Bouchette Says Steelers Only Look “Okay”

By Jeremy Hritz

Ed Bouchette has been covering the Pittsburgh Steelers for quite a while, and his insight into the team, much of the time, is prophetic. His coverage of the Steelers is objective, though he does have a tendency to see the glass as half empty. Every year, prior to the first game of the regular season, he publishes his prediction for the Steelers. While he is not a psychic guru whose word should be taken as Steelers gospel, his perspectives and opinions do carry much credibility, and when Bouchette took an early swing at forecasting the 2013 season, he got my attention.

This Saturday in the PG Plus, Bouchette surprisingly evaluated the prospects of this year’s team, and his answer speaks to the ambiguity that has surrounded the Steelers since the conclusion of the 2012 season. He writes, “They look… okay. They look as though they could go 8-8, or 10-6, or 6-10.”

There are several descriptors that you can use to describe a football team with the capability of winning a championship, but “okay” is definitely not one of them. If the Steelers are to return to the playoffs, their level of play will have to exceed “okay.”

Bouchette continues with an exercise of “should” vs. “but.”

Le’Veon Bell looks “good,” but has to stay healthy.

The offensive line can be “decent,” but they must stay healthy.

Markus Wheaton will compensate for Mike Wallace’s departure, but gone will be the “touchdown passes over 40 yards.”

Troy Polamalu and LaMarr Woodley look healthy, but must stay that way.

He also asserts that the Steelers will not miss the “James Harrison of 2012,” that Steve McLendon will be an improvement over Casey Hampton, and that Cortez Allen will be equal to or better than Keenan Lewis from a season ago.

While Bouchette isn’t necessarily breaking new ground with his analysis, you would think that if he were convinced by what he has seen in camp thus far that he would have been a bit more optimistic than “okay.”

In the first preseason contest, outside of a few decent individual performances by David DeCastro, Al Woods, and even Justin Brown, the overall level of play was below that of “okay,” though it may have been a result of the physical nature of the practices in this year’s camp. However, it would be foolish to base the expectations for an entire season on one preseason game.

Regardless, the Steelers cannot afford another 8-8 season, and a 6-10 one would be considered a major failure. If Bouchette’s evaluation of “okay” is accurate, either of those finishes are very real possibilities.

With games against the Ravens and Bengals twice, the Patriots, and the Packers, and with traveling obstacles to Oakland and to London, 10-6 would be an excellent finish that should be enough to get the Steelers back into the playoffs, and maybe in the mix for the AFC North title.

Three more preseason games to go, and plenty of opportunities to move beyond “okay.”

  • Bill Eltringham

    Eddy Boo poo poo it all. 2nd year in Haley offense, Wallace gone is a positive, Rookie contributions, better run game, better secondary and easier schedule than last year equals a better record than last year.

  • Jason Brant

    Sometimes Ed comes across as a professional curmudgeon.

    I haven’t been this optimistic about a team in a few years. If our o-line stays healthy, big if I know, then they will be much better than ‘decent’.

  • joed32

    Ed the grouch.

  • JPDQ

    I would much rather have a guy that is a realist, if not a shade pessimistic, writing about the Steelers than someone that feeds the perpetual, “No matter what happens we’re gonna go 12-4″ fanaticism.

    I think Ed tends to look at things in terms of, “Ok, what caused this team to lose games last year? Now, what has the team done to correct that. Ok, what personnel did the team lose since last year? Now, who have they gotten to replace them? Are they upgrades or downgrades?”

    You would have to say that injuries were a huge reason we lost games last year, and also our offense’s inability to hold leads and close out games. I personally don’t necessarily see Worlids>Harrison, Cortez>Lewis, 2013 WRs> 2012 WRs or 2013 RBs > 2012 RBs. And we certainly have no depth at O-line, which is an absolute disgrace.

    We have to have SOMEBODY step up and be a dominant D-lineman. Maybe that will be McLendon — it certainly could be, I suppose. Heyward or Zig need to step up. Troy needs to stay healthy. Ben needs to stay healthy. Woodley needs to stay healthy AND productive. RBs need to stay healthy AND productive. Special teams needs to play much, much better. TEs need to get healthy and stay healthy. Worilds or Jarvis needs to be productive. We need to win games against the bottom feeders and stop playing down to inferior team’s talent level.

    Point is, there’s a ton of “need to’s” and “if’s” that have to happen. I think Ed is probably right on the money w/ another 7-9, 8-8 or 9-7 club. I feel that’s about right myself. Just my opinion though, just my opinion.

  • frednash

    ed is okay for a paper writer

    but this is the Internet

    the bloggers love

    the steelers!

  • cencalsteeler

    All of his statements hold value. Of course as an avid Steelers fan, I think they’re going to win the Superbowl. But, I can’t really argue with any of his statements. I think the Steelers have something to prove this year because of so many transitions from coaching staff to player personnel. Ed is not the only analyst with those thoughts, so I hope that brings the much needed motivation and chemistry to this years team and helps them bring home the Lombardi in 13!!

  • greeny

    He is right about no more 40yd td passes. We will see the same offense. Run on first and second down. Bubble screen on third. No passes over 4 yds. Defense must get turnovers to stay above 500.

  • Dom

    How can you not see 2013 rb’s as better than 2012 rb’s?

    The Hyphen replaces Rainey who did practically nothing.
    And Bell replaces Mendenhall who had even less snaps then Rainey.

  • ELIJAH

    LET’S GO STEELERS!!

  • James Kling

    Sometimes?

  • Rob H

    You right on with Ed, and the O-line, I don’t know if he’s just like that by nature, or is just one of those people who always tend to come across that way. I’ve seen him act just plain miserable in some of his chats, like he forgets what a great job he has.
    If this young line stays relatively healthy, I see it becoming dominant as the year goes along, which would translate to the entire offense being dominant, which would lead to top 3 in the conference. But, like any other team, multiple injuries to key players, and you could probably forget even making the playoffs.

  • JPDQ

    I’ll give you Stephens-Howling over Rainey, I guess, based on one preseason game. Honestly, didn’t even consider Rainey as a factor. But Mendenhall was an effective back, with a 4.1 career avg. Bell hasn’t played a snap. He’s an unknown commodity.

    I’m looking at it more in terms of, “Did we upgrade our talent at RB?” Not, “If Bell doesn’t get injured, then he’s automatically better than Mendenhall.”

  • Brendon Glad

    I see them as 2nd in the AFC North…11-5 or 10-6. Then going to the SB. Probably not winning it…but going.
    But maybe Ed is factoring in that the Steelers have been unable to stay healthy in the last 2-3 seasons…and the age factor was not the reason (so getting younger doesn’t guarantee anything from that standpoint). It was “everyone” getting hurt last year, regardless of age.
    After the little stretch ending with the NYG game, I proclaimed the Steelers as the best team in the NFL. And injuries destroyed it all. So 6-10 is not out of the question, if the injuries are going to roll-on like they did in 2012.
    I prefer to think that they will get that resolved…although I’m not feeling overly optimistic after this first month.

  • Alexander Sebastian Heath

    I’m with JPDQ. Talking about replacing Chris Rainey is non-sense, what role chris rainey’s role was? 3rd down? Utility guy? Returner? Those roles were practically ineffective for any other 30 teams in NFL now (for Saints with Sproles you got me there but still) you can’t act like upgrade all are there. When healthy with the roster we had, we went 12-4 before injuries rack up.

    Ed probably are saying, injuries will rack up again unless proven otherwise.

    However I expect us to go 3-3 first 6 games with us finishing strong (look at schedule beyond my reasons) it is easier to be excited about the unseen than remain satisfied with the seen.

  • Bradys_Dad

    Agreed except the comment about an easier schedule than last year. Cincy and/or Baltimore would probably dominate in just about any other division. The AFC North is a beast.

  • StrengthOfVictory

    I’ve never cared much for Bouchette’s “analysis.” And I cringe at him being called a “Steelers insider.” His inside information always seems to come from HIS interpretation of a Mike Tomlin press conference, or quotes that anyone could look up. I could do that. He’s always seemingly looking for smoke where there’s no fire.

    That said, I am cautiously optimistic about this season. Yes, there are a lot of new pieces, but very good ones. More team units seem to be on the same page, and there’s a lot to like talent-wise. Health will be a concern, of course, but isn’t it always?

  • walter mason

    Im not sure its possible for our offensive line to stay healthy. I am really concerned and this is the only major area of concern at this time..

  • Shannon Stephenson

    I look at our depth and that is where the problems lie. I said the same thing last year and it still works this year where our depth isn’t where it needs to be and all teams will have injuries. With no decent back up we will have to over compensate and it will makes us more vanilla and easy to predict. I see 8-10 wins

  • Brendon Glad

    I agree, Dom. I actually love our RB’s much more than most. Without even getting my taste of Bell yet.

    But to digress…Rainey…wow. Did he EVEN get a camp invite to someone’s camp? With THAT explosive talent and burst? With guys like Darren Sproles holding IMMENSE value among league-execs? If he didn’t get an invite, then that dude must have major problems.

  • Gautama Om

    JPDQ is spot on with the first paragraph.

    However, you are not a “realist” as you proclaim to be. See paragraph 3; that’s called a “pessimist”. The “realist” would say lets “wait and see”.

  • JPDQ

    Huh? Not following you here.

    Regardless, I see a realist as someone who studies the past to make judgements on the future. As in, “our O-line has been perpetually injured for the past two seasons, so there’s a logical reason to believe they will continue to be injured again this year.”

    A pessimist disregards any evidence to the contrary to justify his unreasonably negative outlook, and an optimist does the same, but only to justify his unreasonably positive outlook.

    I’ve stated on numerous occasions that I believe the 2013 Steelers to be a .500-ish ball club, and I think that’s a fairly “realistic” prediction. But that’s just me. Everyone arrives at their predictions in their own way.

  • Brandon Andrews

    He is the biggest negative nancy, He is always complaining they are in transition and reloading don’t expect more than 9-10 wins and a possible return to the playoffs now they could do better they could do worse depends on the running game.

  • j m

    I appreciate optimism and believe optimists live happier and longer lives.
    That said, I think it’s a miracle if Steelers make 9-7 this year.

    A good but turnover-deficient defense will rely on Worilds replacing Harrison; McClendon replacing Hampton. And a sketchy offense that lost its most explosive WR and will start the year with its best TE watching. Ravens and Bengals peaking.

    6-10 possible; 7-9 probable; 8-8 less probable; 9-7 if lucky and overachieve.

  • Christopher Wilkes

    I would think a realist would be both an optimist and pessimist.

  • Christopher Wilkes

    Good post, dude. I can’t stand unrealistic expectations either. Tell it to me straight!

  • sean mcmartin

    I think Ed is reporting on what alot of fans are seeing out of this squad.
    What is Ed supposed to do?
    Lie and say the Steelers look like a SB caliber team right now?
    They lost pro bowl talent and gained tidy bowl talent. and king Tidy is Tomlin..