also been minus their starting running back for all or part of 4 games this year. Nearly a dozen other starters and significant rotational players have missed portions of games, and keep in mind the Steelers have only played 5 games. this year. All this on the surface is enough to put any team behind the 8 ball.
Talent-Injuries aside, this team does not have the talent at key starting and backup spots as it has in the past. No, I am not talking about quarterback, where Ben Roethlisberger is among the best in the league, or the wide receivers. But really, other than those 2 groups, is there anything about the rest of these units that frightens other teams, even when they are at full strength?
The Steelers organization has had great success finding players who “fit” what they want to do while not always being the most talented players. This year, we are seeing that these players are not overly talented, and they do not fit well either.
So, back to the original question, is the Steelers season over? I think if the goal of this teamto be tops in the NFL and to win a Super Bowl, then the answer is no. I think they can rally and salvage a wild card spot in the playoffs, mainly because there are so many mediocre teams in the AFC, but I can’t see that this team is healthy enough, or deep enough to carry themselves deep against the top teams in the AFC.
Let me hear it Steelers fans. Can they turn the season around, and make a legit push for No 7? Follow me on Twitter @nfldraftboard