Steelers Have Work To Do To Erase Pitt-iful Preseason Performance
By Marc Jenkins
The Pittsburgh Steelers closed out their 2013 preseason with an unimpressive 0-4 record and while some may not be alarmed by that fact, they should be. This marked the first time that Pittsburgh failed to record a victory in the preseason since 2006, a season that saw the Steelers fail to reach the playoffs. It wasn’t the fact that Pittsburgh went without a single victory during exhibition play, it was the fact that the team as whole didn’t look inspiring in any single aspect of the game; the defense struggled, the offense looked putrid, the special teams was far from spectacular and the coaching seemed indecisive.
Now with the preseason in the rearview mirror and the first game of the real campaign slated for September 8 versus the Tennessee Titans, coach Mike Tomlin – along with his entire coaching staff – will have to implement an improved game plan in between now and then for his team to show more than the lackluster efforts which were on display during the month of August.
The offense may have been the worst unit of the three this preseason. Collectively, they produced just 56 total points in 16 quarters plus one overtime period. In all, the Pittsburgh offense tallied just 1,171 total yards – good for 292.7 yards per contest.
Neither the running game nor the passing attack wowed opposing defenses as they rushed for 406 yards and passed for 765. The offensive line also seemed a bit shaky, allowing 15 sacks. Offensive coordinator Todd Haley is going to have to figure out if he wants this unit to be known as a pass-heavy offense or rely on the ground game. One thing is for certain; thus far, neither appears to be all that reliable.
With the running back situation remaining a concern in light of rookie Le’Veon Bell’s foot injury, QB Ben Roethlisberger will again have to shoulder much of the load in order for this offense to produce. The only way that can happen is if his offensive can keep him upright and healthy.
The defense also looked out of whack this preseason, allowing 93 total points in the four-game stretch. In order for the Steelers to have a relatively successful year, the defense is going to have to pick up the slack for the offense. However, if this preseason is any indication, it could be a grueling year for the Pittsburgh faithful.
There were a few positive signs, such as recording 13 sacks and forcing eight turnovers. All in all, if the Steelers are to produce anything more than mediocrity defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau must get his unit firing on all cylinders to mask some of the deficiencies Pittsburgh possesses on the offensive side of the football.
The special teams may have enjoyed the best preseason of the three units, but they still had a few issues of their own. K Shaun Suisham had an exceptional preseason campaign, successfully making seven field goals and accounting for nearly 40 percent of the team’s points. If he can continue that, he should have a very productive fourth season in Pittsburgh.
The return game was an area of concern. The Steelers had way too many poor runbacks and gave up seemingly just as many big returns. To put it nicely, special teams coach Danny Smith has his work cut out for him.
The objective of coaching during the preseason is to identify problem areas in the games and work on improving them the following week. Tomlin, LeBeau, Haley and Smith all deserve nothing more than a D-minus grade for their efforts in that area as the exhibition season comes to a close. Each and every week, it seemed as if the Steelers underachieved in every aspect of the game. The running and passing games didn’t improve while stopping the run was every bit as difficult as defending the pass. The same thing could be said for scoring on both sides of the ball. Barring some drastic turn of events before the start of the season, the wheels could fall off of this bus before they even make it to the highway.