clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

It's time to seriously start questioning the Steelers’ Super Bowl credentials

Sitting at 3-2 after an embarrassing 30-9 home loss to the Jaguars Sunday afternoon, the Steelers look like many things after five weeks. But a Super Bowl contender? Not so fast.

Jacksonville Jaguars v Pittsburgh Steelers Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

Sure didn't see that coming.

When I say "that," I'm referring to the Steelers 30-9 drubbing at the hands of the Jaguars Sunday afternoon before a shocked and totally lifeless crowd at Heinz Field.

Speaking of lifeless, that describes Pittsburgh's performance against Jacksonville, particularly for an offense that came away with zero touchdowns, while the franchise quarterback, Ben Roethlisberger, handed the opposition four of them—two indirectly and two of the pick-6 variety—thanks to four of his career-high five interceptions on the day.

As for the defense, it was okay for about three periods, but the dam finally broke in the fourth quarter, when it allowed the Jaguars to rush for 174 yards in its final three drives.

All in all, the defense gave up 231 yards on the ground—including 181 by sensational rookie running back Leonard Fournette. And for the second time in three weeks, Keith Butler's unit demonstrated to future offensive coordinators that—hey—why bother throwing the football against the Steelers’ defense (Blake Bortles attempted just 14 passes on the day and was barely a factor), when you can just gash it with the run?

But the defense can maybe get a pass (no pun intended).

After all, the defense is like the new guy at work; why should a young and still learning group be expected to carry the load, when you have so much experience, talent and money on the other side of the ball?

Going into Sunday's game, one of the questions for the offense focused on the workload for running back Le'Veon Bell, who carried the ball 35 times a week earlier against the Ravens.

After Sunday's miserable performance, the question might be, “How could you run your All-Pro running back just 15 times against the league's worst rushing defense?”

The game was put into the hands of Roethlisberger, who, despite passing for 312 yards, may actually have had his worst day as a pro, with his 37.8 quarterback rating acting as the cherry on top of the five-interception stink cake.

But there will be time for individual criticizing throughout the week. As for now, one has to seriously consider whether or not the Steelers truly are one of the NFL's elite franchises, capable of winning 12 or 13 games and making another deep post-season run.

Losses like the one to the Jaguars happen to every team and, by themselves, are normally no cause for concern.

But when a blowout home loss to a 9-point underdog comes just two weeks after a an overtime road loss to one of the worst teams in football, you start to question things.

When the defense is responsible for allowing over 200 yards on the ground for the second time in three games—and with T.J. Watt, Stephon Tuitt and Mike Mitchell all healthy and ready to play this time—you have to question things.

When the Cadillac offense has produced Pinto points through five games (averaging 19.8 to be exact), you, well, have to question things.

After five games, the questions surrounding Mike Tomlin and the Steelers are piling up at a faster rate than Chris Boswell field goals inside the red zone.

No, it's not time to panic. Yes, the Steelers are 3-2 and still in first place in the AFC North.

But the whole "it's not time to panic" mantra shouldn't be a theme in early-October for a football team looking to make franchise history by season's end.

The Steelers are many things right now, but are they really a Super Bowl contender?

As the 2017 regular season inches closer to the halfway mark, it's getting more and more difficult to keep that theme going.