FanPost

Is it Time to Put the 2011 Steelers to Sleep

 

 

 

The NFL season is always unpredictable.  Since 2000, the NFL has had an average of five new teams make the postseason.  I'm now starting to wonder who is going to take the place of last year's AFC Champion Pittsburgh Steelers.  As it is beginning to look like for only the third time in ten years that the Pittsburgh Steelers will avoid the postseason.  And here are the reasons why...

Rushing Defense-  It took four games this year for the Steelers to allow two 100 yard rushers (Ray Rice and Arian Foster) after allowing only two such performances in the 51 games before this season.  Last year only two teams, the New York Jets and New England Patriots, even ran for 100 yards against a defense that permitted 62.8 per game, the third-lowest average since the 1970 NFL merger.  In 2011, they are 22nd in the NFl vs the run. Conversely, the Steelers are actually first in total defense vs the pass.  However, I believe that there are two reasons for this, other than the underrated stellar play of cornerback Ike Taylor.  The aforementioned inability to stopping others teams rush and …

Turnovers- The Steelers have committed six (four fumbles, 2 INTs) inside their territory.  This has allowed to keep the defense on the field longer and greatly reducing their effectiveness against the run.  Not to mention, Steelers opponents have less yards overall to score. 

Running Game- Can the Steelers reestablish their running game? So far in 2011, they are 21st in total rushing yards per game, including a lackluster 3.7 yds per carry. First round draft pick Rashard Mendenhall, as one of my readers put most elegantly, " Mendy is a great Tap Dancing Statue of Liberty!'' and I could not agree more. Isaac Redman seems to attack the hole with much more authority. He also is more versatile in the passing game. I even wrote about it here. In week 4, Mendenhall went down with a hamstring injury. So we now might finally be able to see what Redman is capable of.

Wide Receivers (not named Mike Wallace)- 

We see it all the time in sports, team icons/idols/heroes start that downhill  climb.  Enter Hines Ward.  

Year

Receptions

Yards

Yds/Rec

TDs

YAC

20+

First Down

2009

95

1167

12.3

6

4.4

15

56

2010

59

755

12.8

5

4.3

14

35

2011

13

136

10.5

0

3.1

1

5

 

Minus his small uptick in yds/reception last year, Ward has regressed in every applicable receiving stat since 2009. It may be time for the Steelers to put Ward out in the barn for studding, except that the other receivers have been inconsistent at best.  Preseason sensation Antonio Brown is second on the team in receptions, but he has only caught 15 of the 33 passes intended for him this year. Second year receiver Emmanuel Sanders has the only other TD reception opposite of Mike Wallace, but he has only pulled in 7 of the 13 pass attempts in his direction.  Without more consistent production from these 3, Roethlisberger is going to have to throw to Wallace every time.

Future?  

After four games, the Steelers are sitting at 2-2.  How does this record hold up historically as far as making the playoffs?  Since 12-team playoff format began in 1990, 35.7 % of playoff clubs (90 of 252) qualified after starting 2-2 or worse.  The Steelers, unfortunately, are starting to pile up injuries.  Both Big Ben and starting DEAaron Smith left Houston in walking boots and are questionable for next week's game against the Titans and James Harrison is out a couple of weeks after breaking his orbital bone.  Factor in the Mendenhall injury and the Steelers may soon be on the outside looking in the AFC playoff picture.

Til next time...

 

Bryan Nichols doesn’t always blog, but when he does …  

Bryan is TPFBlog's featured NCAA basketball writer and team blogger for the Pittsburgh Steelers. Visit us on Twitter or Facebook. Email him at BNichols@ThePenaltyFlagBlog.com.

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