What happened to the Pittsburgh Steelers? A team with so much hope entering the 2013 season is one of the worst heading into its bye week.
The defense can’t pressure the quarterback or force turnovers. The offense can’t protect the quarterback or hold onto the ball. Basically, every problem the Steelers had entering training camp still exists, but worse than anticipated.
We are going to focus on getting better. That's what's going to change the outcome of these football games. Those that don't, aren’t going to be a part of us. I have great patience. We'll continue to work and get better, as long as I see belief and effort and continued improvement in detail, because that's what's going to change the outcome of these games. Those that don't, they won't be a part of it, whoever it may be. It's just that simple.
That is easier said than done for Tomlin and his coaching staff.
The internal options are virtually nonexistent, and the free-agent market is bare. But it is not as simple as saying “we need to player better,” either.
An early bye week will provide the coaching staff with the opportunity to seek some answers. Even though they’ve improved each week, the offense could still use some work.
Every football team is always a work in progress, but the winless Steelers have a lot of work to do, and they must clean up the mistakes they are making during their bye.
Ramon Foster left the game on Sunday with a pectoral injury.
Even though the offensive line is struggling, it is important that they establish continuity. The only way they can do that is by playing together.
Foster is one of the maulers on the line and has the size to match up against the larger defensive linemen in the league. He has also been one of their best performers. In four games, he has one penalty and two sacks allowed, according to the The Washington Post.
Another benefit of Foster starting is the availability of Kelvin Beachum to play elsewhere. He apparently is the only viable option outside of the starting five according to Mike Tomlin, via Dale Lolley of the Observer-Reporter.
“Anybody else we would have put in there would have been below the line of preparation, so there’s no answers in that regard,” Tomlin said.
The line may be struggling, but at least the Steelers will be able to dress their top six for the next game.
Roethlisberger had two turnovers against the Vikings.
It was only a matter of time before Ben Roethlisberger got banged up. He suffered his first injury of the year at the hands of the Minnesota Vikings.
According to Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Roethlisberger has a partial dislocation of his right forefinger.
Besides the injury, Roethlisberger tacked on two more turnovers against Minnesota. He already has five interceptions and five fumbles this year, according to ESPN.com.
Roethlisberger recognizes that he has to do a better job of taking care of the ball, via Steelers.com:
There are some things here and there. Obviously, turning the ball over hurts. The last one, I don’t count that one, because time is going to run out. I was going to throw it over my head like a grenade if I had to, just to try to make a play. The interception early was just kind of a mishap between me and Emmanuel [Sanders]. It happens. You just can’t let it happen. We can clean up some things here and there. Like I said, we got better. There is still more [to do], because we will never be perfect. We try to strive for that but we will never be there.
Cleaning up the turnovers will be a key to success.
Roethlisberger and the Steelers cannot afford to make the mistakes they are making if they expect to turn their season around.
So why so many poor throws and turnovers from Roethlisberger? At times, he may be trying to do much rather than taking the safe play.
Part of this is because of the poor play of the offensive line. Another part may be because he feels he has to carry the offense on his back.
A week off should help him and the rest of the offense get focused and begin to eliminate the mistakes from their game.
Antonio Brown leads the Steelers in receptions.
Antonio Brown is settling into the No. 1 receiver role nicely. He has improved each week and has been the only consistent receiving option so far.
According to ESPN.com, Brown has caught 32 passes on 42 targets for 412 yards and two touchdowns.
Brown has been outstanding over the past two weeks with 21 receptions for 284 yards and two scores. He has been getting it done all over the field and has made his receptions count, with 23 receptions that have gone for a first down.
In an otherwise dismal year, Brown has been a bright spot and should continue to be the top target for Roethlisberger. He has played so well that Pro Football Focus has him as their highest graded receiver through four weeks.
Le'Veon Bell scored his first two career touchdowns in his debut against Minnesota.
It’s not often that you can get excited over 57 yards and a yards-per-carry average of 3.6, but that is not the case with rookie running back Le’Veon Bell.
Bell only had 16 carries in his debut last week, but he did have two touchdowns as he began to flash his talent. This was particularly evident on his eight-yard touchdown run.
After receiving the handoff, Bell made a quick cut to avoid a defender before bouncing it to the outside, where he used a block by Heath Miller to go in for the score.
Certainly there is plenty of room to improve, but Bell had the right attitude after his debut performance, via Steelers.com.
“The two touchdowns don’t mean anything to me because we lost,” Bell said. “I needed three.”
Now Bell needs to put in the work so that he can get three the next time.
He was easily the best running back in training camp and earned the starting job for all of the right reasons.
After one game, he has made a positive impression on many, including the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review’s Dejan Kovacevic, who wrote, “Le’Veon Bell can flat-out run the football.”
As the Steelers try to establish balance on offense, Bell’s presence in the backfield should go a long way. Now that he is healthy and has one game of experience, he should become a staple in the offense for the remainder of the season.
Heath Miller has nine receptions in two games this season.
Heath Miller has been nothing short of impressive since returning to the lineup against the Chicago Bears.
One of Miller’s best plays was sealing the edge on Bell’s first touchdown run. That is just one of the small things he does that sometimes goes unnoticed.
The early bye week will provide Miller with an extra week of preparation to get stronger. As he improves, the Steelers can integrate him more in the passing game, particularly on early downs and in the red zone.
Miller should once again develop into a top target for Roethlisberger and should finish the year only behind Antonio Brown in targets.
Kelvin Beachum is on his way to replacing Mike Adams at left tackle.
According to ESPN.com's Josina Anderson, Kelvin Beachum was working at left tackle during practice and is expected to get the start against the New York Jets.
Despite no official announcement, this is not a surprise considering how Mike Adams has struggled this year. The fact that he was even moved to left tackle during training camp was surprising.
Adams can be dominant against the run but does not have the quickness to match up against the elite pass-rushers. This was evident, as Jared Allen owned him last Sunday.
Mark Kaboly of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review credited Adams for allowing 3.5 sacks against the Vikings, but he acknowledged that he only got help on six of 56 dropbacks.
Pro Football Focus has Adams with a minus-9.5 rating on the season, and he has allowed the quarterback to get pressured 22 times.
Beachum performed well as a rookie last year on the right side and has alternated with both tackles during the regular season this year.
Right now, the Steelers have few options to upgrade their line, and starting Beachum is just one option. Even if it doesn’t work out, are they going to perform any worse than they already are?
A strong training camp by Will Johnson has not resulted in playing time.
There are a couple of moves the Steelers could make to improve the offense, but probably won’t.
The first is to integrate Will Johnson into the offense more often.
He had an outstanding training camp, developing as a blocker and receiver out of the backfield. However, they have rarely used him this year.
According to Mark Kaboly of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, Johnson has played 34 snaps in four games, with only 14 being on run-blocking plays.
Johnson picked up a key block on Le’Veon Bell’s first touchdown run. Without this block, the play would have been stopped for a loss.
For a running game that is struggling to get off the ground, why not give more snaps to your best blocking back?