Pittsburgh Progress Report: Steelers Look To Improve from Season's First Quarter

George KrogerCorrespondent IOctober 7, 2009

CHICAGO - SEPTEMBER 20: Ben Roethlisberger #7 of the Pittsburgh Steelers throws a pass against the Chicago Bears on September 20, 2009 at Soldier Field in Chicago, Illinois. The Bears defeated the Steelers 17-14. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

A quarter of the season is over (four games), and here’s what we know about the Steelers so far this season:



This could be the best Steelers offense ever, or at least the most “high-powered.” Ben is completing over 73 percent of his passes and to a nice variety of receivers. Minus a handful of drops, not to mention Limas Sweed, the receivers have been solid.

Mike Wallace is a future star and Heath Miller may finally get enough stats to get him his first trip to Hawaii. The passing game is also starting to open up the running game, which has gotten progressively better each game.

It looks like Mike Tomlin could have been right about Mendenhall. Yes, he runs way too high, but he showed explosiveness that we haven’t seen from a Steelers back in a while. He actually broke tackles, which is the first time we’ve seen that in a game from Mendenhall.

Furthermore, the offensive line looks like it’s starting to gel. I don’t remember seeing any mental errors that were so prevalent in the Tennessee game. I don’t think there’s a defense in this league that the Steelers cannot score on.



The run defense has been superb. So far it’s ranked third in the league at 61.5 yards per game. The Steelers have given up three big runs—two to Chris Johnson and one to Cedric Benson. If not for those three incidents, the stats would be unbelievable.

The pass defense has been very good for 75 percent of the game, but has broken down on a couple of drives. That inconsistency has been one of the factors in the 2-2 record. This indicates that small tweaks, and the return of Troy Polamalu, should be all that’s needed for correction.

The most disturbing shortcoming of the defense is the lack of takeaways. Pittsburgh has only three this season. This seems to point to a lack of pressure on the quarterback and an overall lack of intensity. This needs to change.


Special Teams

Kick coverage has been very solid, and has been helped in large part by the return of Sepulveda (on punts).

Kick returns are definitely better with Stephan Logan, but it would be nice if he could break a tackle, which is the only thing preventing him from taking one back all the way. He also has to learn to fight hang onto the ball, because you can bet after last week, teams will be trying to rip the ball away from him.

Minus the Chicago game, Jeff Reed has been solid.



The offensive coaching seems to be getting better each week, a very good sign. Defensive coaching still seems a bit conservative, but I’m guessing that will change when Troy comes back.


Mental Lapses

I put this in its own category, because it appears to be a problem the Steelers face each week.

Week One it was the offensive line, and Hines Ward fumbling late in the game. Week Two it was Santonio Holmes dropping easy passes and Reed missing two standard field goals. Week Three it was Holmes running the wrong route, leading to a pick six, Wallace stepping out of bounds on his way to the end zone, and Sweed dropping an easy touchdown pass.

This past week, it was Logan getting stripped and Ryan Mundy not making an easy recovery on the onsides kick. Tennessee was the first week of the season, and that was a hard-fought game Pittsburgh won despite the mental issues.

The other three games should have been blowouts and would have been if not for these mental errors. Correction will be a direct result of being better prepared for games, mentally and physically. Tomlin needs to lead the charge in this category.

Although the Steelers should be 4-0 at this point, the remaining schedule is favorable enough to hope for a 12-4 season, which should be good enough to win the division and possibly home field advantage. The next three quarters (of the season) will tell.