I was so disgusted after watching almost three quarters of the Steelers-Bronco game tonight that I would rather write this article than suffer through the rest. The third pre-season game is usually where a lot of questions are answered. Tonight's game did not disappoint in that regard. Among some of the answers we learned tonight were:
- Dennis Dixon has some unique talents and lots of upside as a QB. But he is not ready to start during Ben Roethlisberger's suspension. Byron Leftwich is certainly not a long term solution, but is the best of the worst. It is going to be a tough four weeks.
- Kennan Lewis might have made progress from last season when he hardly dressed, but he is not anywhere ready for prime time. In fact with so many talented young guys vying for CB spots (I hear and see nothing but goodness from Butler), I am not sure he should even make the team.
- The offensive line continues to prove that Jim Brown could not gain yards playing behind this group. Through almost three quarters I counted one play where a Steelers RB actually had some daylight to run.
- Bruce "the Genius" Arians continues to prove that any success the Steelers have had during his tenure has been achieved in spite of himself. On 4th and 1, you don't run a QB option run. That is why you have Redmond in there. In the red zone, run the frigging ball!
- The defense is far from impenetrable at this stage. Lets hope they come together once the season starts. For now Lawrence Timmons seems to be the heart and soul of the D.
- Jonathon Dwyer was not the sleeper of the draft. He is just asleep. I am not sure if he is not motivated, not healthy or just not that good, but he is not an NFL back right now. (I originally wrote this and then Dwyer had a hell of a fourth quarter. Not sure if it was due to all of the bench players in the game though.)
The biggest lesson is this though:
Only a QB with the unique talents and physical traits of Ben Roethlisberger give this team a chance of winning. Ben's ability to stay back there, shake off hits and make something out of nothing is what separates the Steelers from mediocrity. As long as he is standing, we have a shot at scoring.
As presently constituted, we are never going to be a running power like the Steelers teams of old. Rashard Mendenhall is a good back. I would love to see what he could do behind a good offensive line. But we won't get the chance this year I am afraid. In today's NFL that is not necessarily a death sentence though. There are many very good teams who pass first and run second. The Steelers have no choice but to join that group.
Again our offensive line does not afford us the luxury of another QB who might be more of a pocket passer (like Leftwich) to be very successful. It is like target practice. More often than not, there is not much of a pocket. Dixon's legs could really help there, but he doesn't have the presence to make big plays out of broken down blocking.
This is where Ben shines. He can't run like Dixon, but between his size and ability to move he can get by that first hit and move a bit. When he does so, he is dangerous. That is where many of the Steelers biggest plays have come from in recent years. Ben improvising on the run.
So it is going to be a tough four games with out Ben. Lets all just hope it is just four games. Then Ben will be back and we will have a better than even shot to win most of our remaining games. It is going to be a very tough road to making the playoffs unless something drastic happens.
If not, we should use the opportunity to do what we have to do to:
- Build a new offensive line around Maurkice Pouncey. He is a keeper. Lets get some tackles that can do the job and at least one guard who open the holes that have been absent since Alan Faneca left.
- Rebuild some of the defense that while still very competitive is starting to show some cracks with age.
- GET A NEW OFFENSIVE COORDINATOR
- Pray every day that Ben Roethlisberger has really found religion and will not do anything stupid to jeopardize his career and the success of the team. As long as Ben is in there, we at least have a chance for the defense to keep it close and Ben to win it in the end for us.
I hope I am wrong about some of this stuff. If not it is going to be a long season.