It is hard to believe, but the Pittsburgh Steelers have played 8 games, meaning they are halfway through the 2016 regular season. While sporting a 4-4 record, the hope is to have a better second half, compared to the first half.
With that said, it is time to get out the red marker and give out some grades as the team prepares to get the second half of the season started when the Dallas Cowboys come to Heinz Field in Week 10.
This used to be a gimme ‘A’ on the report card, but for Ben Roethlisberger and Landry Jones, Jones used in just one game, this is far from a sure thing regarding the grade delivered.
Roethlisberer has been erratic at times, and has had moments of brilliance, and moments where fans want to bash their heads against the television. Unfortunately, the two categories almost even themselves out. Consistency is key at the quarterback position, and the Steelers need more of it.
Le’Veon Bell is...well...Le’Veon Bell. He has proved he is more than worthy of a new contract after the 2016 season, and DeAngelo Williams filled in nicely for him during his three-game suspension to start the season. There might be issues on the offensive side of the football, but the running back position isn’t one of them.
Wide Receivers / Tight Ends
The tight end situation was always in flux due to Ladarius Green’s absence among the group, but the wide receivers were supposed to shine. There were moments, Sammie Coates’ career day vs. the Jets, but there were plenty of goose eggs by someone not named Antonio Brown. Due to Brown being in the group, it elevates the grade, but this group could be so much better than what they are.
Could this be the biggest disappointment of the offense? Yes, there were injuries to Ramon Foster, Marcus Gilbert and now Maurkice Pouncey, but the group just hasn’t been the one everyone expected. Fans were hoping for gaping holes in the running game and clean pockets in the passing game. Those two events have happened, but not nearly as often as most would like.
The Steelers started off the season not giving up much in terms of the opposition’s ground game. That changed when Cameron Heyward was injured. Since Heyward has returned the rush defense has tightened up, but the defense as a whole isn’t getting the pass rush necessary to make plays. Stephon Tuitt still doesn’t have a sack and Heyward is in the team lead with 3.
You will see a common thread here with these grades...injuries. This unit has had several, and none bigger than the injury to Ryan Shazier. Without Shazier in the lineup the Steelers were able to get quality contributions from Vince Williams, but it isn’t the inside linebackers dragging this grade down. No, that would belong to the non-existent outside linebacking corps. Before James Harrison recorded two sacks on Joe Flacco Sunday, there was no pass rush to speak of from the OLBs. A sad state of affairs in Pittsburgh.
Some will scream and yell about the poor secondary, but there have been some serious bright spots in this group. Artie Burns is now a starter, Sean Davis has seen serious playing time, Ross Cockrell remains a tremendous acquisition by the team, William Gay might have slowed a bit but is playing well, and Mike Mitchell and Robert Golden have been solid. This group has their moments of doubt, but overall the secondary isn’t nearly the weakness most thought it would be heading into the season.
Jordan Berry is having a tremendous season. The first punter under Mike Tomlin to play two consecutive seasons in the Steel City, he might be sticking around for the long haul.
A lot of touchbacks and no returns. That is a job well done for the kickoff unit.
Field Goal Unit
Chris Boswell has been erratic at times, but hasn’t attempted a lot of kicks. The second year pro needs to find some consistency to help elevate his game to the next level.
Wait, the Steelers have return teams? I never would have guessed. Other than Antonio Brown’s big return against the Kansas City Chiefs, the return game has been invisible.
Bad losses, horrible road record, questionable decisions and an overall lack of preparedness on a weekly basis. In my opinion, this all points directly to the coaching staff. Mike Tomlin down to the coordinators down to the specialists. If the Steelers want to make a run in the second half of the season, they need the coaches to be better.