Tuesday, September 17, 2013

In Shambles

Tyler Eiffert
"If we don't shore things up, we won't win a game. Simple as that. It's not mystical."
-- Steeler safety Ryan Clark, following Monday night's loss to the Bengals

Joey Porter's Pit Bulls don't know what's worse, watching the Steelers disintegrate into the worst Pittsburgh team since, when? 1968? ... or watching the likes of Warren Sapp, Ray Lewis and Michael Irvin gloating, gleefully, over the Steelers' demise.

We wouldn't care about the latter, if there was something that could be done about the former.

Unfortunately, this year's edition of the Steelers is not talented enough, and there are no quick fixes in sight.

Time of possession, which the Steelers used to own, is one indicator of how bad things have gotten: The Bengals had the ball for more than 35 minutes. Last week, the Titans had the ball for 34 minutes. If that trend continues, and there is no sign that it won't, it will be a very long season.

The running game: bottled up
The Steelers' offense stinks out loud. 
For the second consecutive game, the Steelers mustered just 14 first downs and managed to convert just three of 12 third-down opportunities. The running game produced just 44 yards (a 2.8 yard average).

Over the first 23 minutes of the second half, the offense mustered all of minus-two yards. The offensive line allowed only two sacks, but opened no lanes for the running backs.

Cincinnati defensive end Michael Johnson owned left tackle Mike Adams.  Jericho Cotchery had a bad game, and that's being kind. And David Paulson looked like a good high-school tight end, specifically on the fumble he didn't bother to cover after his biggest catch of the night.

And, frankly, Ben Roethlsberger looked ordinary, at best. Again.

The Steelers' defense isn't getting it done, either
The defense surrendered 407 yards and, once again, the Steelers forced zero turnovers and had zero sacks. It had trouble getting off the field on third down.  Again.  And the defense had no answer for tight ends Tyler Eiffert and Jermaine Gresham, who racked up 130 yards receiving.

Not enough talent
There's no explanation for the lack of plays by the defense, other than a lack of talent, specifically playmakers, which is the point that Ryan Clark seemed to be making after the game:

"It’s not a lack of focus. It’s not a lack of studying. It’s not a lack of anything to do with preparation. It’s a lack of getting on the field and doing your job. ... Someone has to make a play. You have to do something. ... I think we heard a lot of let’s go make a play, when it used to be ‘Let’s go play’.”

Tyler Eiffert being chased by Ike Taylor
Speaking of talent, Cincinnati's rookies Tyler Eiffert and Giovanni Bernard have it. Eiffert looks like he will be a thorn in the Steelers' side for years, and Bernard looks like the running back the Steelers hoped they were getting last year in Chris Rainey.  On his 27-yard catch-and-run, Bernard simply out-ran the angle held by Ryan Clark and Jarvis Jones.

Until Heath Miller returns, the Steelers have no viable tight ends. Last night, the Steelers had David Paulson and David Johnson at tight end. The Bengals had Tyler Eiffert and Jermaine Gresham.

On the plus side 
Rookie linebacker Jarvis Jones showed some life and certainly looks like he should get more playing time. It's time to finally end the Jason Worilds experiment. Center Fernando Velasco played okay.  Rookie receiver Derrick Moye made a nice catch on the fade throw in the end zone. Ike Taylor more or less contained A.J. Green but was constantly forced to tackle the catch. Antonio Brown averaged 18.5 yards on two punt returns. And, yes, we're reaching here, but Zoltan Mesko averaged 46.6 yards on seven punts for an average net of 42.7 yards.


One last point
Andy Dalton is a better quarterback than Tennessee's Jake Locker, but Chicago's Jay Cutler is a much better quarterback than Andy Dalton. And that brings us to ...

Next game: Another prime-time match-up, Sunday night, vs. the Chicago Bears, at Heinz Field.

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