Will The Real Steelers Please Stand Up?

By Jeremy Hritz

Wow, nobody saw that one coming.

Or did we?

Throughout the season, the Pittsburgh Steelers have been a mixed bag, earning some impressive victories against the Bengals, Giants, and the Ravens, while at the same time losing to league doormats in the Raiders, Titans, and Browns. While after each poor loss, a valid excuse was always handy for justification, there is just no way to explain their pathetic performance, at home nonetheless, against the now 5-8 San Diego Chargers.

The Steelers were dominated Sunday, both offensively and defensively, as they struggled to score points and to keep points off of the scoreboard. Most disappointingly about the Sunday showing was the performance of its defense, which for several weeks has been dominant, despite its inability to produce turnovers. Normally effective in getting teams off of the field on third downs, the Steelers allowed the Chargers a third down conversion percentage of 55%. What is terrifying about this is that the Chargers offense has been mediocre on third downs this season, converting only 39%.

While it would be easy to point to the return of Ben Roethlisberger as the result of the disjointedness on offense, that cannot account for the inability to produce in the running game. Roethlisberger definitely showed signs of sitting out for three games, yet more dropped passes by Mike Wallace and Antonio Brown called into question the ability of these receivers to produce when needed to. For example, in the second quarter, Roethlisberger threw a catchable ball to Wallace that, if caught, could have possibly resulted in a touchdown. If the Steelers were able to score on that play, or at least get the ball into Chargers territory, this could have been a totally different game.

Unfortunately, the Steelers were not able to get the types of breaks that have escaped them all season.

And again, the turnovers escaped the defense, as they were unable to record any fumbles or interceptions. Ultimately, the failure to build any momentum through splash plays hurt this team and ultimately sealed their fate.

While the Steelers are still in line to earn a trip to the playoffs as a result of the Cowboys victory over the Bengals, the lifeline of the team when it gets there definitely has to come under serious scrutiny, that is assuming that they win the necessary games to get in.

What cannot be avoided or overlooked with this team, though our first response is to try and do so as a result of the numerous injuries that the Steelers have struggled with all year, is the fact that this team is inconsistent, at least offensively, and it plays down to the level of competition.

For whatever reason you want to attribute it to, injuries, dropped passes, or penalties, this team just cannot seem to capitalize on and extend momentum they have built in previous games, and today’s game against the Chargers is a perfect example following the huge win in Baltimore.

While still on pace for the playoffs as the sixth seed, it would be foolish to ignore the flaws that continue to plague this team. While nothing is written in stone, and it is definitely possible for the Steelers to make a run in the playoffs, it is simply impossible to explain away the deficiencies of this team. Are the Steelers much better than a 7-6 team and are simply not living up to expectations? Or are they truly only average?

This much is true: if the Steelers want to get into the playoffs, they have to improve and prove that they can be consistent.

If they can’t, there will be an agonizing repeat of last year when the Steelers were one and done.

And as of right now, the body of work for the 2012 Steelers is not providing many reasons to believe.

  • steeltown

    What happened to the Team that smashed the NYGiants? How do you beat the Ravens in Balt with Charlie Batch, then lose to San Diego in Pittsburgh with Ben

  • Everything Steelers

    MVP of the Steelers….Shaun Suisham

  • Garrett Hunt

    Good news is we won’t have to play teams like San Diego in the playoffs since we can’t seem to beat the teams we should handle easily. Maybe the steelers will show up for the playoffs like they have for other big games this year.

  • Jerry Mendoza

    No protection for the qb run game can’t buy any yards between Mike Tomlin dumb calls and WRs not catching ball where doomed !! When they were saying that the chargers had never won at Hines Field I knew they were gonna win !!

  • Primanti05

    We won’t make the playoffs. After the way Rivers attacked the young corners, you don’t think Romo, Dalton and Weeden will do the same? WIthout Ike and no pass rush, we are toast. We end up 8 and 8 at best…I think 7 and 9. Coaching staff is so unprepared…but at least we still have our two point conversion plays to keep for when we need them!

  • Amuzon12

    Nobody likes to see their super heroes getting their butts kicked. It appears to me that the coaches aren’t taking all of the kryptonite from these guys before they take the field.

  • Amuzon12

    ….and he was one of my biggest concerns coming into this season. I never would’ve guessed that by week 15 the Steelers would have the potential to be .500. I guess the world is ending shortly! (according to the Mayan calendar)

  • steeltown

    Completely agree, before the season I thought our kicking game was our biggest weakness…. not so much

  • Everything Steelers

    I know its been said before on another post…but I am very surprised they didnt put DeCastro in yesterday after Colon went down…Instead of shuffling the line…just put DeCasto in to see what he can do in game situations…unless he truely isnt ready to play…

  • Garrett Hunt

    Don’t take too much from 1 game. The corners were exposed, but doesn’t mean they will play that poorly from here on out. Ike will be back before seasons end, and the coaching staff might not have had their best game either but I wouldn’t call them so unprepared in general. With Ben back, we still have a shot in any game regardless of our defense (not to mention is still one of the top in the nfl even without Ike).

  • http://twitter.com/scottygongfish scottyg

    Hate to say it, but it is time to rebuild.The Ziggy experiment hasn’t worked. Woodley can’t stay healthy, Harrison can’t rush or cover and Foote is just sooo slow. Anyone still doubting how important Ike is to this D? Haley seems incapable of adjusting mid-game his offensive plans, Tomlin looked flabergasted and Lebeau couldn’t figure out how to protect his new starting corner with over the top help and/or pressure Rivers with the patchwork of an offensive line. Our offensive line couldn’t stop the pressure or run block, our wide receivers couldn’t catch and our backs fell as soon as they got hit. So let’s say it wasn’t the game plan. Then it was the players fault. So what do you do? I say you get a new OC, a new offensive line coach(come home Russ), a new ST coach, and you start by letting some of these players walk or cut the ones you can. Yes, in this scenario we’ll be rebuilding for two years down the road and we will suck. Guess what? We suck now.

  • Garrett Hunt

    You act like we’re competing for the number one draft pick instead of a playoff seed. Let the season end and look at the whole picture before you judge based off last game. We have the players, we have the talent, and we have the coaches… its just about consistency in my eyes.

  • JT

    These last 3 games still make up almost a quarter of the season. And this Dallas game has Steelers bounce back written all over it. We knew the playoffs would come down to the Bengals game. If the Steelers lost to the Ravens, and beat the Chargers they’d be in the same position they are today for the WC spot except nobody would think the sky is falling.
    This, even more so then in recent years, is the year of the unpredictable in the NFL. Parity is all over the place. Remember a few weeks ago the NFC was considered the powerhouse? Now that’s just as much of a mess as the AFC and the Texans, Pats, and Broncos are supposed to be the best in the NFL.
    The fact is this is the same team that crushed the Giants, that without their leader beat the Ravens, and the team that shut down RG3. They know their potential, but historically the Steelers are very open to “trap” games. They like backing themselves in the corner, and it’s time to watch them fight out of it.

  • Matt Lipner

    At first I was disgusted by the Steelers’ performance, but then I took a step back and thought about the bigger picture: this game was a week after a highly emotional, intense win at Baltimore, Ben returns looking healthy (and he did look healthy during the game), so all the players relax a bit and slack off during the week. We should have seen this letdown coming.

  • Maurice_hill_district

    Im going to steal a comment I read by some poster somewhere on this website –

    Which will this season’s Steelers team be remembered as – Using injuries to excuse the season, or the team that overcame injuries.

    We were outcoached by a bad HCoach Norv Turner, in so many ways – with their receiver’s routes, exploiting our defensive line being slow, their fake punt, so many ways. They had to travel from west coast & did it in our house.

    Yes we’ve coached a few good games, & had many injuries but who’s to say the starters wouldnt hav made those penalties & mistakes if they played instead.