NFL Network Analyst Concerned More About Steelers Health And Offense Than Defense

NFL Network analyst Warren Sapp is well known for his jabs at the Pittsburgh Steelers defense being too old and too slow, but fellow analyst Shaun O\’Hara and Donovan McNabb both said that they don\’t buy into that on Thursday.

O\’Hara said that age isn\’t a good indicator of success with the Steelers, but instead, he thinks their success in 2013 depends on the health of the team overall and their offense more than anything else.

“The first thing that I\’m concerned about for the Pittsburgh Steelers is really the health aspect, because they were injured on both sides of the ball,” said O\’Hara. “But to me, I\’m really looking at Todd Haley, because when you look at this team, they had the best ranked defense last season. So Dick LeBeau, he\’s walking into the meeting room with Mike Tomlin and Todd Haley, and he\’s saying, \’what more can I do?\’

“So it\’s on Todd Haley. He took over for Bruce Arians and the big-play production for this offense dropped. In 2011, they had 69 big plays and last season it dropped down to 57. So I think he\’s got to improve that big play for the offense with Ben [Roethlisberger]. And the second thing is the run game. It slipped down to 26th. They only average 96 yards per game, so they\’ve got to do a better job on offense.”

As far as McNabb\’s opinion goes, he too isn\’t concerned about the age of the Steelers defense, but like O\’Hara, he also thinks injuries are the biggest concern for them heading into 2013 more than anything else.

“When you look at the overall Steelers offense and defense, yes, right now they\’re the oldest defense in the league, but, yes, injuries play such a major part in this game, and I think if the guys are there healthy throughout the season, we may see these Pittsburgh Steelers make it to the playoffs,” said McNabb.

Later in the segment both O\’Hara and McNabb were asked where they thought the Steelers rank currently in the division. O\’Hara said that he thinks the Steelers are still the third-best team in the division behind the Baltimore Ravens and the Cincinnati Bengals while McNabb thinks they are the second-best team behind Cincinnati.

“I think they are the third-best team in that division and here\’s why,” started O\’Hara. “They cannot protect Ben Roethlisberger. He\’s the most sacked quarterback since 2004. He\’s been sacked 100 more times than any other quarterback in that amount of time.”

While both O\’Hara and McNabb had strong arguments as to why the Steelers won\’t likely win the division this season, O\’Hara fails to realize that Roethlisberger had his lowest sack per drop back ratio of his career in 2012. He also fails to realize that the Steelers quarterback was headed for perhaps one of his best seasons ever prior to getting injured in the Week 10 game against the Kansas City Chiefs.

I agree with both as far as the health aspect goes as the Steelers are not terribly deep on both sides of the ball, but in reality, the same can be said about the other 31 teams in the league. In addition, I too think that the onus is more on the offense than the defense this year.

  • TJimmy

    If the Steelers are healthy, they will win the division and possibly the Super bowl. They are very motivated and have the talent to do it on both sides of the ball.

  • Jazz

    Hard to argue with both O’Haro and McNabb Comments; I agree, the Steelers will need to remain healthy if they are going to make it back to the playoffs. I think the Offensive Philosophy is great, however, I highly criticize some of the selections they have made for the O/Line. Marcus Gilbert as the Left Tackle? He is weak, constantly got pushed in the backfield, and none of those guys upfront has a nasty streak within them. The only exception, Pouncey. Those guys will have to set the tone upfront, that will be the key to the offense being successful in 2013. Another thing, Ben needs to pull his head out of his (Bleep)! He tries too often to make a splash play when he really doesn’t need to. It’s great to improvise when needed, but why improvise when you have a wide open WR/TE/RB and no defender near him? Why not just throw the ball? This is the main reason so many criticize Roethlisburger, and the criticism is justifiably warranted. If Ben can get out of the way of Big Ben, I think the Steelers could surprise a few people this year Offensively. The Defense? Although they do have some key players on the wrong side of 32, I believe we are going to see some new faces step up this year and really show the NFL that the Steelers are still the best Franchise when it comes to grooming future starters. Cortez Allen, Rookie Shamarko Thomas, NT Steve McClendon, SS Robert Golden, DE Cameron Heyward (Hopefully), OLB Jarvis Jones will assist on situational passing downs, OLB Jason Worilds will be a force as well, if he can stay healthy. There will be a lot of new faces on Defense in 2013, the average age of the new defensive players that will play in 2013 is 23 1/2 years old. Hmm! Not too old to me. The Offense? Again, everything will depend on the O/Line; they have a lot of youth not only on the O/Line, but at other key positions as well. Rookie WR Markus Wheaton, Rookie RB Le’Veon Bell, 2nd year players such as RT Mike Adams, RG David DeCastro and Rookie OG Kelvin Beachum who serves as a swingman. This is going to be an interesting Training Camp.

  • Paul

    I don’t think O’Hara and McNabb could name 8 players on the Steelers offense

  • Shannon Stephenson

    I also agree that health is the major factor in our success especially on the OL where we are very thing with depth!

  • toonasteel

    This statement is another example of national “experts” going only by the stats and not doing real legwork/research. O’Hara says… “they had the best ranked defense last season. So Dick LeBeau, he’s walking into the meeting room with Mike Tomlin and Todd Haley, and he’s saying, ‘what more can I do?”
    Statically, yes, the Steelers were the best defense. However, if O’Hara had actually watched the 1st 1/4 of last year’s season, he would have seen the Denver, Oakland, and Titans games where the defense (I’m sorry) let the team down. I remember how frustrated I was seeing Manning, Palmer, and the Titans drive, and dink/dunk all over the Steelers D. The Defense turned it around eventually, but they could have held leads….

  • SteelerFanInMD

    Agreed. Their analysis sounds like a mere recap of last season’s performance.

  • cencalsteeler

    Our offense needs to score more points, period.

  • Stephen Dale

    HEALTH of every Steeler is always an important factor so nothing new about that thought. Real question is how talented is this Steelers team ????? Are there sufficient “play makers” on both sides of the LOS ????? I don’t think so. For that reason, I suspect Pitt will be fortunate to be 8-8 at best and something less in all likelyhood. It is going to take better talent evaluation and procurement to improve the team—and I don’t see the talent improving to stay on pace with Cincy, Balt., SF, etc……………..the onus is on the scouting dept, GM, and Tomlin to bring better players.

  • dgh57

    Oh no, here we go again with that “pessimistic” song you seem to like to sing so often!!!

  • dgh57

    Really, that many? ha ha!

  • Don

    This is so true. The overall numbers were great, but they could never get a stop when they needed it.

  • Don

    The recent history with injuries on the OL is disturbing. Health luck usually runs in cycles, but the Steelers have had so much trouble keeping any group of starters together for awhile now. I wonder if there’s something systemically wrong with their training regimen? I have no evidence of such a thing, I’m just struggling to make sense of the string of bad luck.

  • Matt Searls

    I mean he has a good point, and I know I’m gonna get hated for saying this but we don’t have a true number 1 receiver. Noone that can dominate and take over when we need them to. If we had one then this offense would be different. With bell at rb, and a healthy oline we could be scary good.

  • lefnor

    You are right.

    I read this in a Redman interview this spring:

    Specifically, running back Isaac Redman said, “Before practice, we do a little different routine, try to get our bodies warmed up and not try to run right into practice, to try to prevent those little hamstring injuries. I’ve never done that since we’ve been here. It’s kind of a new thing. It’s working out. We don’t see too many hamstring (problems).”

    Honestly, that is the most ridiculous thing I have ever read about the team during the Tomlin era. “try to get our bodies warmed up and not try to run right into practice… I’ve never done that since we’ve been here.”. Are you f* kidding me??? Is this a backyard team?

  • Brendon Glad

    I didn’t watch it. But off of this post, it sounds like a very fair assessment. I lean more towards McNabb. I think Baltimore will take a step-back. And a full step-back in this division means third place. I actually think the Steelers even took a small step back…but I thought on the eye-ball test (in that miniscule portion of the season when they were moderately healthy) that the Steelers could have been considered the best team in the NFL last year.
    So to say it’s all about injuries is VERY fair. To say Cincy should be the frontrunner in the North is VERY fair. But do the Steelers need to win the North to win the SB? I don’t think so. My somewhat “hopeful” scenario predicts the Steelers to be 11-5/10-6…finish behind Cincy at 2nd place in the North. Make the playoffs. And if they are on equal footing with the other 5 teams health-wise going into the playoffs, they will make it to the Super Bowl.
    Recent history, and waning faith in the Steelers training and medical staff, says that my more realistic scenario has them kind of identical to the 2011 team…Limping in, and bowing out early. But I still see them as a playoff team this year. There’s no way possible they can be as injured as they were last year (knock on wood).


    Steelers have certainly had a bad run lately, but injury concern is the same for every team and you can’t really control that…goes w/o saying they need to stay healthy.

    OL…there’s only a handful of legit stud LTs in the NFL so I’m not that concerned about Gilbert there…what does concern me is the teamwork among the 5 guys.

    In watching the OL last year…teams exploited the A gap with delayed blitzes seemingly all year long. The OAK game really stood out…they made a no-name LB look like an All Pro…all he did was wait for the G & T to engage in their blocks and he picked his hole to blitz through. Worked every time.

    The OFC needs some consistency no doubt…especially running in the RZ and short yardage but the topic headline basically tells be the NFL talking head probably was looking more at stats than games.

    The DEF was good at bending but not breaking, but 4th Qtr pass rush was non-existent…that’s how they lost several games in ’13.

  • westernsteel

    Ya, the defense couldn’t stop anyone in the fourth quarter at the beginning of the season last year. Pretty cool how they improved though. Wish the offense would have improved as the season went on, they failed on too many 3-and-short opportunities.

  • westernsteel

    A year ago I predicted the Steelers would make the Super Bowl this season, but was hoping guys like DeCastro, Adams, Spence, and Rainey would have a full year of playing in the books! There are so many players on both sides of the ball that have little playing time, Could be good…Could be bad!

  • Luke Shabro

    So many negative commenters on here! Am I one of the only ones with some optimism? What happens every year when the Steelers are said to be lacking in talent and everyone expects us to finish third in the division? We end up making a run. Let’s look at the facts. Ben is Ben. He makes some bonehead throws sometimes at inopportune moments (so does the immortal Peyton Manning), but he’s done things behind a poor O line that Brady and Manning could not do. He’s done amazing things without a decent run game since really 06/07. Think about the 2008 season and the fact that we won the Super Bowl with Mewelde Moore toting the rock on the regular. Maybe some people don’t like Gilbert that much at left tackle. But look at the line objectively and barring injury concerns (which is appropriate given our O line’s recent history) and tell me this isn’t the best this group has looked since ’05/’06. Ramon Foster may not be All World but he sure as heck isn’t Darnell Stapleton or Trai Essex. If these guys can stay healthy and gel you can imagine the possibilities. Also, I’m extremely excited for the ZBS. Like DB, I think the ZBS may help us avoid some injuries. Our guys won’t be worried as much about getting pushed back onto one another
    I understand even though the scoring defense has been excellent they have been guilty of lacking pressure on the QB and not making splash plays. I think that will change SOME this year. I don’t expect a reincarnation of the 2008 defense but I do expect them to be better. Hopefully we seem Cam Heyward in the lineup more. Steve McClendon has a chance to push the pocket at the nose. I am concerned with pressure from the ROLB spot because JJ is a rookie and Worilds can’t seem to stay healthy. However, as much as everyone loves to bash Worilds, he has had some impact when he started (in place of Woodley :/) but I believe Woodley will be healthier this year and start making things happen. L Timmons is a monster and will probably replicate or improve on his 2012 campaign. I think where you will see the splash plays is from a healthy Troy and new starter Cortez Allen. Allen has better ball skills than any corner we have had in a while. It’s a Steelers fan pasttime to bash William Gay but he is not too shabby in the nickel and at least we have him there while we wait to see if Curtis Brown is worth keeping around.
    As far as the skill players on the offense goes, the running back situation can’t be worse than it was last year. We have Dwyer/Redman but the addition of Bell could be paying dividends 6-7 games in. I like the kid’s attitude and work ethic more than I ever did with Mendenhall. Hindsight is 20/20 and every Steelers fan loves to say this but I didn’t like the Mendenhall pick from day 1. I would’ve rather had Matt Forte but that’s neither here nor there. Heath will hopefully be back to normal by week 6ish. He trains and works just as hard as AP. Our WR corps is not overly impressive but I remembered people were quite concerned when we traded Holmes. I don’t think anybody is going to the Pro Bowl but I do think Ben will be spreading the ball around. Will Johnson is underrated and I expect Haley to involve him in the O even more this year. He’s versatile, young and aggressive.
    Bottom line, I believe this team will be 11-5 winning the division or getting a WC spot and winning at least one playoff game. Everyone else can be negative if they want but I am viewing this without homer goggles on. The Steelers thrive during years of low expectations. RANT OVER


    When you scan around the NFL…most DIVs have 2 legit contenders…the NFCN, NFCE, AFCN, & AFCW now have 3 legit contenders…so health is critical but that’s nothing new.

    Agree with Brendon in that I think BAL will suffer from a SB hangover in spite of filling some holes with solid names. CIN on paper look strong, especially on OFC, decent OL, imo the best WR in the DIV, probably top 8 in the NFL, a speedy #2 WR, 2 athletic TEs, and now a solid rookie RB prospect. But…imo the play caller is not up to par with the talent. Dalton is solid, but not on the level with Ben or Flacco. CLE is still not complete enough on OFC imo.

    For PIT to win the DIV…2 things must happen. #1, the running game must improve (especially 30 yd line & in). #2, Ben has to take of the ball, and stay on the field.

    IMO the DEF was good statistically, but when you look at the QBs they faced…Weeden & Dalton x 2, Sanchez, Cassel, a struggling Vick, and another rookie RG3…they were not nearly as good as the stats might indicate. Veteran somewhat run-of-the-mill QBs (Hasslebeck, Palmer, Rivers) torching them was proof in the pudding.

    I don’t foresee the DEF being a whole lot better this year, but I still think they are playoff caliber. TN, CHI, BUF, DET, MIA all @ home…I think they need to take 4 out of 5…beat OAK, NYJ, & MIN on the road and they should get to 11 wins.


    That was a rant…lol.

    Looking at the schedule I’m optimistic of an 11 win season so the expectations are still there…at the same time you have to be realistic. There are many questions to be answered about the 2013 team.

    A lot of people like to crap on M’hall, most of it was self-inflicted, but he was a productive player…just didn’t last long.

  • Luke Shabro

    I agree he was productive and he was by no means a bust but I never felt like he was anything close to a closer. You couldn’t have a 7-14 pt lead and just say lets run the rock with Mendenhall. Hell, Mewelde Moore was more reliable on 3rd down than Mendy. And yes it was a huge rant lol. I was just annoyed by the negative comments and additionally I was listening to The Football Sickness podcast yesterday and they had Sigmund Bloom on and despite claiming to be knowledgeable on Pittsburgh he was spouting nonsense that national writers believe. Like how Wheaton would be the 3rd receiver automatically. He was basically saying our O line is not only untalented but that Mike Adams would be starting at LT. Just stupid stuff. Matt Williamson on the other hand was on point as per usual.

  • Luke Shabro

    I think Cincy has an incredibly talented roster HOWEVER I feel like Dalton limits them. IMO he’s hit his ceiling and he’s not going to go any higher. AJ Green is so good he hides a ton of Dalton’s shortcomings. Dalton is the third best QB in the division and it shows at times. If Weeden thrives in the Coryell type system that Norv and Chud are going to install he might even pass Dalton. To me this makes more of a difference than people realize. Cincy’s secondary is to me decent but not great. If Kirkpatrick can’t become a difference maker they’re going to get burned. That being said, their D line is ridiculous and will cover a lot of that up. Having Geno pushing the pocket is going to have QB’s including Ben having to get the ball out quick!


    Sounds like you are as hardcore as I am…when you see statements from people that look at stats and a few games (if that many) to form an opinion I chuckle.

    I will say…this will be the year that several young players including rookies have to the deliver. If he has a good camp I expect to see Thomas playing in some dime coverage. Also Hawthorne to press C. Brown & Gay for the slot defender spot.

    That’s on top of Jones and Bell.

  • Luke Shabro

    I definitely see what you’re saying but I feel like maybe half the teams in the league have a true number 1 receiver
    Megatron – Detroit
    Marshall – Chicago
    AJ Green – Bengals
    Demaryius Thomas – Broncos
    Julio Jones – Falcons
    Bucs – Vincent Jackson
    Chiefs – Dwayne Bowe
    Texans- Andre Johnson
    Colts- Reggie Wayne
    Seattle – Percy Harvin
    Panthers – Steve Smith
    Cowboys – Dez Bryant
    And that’s about it
    Roddy White, Victor Cruz, Mike Wallace and a few others could be considered true number ones MAYBE but Wallace really wasn’t a big time number one when he was with us. Just my opinion

  • Matt Searls

    Right but look at those teams and most of them are serious play off contenders. Only team from that list with a qb that can match Ben is the broncos. Think what we’d be like if we had an aj green or Brandon Marshall. They make dalton and cutler look good, they’d make Ben a hall of famer.. We are one dominant receiver away from being Super Bowl bound.