No Need To Panic… Yet!
Here we are again: Steelers fans are a spoiled bunch!
Every now and then we have to accept that our team will lose. I know that’s a bitter pill to swallow on a week when the rest of the AFC North came away with a victory. However, it’s no reason to hit the panic button… yet.
Offensively, the Steelers have not scored a touchdown in their last 6 quarters of football. The statistic is a bit deceiving, as the team left points on the board in Baltimore, turning the ball over from their opponents’ 18 and 22 yard lines. More inefficiency came in the Browns game, as the team went 1-of-3 in red zone. However, one of those attempts had a Le’Veon Bell touchdown negated by a penalty.
As for the question marks on offense, Markus Wheaton has seamlessly taken over for Emmanuel Sanders, while Le’Veon Bell could put up bigger numbers than his near 1,500 all-purpose yards as a rookie. Dri Archer is a change of pace weapon used all over the field, while Blount showed an impressive nose for the goal line against the Browns. (Note: Archer, and free agent acquisition, WR Lance Moore, did not play against the Ravens.)
Yes, there have been some holes, particularly in the run defense. However, on the 3 best starting field positions for the Baltimore Ravens, the Steeler defense held strong, forcing field goals in all of those situations.
The defense is also young and inexperienced. Even a veteran signing, such as Mike Mitchell, is still getting accustomed to playing in a 3-4, having come previously from Carolina who runs a 4-3. The difference is knowing 1 gap to stop versus 2 gaps. Once the growing pains end, the unit has a chance to be a top flight unit.
This has been the major stat for the first 2 games. Pittsburgh has had a 20 penalties enforced for 171 yards total against Cleveland and Baltimore. Those penalties helped negate first downs and touchdowns, give strong starting field position to the opponent and kept opposing offensive drives going. The Steelers will have to figure out how to not beat themselves, before they can beat opponents.
Up next is the 2-0 Carolina Panthers. The Steelers play yet another primetime game on the road, but have the benefit of a few additional days to prepare. While the Panthers look intimidating on paper, they were the beneficiary of inept play by their opponents as well. The Detroit Lions missed 2 field goals and turned the ball over 3 times to the Panthers in a 24-7 loss yesterday. The previous week, Tampa Bay also coughed up the ball 3 times, while missing one field goal in a 20-14 loss. If the Steelers can win the turnover battle, they should be able to overcome the Panthers.
Looking ahead, the Steelers will face a number of suspect teams in the coming weeks including Jacksonville, Tampa Bay, Cleveland and Houston. A loss at Carolina would not be the end of the world and the Steelers could still be sitting in a better position than their 2-5 record after 7 games last season.