Right now the Steelers are sitting at 2-2, but it might as well be 1-3. We can debate that 9 ways to Sunday and in the Steelers section here on SA, we are certainly doing that and then some. Let's focus for just a bit on why this is happening this year.
Art Rooney II hired Mike Tomlin in 2007, to take over after Bill Cowher stepped down. Let's face it, Tomlin inherited a pretty good team. In his second year they went too and won Super Bowl XLIII. In 2010, even after Ben Roethlisberger was absent for the first 4 games, they were the AFC Champions and had a chance to win the game even up until the last drive. Over the years since Mike has taken over he has had a pretty darn prolific group of players. Most new coaches will kill to walk into their office knowing their roster includes names like: Casey Hampton, Aaron Smith, Ben Roethlisber, Hines Ward, Ike Taylor, James Harrison, James Farrior, Troy Polamalu, Brett Keisel, Ryan Clark, Heath Miller, and on down the line. These were established players, pro bowl, super bowl, winning players. They knew how to win, they knew what it took to play against the best of the best. Tomlin also had the luxury of one of the great defensive minds NFL history, in Dick Lebeau, to coach his defense. Basically all he had to do was not screw it up.
Tomlin began taking stock of his team when he arrived and knew there were areas that they needed to improve upon simply because of age or declining play. Linebackers, Wide Receivers, Running Backs, Cornerbacks, Offensive Line, and Defensive Line all would need upgraded in the not so distant future. He choose to really target the first 3 in his drafting strategy and to his credit those were areas of concern. Now with big names like Woodley, Timmons, Mendenhall, Redman, Sanders, and Brown all making an impact he then decided to move onto Cornerback, Offensive Line, and Defensive Line.
Therein lies the problem. The cornerback situation was addressed in the 2010 draft with good prospects, but it remains to be seen how they'll pan out. The issue here is that rather than rebuild this team from inside out and get the lines squared away, he choose to rebuild from the outside in and ignore the lines for too long. The fact is that you can have all the skill position players you want, all the shut down corners, fast WR's, accurate Quarterbacks, pro bowl running backs, but if your interior line can't do it's job, none of that matters. .
Hampton, Smith, and Farrior are all showing their age in a big way this season. The offensive line is just plain offensive. Even Maurkice Pouncey has seemed to digress. Marcus Gilbert is a project, Colon is hurt again, and Jonathan Scott is not the answer at LT. The list goes on and on.
Bill Cowher used to spend atleast 1 premium pick on an offensive lineman, or bring in a top free agent to help bolster the line. However in the latter years of his tenure, that stopped as well. The Steelers are paying the price for allowing themselves to get old, slow, and just plain out talented on both sides of the ball. It's painfully obvious that while all those players he has drafted are doing great, the plan from the get go should have been to revamp the offensive and defensive lines and then work your way out. A great interior can make up for a lot of deficiencies elsewhere.
Ziggy Hood and Cameron Heyward should have a bright future but they are still learning. Marcus Gilbert is a project but could be special in the coming years. In the meantime expect to see more struggles from what an area that should have never been ignored for as long as it has been.
The Steelers are not going to get fixed overnight, because they weren't broken overnight.