5 Critical Takeaways from Pittsburgh Steelers' Season Opener

Josh AronsonCorrespondent ISeptember 12, 2013

5 Critical Takeaways from Pittsburgh Steelers' Season Opener

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    The biggest disappoint from Week 1 in the NFL was the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Steelers were underwhelming offensively, putting up zero offensive points in the first 58 minutes of the game.

    Had it not been for a Ben Roethlisberger touchdown late in the game, the lone Steeler points would have come off a bone-headed Titans safety on the first kickoff of the game. 

    The Pittsburgh defense looked strong, limiting Titans RB Chris Johnson to just 70 yards on 25 carries, with a long of 11 yards. They also kept third-year quarterback Jake Locker in check, holding him to just 11-of-20 for 125 yards and 0 touchdowns.

    The real problems for the Steelers are on the offensive side of the ball and it’s not going to get any easier. During the game All-Pro center Maurkice Pouncey tore his ACL and MCL and will miss the remainder of the season. This is bad news for an already young and inexperienced offensive line. They will have their work cut out for them next week against the nasty front seven of the Cincinnati Bengals.

    This article will take a look at 5 critical takeaways from the Steelers home opening loss to the Titans. The criterion for this list is solely on Week 1 performance, while looking ahead to how it will affect the rest of the season for the Steelers. The majority of this list consists of offensive takeaways because of the issues on that side of the ball for the Steelers.

5) the Steelers Will Struggle at Running Back Without Le’Veon Bell

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    The Steelers drafted RB Le’Veon Bell out of Michigan State in the second round expecting him to come in and be the every down back right away. However, in the third preseason game Bell suffered a Lisfranc fracture in his foot that is expected to keep him out at least another month.

    Pittsburgh also lost RB LaRod Stephens-Howling to IR against the Titans leaving Isaac Redman as the starter. Redman didn’t have his best showing putting up nine yards on eight carries Sunday. Redman has to put up much better numbers to keep the Steelers from becoming one-dimensional. 

    The Steelers gained only 32 yards against the Titans. This non-existent run game takes away from the play action, where QB Ben Roethlisberger thrives. If Pittsburgh can’t establish a running attack early against the Bengals, look for the struggles to continue Monday night.

4) Receivers Need to Make Big Plays

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    With the loss of WR Mike Wallace to the Miami Dolphins this offseason, the Steelers are missing their big-play threat down the field. They are hoping to replace Wallace with third round pick Markus Wheaton out of Oregon State. However, Wheaton was held without a catch Sunday. 

    While Antonio Brown and Emmanuel Sanders played well, both were held below 100 yards respectively. This young group of wide outs will need to step up and make big plays off of short passes, which Roethlisberger loves to throw. Big Ben isn’t afraid to throw the ball down the field in single coverage, but he makes his money on short screen passes. 

    Look for Wheaton to be more involved this week stretching the field and opening up the middle of the field for Brown and Sanders.

3) the Defense Will Carry the Load

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    While the offense struggled Sunday, the defense played particularly well. They were not put into many good situations as the offense went three and out on 4 of 6 second half possessions. S Ryan Clark led the way with 13 tackles, seven of which were solo.

    Holding Titans RB Chris Johnson to just 71 yards has to be looked at as a plus, considering Tennessee was running the ball the entire second half. The Steelers held the Titans to just 229 yards of total offense. Long-time defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau looks to still be coaching at the top of his game despite the loss.

    The defense will carry the Steelers in a very tough AFC North as it has done many times in years past. Look for the familiar names of Clark, Woodley, Timmons and Polamalu to make the big plays when need be.

2) The Offensive Line Is Young and It Will Show

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    The offensive line took a huge blow Sunday with the loss of Maurkice Pouncey to a torn ACL and MCL. Pouncey was the heart and soul of the O-line and was the leader of a very young an inexperienced group. LG Ramon Foster in his fifth year has the most experience of the group.

    Tackles Mike Adams and Marcus Gilbert will need to play well beyond their years to keep Roethlisberger upright. Adams and Gilbert are more than capable of this, but will need to prove it early on and give Big Ben confidence he has time to deliver the deep ball.

    RG David DeCastro in his second year out of Stanford has the most upside of this young group and they will turn to him to help out the running game and balance out the Steelers offense.

1) Ben Roethlisberger Needs to Play at an MVP Level for the Steelers to Compete

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    It is no secret that Roethlisberger is the leader of the Steelers. Now in his second year under offensive coordinator Todd Haley, Ben comes into the season healthy, and with a better grip of the offense. Roethlisberger has led the Steelers to two Super Bowls in his time as signal caller in Pittsburgh. If he can play like an MVP, the Steelers will compete in the AFC North.

    There is no question Roethlisberger is capable of playing like an MVP, but he will need the players around him to improve. Ben makes players better, but he will need to be at the top of his game. The most important element is the fluidity of the offensive line. If that group can give Big Ben time to throw, there is every reason to believe that the Steelers can make a run into the postseason.