Steelers MAQB: Will '06 Nightmare Repeat Itself?

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Steelers MAQB: Will '06 Nightmare Repeat Itself?
(Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

The Monday Afternoon Quarterback goes deep while he wonders if the Steelers really did select Rashard Mendenhall one spot ahead of Chris Johnson in the 2008 NFL Draft...

 

First down

Look, I’m not here to spread doom and gloom, but there’s something eerily similar about this season and the 2006 clunker.

As you may recall, in the regular season opener three years ago, the defending Super Bowl champions struggled to beat the Miami Dolphins at home, not unlike the way they did against the Tennessee Titans in overtime earlier this month.

In Week Two of the 2006 season, the Steelers were beaten by a rather ordinary Jacksonville Jaguars team on the road, similar to what happened to them against Da Bears in Chicago last weekend.

In the third week of the 2006 season, the Steelers lost to the Cincinnati Bengals at home.

You know who the Steelers play this weekend, right?

After a bye in the 2006 season, the Steelers lost against the San Diego Chargers on the road one week later. At 1-3, they were pretty much toast for the rest of the season.

Uh, you know who the Steelers play next week, don’t you?

You guessed it—the Chargers.

(Download Twilight Zone theme here.)

What I’m sayin’ is, it would behoove the Steelers to take care of business in Cincinnati this weekend—or else it could be history that repeats this season.

 

Second down

If there’s one guy who has to step up his game immediately, it’s Bruce Arians, the offensive coordinator.

The Steelers have scored a grand total of 27 points in two-plus games, which ranks 29th in a 32-team league. C’mon, the Detroit freakin’ Lions have more than that right now.

Seriously, who scores less—the Steelers on the field or Tim Tebow away from it?

It’s not like the Steelers lack talent here either. In fact, the offense has more weapons than it has had in years. For some reason, though, Arians either can’t or won’t make use of his big-play guys.

My advice: Get scatback Stephan Logan and wide receiver Mike Wallace involved more.

Logan has the speed and quickness to be effective out of the backfield on second or third and long. Know how much mileage the San Diego Chargers get out of Darren Sproles on flares, screens, reverses, and shovel passes? Well, why not have Logan play a similar role occasionally?

As for Wallace, the rookie has a long pass thrown his way once each game. Why stop there? The kid has been a threat every time. Even though the deep ball isn’t one of quarterback Ben Roethlisberger’s strengths—he underthrows the target far too often—it plants a seed in the mind of the defense at the very least.

I have no problem with the third-and-2 pass that wide receiver Santonio Holmes couldn't grab in the end zone last weekend. I'd like to see more aggressive calls, in fact.

Third down

Stud linebacker James Harrison has yet to register a sack, which suggests that he has been a non-factor thus far. The truth is, Harrison has been nearly as good as last season, when he was the best defensive player in the league.

The problem is, opponents have made Harrison even more of a priority in their game plans. More times than not, a second blocker is assigned to him. On the rare occasion when Harrison is involved in a one-against-one matchup, he’s often grabbed or held or both, but referees simply won’t call it.

I wonder—if his name were Michael Strahan or Lawrence Taylor, would the men in stripes whistle a penalty then?

I’m reluctant to second-guess D-coordinator Dick LeBeau, who has forgotten more about defense than I remember. I also understand that structure and discipline are primary reasons for his success all these years.

Still, especially in obvious pass situations, I’d like to see Harrison move around more. If the offense couldn’t predict where he would line up on a given play, the guy might wreak more havoc than he does already.

 

Fourth down

Nice to see that The Sporting News has written off the Steelers this season already.

The magazine named the New England Patriots as its Team of the Decade even though the '00s aren’t over yet and the Steelers would match the Patriots with a third Super Bowl championship this season.

Check that. The Steelers would surpass Bill and the Belicheats, because as far as we know, they didn’t have to break the rules to get any of their trophies.

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