Five Thoughts on the Steelers Getting Ready to Turn the Page to Dallas

The Steelers remain for the most part stunned over their severe letdown vs the Chargers on Sunday. The team was never in the game, and at one point trailed by 24.

This to a team that had nothing to play for, and their only win in the last two months was against the Chiefs.

Today, with the team starting to turn the page to the Cowboys, let’s take a look at five observations about this team with three games left and a playoff birth still (somehow) in their hands.

1. How Much is This on Tomlin? – It seemed like on here as well as on our Facebook page that the ‘in’ thing to do was to put a lot of the blame for Sunday on Mike Tomlin and the coaching staff. I get it, I just don’t agree with it. So what your saying is the same coaching staff that lifted this team up 7 days before in a huge win over the Ravens is the same that suddenly forgot how to coach vs the Chargers? It always the easy thing to do to blame the coach and staff after a game like Sunday.

Before you go slamming Tomlin and Co., remember this – they were not the ones that dropped a pair of important passes in the second quarter, and they were not on the field when the big bad Steelers D allowed a back-breaking 17-play drive to start the second half.

2. Has the D Tired Out? – I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a Steelers D so lacking energy as they were on Sunday at home. The numbers speak for themselves, and anyone who watched the game in full had to be as frustrated as I was with the way things went for the supposed #1 defense. How about third down conversions – the Bolts converted 12-of-22, and it seemed like a broken record – make plays on first and second down, then give up a third down play to give San Diego a first down.

I know the team is hurting without Ike Taylor, but the lack of a pass rush the past couple of weeks has been disturbing. Sure there were plays they got in on Philip Rivers, but they were unable to get him down or make a play. Some of this does fall on Dick LeBeau to put players in better positions to make plays. Then again, how about guys like Cameron Heyward and Ziggy Hood, who former #1 picks, make some plays?

3. It’s too Late to Fix the Run Game – Every few weeks it seems the run game shows up, but let’s be honest. This unit has been a letdown this season after all we heard all offseason was how much better they would be. Issac Redman, Jonathan Dwyer and Rashard Mendenhall have all had moments, but for the most part have never been able to show enough to earn the undisputed number one job. If it means that for now, the run game has to complement the pass game – so be it.

Nevertheless, it should be an interesting offseason as the team has major decisions to make with the running backs. Mendenhall is as good as gone, but I wouldn’t roll out the money bags and red carpet for Dwyer and/or Redmen just yet.

4. Care to Predict? – We threw this on our Facebook page late Sunday, and I think it bears mentioning once again – 6 Losses – only two to teams with winning records. 4 Losses to teams that are a combined 17-35. 4 Wins over teams .500. 5 Wins to teams that are a combined 37-28.

The numbers point to a few conclusions: The Steelers of 2012 play DOWN to the competition. Good news – only two quality teams they have lost to is Denver and Baltimore. The team plays a 7-6 Cowboys team on the road Sunday, followed by a 7-6 Bengals team, then a 5-8 Cleveland team that has won three in a row. To me, sets up pretty well for a team that has played very much down to teams this season.

5. There’s some Good News in All This – Look at what the Steelers have done after losses to those less than stellar teams out there – after the Raiders loss – a win over the Eagles. After the loss to the Titans – a four-game winning streak. After the Cleveland loss – a win in Baltimore. After the San Diego loss – that remains to be seen, but one would think that their game vs the Cowboys will define their season. Let’s see what happens, though I do like their odds based on the inconsistency of the Cowboys this season as well.

About the Author

Matt Loede
Matt Loede has been in the sports media for over 16 years, with experience covering Major League Baseball, National Basketball Association and of course, the National Football League. On NFL Sunday’s you can hear Matt on National networks like Fox Sports Radio, Associated Press, and other stations around the country. Matt also joined The Washington Post in 2009 as a guest columnist on league hot topics. Born and raised in Cleveland, Matt studies and talks football inside and out, and is anxious to share his thoughts and comments with readers on a daily basis.

7 Comments on "Five Thoughts on the Steelers Getting Ready to Turn the Page to Dallas"

  1. Really? If you go back and look at some posts you will see the calls for Tomlin’s head prior to the Baltimore win and not just after the latest debacle. Folks are not just jumping on the bandwagon here with the loss to the Chargers. We have had several seasons of poor performance in several key (repeat) areas that should have been addressed a long time ago. Face it, Tomlin is third rate at best and we deserve a whole lot better. I refuse to continue to suffer in silence any longer and will continue to voice my concerns until he is replaced. Enough is enough!

  2. One thought comes to mind. Again, not to beat a dead horse, but I think most Steeler fans would at least agree that patience is wearing thin with Tomlin and the coaching staff. But, let’s for a second, review the progress of the other candidates who were up for the Steeler head coaching job after Cowher’s retirement. Whisenhunt is on his way out in Arizona. The Cardinals have gotten progressively worse since their lone Super Bowl appearance. A Super Bowl where Tomlin was hoisting the Vince Lombardi Trophy. I can’t imagine too many Steeler fans who were wishing at that time that we hired Whisenhunt instead. How many consecutive games have the Cardinals lost this season after starting the season with four straight wins? Russ Grimm (if he is still on the Cardinals staff) has not made much of a difference with the team as well. I also remember Mike Singletary as a potential candidate. Do you think the Niners made a mistake firing Samurai Mike and replacing him with Jim Harbaugh? I may have missed another candidate rumored to have been the next head coach of the Steelers at that time, but I do know that Tomlin’s body of work is more impressive than his counterparts. Even with the disappointment and frustration of Steeler Nation this year, Tomlin’s success is greater than theirs. And success, like it or not, is hard to argue. Let’s at least wait and see how the rest of the season goes before we call for any firings. Let the players prove their worth as well.

  3. Good analysis, Mike. I would only note that Whisenhut has never had the talent Tomlin inherited. The Cardinals were major over-achievers the year they got to the Super Bowl and Kurt Warner, their QB, retired immediately afterward and has never been adequately replaced. The talent level in Pittsburgh has fallen steadily since Tomlin arrived, and as his own talent has declined, Tomlin’s team has begun to look increasingly like Whisenhut’s. A spate of injuries and the failure of young guys to develop have hindered both coaches.

    That same logic applies to M. Loede’s discussion of the running game. Mendy is on the way out and won’t be missed; Redman and Dwyer will never be confused with Jim Brown, but they are adequate for the money they receive. Yet, all three ran well when the line was healthy and executed their blocks. It is a mistake to blame the backs for our poor running game when they are consistently tackled in their own backfield. We’ve been forced to play Pouncey at OG and Beachum at OT, for heaven’s sake. This is the second consecutive year our RBs have played behind a makeshift line.

    If the Steelers are going to spend big bucks on offense, it should be spent on completing the rebuild of the O-line. Colon, DeCastro, Gilbert, and Adams are injured, and we can’t be sure they will all be effective when they return next season, given the nature of their injuries. Mendy can be replaced with a late draft pick, but it will take big talent to stabilize the O-line — and until that happens, Haley’s offense will continue to struggle.

    Now consider the converse. If the four injured O-linemen above had remained healthy all season, we wouldn’t be having this discussion. Our RBs would be tearing up the gridiron, and Tomlin and Haley would look like geniuses. The old maxim remains true:”You can’t coach the talent you don’t have.”

    • Let me amend my own comment with a useful web site — One of the interesting statistics to be found there shows the number of Pro Bowl linemen the legendary running backs enjoyed. Jim Brown averaged 4.5 Pro Bowl blockers over his 9 year career. Brown was a great RB, but his O-line deserves some of the credit for his legendary status. Now, count the Pro Bowl players on our present O-line.

      Statistics must be used with caution, and I wondered about the chicken-and-the-egg effect — did the line make Brown great, or did Brown make the line look better than it was? So I looked at what happened in Cleveland after Brown retired. It so happens the same line made LeRoy Kelly a household name, too. Great RBs who did not have a high ratio of Pro Bowl blockers — such as B. Sanders, O.J. Simpson, and T. Dorsett — were unusually fast and shifty. Alas, talent like that does not grow on trees. As an offensive strategy, it is far better to build an All Pro O-line that can make good backs like Ken Willard and Dick Bass look fabulous.

  4. “This to a team that had nothing to play for, and their only win in the last two months was against the Chiefs.” In the past 2 months (going back to Oct 11th) The Steelers defeated the Bengals, Redskins,Giants, Chiefs and Baltimore. I have no idea what stats Matt was looking at.

  5. Tomlinson is still playing the team Cowher left him. He’s a worthless coach

  6. Laura – I was talking about San Diego – not the Steelers. Sorry for the confusion

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