Roethlisberger In, Harrison Out: Steelers Face a Titan-ic Matchup Sunday

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Roethlisberger In, Harrison Out: Steelers Face a Titan-ic Matchup Sunday
Justin K. Aller/Getty Images
Steelers will be without their Titan LB Harrison Sunday

So is this what other fans feel like?  The roller coaster of emotions that comes with a mediocre team week in and week out—is this parity or parody? 

The offensive line is indeed offensive: Roethlisberger has an ankle/foot sprain, after being rolled on while throwing out of his own end zone; Harrison has a broken orbital bone, and he came back in the game (how is that even possible?) and Mendenhall has a hamstring injury. 

Arian Foster’s self-proclaimed non-awesomeness is looking pretty awesome, or is the Steeler defense just looking non-awesome?  And though I want to talk about the offensive line and Ben’s five sacks, what’s the point?  The offensive line is playing with two starters—it’s a makeshift line trying to protect a quarterback who extends plays. 

So the question, the big question, is becoming repetitive but necessary.  As Jules Winnfield said, “If my answers frighten you Vincent, then you should cease asking scary questions.”  And the big scary question that keeps getting asked is, “Are the Steelers too old?”

I know the defense looked slow, and assignments were obviously missed.  Arian Foster ran for 155 yards in 30 carries, including a 42 yard breakout run ending with a touchdown.   Matt Schaub had 138 passing yards with 0 interceptions and 1 touchdown. The touchdown pass was a lob pass to an uncovered Owen Daniels standing in the end zone. 

That seems to be the result of a blown assignment, not age. 

I know that in their first possession the Texans carried out a 19 play drive lasting 10 minutes and 55 seconds.  Is that a result of age or a defense getting pushed around and pushed back?   I know that the team that cannot finish, finished the Steelers just fine, all with their leading receiver watching from the sideline in the pivotal fourth quarter.

The Steelers Defense Is

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 In the first four games of the season, two running backs have run for 100 yards or more against the vaunted Steelers defense—Ray Rice and Arian Foster.  None did last year.  Pittsburgh has allowed opponents to average 119.5 yards on the ground, while the offense has averaged 93.8 yards on the ground. 

The discrepancy isn’t really that outstanding but for the fact the defense isn’t forcing interceptions or fumbles, or stopping the run.  Against the Texans, the Steelers failed to generate a turnover and are now minus 10 in the turnover margin.  Is that a result of age, or defensive schemes that are not working?

Where have our heroes gone?  Troy Polamalu, James Harrison, Lamar Woodley, Ryan Clark and Ike Taylor have all but disappeared from the horizon.  Against the Texans, Harrison had three tackles and no sacks, before leaving with a broken eye socket...what?   Clark had seven tackles and no sacks, Polamalu led the defense with eight tackles and no sacks, and Woodley had four tackles and no sacks. 

The pattern appears to be the inability to rush the passer and/or pierce the offensive line.  What gives?  I stand by my proclamation, with age comes good.  The average age of the Steelers defensive players is 31.5 years.  Wait!  Ray Lewis is 36 and Ed Reed is 33.  Where is the clamor about them being too old? 

I understand that across the line the Steeler defense out-ages them all, but there are numerous defenses that have been “aged” and great. 

George Allen’s “Over the Hill Gang” with a year of experience playing together averaged 30.17 years young.  John Elway was 38 when the Broncos won Super Bowl XXXIII and he won MVP.  The 1976 Minnesota Vikings reached the Super Bowl averaging 30.64 years young, and the 1971 Dallas Cowboys won the Super Bowl starting eight 30-year-olds.  So has age become an easy excuse?   

The Steelers defense is a year older than when they went to the Super Bowl.  They are suffering from high expectations and low outcomes.  Their opponent in last year's Super Bowl is 4-0.  Their defense isn’t smashing expectations either. 

The Packers are No. 31 in the league in passing yards allowed, allowing 335.8 passing yards per game, and rank No. 28 in total defense.  Besides Aaron Rogers looking amazing what is the difference?  After four games the Packers have 11 takeaways.  They have eight interceptions and three fumble recoveries. 

The Steelers have one takeaway. 

This week the Steelers take on the 3-1 Tennessee Titans with Matt Hasselbeck at the helm, and Chris Johnson in the shadows.  Have offenses caught up with the vaunted Steel Curtain schemes?  “Oh, I’m sorry! Did I break your concentration?”  Owen Daniels wasn’t standing in the end zone alone waiting for a pass because the defense is old—he was alone because someone missed their assignment. 

Arian Foster did not rush for 155 yards because the run defense were using walkers trying to stop him, but because the Texans' offensive line dominated the D-line making openings where they have never been before. 

The Steel Curtain is becoming more like pliable fiberglass that not only bends, but breaks. 

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