Pittsburgh Steelers Week 3 Report Card
Week 3 Report Card
It’s becoming more evident that the Pittsburgh Steelers are a team that’s in limbo and won’t climb out of this dismal abyss anytime soon. Actually, the Steelers (0-3) are so bad, their 40-23 loss to the Chicago Bears this past Sunday night can be considered an improvement compared to the team’s first two weeks of play in the regular season.
For the first time since 2000, and for the first time during the Mike Tomlin era, Pittsburgh is winless headed into the fourth week of the NFL year. This unfamiliar territory could be cause for Tomlin and the rest of the organization to press the panic button.
Against the Bears (3-0), the Steelers did put up big numbers through the air. Unfortunately, that was overshadowed by yet another embarrassing rushing performance, and five turnovers that resulted in 24 points for Chicago (two of the turnovers were returned for touchdowns).
At one point, it looked like Pittsburgh’s defense was trying to give the team a fighting chance when the Steelers found themselves trailing 27-23 in the fourth quarter. However, the defense couldn’t prevent the Bears from marching down the field to score their third offensive touchdown of the night.
The air in Steeler Nation seems to be extremely dense and unclear at this stage of the 2013 season. Now being one of the six winless teams in the league, and the only one in the AFC North, Pittsburgh will have to do some major reconstruction of some way, shape or form, if they want to get back in the race. The NFL season is a marathon, not a sprint. But if the Steelers don’t catch up very soon, they’ll find themselves eating the dust of the rest of the teams in the league.
Here’s Pittsburgh’s report card for Week 3.
Clyde A. Speller is an NFL writer for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter @ClydeASpeller, or add him to your network on Google+
Any other time, seeing a quarterback put up the numbers that Ben Roethlisberger did against the Bears would be front-page news. Unfortunately, Roethlisberger’s 406 passing yards and two touchdowns were small potatoes compared to the four turnovers that he had. Big Ben lost two fumbles (one of which was returned for a touchdown) and threw two interceptions (one of which was also returned in a touchdown). Some of those plays looked as if Roethlisberger was doing too much to help his team, but who could blame him at this point.
The good news for the Steelers’ running game is that as a team, they rushed for more than they did in their first two games combined. The bad news is that their rushing total was only 80 yards. Excluding Roethlisberger’s seven yards on the ground, running backs Felix Jones and Jonathan Dwyer combined for 73 yards on 19 carries. Despite the low numbers, Dwyer did seem to have some explosiveness, and did do a decent job in pass protection. But Jones let the team’s momentum at the start of the second have slip through his fingers when he turned the ball over on a fumble.
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends
Wide receiver Antonio Brown said that he wanted the ball more, and he got it. Brown, who was probably the only bright spot for the Steelers in this game, finished with nine catches for 196 yards (a career high) and two touchdowns. The four-year veteran certainly proved that he is a No. 1 receiver. Tight end Heath Miller made his return to the field for the first time since tearing multiple ligaments in his knee last season. Miller and the rest of Pittsburgh’s receivers and tight ends took advantage of the middle of the field against the Bears’ Cover-2 defense and combined for 188 receiving yards.
All game, Pittsburgh’s coaching staff tried different things along the offensive line to further improve the offense’s control of the line of scrimmage. Kelvin Beachum was constantly flip-flopped from both right tackle and left tackle positions. That might have helped the outside, but the interior of the Steelers’ O-line struggled, giving up three sacks on blitzes by Chicago’s linebackers. Once again, they couldn’t help establish the running game.
The defensive front combined for 12 tackles and one of the defenses two sacks on the night, which came from defensive end Brett Keisel. Excluding a 55-yard run by Bears running back Matt Forte, the Steelers’ defensive line did a good job in containing Chicago’s running game.
The void left by veteran Larry Foote at the middle inside linebacker position seems to be the defense’s week spot. Kion Wilson did start, but only finished with one tackle on the night. Rookie Vince Williams seems to be the better of the two inexperienced linebackers, but did allow Forte to break free on his 55-yard scamper down the sideline when he was out of position. LaMarr Woodley did get to the quarterback once, but the pass rush as a whole from the outside was virtually nonexistent.
Pittsburgh’s secondary did hold All-Pro wide receiver Brandon Marshall to just 52 yards on five catches, but 41 of those yards came on a reception that helped keep the Bears on the field during the fourth-quarter. Later during that same drive, Bears wide receiver Earl Bennett scored the touchdown that would put the game out of reach for the Steelers. Overall, the secondary did okay, but I have to put a minus after this grade simply because Steelers safety Robert Golden allowed himself to be trucked by Bears quarterback Jay Cutler on the drive that Bennett scored on.
Pittsburgh’s special teams didn’t make any mistakes, but didn’t do anything special in this game either. Kicker Shaun Suisham was 3-for-3 on field-goal attempts on the night, and did a good job by not letting Bears return specialist Devin Hester get a crack at a big return. Punter Zoltan Mesko averaged only 29.5 yards on his two punts on the night.
The shuffling along the offensive line was neither good enough to fix the problem of the pass protection, nor was is it good enough to improve the running game. Usually, after a couple of weeks of disarray, Tomlin would have an answer to problems such as these, and would have his team back on track. Now it seems like he and the rest of his staff can’t figure anything out.