This article is purely my own opinion and I wrote it for two reasons... To vent and to open a dialog. I hope everyone here thinks it over, and answers it where appropriate. Feel free to tell me I'm insane. (The wife often does) LOL
We have a weak O-line... Big Ben holds the ball too long... Receivers were dropping passes... The water girl fills the cups wrong... These are the main things we hear from every fan site about our offense problems this year. Well... Maybe not the water girl thing. She's actually doing a bang up job. In week one our team looked like a major threat, but we were playing against Houston. That's kind of like calling a man tough for beating up a special needs kid. Still it kept us Steelers fans warm and fuzzy for a week. Cleveland was supposed to be our ultimate challenge according to many experts, but they were still just the Browns. Problem is we only won by a small bit. We should have been able to trample them severely. It was after this game we began to hear about the possible problems with our offense ala last year. Though mostly we heard from fans about Shaun Rogers late hit. (which nothing ever came of it.) Then came Philly... They put Big Ben on his back and face so often that I'm sure Ben had to think about a softer mattress for his home afterwards. It's at this juncture that the fan base erupted with all the blame game finger pointing.
The problem I've had with all this is that only a minority believe it's completely the coaching staff's fault. A very small minority. I personally believe that Coaches are sometimes saddled with talentless teams and have to rebuild to get to where they can accomplish something special. This wasn't the case with Mike Tomlin. He received a very shiny Super Bowl contending team when he joined up. And everything he's done from his two drafts to his choices on the field during game time have been horrible.
Now I know I could end up getting flamed for the above statement and that's fine. As long as people think it over. Here are some examples of what I'm talking about.
McFadden... Why was his contract allowed to go unextended? With him turning out to be one of the better CBs in the league, the Steelers will have to pay him top money to keep him which is unlikely since other teams will pay him much much more to leave us behind. We can say it's the front office responsible for this, but in truth the Coach is supposed to tell the front office whom he'd like to keep each off season. But the coach didn't start him last season or this season even though he is better than Townsend overall. So even though they could have signed him for much less during the offseason they let it go. The Coach is absolutely responsible for this considering he's supposed to be judging the talent and has fallen short repeatedly every time. So now we may lose one of the best CBs in free agency when really good ones are hard to come by.
The O-Line... Drafting and Free Agency were not employed in a manner that would have strengthened it. Their backup OT is making more than the starters while he warms a bench, proving he obviously wasn't worth even half that. Blocking assignments are often missed due to confusion on where they should be during a blitz. Bad to average centers brought in after forty years of hall of fame centers. The center is key to protection as the nose tackle is in a 3-4 defense.
The Running game... Mendenhall wasn't used more often in earlier weeks, leaving him to hold the bag in week four against a strong running defense. This means he gets to carry the ball and a load of pressure with each handoff. Unacceptable. In the preseason he was tagged with a fumble bounty which I'm sure did wonders for his confidence. When Tomlin should have tried to establish a running game in week 3 he instead squelched it enough to encourage Philly to bring the 8 and 9 man blitz packages against Big Ben.
The QB... Leftiwych was a so-so to crappy QB in Jacksonville that had a few good games but blew the big ones leading to Del Rio being told that if Leftiwych failed again then Del Rio would be looking for work. (So I figure from the out of left field cutting of his star QB). Now we have the QB and His coach from Jacksonville and things are starting to smell bad. And with 10 million or so invested in coaches how does that square up with 100 million invested in Big Ben? Who's expendable? When does management decide they've beat up and shortened the career of their franchise QB enough? Things you'd think the coaches would consider. The Offensive Coordinator should also be designing plays that take into account broken protection on the line and yet we haven't seen this.
Wide Receivers and TEs... We're seeing missed routes, dropped passes, and missed blocks under pressure situations. These should have been practiced so they could be performed in their sleep. Another coaching blunder. Star receivers and TEs don't suddenly play badly if they are coached correctly. It's the coaches responsibility to ensure each receiver or tight end knows the exact place to be at the exact time in a hot route. Didn't see that in the Philly game.
2008 Draft picks... The team spent a lot of money on these draft picks and they don't even play special teams except for a couple of them. Wide Receivers and line backers almost always get their teeth cut on special teams. Yet we keep ours working hard to keep the benches securely held to the ground for fear they'll float away. Sweed and Davis at the very least should be on special teams this season contributing and learning. So then Woods gets injured and do they put in Davis? Nope. They cut a backup running back and sign a practice squad undrafted free agent to take his place. I'm surprised Gary Russell didn't get snapped up by another team too when that happened.
Coaches... Arians is out there. His game plan isn't original as suggested before the season started. It's actually fairly predictable. On top of that he calls deep pass plays during short yard situations and short yard plays during third and long. He doesn't have what it takes to be the play caller. Ken Anderson has done nothing to improve any of Ben's areas that lack somewhat, and his resume is less than stellar in Jacksonville. He's basically a waste of money. Tomlin should have tried field goals here and there instead of punting when we were decently enough into the opposing teams' territory. He should have over ruled Arians when obvious bone headed plays were being called in Philly. He should have addressed the real needs of the team instead of consistantly picking up positions we already had several to choose from. Even if it lead to disagreements with the GM. Which I doubt it would have.
Just about everything I've seen from Tomlin and his staff has been less than what we'd expect from a Steelers coach through the last four decades. As I see it there are only two possibilities for the remainder of our season... One is that Tomlin gets his act together and gets the team back on track to win the division and get us into the playoffs, which is what a good coach does. Or the team continues it's decline and crashes out requiring a whole new coaching staff and a complete team rebuild that will take years to get us back to where we should be. I'm really hoping for the former and fearing it will be the latter.
My main point is this; Every problem we can identify goes directly back to the Head Coach. It's his team to build or break after all.