Upon Further Review: Steelers Week 4

September, 30, 2013
9/30/13
12:45
PM ET
PITTSBURGH -- An examination of four hot issues from the Pittsburgh Steelers' 34-27 loss to the Minnesota Vikings.

[+] EnlargeLe'Veon Bell
AP Photo/Sang TanRunning back Le'Veon Bell scored two TDs in his NFL debut, a rare bright spot for the 0-4 Steelers.
NFL's worst team? Forget numbers when assessing how far the Steelers have fallen. Simply listen to quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who said the Steelers might be the worst team in the league after falling to 0-4. Only the presence of the Jacksonville Jaguars makes that a slight exaggeration, but the point is well taken. Coach Mike Tomlin drew a line after the loss and said those who are not fully vested in turning the Steelers’ season around will not be with the team. “It’s that simple,” he said. Actually, it isn’t. Roster limitations preclude Tomlin from making sweeping changes as much as he would probably like to go that route, especially along the offensive line. Left tackle Mike Adams has been a disaster, but any plans to try Kelvin Beachum there might be put on hold if left guard Ramon Foster's chest injury causes him to miss some games.

Poor tackling: The Steelers’ tackling, as it turned out, was every bit as bad as it looked. Vikings running back Adrian Peterson gained 93 of his 140 yards after contact, according the ESPN Stats & Information. Peterson had gained 112 yards after contact in his first three games combined. The Steelers weren’t any more successful when they dared Vikings quarterback Matt Cassel to beat them. Cassel completed 7 of 10 passes for 77 yards and a touchdown when the Steelers put eight men in the box, according the ESPN Stats & Information. The bye-week practices give the Steelers a chance to get back to basics. Working on their tackling technique will be a top priority this week.

Ugly streak: Pittsburgh’s streak of rushing for fewer than 100 yards has stretched to 10 games, but the ground attack is headed in the right direction. Le'Veon Bell asserted himself as the feature back with 57 yards and a pair of touchdowns in his NFL debut. Assuming he stays healthy, the Steelers can ditch the running-back-by-committee approach they had been forced to use. Jonathan Dwyer and Felix Jones will also factor into the running game moving forward, and Isaac Redman looks like the odd man out. Redman, who opened the season as the starter, might not carry the ball again in what will be his final season with the Steelers. He did not dress against the Vikings and will be inactive as long as Bell, Dwyer and Jones stay healthy.

Not so special: Special teams play, which had been a strength through the first three games, took a step back against the Vikings. The Steelers gave up an average of almost 29 yards on five kickoff returns, and only a penalty on a fair-catch signal brought back a long punt return by the Vikings. Zoltan Mesko could be on shaky ground after averaging 35.4 yards on four punts, and the Steelers did not get much out of their return game. One worry they don’t have on special teams is Shaun Suisham. The veteran kicker is 6-for-6 on field goal attempts this season after making two against the Vikings.

Scott Brown

ESPN Pittsburgh Steelers reporter

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