The NFL just finished week 8. That’s the halfway point in the season (although the Steelers have only played 7 games). With the Steelers coming off of a bye week, it seemed like a good time to reflect back on the season so far to see what we’ve learned so far about the 2009 Pittsburgh Steelers.
These are in no particular order. But as I think back to what has occurred so far this season, these are some thoughts that come to mind.
1. The Steelers could easily be 7-0.
The Steelersfind themselves with a 5-2 record. However, the two losses could have just as easily been wins. In the loss to the Bengals, the Steelers dominated just about every statistical category. From yards of offense to time of possession, the Steelers were dominant. Yet, a dropped touchdown by Limas Sweed, a missed field goal by Jeff Reed, and poor 4th quarter defense somehow led to a loss.
Similarly, in the 17-14 loss to the Chicago Bears, the Steelers led in most statistical categories. Most viewers would probably have thought that the game was a blowout in the Steelers favor. But untimely turnovers, and two missed field goals by Jeff Reed led to yet another unexpected Steelers loss
If not for two poorly played 4th quarters, the Steelers would be right there with the New Orleans Saints and the Indianapolis Colts as the last remaining undefeated teams in the NFL.
2. The Steelers are a passing offense
I know that that is anathema to some Steelers fans. After all, the Steelers have ALWAYS been a power running team. In some fans’ minds, the Steelers SHOULD always be a power running team. But the reality is that this offense is a passing offense. Just ask Big Ben.
The Steelers’ passing attack is ranked #5 in the NFL, and they actually average more yards per game than the potent New Orleans Saints offense led by Drew Brees. Chew on that for a moment.
The Steelers have 3 receivers among the NFL’s top 30 in total number of receptions. They have 4 receivers among the top 40 in the NFL in receiving yards. Are these the Steelers that we’re talking about?
While the Steelers have the #5 passing attack in the NFL, their rushing attack is ranked #18. The Steelers don’t have a running back in the top 15 in the NFL in rushing yards.
3. Big Ben still takes too many sacks
This is becoming a broken record. I am not even going to try to ascertain whether the fault lies with the offensive line, or with Big Ben himself. But suffice it to say that Ben spends far too much time on his back.
Roethlisberger has already been sacked 20 times. He’s well on his way to another 40+ sacks season. I’m no doctor, but that can’t be good for his health and longevity.
4. The Steelers pass defense has still not played to their full potential
While the Steelers’ run defense is ranked #1 in the NFL, their pass defense is ranked #17. That’s a big departure from last year’s defense that was ranked #1 against the pass.
The biggest contributor to the decline has been the absence of Troy Polamalu. Now that Polamalu is back, I expect to see the Steelers pass defense show a marked improvement.
5. Limas Sweed is not the answer to the Steelers’ #3 receiver need
Drop. Drop. Drop. ‘Nuff said.
6. Mike Wallace IS the answer to the Steelers’ #3 receiver need
I’m starting to feel like a broken record, but I’ll say it again; I love Mike Wallace. The kid doesn’t play like a rookie. He’s got dependable hands, and he’s got speed to burn. That’s a deadly combination for a #3 receiver. Because Wallace is the #3 receiver, he’s usually matched up against the opponent’s #3 cornerback, or against a safety. Wallace’s speed would pose a challenge to a #1 cornerback. A #3 cornerback or the average safety has absolutely no chance against the kid.
7. It’s still too early to assess Rashard Mendenhall
I know that some fans want to anoint Rashard Mendenhall as the next great Steelers running back. And Mendenhall’s 5.4 yards per carry average is compelling evidence of his potential. But Mendenhall has to do a better job of protecting the ball before he can truly be trusted to carry the load for the Steelers.
8. Jeff Reed’s antics may have insured his exit from Pittsburgh
I have always been a supporter of Jeff Reed. When he missed those field goals that cost us games against the Bears and Bengals earlier this year, I stood up for Reed. When he had his little incident at Sheetz, I also stood up for Reed. However, Reed’s antics are growing tiresome.
Reed has been one of the most dependable kickers in the NFL during his time with the Steelers. However, Reed is also the player who is most likely to embarrass the organization off the field. He doesn’t seem to understand that Steeler Nation takes great pride in the fact that the Steelers are excellent off the field, as well as on the field. We know that guys like Terrell Owens, De’Angelo Hall, Jeremy Shockey, Tank Johnson, or Randy Moss could never play for the Steelers, despite their considerable talent. So if we wouldn’t bring in guys with that type of all-world talent, why do we continue to tolerate Reed’s misdeeds?
So there you have it, Steeler Nation. Those are some of the things that we’ve learned so far this season. Are there any other observations that we’ve forgotten? Do you disagree with any of the observations that we’ve made? What have YOU learned about the Steelers so far? We’d love to hear your thoughts.