The Pittsburgh Steelers have long been the model of consistency in the NFL, and they are not a franchise accustomed to losing. It seems everywhere you look, fans and media are stunned by the Steelers’ 0-4 start. If you look closer however, it really shouldn’t surprise anybody.
For starters, the Steelers were a fringe playoff contender at best heading into this season, and anyone who thought they were more was deluding themselves. A franchise’s history doesn’t make up for a lack of talent, which is what the Steelers have.
The most important factor in the Steelers’ winless start is the simple fact they’ve played teams that are better than them. The Chicago Bears and Cincinnati Bengals are significantly more talented football teams, the Minnesota Vikings looked like are starting to get things figured out yesterday, and the Tennessee Titans are one of the league’s breakout teams at 3-1.
Looking at the Steelers’ schedule, there aren’t many games that make you see the Steelers as favorites. They have their bye this week to get things sorted out, but that doesn’t change the fact they will continue to play teams who are just flat out better.
Offensively, the Steelers have been struggling to improve their line for years, and the injury to Maurkice Pouncey eliminated any chance of that happening this season. Their run game has been equally poor, though Le’Veon Bell showed Sunday he may be the answer to those problems. The Steelers also lost top receiver Mike Wallace and have been working to bring tight end Heath Miller back to health, limiting the passing game.
Ben Roethlisberger is struggling to hold the team around him together, and he can’t do anything without time to throw and support from the skill positions. The Steelers have allowed the most sacks in the NFL so far, and they’re lucky Roethlisberger hasn’t gotten hurt yet, given his history.
The problems are just as bad defensively. Many of the key players from the Steelers’ once formidable defense are gone, such as Casey Hampton and James Harrison. The ones that are left, such as Brett Keisel, Ryan Clark and Ike Taylor, are really starting to show their age. And while nobody seems to want to admit, it is an undeniable fact that Troy Polamalu simply isn’t the player he once was.
The Steelers have relied so heavily on veterans that a breakdown was inevitable. Everyone can only play for so long before they lose a step, and it is happening all over the field in Pittsburgh. When you combine the decline of the defense with the failure to build a competent offensive line, it is no wonder that the Steelers are struggling to win games.
This is a franchise facing a rare rebuilding phase, and expect the struggles to continue all season.