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December 30, 2012; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger (7) looks at the scoreboard and reacts to a holding call on the Steelers against the Cleveland Browns during the second quarter at Heinz Field. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The Pittsburgh Steelers Will Miss the 2013 NFL Playoffs

Part of the fun of the NFL preseason is taking a moment to make a bold prediction.  Honestly, it could be argued whether this is bold or not depending on interpretation, but in braving the expected backlash, here it is.  The Pittsburgh Steelers will not, repeat not, make the 2013 playoffs.

Ben Roethlisberger not equipped to carry the team

Where to start.  Well, why not at the top?  The Pittsburgh Steelers built their greatness on suffocating defense complimented by a pinpoint, efficient offense.  Ben Roethlisberger has played that role better than any quarterback in pro football and has two rings to show for it.  The problem is the expectations have grown for him to start carrying the team what with the defense in transition from old vets to new faces.  Easier said than done.  While the offense has some nice talent on paper, they also have loads of holes they’ve been trying to plug up with untested or unproven players.  Nowhere is that clearer than running back.  After losing rookie Le’Veon Bell to a troubling Lisfranc injury, Pittsburgh was forced to trade for Felix Jones, who flamed out in Dallas and Philadelphia.  Jonathan Dwyer looks good at times but is very inconsistent.  Others on the roster have dealt with injury issues too.  Most expect things will improve upon their return, but will it?  The underlying problem is the offensive line.  Put simply, what it has in high draft picks it lacks in any form of reliability.  The tackles have struggled in pass protection all preseason, mirroring the problems from last year.  Worse still, the interior line execution is lagging both in blocking and penalties.  In other words Roethlisberger may or may not get protected, and may or may not have any useful running game.  Playoff teams don’t have that problem.

Dick LeBeau will need more than Jarvis Jones on defense

Faith in the defense hasn’t wavered though.  Why should it?  Coordinator Dick LeBeau has built his Hall of Fame career on working through problems to achieve success, but it’s hard to deny the ones the Steelers face this season.  Age has caught up big time with Troy Polamalu.  James Harrison is gone, as is Casey Hampton.  The team had high hopes that first round pick Jarvin Jones would help usher in the next generation, but already he’s suffered an injury scare, something that was pegged about him coming out of college.  The starting lineup has looked strong anyway, but the depth behind them is also a major question mark.  To top it all off, their once dependable special teams has taken a major nose dive.  In three preseason games they have allowed a block punt, blocked field goal and a 109-yard kickoff return touchdown.  These kinds of mistakes can kill teams at the worst possible times, as can the mountain of penalties they have accrued over the same period.  Undisciplined and uneven do not a playoff participant make.

Ben Roethlisberger is good enough to affect the destiny of the Pittsburgh Steelers, but not control it.  He needs help, and there may not be enough there in 2013 for it to happen.

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Tags: Ben Roethlisberger Dick Lebeau Jarvis Jones NFL Pittsburgh Steelers

  • hooter1

    sounds about right…

    • Erik Lambert

      Glad you agree…

  • Mike

    Offense will be better than you think it may take a couple of weeks…

  • Lou Bourbon JR

    Is there any other QB in the league capable of leading a team with a porous offensive line than Roethlisbergher? If the wide receivers can catch the ball then I’m not going to worry too much about the offense. To me the question isn’t the QB…it’s the ability of the receivers to catch. Ben throws a pretty accurate ball and consistently shows he can get away from tackles. If he’s healthy, why would anyone believe he isn’t capable of doing his job, under pressure, to a high degree? Hasn’t Pittsburgh pretty much succeeded on the inventiveness of Roethlisberger in the past?

    Defensively, this unit stops the run very well…passing is a different game at this point but have we even seen real situational football yet? Shamarko Thomas looks good, Allen looks good in his return, Taylor and Clark look good and Troy seems to be healthy. Jarvis Jones got BRUISED, yet has been a highlight film for the defense in the preseason. Woodley? Foote?, Timmons?, Keisel? Come on. I’m excited for the regular season so I can finally see what the defense is going to look like.

    I agree that special teams is simply atrocious and I also kind agree that IF the Steelers make the playoffs it will be as a 5th or 6th seed. There is a lot of learning to be had on this team by young players but what more can Roethlisberger do than make plays and how much more do you need out of LeBeau than a top ranked defense in order to give your team a chance? Didn’t this offense go as far as Roethlisberger took them last year (and without Wallace’s head in the game?)…With Gradkowski, who’s looked real good in preseason, an injury to Ben isn’t the playoff death knell that it has been in years past. I’d predict a final win loss as somewhere between 7-9 & 10-6.

    • Erik Lambert

      I didn’t say it wasn’t going to be close. They are still good enough to make it, I just think they have some things going against them. Assuming Roethlisberger can move like he used to is dangerous thinking. Not only is he older but also has been the recipient of a lot of punishment, especially to the lower extremities. To answer your question though I would’ve answered Aaron Rodgers (sacked 51 times and went 11-5).

      • Lou Bourbon JR

        Yes…Aaron Rogers is a really good QB. I just think he plays behind a better line. It’s difficult to compare but does Roethlisberger have as many sacks behind the Packers O-Line as Rogers did? I’d say no. Ben is much more difficult to bring down. Maybe a better way of looking at this is: If you have to play the O line of the Steelers…who is going to do better as your QB? Rogers or Roethlisberger? IF the Steelers can bring together the talent and size of their current O-Line to play even at an average level…if Ben plays at a healthy level for 12 of the 16 games this year…They should do better than 8-8. But health is a major concern for any team. I just think that HEALTHY, Ben is easily “equipped to carry a team”…unless we are considering the hands of his receivers as part of his equipment. Somebody has to catch to balls too.

        • Erik Lambert

          My big concern is the tight ends. Heath is a huge question mark and the depth behind him is also a big unknown. Can the receivers carry the load without consistent tight end or running back support?

          • Lou Bourbon JR

            Honest concern…but I think Heath is back by week 5…the tight ends have not looked terrible in preseason though…they actually look pretty good. Running back has been a concern since Bettis retired and I’ve always wanted to see a large RB in the Steelers backfield…dishing out punishment…but the sad fact is, that until the O Line figures out how to block, the best thing is to have a wide variety of RB’s and LaRod Stephens Howling looked spectacular behind the Steelers O-Line. Maybe a small back that can wisely and quickly hit a collapsing hole is what the Steelers need right now…and they have it. There is a lot of uncertainty with this team but they SEEM to have talent and if Pittsburgh has consistently proven anything over the last 45 years it that the infrastructure from ownership to water boy is going to squeeze talent out of their players. Ben’s a great QB and the defense plays great under LeBeau…Time for the “youngsters” to step up, catch, hit and block. How much is a Super Bowl ring worth to these guys is the only question they need ask.

            Great article and exchange…class act you are…

            Looking forward to the real games.

          • Erik Lambert

            Amen. Feel free to comment anytime!