Nothing I say will surprise you if you follow and watch the Steelers enough but I would be remiss if I didn’t attack the issue nevertheless. Many pundits and experts think that the Steelers are just fine and that whenever they show signs of age or of problems in one area or another they seemingly bounce back. Other are not so sure and that’s why this week is so crucial both in terms of won-loss record but also in terms of where this team is headed in talent and depth.
In my mind, there are three guys who have to step up and play better and can no longer use any excuses. If you’re a good player, then be a good player.
1. Brett Keisel – In three games this season, ‘Diesel’ has a total of six tackles. Five of those were the Jets game at home while his most recent effort in Oakland resulted in zero tackles and one ridiculous offsides penalty that led to a Raiders’ score. You can argue all you want to about how the defensive line in the 3-4 isn’t supposed to get lots of tackles or sacks but Keisel has been overly invisible and it needs to stop .
The mountain of a man at 6’6″ and nearly 300 pounds cannot be invisible in this or any defense for that matter. Where is the Keisel that was getting his arms up in passing lanes or where is the Keisel that got good push and pressured the pocket forcing the QB to move or throw erratically? Yes, not having James Harrison to his right is an issue, but I’m not buying it for three games. I need to see something on Sunday resembling the Keisel I know.
2. Lawrence Timmons – In many ways the complete opposite of Keisel in terms of his role for the defense, Timmons is supposed to clean up what comes through the line and punish it. As an inside backer for the Steelers, Timmons should be thriving with far more than just 12 tackles through three games in my opinion. He has no tackles for loss and of course no sacks. No forced fumbles and no interceptions which is as much a team problem as it his.
Timmons has long been known as a good blitzer especially in Dick LeBeau’s infamous ‘x-stunts’ through the A gaps. Unfortunately, Timmons has been a product of the complete lack of creativity by LeBeau as teams are more and more ready for the blitzes coming from the inside backers. After signing a pretty big contract a few years ago, TImmons has yet to really break out the way I had imagined he would. Now would be a good time to do that.
3. Ziggy Hood – If you thought Brett Keisel was missing in action then Hood has been down-right ghostly. With just four tackles and none for loss, Hood is is serious danger of becoming the dreaded ‘bust’ that some feared he would. He had many thinking ‘this is the year’ after he showed up at camp looking like a chiseled Mr. America. As we know too well, work out warriors don’t always translate to great football football players and right now Hood is falling into that category.
Hood has shown flashes of greatness at times in the past, but so far this season there has been nothing to make anyone think this is the second coming of Aaron Smith. It isn’t an easy job, I realize this and more Steelers fans should. Being a defensive end in the Steel City is nothing like being one on the Giants or the Eagles for that matter. You must live and flourish in the shadows and through the first three games Hood has been just that, a shadow.
I’m not laying the blame soley on these three guys because football is the ultimate team game, but these guys have not produced and I guarantee they would tell you as much. Being ‘Da Beard’ is great for fan morale but it hasn’t done much on the field. Now is the time for the veteran Keisel to step up and lead by example with his play not his facial hair. Certainly the pending returns of Harrison and Troy Polamalu could help, but Keisel, Timmons and Hood all need to elevate their play regardless and it needs to start Sunday.