Pittsburgh Steelers: Midseason Report Card
Midseason Report Card
I’m pretty sure that no one in Steeler Nation thought that halfway through the 2013 NFL regular season that the Pittsburgh Steelers would be at the very bottom of the AFC North with a 2-6 record. During the offseason, the organization didn’t make much of a splash in free agency, but did manage to have one of the best drafts in the entire league.
The optimism following the 2013 NFL Draft was short lived due to numerous injuries in the preseason, and three season-ending injuries in the first game of the year. Running backs Isaac Redman, LaRod Stephens-Howling, and rookie Le’Veon Bell were casualties in the backfield. In addition, linebacker Larry Foote left a huge void on defense while center Maurkice Pouncey did the same on the offensive line.
Such unfortunate injuries caused the Steelers to start the 2013 campaign off with a 0-4 record. After an early bye week, Pittsburgh looked as if they righted their ship and won their next two games. That brief jubilation was halted by two more demoralizing defeats where the defense surrendered nearly 200 rushing yards in both contests, and allowed the most points and total yardage in franchise history in Week 9.
Only time will tell if the second half of the season will be a carbon copy of the first. The silver lining around this dark cloud is that of their final eight regular-season games, five of them will be played at home.
Let’s take a look at just how dismal the first half of the season has been for the men in black and gold.
Clyde A. Speller is an NFL writer for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter @ClydeASpeller, or add him to your network on Google+
Without quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, the Steelers really don’t stand a chance in any game that they play. Roethlisberger has committed the majority of the team’s turnovers thus far, but has done so in efforts of doing whatever it took to help get Pittsburgh in the “W” column. Big Ben has had two 400-plus yard passing games in losing efforts, and is in the top ten in passing yards and in average passing yards per game.
Pittsburgh’s backfield was given a bad hand in the preseason with most of their running backs getting bitten by the injury bug. Bell only carried the ball a handful of times in one preseason game, but eventually reclaimed his starting position, and is now the team’s leading rusher with 282 yards and three touchdowns (which isn’t saying much). While Bell was sidelined, Redman amassed only 12 yards before getting waived. Felix Jones was a late addition in the preseason, but hasn’t done much to help the ground attack. After not making the original 53-man roster, Jonathan Dwyer was brought back because of the season-ending injury to Stephens-Howling, and has seen limited playing time.
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends
This part of the team is probably the lone bright spot for Pittsburgh. Both Antonio Brown and Emmanuel Sanders each are on pace to have 1,000-yard receiving seasons. Furthermore, fellow receiver Jerricho Cotchery has proven to be reliable this season with a team-leading five touchdown receptions. Cotchery has definitely been an admirable replacement for Plaxico Burress, who also suffered a season-ending injury. Tight end Heath Miller made his 2013 debut in Week 3, and is slowly but surely returning back to Pro Bowl form.
The Steelers’ offensive line has been a monstrosity in the first eight games of the season. Losing Pouncey in Week 1 didn’t help at all, and the continued injuries along the entire line and constant shuffling hasn’t given the O-line time to gel with one another. The offensive front has surrendered the second-most sacks thus far in the NFL (32), and has allowed their running game to average only 73.6 yards per game (28th in the league).
Pittsburgh’s defensive line hasn’t shown much dominance along the line of scrimmage. The defense has allowed 131.2 rushing yards per game (31st in the league). Steve McLendon hasn’t fully come into his own during his first year as the starting nose tackle. Veteran Brett Keisel still remains a constant at defensive end and leads the Steelers’ defensive linemen with 2.0 sacks. Ziggy Hood lost his starting job opposite of Keisel to fellow defensive end Cameron Heyward, who has been showing glimpses of why Pittsburgh drafted him in the first round in 2011.
LaMarr Woodley quietly leads the team with 5.0 sacks. Unfortunately, on the other side of the defense, consistent pressure on the quarterback is lacking. Rookie Jarvis Jones was given the starting job early in the season, only to be demoted. Now, Jason Worilds has reclaimed the spot. On the inside, the loss of Foote led to playing unproven linebackers Kion Wilson and rookie Vince Williams. Both proved to be liabilities in the running game. Wilson actually was waived, but brought him back in order to add some much-needed depth. Lawrence Timmons is the team’s leading tackler, but as a unit, tackling has been their downfall.
Just like last season, Pittsburgh’s pass defense is ranked in the top five, but is still lacking turnovers. The secondary has only generated three interceptions in the first eight games. Veteran Ike Taylor is still doing his best at covering the opposing team’s best receiver week after week. On the other side of the field, Cortez Allen proved that he isn’t starting material yet, and surrendered his spot in the starting lineup to William Gay. Safety Troy Polamalu has stayed healthy and has been an animal at the line of scrimmage. However, his coverage in the secondary has slipped as of late.
The only consistent part about the special teams unit has been kicker Shaun Suisham. Through the first six games, Suisham was 14 for 14 before missing two field goals that could have given the Steelers a victory in Week 8. The punting position was so bad, that the team released Zoltan Mesko prior to Week 9. Aside from the big kickoff return by Sanders that set up a game-winning field goal in Week 7, big plays in the return game have been lacking.
Yes, injuries have played a huge part in the Steelers’ 2-6 record at the halfway point of the season, but seeing how Mike Tomlin and the rest of the coaching staff handled things had many fans scratching their heads. First was taking away recreational activities, then there was the decision to leave for London so late in the week in Week 4. Along with game planning, Pittsburgh’s coaching staff has done very little to get their team on the winning track. If by some miracle the do find the answers this year, it just might be too late.
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