Sep 8, 2013; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers center Maurkice Pouncey (53) is taken from the field after suffering an apparent injury as wide receiver Antonio Brown (84) reacts against the Tennessee Titans during the first quarter at Heinz Field. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Why the Pittsburgh Steelers Will Land a Top Ten 2014 NFL Draft Pick


Is it an overreaction to simply one bad game on opening day?  Perhaps.  Still it’s very hard to deny that the Pittsburgh Steelers don’t look any better than last year.  So here is why the opening game was a sign of things to come and that Pittsburgh will end up with their first draft pick in the top ten since 2000.

Ben Roethlisberger sacked five time and lost Maurkice Pouncey

The best place to make a point is right at the root of the problem.  In years past the Pittsburgh Steelers offense wasn’t an overpowering juggernaut but it certainly was effective, efficient and able to score points when it had to.  A big reason for their success was a solid offensive line, at times featuring Pro Bowl talents like center Jeff Hartings and guard Alan Faneca.  Clearly the past few years replacing those staples has been a failure for the Steelers front office.  Every major draft pick they’ve made towards improving pass protection and run blocking has either met with disastrous injury or simple ineffective play.  This has exposed quarterback Ben Roethlisberger to some serious beatings by opposing defenses, like the one he took opening day against the Tennessee Titans when they sacked him five times.  If that weren’t bad enough, news dropped soon afterwards that center Maurkice Pouncey, the only Pro Bowler on the line was done for the year with a knee injury.  Things just went from bad to worse.

Jake Locker only sacked once by Steelers defense

On the flip side, Pittsburgh failed to put much pressure on Titans quarterback Jake Locker during the game.  Pro Bowl linebacker LaMarr Woodley was able to get home for the Steelers only sack of the day.  Lawrence Timmons, Jason Worilds and rookie Jarvis Jones all failed to get to the quarterback.  That doesn’t mean the defense played poorly.  They only allowed 125 passing yards and allowed just 2.7 yards per carry by the Titans ground game.  Still, Locker is not the best quarterback they’re going to play in 2013.  Much better ones are to come and infrequent pressure is going to become a serious problem no matter how much scheming Hall of Fame coordinator Dick LeBeau does.

Isaac Redman and running game were next to useless

The real source of pain for the Pittsburgh Steelers offense though was an enemic running game.  Ever since their defeat in Super Bowl XLV, the unit has gradually weakened due to injury and declining talent.  It all culminated in a rather pathetic effort against the Titans that saw Isaac Redman, who was a career backup before 2013, manage just nine yards on eight carries and also fumbled twice.  The Steelers as a team put up 32 rushing yards total, which went a long way towards getting Roethlisberger hit repeatedly because he was forced to pass more often.  Many say a big reason it was so bad was due to the injury to rookie Le’Veon Bell who was expected to lift the ground game off the canvas.  That and the fact Pittsburgh inexplicably released veteran Jonathan Dwyer, who at least was serviceable as a starter last season led to what happened.  Though that mistake was corrected when Dwyer was brought back, it may be too late because of the Pouncey injury.

Conclusion

Losing to the Tennessee Titans for the second season in a row has to raise a red flag about the prospects for the Pittsburgh Steelers.  Ben Roethlisberger doesn’t figure to get better protection as the year goes on with Maurkice Pouncey out.  The defense is still well coached but has lost a lot of its bite in the pass rush.  As for the running game, the only hope left is that Le’Veon Bell can rescue it when he returns.  That is too much to overcome, and is why the Steelers will land in the top ten of the 2014 NFL draft.

Tags: Ben Roethlisberger Isaac Redman Jake Locker Maurkice Pouncey Pittsburgh Steelers

  • Chris Doakes

    Yep they will be 5-11

  • Mike

    Love a comment like “the front office has failed to replace talent on the OL”, followed by “the OLine has suffered disasterous injuries”. The guys are injured. Denver has had the same 5 guys for 16 games 3 years in a row. How would we be doing with no injuries for 48 games?

    The only thing I totally agree with here is that you are overreacting to opening day cocktail of bad play and upsetting injuries.

    • Erik Lambert

      You may be right, but you can’t deny part of the problem is the Steelers haven’t done their homework on putting guys on the line who can stay healthy. Part of that is a slip in coaching and another is bad luck. They might still recover from it, but it’s no guarantee.

      • Mike

        I can absolutely deny the Steelers haven’t done their homework on every draft pick. Every team does. These guys don’t histories of injury. Thorough physicals are performed pre-draft and medical records are made available to every front office. Come on, Man. You certainly know this if you are considered ‘an expert’ and ‘journalist’.

  • Lou Bourbon JR

    Next week James Harrison puts a vicious series of hits on Ben, knocks him out for the rest of the season. Troy makes and incredible interception in the end zone and pulls a hamstring while doing so. Kiesel retires to become an MMA fighter and Todd Haley gets his ass kicked on the sidelines by Mike Adams. Doesn’t seem that far from reality after last weeks game.

    • Erik Lambert

      Ugly all the way around. The fact it was against the Titans was the scary part.

    • Mike

      Thank you for brining some appropriate perspective, Lou. Add in that the credit rating for the City of Pittsburgh implodes and Youngstown swoops into annex the former autonomous hamlet. WTF? You guys should look into a little idea called the “transitive property”. Ok, now throw that out…it doesn’t work in the NFL. The game plan against the Titans got decimated by early injury and has less to do with the game plan against Cincy than you people are possessing.

      The entire idea of writing an article like this after week one is absurd. This makes the National Inquirer read like the WSJ. Jeez.

  • Carl Eagan

    First of all Pouncy has been over rated for 2 years and has not been that great his best game last year was when he played left guard. Second of all the offensive line hasn’t had any professional coaching since Russ Grimm left. Third the lack of talent on the line is obvious and when Tomlim chooses to sign and keep a player of Guy Whimper’s talent you know there is no hope for the O-line. Mike Adam’s is not going to be anything but a spectator during the season at left tackle because simple defensive stunts confuse him which means Ben is in for a very long season before a defense knocks him out for the season. Dion Sanders after an interciew with Tomlin claims Tomlin says he is involved with every stage of the game plan which includes offense, defense and special teams and he personally makes adjustments. If that is the case then that is the primary reason the Steeler’s will have a top 10 pick if not a top 5.

    • Erik Lambert

      Scary thought, right? It’s looking more and more like Tomlin merely benefited from the residual impact of the Bill Cowher era.

      • Mike

        “Benefiting from residual impact”? What the hell are you talking about? This isn’t an expansion team. New coaches are matched with existing personnel and game plans are hatched to maximize that personnel. I don’t think Tomlin or his staff have to apologize for getting to two Super Bowls with this team. The turnover on NFL rosters is remarkable year on year…do some effing research; that excuse was outdated within 12 months. Win totals of 12,12, 12, 10, 9 and 8 have resulted. How many teams have better results?

        Referencing Grimm is an interesting choice, considering he is out of the league. 32 teams don’t consider him to be the right guy for the job now…but I’m sure you are the smart one, Carl. Bicknell has produced top flight running attacks in his career and has coached this line in ONE game. Jumping the gun much?

        Compare the injury situation that Pittsburgh has faced versus the Denver Broncos, for instance. The line arrangement the Broncos send onto the field was the same for 48 consecutive games heading into this season. Where would we be with that kind of good fortune?

        That said, if either of you want to put your money where you panic is, I’ll happily lay lumber on the idea that the Steelers won’t draft in the top 10.

        • Erik Lambert

          Come down off the soap box, Mike. You’re clearly passionate about this, which is great but it won’t change how I feel. To me this Steelers team has looked more and more shaky from season to season. The offensive line continues to get worse, their running game has disappeared all together, the defense has lost a good portion of its pass rush and the injuries aren’t stopping. Ben is a tough guy, but anybody can see if he goes down, this team goes with him. I made an evaluation that I believe is fair. Could I be wrong? Of course.

          As to my Cowher comment, I was referring to his ability to turn over the roster quickly and maintain success. A good example is moving from Neil O’Donnell to Kordell Stewart to Tommy Maddox to Roethlisberger. He did that throughout the roster, defense and offense. On the other hand, things have steadily gotten a little worse each year under Tomlin and did not look like it was suddenly going to get better after getting hammered by a team they would’ve beaten handcuffed three years ago. Deny the decline if you want. I’m just going based on what I see.

          • Mike

            I would be careful suggesting I come down off a soapbox when you have put yourself out there as some kind of a subject matter expert (based on what, I have no idea), authored an article about how after week 1 the Steelers WILL be drafting in the top 10 picks and then supported you claim based on :60 of tape. “Writer” sounds too official for what you do here, Erik.

            Things have not gotten steadily worse every year under Tomlin. That’s 101 stuff, man. They won 12 games a season ago. He won 12 games the year before that. The guy has never had a losing season. What are you talking about? Why pass up the opportunity to make other great insights like “at this rate, Redman will fumble 38 times, losing half of them” or, Ben’s on pace to be sacked a league record 80 times!”

            You are referencing Cowher’s ability to turn a roster without a drop off? I love the guy, but we had a three year run there when he delivered 22 total wins and no playoffs, son. You are simultaneously making the point that Cowher flipped players frequently and seamlessly and that somehow Tomlin got the keys to this Cadillac, held on tight to his predecessor’s roster and only experienced success because of the amazing “residual impact” of the Cowher Era. What?!?

            Just to make an actual data driven point: the average NFL players career is just about 3 years. In the 3 years since Cowher left, the Steelers won one less game than the subsequent 3 years, with a group of players that would have overwhelmingly been Tomlin’s new additions. That is in addition to the basic truth that every season in the NFL is overwhelmingly a strategic and tactical autonomous event.

            If my buddy wrote this in an email to me after a night of Edward 40-hands, I’d laugh him off as being an ill-informed, over-reactive doofus. Of all the topics you could have broached connected to the week 1 showing, this is what you decided on?

          • Erik Lambert

            Since when have people been forbidden from making predictions about sports? It’s a regular part of the NFL. Many predicted the Steelers would win the division last year and they went 8-8. I’m predicting, based on quality of off-season and early signs from preseason and opening week that they will struggle to finish anywhere near that record. They have proven consistently that they can’t run the ball. Mike Wallace is gone. Heath Miller is out and who knows how effective he will be when he returns. Yet you’re still trying to drive home the fact with that they will be fine, that one game is no reason to at least offer the possibility they aren’t that good. Here’s the only stat I need. Pittsburgh has lost four of its last five games dating back to last year, three of them against teams that missed the playoffs. If they can’t beat teams they should, then why should I trust there is a turnaround coming after the way they played in the opener? If it were Cincinnati, Baltimore, New England or Denver I’d give them a pass. Tennessee?

            Feel free to insult and mock me all you want, Mike. It doesn’t change anything. I still believe the Steelers will finish with a top ten pick next year.

          • Mike

            Don’t get soft now, Erik. You would have given a pass to two teams that lost last week and one that barely squeaked by a rookie QB. More fuel to the idea that predictions aren’t your thing. Don’t miss my point, I’m saying this is an article that does not raise the qualityof the discourse on this team’s ability or performance going into week 2. This is a story that didn’t need to be written. It’s your byline. Congrats.

          • Erik Lambert

            That’s fine, Mike. You’re entitled to your own opinion and judgments. I doubt anything I write will change them. Yes, two of those teams lost but one was the Super Bowl champions and the other had an 11-point lead in the second half before coughing it up. Don’t mistake my writing for an indictment of the Steelers being a bad team. Talent-wise they are certainly capable of winning the division. The problem is they can’t stay healthy, they are too thin at too many positions and their coaching staff on offense clearly doesn’t mesh with what the talent does best. From my experience that leads to bad seasons.