The Pittsburgh Steelers got whooped by the Baltimore Ravens this past Sunday. The 35-7 defeat was the worst loss so far in the Mike Tomlin regime. Ben Roethlisberger had five turnovers, and the Steelers as a team had seven total turnovers. The defense missed tackles and had a hard time getting off of their blocks.
In other words, the Ravens had their way with the Steelers all Sunday afternoon.
However, it's not time to panic yet Steeler Nation. This is one game, and just the first game of the season. However, I'm concerned about a few things going forward.
Reasons for concern:
1. The offensive line. The Steelers' offensive line was overwhelmed by the Ravens yesterday. I know Terrell Suggs and Haloti Ngata are great players, but they had their way with the Steelers the entire day. The Steelers struggled to get a push on running plays and really struggled in pass protection.
I think the Steelers made a big mistake cutting Tony Hills and naming Doug Legursky the starting guard. Hills started right guard most of the preseason and is a much better athlete. Legursky is a good backup but isn't very big and/or powerful, and that showed yesterday, as he looked overwhelmed all day.
Willie Colon and Jonathan Scott also struggled at both tackle positions. The offensive line has been mediocre at best since 2008. I know the Steelers have made it to two Super Bowls in that span, but at some point, not upgrading the talent on the line was bound to hurt this team.
Scott is not the answer at left tackle. The Steelers should have worked something out with Max Starks. Starks wasn't a Pro Bowler, but he is definitely a lot better than Scott. I'm not sure if going with rookie Marcus Gilbert isn't an immediate upgrade.
Right now center Maurkice Pouncey is the only player on the Steelers' offensive line that should have no chance of losing his job.
2. Defense. There have been discussions all offseason that the Steelers' defense might be too old. Well, yesterday it showed. The Steelers defense couldn't stop the pass or the run. They got beaten at the point of attack all day and the Ravens did whatever they wanted with the ball.
Ray Rice ran for 100 yards and Joe Flacco threw 3 touchdown passes with zero turnovers, and was sacked just once. The Steelers got owned up front on both sides of the ball, but that's not supposed to happen on defense.
James Farrior got benched for most of the game, LaMarr Woodley was invisible, and Lawrence Timmons might have played the worst game of his career so far. Ryan Clark and Bryant McFadden were also horrid, and I really think they will be bad all year long. This has to be the last year for both of those guys.
The biggest concern on defense has to be James Harrison. Harrison entered Sunday's game with back problems and left the game with a knee contusion. Although he had 9 tackles, he really didn't look like his dominant self.
Harrison is arguably the second most important player in that defense after Troy Polamalu. But what if Harrison isn't healthy all year? What if Harrison is on the decline? These things happen. I hope I'm wrong but if I were a betting man, I would put my money on Harrison never returning to his All-Pro level.
What if this is the year the defense does decline? What if teams have completely figured out Dick LeBeau's defense?
If this happens, the Steelers have no one to blame but themselves. They did nothing to upgrade a secondary that is horrid besides Ike Taylor and Polamalu. William Gay and Bryant McFadden stink, and Clark is mediocre. If the Steelers don't get pressure on the quarterback, they're doomed.
Final Thoughts: The turnovers can and will get corrected. The Steelers' play-makers will eventually make plays. However, one thing you can't change and/or stop is aging. If the Steelers' defense truly is too old then there's really nothing they can do about that, besides play some of the young guys a lot more.
Play Keenan Lewis instead of McFadden. Put Jason Worilds in to give Harrison a breather. Give more playing time to Cameron Heyward and Ziggy Hood.
The Steelers also need to reassess their philosophy and strategy. The Ravens looked a lot more prepared for that game. The Green Bay Packers looked like the more prepared team in the Super Bowl. That comes down to coaching.
Where were the exotic blitzes? Where were the roll-outs and play-action passes on offense? To me the Steelers reek of arrogance from the coaches to the players. Even Troy Polamalu thinks so, "It's incredibly humbling which, obviously, we needed at this point . . . It'll be interesting to see how we persevere. This is a big step towards humility.''- courtesy of Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post Gazette.
I'm still confident the Steelers can and will turn this around. They still have a team that has won two AFC Championships in the last three years, and a Super Bowl. That being said, I believe these concerns are real and justified.
Here's hoping I'm wrong.