The Pittsburgh Steelers are 2-3 on the season for 2012.
That’s a far cry from the 12-4 squad of a year ago, so something must not be going right.
There has been a rash of injuries across the Pittsburgh roster, but the standings (and statistics) don’t forgive based on the presence or absence of a player; even if that player’s name is Troy Polamalu.
Here are five areas where the Steelers just aren’t very good in 2012.
Lacking the pairing of starting safeties Troy Polamalu and Ryan Clark for all but one game this season, Pittsburgh’s defensive unit hasn’t been as fearsome over the middle of the field.
Thursday night’s game between the Steelers and the Tennessee Titans was a perfect example of that.
On more than one occasion, Matt Hasselbeck was able to throw the football into the middle of the field and give his receivers a chance to come up with it without being punished for trying.
Let’s be clear—in terms of league averages, the Steelers are doing just fine stopping the run.
But this is the Pittsburgh Steelers.
In 2011, Pittsburgh gave up 4.0 yards per carry and seven rushing touchdowns. It also allowed nine runs of 20 yards or longer, including one 42-yard touchdown run.
In 2012, the Steelers have surrendered two touchdowns and 4.1 yards per carry. That includes a 64-yard touchdown run, which is the third-longest running play in the NFL this season.
Another former Pittsburgh staple has fallen by the wayside this season. Rashard Mendenhall has been diligently working his way back into the lineup since tearing his ACL late last season.
Now he’s got an Achilles' injury to deal with.
Unfortunately for Pittsburgh, Mendenhall is the only Steelers running back to approach four yards per carry this season (3.9). The second-best running back by that metric is Jonathan Dwyer and his 2.9 yards per carry.
Antonio Brown (6.5 yards per carry) and Ben Roethlisberger (5.7) have a higher YPC than Mendenhall. That’s not necessarily out of the ordinary, but neither of those two players is rushing with the ball enough to be really considered a part of Pittsburgh’s running game.
This was an area in which the Steelers were successful in Week 6.
However, in five games this season, they’ve allowed three touchdowns to tight ends despite not having faced a premier tight end yet.
Last season, even with all of the prolific production at the position, they allowed five scores total to tight ends.
This year, Jacob Tamme, Richard Gordon and Brent Celek have turned in a six-point reception against Pittsburgh.
Perhaps those relatively unknown names finding success in the end zone have contributed to the discrepancy of the Steelers’ points allowed between last season and this season.
The absence of the team’s missing defenders is also an explanatory circumstance, of course.
Either way, Pittsburgh is ultimately surrendering 8.8 more points per game in 2012 (23) than it did in 2011 (14.2).
That puts more pressure on an offense that is now dealing with injuries of its own.