Last night’s game was absolutely heart wrenching. It was one of those games that just makes you sick to your stomach (and if you ate too much turkey and stuffing, you might have been sick to your stomach). In the day after, the Pittsburgh Steelers sit 5-7 with four games to left in this wildly inconsistent 2013 season. After reading so many comments on sites like these, I feel there needs to be a clearing of the air.
1. The Steelers are not dead yet. There should not be a "Clown for Clowney" or "jake it for Jake (Matthews)" campaign. First of all, the Steelers are not going to be drafting in the top 5. The Falcons, Texans, Jaguars, Vikings, Buccaneers, and Redskins (whose pick goes to the Rams) have likely taken care of that. Having a higher draft does not guarantee the Steelers will turn it around. The Browns have drafted in the top 10 often since coming back in the league and they have one playoff berth in 14 seasons to show for it. Until recently, the same could be said for the Bengals as well. The Steelers have found good players late in the first round (Alan Faneca, Heath Miller, Santonio Holmes, and Cameron Heyward come to mind).
The Steelers are not dead yet because one, they aren’t mathematically eliminated and two, the AFC is not very strong this season. 9-7 will likely be good enough to make the playoffs, where anything is possible. Sure, these Steelers lack depth and have suffered more injuries this season than I care to remember. However, this team can still make it.
2. Another reason why this team is not dead yet: The offensive line provided excellent protection for Ben Roethlisberger for the fourth straight week. Big Ben has now been sacked just once in 3 weeks. Kelvin Beachum was having the game of his life until he got injured. Fernando Velasco is my pick for Steelers’ offensive MVP. Marcus Gilbert is playing well and David DeCastro is getting better with each game. Now of course the Steelers suffered a string of injuries to the offensive line in the fourth quarter and we all hold our collective breaths while awaiting word on Velasco and Beachum’s condition. Thank goodness there is 10 days before the next game. However, the pass protection is starting to come around and the offense is taking care of the ball unlike earlier in the season. Last night’s game marked the 3rd straight game (and 15 straight quarters) of no turnovers by the offense.
3. The tall receiver debate. BTSC needs to have a Derek Moye fan club. Heck, I am surprised that there isn’t a Facebook page dedicated for Derek Moye. The way some of you talk, Moye is like a young Plaxico Burress or something. If being tall was the only thing that mattered, then Limas Sweed would still be playing professional football.
There is probably a good reason why Moye is inactive so often. It probably has to do with Antonio Brown, Emmanuel Sanders, Markus Wheaton, and Jerricho Cotchery all being healthy and being more talented than Moye. Sure, a tall receiver could theoretically provide more options. However, it seems to the coaching staff that Moye’s only asset is his height. If he was good enough to get a helmet on game day, then I am sure he would.
4. The red zone issues. The Steelers have had red zone issues since Bruce Arians’s second year as the OC. Heck, the red zone problems were one of the reasons Arians was probably "retired." I personally thought that Todd Haley would bring more creativity and production to the red zone than Arians ever did. Personally, I can’t believe that I am even talking about this now given that the Steelers went 3 for 3 in the red zone against the best red zone defense in the NFL this season. However, this discussion goes back to the tall receiver debate. Some of you think that having a tall receiver would solve the red zone issues. If that was the case, then why aren’t David Paulson and Michael Palmer (both over 6’4") out there lined up wide with Miller while Sanders and Brown sit on the bench? Hines Ward was perhaps the best red zone receiver of his generation and he wasn’t tall. Santana Moss and Steve Smith are nowhere near 6 feet tall but they always find ways to get open inside the red zone. Tall has nothing to do with it. Getting open and catching the ball does.
Face it, guys. As long as the offensive line remains a work in progress and Le’Veon Bell still gets acclimated to the NFL, the red zone offense is probably going to be an issue. The Steelers used to be one of the best red zone teams because they could run the ball regardless of the situation and field position. Until they can do that again, every red zone trip will teeter between a typical Big Ben broken play (like the first touchdown to Sanders) or a Shaun Suisham field goal attempt.
It might seem like we are done but last night’s game was not do-or-die for the Steelers. For the Ravens, it definitely was because the prospect of getting swept by the Steelers would likely end any chance of the Ravens making the playoffs. Yes, the Steelers’ secondary is not good at all, especially Ike Taylor, who might be having the worst month of his 11 year career. But the pass rush has been strong (at least from Jason Worilds and Cameron Heyward) and offense is taking care of the ball. There are four more games left. Do not count the Steelers out just yet.
Happy Thanksgiving. And here’s hoping young Le’Veon Bell gets well from that head shot.