Midseason Report: Pittsburgh Steelers
The Steelers lost five of their last seven games a year ago to finish 8-8 and with the first non-winning season in Mike Tomlin’s tenure as head coach. The season was framed, at least by optimists, as an aberration and deemed unacceptable by the organization that has won six Super Bowls.
If only people knew the Steelers’ second-half swoon in 2012 was but a precursor to what has transpired through the first half of this season.
The Steelers are 2-6 and need a miracle approximating the scope of the Immaculate Reception to make the playoffs. They have all but played themselves out of postseason contention before the leaves have fallen, leaving players as stunned as they are angry.
“If you would have told me in the offseason [that the Steelers would lose six of their first eight games]) I would have told you no way,” wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders said. “We’re the Pittsburgh Steelers. This is a great organization and it’s a winning organization.”
It’s also one that has struggled in almost every aspect on the field, and the tough times the Steelers have experienced are reflected in their midseason grades:
GRADING THE PITTSBURGH STEELERS
|Quarterbacks||Ben Roethlisberger is on pace to smash previous career high for passing yards in a season (4,328) and his passer rating is only four points lower than his career average (92.4). But Roethlisberger says wins are the greatest measure of a quarterback, making the Steelers' 2-6 record an indictment of his play. Roethlisberger is not winning enough and is committing too many turnovers. The 10th-year veteran is on pace to throw 18 interceptions, which would be the second-most of his career.|
|Running Backs||This grade would be higher had Le'Veon Bell opened the season as the starter, as planned. A preseason foot injury sustained by the rookie forced the Steelers to rely on an underwhelming group of backs through the first three weeks of the season, and the ground game went nowhere. The Steelers are still only averaging 3.5 yards per carry, making it too early to anoint Bell as the long-term solution at running back. But the former Michigan State star has shown promise, as well as enough of a skill set to make one think he could be the featured back for years to come in Pittsburgh.|
|Wide Receivers||Antonio Brown has been incredibly productive. Emmanuel Sanders and the underrated Jerricho Cotchery have been good complementary receivers, though the Steelers need Sanders to play consistently like a No. 2 wideout and deliver more big plays. This grade is a little lower since rookie Markus Wheaton gets an incomplete. The third-round draft pick received rave reviews from teammates during training camp and preseason practice, but he has missed the past four games while recovering from a broken pinkie.|
|Tight Ends||Heath Miller stabilized the position when he returned for the third game of the season from reconstructive knee surgery. Miller isn't yet at full speed and isn't the same player who won Steelers MVP honors in 2012. He is still by far the best the Steelers have at the position. David Paulson can catch a little but can't block, while Michael Palmer is strictly a blocking tight end and special-teams player.|
|Offensive Line||This may be a touch high considering Roethlisberger is on pace to get sacked 62 times and the Steelers don't have a 100-yard rusher this season. But the line has held its own despite the loss of Pro Bowl center Maurkice Pouncey to a season-ending knee injury in the opener, and there is reason for hope with the emergence of right guard David DeCastro. The biggest question is whether the Steelers have a legitimate NFL left tackle on their current roster.|
|Defensive Line||Cameron Heyward has shown promise since supplanting Ziggy Hood at left defensive end. Brett Keisel has held up reasonably well at right defensive end. But teams are running all over the Steelers, who haven't been able to replace mammoth nose tackle Casey Hampton and are giving up more than 131 rushing yards per game. Everything with the defense starts with stuffing the run. What has traditionally been a strength of the Steelers has been a glaring weakness.|
|Linebackers||Lawrence Timmons has played at a Pro Bowl level and LaMarr Woodley is on pace for a double-digit sack season. Their contributions have been offset to some degree by the struggles of first-round pick Jarvis Jones at right outside linebacker and of Vince Williams, another rookie who is learning on the job. The Steelers' linebackers have made some plays this season -- just not enough of them.|
|Secondary||Nowhere does age look like it has caught up with the Steelers more than in their defensive backfield. Pittsburgh had been among the most stingy pass defenses prior to last Sunday, but Tom Brady exposed those statistics as fool's gold by torching the Steelers' defensive backs for 432 yards and four touchdowns. Speed is an issue on the back end of the defense, as even perennial Pro Bowler Troy Polamalu appears to have lost a step. Cornerback Ike Taylor has been vulnerable recently after shutting down A.J. Green and Brandon Marshall in back-to-back weeks earlier this season.|
|Special Teams||The Steelers have already gone through one punter, and even the normally automatic Shaun Suisham missed a pair of short field-goal attempts in a three-point loss at Oakland. The kick-coverage teams have been solid, and the Steelers have gotten a couple of nice returns from both Felix Jones and Brown. Sanders came within inches of returning a kickoff 107 yards for a touchdown against Baltimore, but his big play still set up a game-winning field goal by Suisham.|
|Coaching||This has easily been Mike Tomlin's most trying season, in large part because he hasn't come close to pushing enough right buttons. Injuries have been an issue, but that is true for most teams. The Steelers have lacked discipline and there has also been a noticeable lack of urgency, which has manifested itself most in the slow starts that have plagued Pittsburgh.|
Pittsburgh Steelers, Le'veon Bell, Ben Roethlisberger, Antonio Brown, Heath Miller, Mike Tomlin, Troy Polamalu, LaMarr Woodley, Lawrence Timmons, Brett Keisel, Ike Taylor, Cameron Heyward, David DeCastro, Shaun Suisham, 2013 NFL Midseason Report, 2013 NFL Midseason Report AFC, 2013 NFL Midseason Report AFC North
12/29/2013 - FINAL
2013 AFC NORTH STANDINGS
- Pittsburgh Steelers Terrible Towel Beach Towel