In an opening day loss to the Tennessee Titans at Heinz Field, the Steelers appear to be a team that will struggle to win any games during the 2013 season. The defense gave up 16 points after spending over 34 minutes on the field, and it was as woeful an offensive performer by any team in the NFL on opening day. The Steelers ran the ball for a grand total of 28 yards for the entire game, as well as coughing up the ball on a third and one from the five yard after a promising time consuming drive. However, turning the ball over in the red zone was perhaps the least of the Steelers misgivings during the early minutes of the contest. On a basic off tackle run play at mid field, right guard David DeCastro pulls and attempts to finish off a chip block behind center Marquis Pouncey, instead of delivering a hit to the chest area of the oncoming defensive lineman, DeCastro decides to close his eyes and dive bomb directly at the leg of Pouncey, which resulted in Pouncey being driven off the field in a cart, in what looks to be a season ending injury. Not real certain what the second year number one pic was thinking, but that is certainly not how they draw up the blocking techniques in the meeting room.
Unable to run the ball in any way shape or form, any productivity was up to the heroics of Big Ben, which doesn’t speak much of his performance. Without Hynes Ward around to bail him out, without Health Miller to bail him out, Big Ben is left with a poorish offensive line that cannot pass block and receivers that may or may not come up with tough catches on crucial downs. Throw in a wobbly under thrown pass that was intercepted, five sacks on the day, and no tight end to speak of, it looks as though Big Ben will need a little more than magic to take his team to victory. The offense went fifty eight minutes until they were able to put any points on the score board, by then it was an on side kick attempt that failed which left them with any hopes of coming back. Not much to speak of in the way of the receiving corps, there were a lot of catches that should have been made, and it seems the usual third and long ends up in the usual sack. This offense wasn’t even close to being ready for opening day, and with the amount of work that needs to done, it’s a long shot to think this team will better their prior seasons record of eight and eight.
The most telling stat today would have to point to the 112 yards allowed by the Steeler defense, as well as certainly the time of possession and crucial third down conversions allowed. It’s football, those are going to be the same problems each and every time you loose a game in the NFL. But the disappointment certainly also stems from letting a scrub like Jake Locker come into Heinz Field, pass for a poultry 117 yards, and still come out the winner. I didn’t have a sense Chris Johnson would pose a threat, his time has come and gone and we’ve put him down in grand style before, though today he did generate 70 yards. But with Sean Green knocked out of the game, their ace in the hole was running back Jackie Battle. Where did this guy come from? However giving up 16 points on opening day should not be a reason to hang your head down, that is if you had an offense that could put at least some points on the board.
I have been saying this for years now, I’ve argued endlessly with my friend on draft day, we need depth and young player at middle linebacker. Now to the credit of the organization they did draft Sean Spence in 2011, also to their credit they did draft Vinnie Williams this year. But what about going after a free agent to fill the void, at least until the younger guys are able to adapt and fit into the starting line-up. Even if you made an offer to someone like Brian Urlacher after he was released by the Bears, he would’ve served a function, particularly how things have unfolded with the season ending loss to Larry Foote. Be that as it may, I’m not going to panic yet regarding the Steelers defense, there are far more positives to take from their performance, albeit it with the loss of Cortez Allen. My biggest concern is the endurance of this defense throughout the remainder of the season, they will continue to spend a great deal of time on the field if the offensive does not adopt the ability to put points on the board. After yesterdays performance I’m trying to figure out how they are possibly going to be able to score against a Bengals defense that now include our old pal Debo. To be continued….
I guess the main thing that can be said about the special teams is, there were no major blunders, with the exception of Antonio Brown fair catching the ball at the five yard line late in the game. Rookie Shamarko Thomas looked good on coverage defense, and fellow rookie Jarvis Jones is taking advantage of his time on the field. I would like to have seen a better result on the on-side kickoff, but again, you can’t blame the loss on the special teams.
For a team that has put such a concerted effort towards improving their running game, the Steelers laid a big egg, 28 total rushing yards over an entire sixty minutes of football, discarding 4 yards on an end around by Antonio Brown. They devoted the last several years towards refurbishing the offensive line, drafting young talented athletes and hand picking the running backs including the number two pick being devoted to the selection of Le’Veon Bell. The result of all this is an offensive that cannot run the ball, and an offensive line that is even worse at pass blocking, not to mention their top draft pick at running back is watching games from the sideline. I’ve often said that it takes about five month’s for an NFL team to find it’s groove once the dust has settled. However after not being able to put any points on the scoreboard for the first fifty eight minutes of opening day, it may take a bit more than a quarter of the season for this current team to find their groove, if at all.