Monday, September 23, 2013

"The Steelers are who we thought they were."

"The physicality is no longer there. The Steelers are the nail, and no longer the hammer."
-- Deion Sanders


"The Bears are who we thought they were," former Arizona Cardinals coach Denny Green said in an infamous post-game rant following a loss to Chicago in 2006.

Today, unfortunately, so are the Steelers. They are who we thought they might be: a team deservedly winless after three games, including two home losses; a team that can't take the ball away on defense, is in disarray on offense, and has no identity.

As the NFL Network's Deion Sanders said last night, "The physicality is no longer there. The Steelers are the nail and no longer the hammer."

Last night at Heinz Field, the 3-0 Bears were what we suspected they might be: well-coached, opportunistic and disciplined.  The 0-3 Steelers, unfortunately, displayed the traits characteristic of their play over the past 10 regular season games -- and why, in that span, they are 2-8.

Turnover differential highlights one key difference between the Bears and Steelers:
  • Over the last 19 games, including Sunday night, the Bears have 55 takeaways (first in the NFL). In the same span, the Steelers have come up with 20 and are still looking for their first takeaway in 2013. 
  • In their first three games in 2013, the Steelers have a minus-9 turnover differential. 
In their 40-23 loss to Chicago last night, the Steelers' defense didn't take the ball away -- again -- and couldn't get off the field in crucial third-down situations -- again.

Meanwhile, the Steelers' offense gave the ball away five times, with Ben Roethlisberger being the major culprit, throwing two interceptions (including a pick-six) and coughing up three fumbles, two of which were lost and one of which was returned for a touchdown.

Changes Coming?
Something has to change, and quickly, but the Steelers appear to lack the talent they need to win more than three to five games this year.

Although the Steelers put up 459 net yards on offense, nobody would say the offense is working. NFL network analyst Marshall Faulk observed, "The disconnect between Roethlisberger and Haley is blatant. Roethlisberger doesn't want to throw timing routes, and Haley doesn't want to let Roethlisberger do his thing."

Deion Sanders added, "The rift between Haley and Roethlisberger is imminent. It's going to blow up, any minute. You can see it coming."

Then there's the offensive line: This is not news to anyone, but the offensive line is awful. The Bears got a strong pass rush up the middle, and the tackles are terrible. Right tackle Marcus Gilbert was pulled from the game for a while, and left tackle Mike Adams is too slow on his feet to handle NFL pass rushers. Just like Cincinnati's Michael Johnson last week, Chicago's Julius Peppers schooled Adams all night.

And, behind that awful offensive line, Ben Roethlisberger simply is not playing well except in occasional flashes. He seems to have lost his mojo, and he hasn't had it for quite a while.

There is no solution in sight.

Dissa and Data
  • For the third consecutive game, the Steelers came up short on Time of Possession: Chicago had the ball for 31:36; the Steelers for 28:24. This, despite the Steelers having more offensive plays (65) than the Bears (60).
  • Last night, the Steelers' offense was 3-11 on third-down conversions, and 0-1 on a fourth down attempt.  For the season, the Steelers' offense is just 10-for-36 on third down.
  • The Steelers committed 6 penalties for 59 yards.
  • The Steelers dropped four fumbles (three lost), with Roethlisberger losing the ball twice and Felix Jones the other.
Next up:  In London, vs. the Minnesota Vikings.  Surely, the NFL didn't envision "showcasing" two 0-3 teams for its annual game overseas.

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