The Pittsburgh Steelers have gotten off to a terrible start to the 2013 season. For the most part, they’ve been pretty embarrassing to watch.
Though they have looked a little better in their past couple games, they still sit without a win on the season. What’s worse, every other team in the division has started 3-2 to this point. Most have already closed the door on the Steeler’ season, with good reason, but if they did have any chance at turning this around, it would need to start in week 6.
Though the New York Jets have started a lot better than anyone thought they would, I still wouldn’t put them in the top tier of the league. This is still a game that I would, and do, expect the Steelers to win.
The only problem is the Steelers have looked uninspired and untalented for most of the season, which has led to their disappointing start. The reality is that fans can’t really feel good about the Steelers going into any game right now until they show that they have made the necessary adjustments going forward.
As far as this week against the Jets, there are a ton of matchups to look at. These are what I find to be the most important.
The Steelers Offensive Line Vs. The Jets Defensive Line
There really isn’t any one person the on the Steelers offensive line I can single out because every one of them has had their bad moments this season. The poor play by the line is probably the single greatest reason the Steelers are in the position they are in.
Ben Roethlisberger has certainly not played as well as he could this season either, but he has had barely any time when he’s gone back to throw. Throw in the line’s inability to open up any semblance of a hole for the running game, and the offense has been completely up and down.
The Jets defensive line has been dominating opponents this season and right now, as a whole, they are 13th against the pass and second against the run.
The Steelers just traded for Levi Brown from the Arizona Cardinals, but right now it isn’t clear whether or not he will play against the Jets. That would mean that Kelvin Beachum would make his first career start at left tackle for the Steelers.
I know it’s not a stretch to say that the offensive line needs to play well for the team to win the game. The team doesn’t need to run for 200 yards, but Ben needs more time than what he’s been getting. He has been running for his life all season, and though he is at his best at improvising, even he can’t do it by himself.
OLB LaMarr Woodley Vs. RT Austin Howard
The defense in general has been pretty bad this season. Though LaMarr Woodley has three sacks, the rest of the team has one.
Besides not getting any pressure on the quarterback, the defense has forced a total of zero turnovers this season. I’m a big believer that the defense will be able to start getting some takeaways as soon as it starts getting to the quarterback more. In a 3-4 defense, a team can’t rely on the defensive linemen to get pressure on the QB—they're used to clog the running lanes.
The Steelers’ problem is they have a rookie at the other outside linebacker spot in Jarvis Jones. Though he was known for getting pressure in college, Jones has yet to get a sack this season. Until he gets adjusted to the NFL, I’m not going to count on him going off.
Having three sacks at this point in the season isn’t really terrible for Woodley, but the team needs him to do even more. With a rookie quarterback in Geno Smith, Woodley needs to live in the Jets backfield during this game.
Smith has played a lot better than anyone thought he would in his rookie season, but he has also showed that he can become turnover prone. Woodley, and the rest of the defense for that matter, need to get to Smith and make him uncomfortable. Once that happens, maybe a ball can finally bounce the Steelers’ way.
S Troy Polamalu Vs. QB Geno Smith
Troy Polamalu has looked like his old self so far this season, flying around and making plays in the opposing backfield. The only thing he has yet to do that he can normally be counted on for is actually force some turnovers.
So while he has looked great moving around and causing havoc for the opposition, it just hasn’t seemed the same. It's not like the Steelers have faced the best quarterbacks in the league to start the season, either. Jake Locker, Andy Dalton and Matt Cassel are not scaring many defenses right now. They did face another guy I did not list, Jay Cutler, who has the ability to have great games.
Now they have the opportunity to go up against a rookie quarterback and, as I said with Woodley, the entire defense needs to take advantage. This is a great opportunity for Troy to fly around and try and confuse the rookie.
I don’t care whether they get an interception or force a fumble—the defense has to help the offense by taking the football away. Troy has the ability to make spectacular plays, and they’ll need at least one to get their first win.
It’s nothing less than disappointing to see what the Steelers have done this season, and I look forward to seeing them go to 1-4 this week against the Jets.