For the first time since 2002, the Pittsburgh Steelers have started the NFL season with an 0-2 record.
Anyone who watched the teams first two games of the season understand where the problem lies. Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has suffered through accuracy issues while the team’s running game has ground to a halt.
During much of the team’s 20-10 loss to the Bengals, Roethlisberger dealt with accuracy issues while his wideouts couldn’t find a window to break free from from defenders.
In the meantime, the Steelers’ ground game has been MIA. Running backs managed just 13 years after contact on 16 carries, a sad performance for a “working class” team that historically has prided itself on rugged power.
While the offense has failed, the Steelers defense managed to force three-and-out drives while its special teams also attempted to move the ball down the field of play.
Following the team’s second humiliating and rather boring loss right tackle, Marcus Gilbert pointed a finger at bad penalty calls. Gilbert was specifically upset about a call in which Roethlisberger hit Antonio Brown for 33 yards. Gilbert tripped a Bengals defender on the play but said there was no intent and no penalty should have been issued. According to Gilbert:
“That’s a shame. They were getting tired, frustrated. They were walking around and we thought we had them. It was an awful call.”
That play ultimately shifted momentum for the game after the Steeler’s had fought back to a tie at the end of the first half. The Steelers came within striking distance thanks to a 65-yard drive led by Roethlisberger.
At the end of the day, Roethlisberger threw for just 251 yards with one touchdown and one interception.
In the meantime, the Steelers will soon receive some much needed help when tight end Heath Miller and running back Le’Veon Bell return from their injuries. Bell is making his NFL regular-season debut, and, in a sport as unpredictable as football, his superstar status at Iowa could mean nothing against stronger and faster AFC North teams.
Pittsburgh fans have accused general manager Kevin Colbert of ignoring the running game in the NFL draft, and that negligent could cost the team a playoff spot.
But was it really neglect? The Steelers have used two first-round picks and two second-round picks to grab offensive linemen since 2010, and those picks have not strengthened the teams offensive to anywhere close to that of former coach Mike Tomlin.
With Pro Bowl center Maurkice Pouncey going down with a season-ending MCL and ACL knee injury, the Pittsburgh Steelers need to find new momentum for their offensive line and they need to find that momentum posthaste.