I’ve sat here the past few days trying to dissect the latest Steeler setback. I wondered what I would talk about and from what angle. My thoughts were as hazy as the Steelers current playoff hopes. But then, I started seeing what others were saying in both the mainstream articles and via the blogs and social media and it became an easy answer; everyone is throwing blame on Big Ben Roethlisberger and you know what, they’re all WRONG.
They’re as wrong as Mike Tomlin is when he manages the clock or thinks his next man up philosophy is actually working.
Sure, Big Ben had a bad game, but how in the world can he be blamed for that loss or the season the Steelers are having? The team somehow has seven wins through twelve games and without him, they’d be lucky to have three wins. The blame needs to fall on the defense to start.
This is not your father’s defense; the Steelers defense is bad folks. It’s not capable of making necessary splash plays to change the game. They can’t get off the field on third downs, they rarely penetrate the line to get to the QB, they certainly aren’t creating turnovers and they legitimately lack any kind of secondary. The only player that is a difference maker is Lawrence Timmons, the others are marginal at best. The D line hasn’t been impressive in the least. I expected Cam Heyward to play at an All Pro level this season and that hasn’t happened. The linebackers, outside of Timmons aren’t getting it done. Jason Worilds has an amazing amount of potential but he hasn’t repeated the success he had last season. The secondary is just awful, period. They don’t have a top corner, even with Ike Taylor back. Troy Polamalu isn’t the playmaker he once was and the signing of Mike Mitchell hasn’t provided any kind of spark. Is he any better than Ryan Clark was? No, he’s not.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, everyone went crazy for the return of Brett Keisel and James Harrison as if they were the missing pieces to a championship run. At one time they were the centerpieces of a couple of championship runs but now they are tape trying to keep the puzzle together. They are decent enough but far from the answer. The signing of those guys actually showed me everything I needed to know, this defense was in trouble. If you have to pull old vets off the couch, you’ve got a problem and it’s glaring 12 games in. They have very little young talent on the defensive side of the ball. Why go and get those guys? For depth? For what, to turn in another 8-8 season? If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always gotten. Keisel and Harrison are far past their prime and were a part of 8-8 seasons over the past couple years (Harrison was not in Pittsburgh last season). Why not let the young guys develop and see what happens? Would a 4-12 or 5-11 season have been the worst thing in the world? Actually, no, it would not. This team may be in need of one or two of those years in order to get higher draft picks and bring in the impact players that are currently missing on defense.
But it’s not just defense, it’s coaching too. Mike Tomlin and his staff had two weeks to prep for the Saints while the Saints came off a short week having played on Monday Night Football and you would like to think the Steelers would have taken advantage of the extra time. I guess the coaches stuffed their faces with too much Turkey because they weren’t prepared at all. Tomlin botched the clock at the end of the first half, LeBeau was played for a fool all game long by Drew Brees and made no adjustments whatsoever in the second half and Todd Haley did not generate enough plays for LeVeon Bell via the run.
So sure, Ben had a tough game and he knows that and owns that but to blame the game or the mediocre season thus far on him is lunacy. Without him, they’d be a four win team, of course, maybe that’s what they need…..
Mike Pelaia hosts the website Steel Nation Association www.steelnationassociation.com- Covering the Steelers and helping Children’s Hospital All Day Everyday. You can e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.