Mercifully, the bye week has come for the Pittsburgh Steelers.
This first month of the 2013 season has been beyond forgettable. This was a team many picked to make the playoffs, and here they were at the bottom of the league at 0-4.
This bye could not have come at a better time. This team is reeling and in a serious downward spiral. This team needs to take this bye week and make the most of it from a personnel and motivational standpoint.
Here are some things you need to know about the Steelers heading into the bye week:
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Being 0-4 while remaining only two games out of the division lead is a testament to the mediocrity of the AFC North this year. It certainly gives the Steelers hope that if they can rally after the bye and some things go wrong for the teams above them, a playoff spot isn't completely out of the question.
Offensive guard Ramon Foster left the game against the Vikings with what the announcers called a chest injury. He did not return. He was replaced in the starting by Kelvin Beachum, and Beachum played well.
During the bye, the Steelers need to address Foster's health, because if he is to be out for an extended period of time, they almost certainly will have to dip into the free-agency pool to find some depth for what has been a suspect unit.
What must improve
This list could be lengthy, but realistically there is only so much that can be done even with a bye week.
On offense, the Steelers line must find some cohesion. Some linemen have played well enough but questionable talent around them have made it difficult for the unit to create any kind of continuity.
On defense, there has to be some a paradigm shifts in the Steelers mindset and attitude. This team has yet to force a single turnover in 2013, and there is nothing about Pittsburgh's effort level or scheme to indicate that a more opportunistic defense is coming around the corner.
The fact that we're discussing effort and scheme calls into question Pittsburgh's coaching this year. Staffs on both sides of the ball need to assess how badly their players want to win. I would propose wholesale roster changes coming off the bye to see just which players are all in and which players want to be somewhere else.
There is no opponent for the Steelers to prepare for this week, so they need to work on their internal problems. It is clear that after these four weeks of the season, they might be their own worst enemy.
These players need to be challenged, and the ones who accept this challenge are whom the coaching staff needs to build the team's future around.
The Steelers have their work cut out for them during this year's bye week.