Reasons Pittsburgh Steelers Are Already Cooked in the AFC North
The Pittsburgh Steelers came into the season looking like contenders within the AFC North. After five games the Steelers have struggled mightily and are looking more like pretenders than contenders.
Injuries have plagued the Steelers defense so far this season causing it to be a weakness. Opponents are averaging 295.8 yards per game against the Steelers so far this season. The run defense had been a small positive until Chris Johnson had his way with the Steelers during Week 6.
The Steelers offense has struggled to keep up with opponents, which should not be a problem when you are averaging 23.2 points a game. Ben Roethlisberger has tried to rally the Steelers several times this season but, the fire is not there.
Even with injuries hitting the division leading Ravens, the Pittsburgh Steelers are done for the season. The Steelers have already packed it in and will not be making a run at the Super Bowl as some predicted.
Here is why the Steelers are not going to be making any noise once January rolls around.
They Have Already Packed It in
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It is not often that a member of the Pittsburgh Steelers defense calls out his teammates for not being mentally in games. When that player is veteran leader Larry Foote, it should be taken note of, and not brushed off.
When he was interviewed by KDKA-FM in Pittsburgh after the Steelers loss to the Titans Foote not only called out his teammates, but pointed out a major hole in the Steelers defense.
"We're not strong mentally. We don’t look like a championship team right now. Everybody here’s been knocked down, everybody’s had doors shut in their face, everybody’s gotten beat," Foote told reporters when asked about his team. Those are pretty harsh words coming from a player who has been around the game and witnessed a lot of football.
While Foote did go on to say he was looking forward to seeing where the season would go, sometimes an early stumble is too much to overcome. The importance of the mental aspect of sports is constantly being emphasized and rightfully so. If a mentally weak Steelers' defense is unable to get their minds back in the game the Pittsburgh season will go south fast.
Foote said the Monday following the game that the Steelers were "tapping the panic button." Does not sound like a team that is mentally ready to succeed at all.
A Good Team Can Win on the Road
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Through three road games this season the Pittsburgh Steelers are 0-3 and have been outscored 73-91. With two of their next three games on the road the Steelers cannot rely on only winning at home to carry them into the playoffs.
A major momentum swing will occur in the next few weeks and, unless the Steelers miraculously find the ability to win on the road, that swing wont be towards the Steelers.
Despite carrying a perfect 2-0 record at home with a pair of wins against struggling opponents, the Steelers have not been able to capitalize on momentum gained at home and have it carry over into their next game. Division rivals Cincinnati and Baltimore have both shown they can win on the road so far, each having won at least one game away from home.
The ability of these two teams to take games away from home will hurt the Steelers over the course of the season, dropping them into a hole that they cannot climb out of.
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The injury bug has been making its way around the NFL this season, but it seems to have taken up residence in Pittsburgh for the time being.
The Pittsburgh defense has been the hardest hit so far as linebackers Stevenson Sylvester, Brandon Johnson, Chris Carter, and Lamar Woodley have all missed time this season. The offense has also been hit as running backs Isaac Redman and Rashard Mendenhall have both missed time.
Another notable presence missing from the feared Steeler defense is that of Troy Polamalu. The Pro Bowl safety has become the face of the Steelers defense and his presence has been greatly missed. As soon as Polamalu is able to return to the Steelers' defense, the Steelers' ability to defend the pass will greatly improve.
Woodley, who is set to return this week, will be a welcome addition to a depleted line-backing corps as the Steelers travel to face off with the Bengals this weekend.
Offensively, the Steelers run game has suffered mightily from injuries. Both Isaac Redman and Rashard Mendenhall have been battling injuries all season.
Due to these injuries the Steelers backfield has failed to produce at a level which they were expected too. The backfield has been unable to establish any kind of rhythm this season forcing the passing game to shoulder most of the load, something they cannot do for an entire season.
The Defense Is Too Predictable
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Several opponents, according to an article in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, have been saying that Dick LeBeau's defense is becoming too predictable.
Carson Palmer was the most notable player noted having mentioned the predictability. Palmer's experience in Cincinnati against the Steelers allowed him to pick apart the Steelers' defense when the Raiders and Steelers faced off.
While LeBeau is faced with a mammoth task of running a defense without several Pro Bowl caliber players, he has to find ways to surprise the offense. If every team is able to predict what the Steelers will do on a given play they will, like Palmer, be able to pick apart the Steelers. This adds even more problems to a defense that is already facing lots of problems as it is.
What Running Game?
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The Steelers running game has been almost non-existent so far this season. The running situation in Pittsburgh has been complicated by injuries to Rashard Mendenhall, Jonathan Dwyer and Isaac Redman.
Redman has gotten the most carries of any Steelers running back, but he is still only averaging 2.5 yards-per-carry. The Steelers were hoping when Mendenhall returned to the lineup he would solve their backfield woes. Mendenhall provided more woes as he went down with another injury.
The Steelers will attempt to get their running game back on track this weekend as a committee made up of Mendenhall, Redman and Baron Batch will get most of the carries.
Unless the Steelers running game resurrects itself out of nowhere the Steelers' offense will struggle greatly this season.