Here I sit, watching Texas battle OU, waiting for tomorrow when the pros take the field for week six. Problem is, of course, the Steeler Nation is already done with week six and the news is bad. The Steelers have yet to win on the road, and they have lost to three teams that they easily should have dominated. Without surprise, there is a lot of head scratching going on, and all of us with our armchair coaching certificates are offering up plenty of opinions, up to and including a theory I read during the week that Ben Roethlisberger was on the downhill side of his career. Fortunately, almost no one who commented on the article bought into that theory, because I have to say that is a ridiculous position to take. I do worry about how long he can continue playing based on how he plays – physical – but, for now, he seems to be at the very top of his game. But there is a reason it is a team sport: it requires a team effort. So, what is wrong with the Steelers?
I am not a proponent ordinarily of pointing fingers at any one person, but I have to call out one of the players I actually like a lot: Ike Taylor. Already this year, he’s had seven penalties called against him, four of them being pass interference calls. Last year he ended with nine, which put him in dubious company as being one of the most penalized corners last year. And they were particularly costly penalties on Thursday. He had a drive extending holding call that led to him allowing a 5-yard touchdown pass to Kenny Britt. Perhaps not surprisingly there is a Get Rid of Ike Taylor Facebook page.
In general, the defense, which got a lift with the return of James Harrison, only to have that lift dropped right back down by a hamstring injury to LaMarr Woodley, has been on its heels the entire season. Troy Polamalu’s calf injury, re-aggravated what seemed like almost immediately during the Eagle game, was the subject of much conjecture all week on sports talk radio. Could it be he’s done? That question was debated more than once during the week. You could almost feel a collective shudder across the Nation as it was contemplated. With Troy in the game, the Steelers are 28-9 (since 2009). Without him they are 7-9. Enough said.
Some blame the coaches, who are always easy targets when things go badly. The same fan base that cried loudly for years for Bruce Arian’s head are now rumbling with displeasure over Todd Haley’s offense, specifically the lack of a run game. Personally, I have no preference if the points come from Ben’s arm or Rashard’s legs. They just need to come. And points really have not been the problem. Scoring more of them than the opponent has been. Bringing us back to the defense.
But, to my mind, injuries are the real story. We watched the team limp into the regular season, already minus the number one draft pick David DeCastro, who tore his MCL during preseason. We also began the season without Rashard Mendenhall, who returned for a stellar performance against the Eagles, only to be sidelined on Thursday. Isaac Redman showed up in a major way, however, but his game was curtailed by injury as well. Of course, I was more worried that the Steelers would not be able to field an entire offensive line after Pouncey went out with an injury, followed shortly by Marcus Gilbert. I think we all realize teams don’t win without an offensive line.
We now have a long week before heading into our first divisional match-up on the road to heal and figure it all out. Hopefully the team can rest up and find some answers to the many questions that plague them. If not, then this may be a long, hard winter.