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Pittsburgh Steelers Lose Again, But Todd Haley Is Only Part of the Problem

Well, what do you know.

According to Trendsmap, tweets with the hashtags #firehaley or #firetoddhaley were trending in Pittsburgh early Tuesday morning following the Pittsburgh Steelers’ 20-10 road loss to the Cincinnati Bengals.

The Steelers fell to 0-2 for the first time in 11 years, and for the first time during Mike Tomlin’s tenure as head coach.

But firing Todd Haley will not turn the Steelers’ 2013 season around.

Is Haley doing a bang-up job as the Steelers’ offensive coordinator? No, he’s not. Many of his play calls warrant a #wtf hashtag.

Running Felix Jones three straight times on the Steelers’ opening possession? Even on 3rd-and-9? Even when Jones became the starting running back just minutes earlier when Isaac Redman was injured on the opening kickoff? The Steelers’ offense isn’t getting the ball much this year. Haley can’t waste precious possessions.

Handing the ball to Jerricho Cotchery on a reverse? That’s like trying to cruise the Autobahn in an Edsel. That might have been a good opportunity to use rookie Markus Wheaton, who’s gathering dust on the bench. Instead, Cotchery lost five yards on 2nd-and-8 with the Steelers trailing 10-3 in the second quarter. Two plays later they punted.

Running Redman on 3rd-and-2 with the Steelers trailing 17-10 in the third quarter? Ben Roethlisberger completed a 9-yard pass to Antonio Brown on the previous play, and Redman had run the ball twice for three yards in the game. Redman gained a yard, and it was the last of 16 Steeler runs that went for 42 yards.

Of course the good ol’ bubble screen was still part of the Steelers offense, like a fly in the house that just won’t go away.

As mystifying as his play-calling has been, firing Haley won’t fix all of the Steelers’ problems.

Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau is shielded from criticism because of his resume. Since he arrived in 2004, he’s earned two Super Bowl rings and the Steelers have ranked in the top five in yards allowed every year except 2006.

This season, however, LeBeau’s defense hasn’t forced a turnover and has sacked a quarterback just once.

The Steelers have taken the ball away from opposing offenses 35 times since the beginning of 2011. The only NFL team that hasn’t forced more turnovers during that span is the Indianapolis Colts, who went 2-14 in 2011.

Should the 76-year-old LeBeau be fired? No. But when 30 teams have more takeaways over the past two years, something isn’t working on defense.

Mike Tomlin needs to step in and have a chat with both of his coordinators.

Some of Haley’s play calls might have looked better if his offense was on the field more. The Steelers possessed the ball for 24 minutes, 26 seconds Monday, compared to 35 minutes, 34 seconds for the Bengals.

In the Steelers’ season-opening loss to the Tennessee Titans, their time of possession was 25:59. For the Titans, it was 34:01.

Those numbers would be different if the defense could have forced a turnover or two. Sometimes the defense has to set up the offense.

Sacks have a way of breeding turnovers. The Steelers’ only sack this season came from LaMarr Woodley in the opener. Woodley pressured Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton multiple times Monday, but was just a step too slow for a sack.

With Woodley close enough to smell his aftershave, Dalton threw an 8-yard pass to tight end Jermaine Gresham in the third quarter. On the next play, Dalton threw a 27-yard touchdown pass to rookie running back Giovani Bernard to give the Bengals the lead for good at 17-10.

Dalton wasn’t always that sharp on Monday night. He completed just eight of his first 16 passes. If this was Aaron Rodgers or Tom Brady, the game would have been over by halftime.

Even the Bears’ Jay Cutler, who visits Heinz Field next Sunday night, has a better quarterback rating than Dalton.

LeBeau has some work to do.

It would help Haley if Heath Miller is ready to go against the Bears. His absence was felt in the first quarter at Cincinnati. The Steelers led 3-0 when David Paulson caught a 34-yard pass from Roethlisberger at the Bengals’ 16-yard line, but fumbled the ball away.

Just like last week, the Steelers had a chance to take a two-score lead in the first quarter, but fumbled in the red zone.

It’s too early to tell if Miller will return Sunday, but he has more of a chance than rookie running back Le’Veon Bell.

The Steelers have run for just 75 yards this season. Only the New York Giants, with 73 yards, have been less productive on the ground.

Once Bell is healthy, there’s no guarantee that he’ll play up to the expectations of a second-round pick. The Steelers haven’t exactly hit their drafts out of the park in recent years.

But that’s a discussion for another day. There will be plenty of time to talk about that if the losses keep piling up.

Follow Mike on Twitter.


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1 comment

  1. Bob Graff

    I pretty much have been saying everything you just said for a year and a half. This team isn’t in rebuilding mode because the process hasn’t begun yet. You have to ask yourself this question first , then answer it honestly. What players current on the roster do you see still with the team in three years and contributing at championship caliber? And you can’t answer with potential or woulda, shoulda coulda . my answer would be Pouncey and Brown, Now as far as coaching goes Tomlin and front office have brought in some really poor assistant coaches they are every where on this team. What use to be are greatest strength has in fact become our greatest weakness.

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