There’s no getting around it. The Pittsburgh Steelers just aren’t what they used to be. Between an abysmal running game (31st in the league) and Ben Roethlisberger’s lack of consistency, the Steelers are a franchise that is on the brink of an inevitable self-destruction. While it would be unfair to suggest that the Steelers have no shot at bouncing back from their poor performances, without a complete receiving corps and a smash mouth defense the Steelers are simply a timid shell of their former selves.
Looking at the Steelers running corps it becomes abundantly clear that the crux of the Steelers recent failures is the result of a shoddy running game that is incapable of finding any rhythm. Out of the Steelers five running backs only one has garnered more than fifty yards in the last three games (Felix Jones has rushed for 71 yards on 17 attempts). Initially, it would seem obvious that the culprit in this particular situation would have to be a running corps that is incompetent. While none of these backs have the raw strength or speed of breakout runners such as Marshawn Lynch and Frank Gore, they at least have enough in the tank to get free with assistance from the offensive line.
However, the offensive line has gone through some agonizing struggles of their own which has resulted in Roethlisberger being sacked ten times on the season. At this rate, Roethlisberger could be sacked at least 50 times, something that hasn’t happened since 2009. Although this doesn’t necessarily spell bad news for Roethlisberger has he completed 66.6% of his passes during that particular season (which was his most accurate season since his rookie year), given the injuries he has suffered in the recent past, it’s hard to imagine Big Ben remaining as durable and persistent as he was during the prime of his career.
Of course, when any team is one the verge of regressing, it’s easy to find some sort of blame within the coaching staff, specifically the head coach. However in this situation two time Super Bowl champion Mike Tomlin isn’t to blame for this athletic meltdown. Rather, newly acquired offensive coordinator Todd Haley has been a point of controversy particularly when it comes Haley and Roethlisberger’s differing opinions on how the offense should be run. Haley’s offensive philosophy is primarily to improve the run game which would open up the option for a play action play down the line. The problem with that play calling style is that the Steelers don’t have a reliable running corps to initiate this philosophy. As a result, Roethlisberger is forced to throw on third and long situations more often than not which makes him more susceptible to be being sacked or fumbling the ball when hit. This disagreement is undoubtedly why the Steelers are currently suffering the ailments that have caused this franchise to become one dimensional and unsuccessful. If the focus is on this dispute rather than how it can be fixed to compliment and respect both of these individuals on the field desires, the Steelers will continue to lose in situations in which they are more than capable of dominating the opposition.
Despite all the pessimism surrounding this franchise, there is at least one comforting notion that could help this team overcome this adversity in the future. While the Steelers lack the veteran leadership that made them an intimidating force to be reckoned with in the first place, they have several rookie contenders who have the potential to make the Steelers a competitive franchise once again. Between running back Le’Veon Bell and wide receiver Markus Wheaton, the Steelers have two offensive rookies that could provide ample offensive assistance down the road.
While it’s hard to imagine the Steelers being anything but perennial playoff contenders, the lack of consistency and reliable talent on both sides of the ball can’t be ignored. Although the Steelers did a solid job in the draft at finding intriguing rookie talent, they have yet to fully utilize these up and coming youngsters. In the end, Steeler nation may have to face the reality that their beloved franchise will be forced to succumb to the truth that they are in the process of rebuilding rather than winning.