The Pittsburgh Steeler won’t post a winning record in 2013, and despite making a run in the middle weeks of the season, Pittsburgh was never able to figure out exactly how to win football games. Now, with a playoff berth out of consideration, the Steelers have to begin to ponder what needs to happen moving forward to get back to the postseason.
First and foremost, there quite obviously needs to be a change on offense. Since Bruce Arians left, or was run out of town, the Steelers have been unable to find their way into the playoffs. Ben Roethlisberger’s relationship with offensive coordinator Todd Haley is up and down at best, and the two often appear to disagree about what should be happening on offense.
The Steelers’ offensive line is, well, terrible. Roethlisberger has absorbed 39 sacks this season. Only Joe Flacco (41) and Ryan Tannehill (48) have been sacked more often than the Steelers’ trigger man. That’s a big problem, especially because Roethlisberger often holds the ball, trying to make big plays. Sure, he runs himself into some sacks, but the Steelers do a poor job giving him an opportunity to make those big plays that have defined his career.
So, with an offseason of uncertainty looming, what do the Steelers need to do?
Quite obviously, Pittsburgh needs to commit to an offensive ideology. Running Haley’s offense with Roethlisberger taking the snaps just isn’t working. From all outward appearances, it would make sense for the Steelers to back Roethlisberger and find a coordinator that better fits his style, but if the Steelers can secure a trade that would allow them to bring in a quarterback or select one early in the draft, it’s perfectly reasonable to believe the Steelers could dump Roethlisberger.
It’s evident that the Steelers have struggles on offense, but that’s not the only place their roster needs big upgrades. Defensively, the Steelers just aren’t playing at the level they once did, and a big reason for that is simply age. Pittsburgh has been starting the same four defensive backs for years, and although each of their names (Ike Taylor, William Gay, Ryan Clark, Troy Polamalu) carries significance in the NFL, they’re not able to make the same game-changing plays that once characterized the Steelers’ defense.
Without turnovers, the Steelers don’t stand a chance. The symptoms we see week in and week out are such things as team disunity, disagreement and shoddy play. The cause of those symptoms is roster decay. In short, they Steelers aren’t the team they once were. Their talent has eroded quicker than new talent has arrived.
For years, the Steelers have been able to re-tool their roster, but with a losing season likely, the Steelers may have to think more about a rebuild. Designations such as “rebuilding” don’t give us much perspective, and the Steelers probably aren’t looking at a full-blown roster overhaul, but there’s plenty of work to do before the Steelers are competing for a divisional title again.
At the conclusion of the season, the Steelers’ decision makers will determine a new direction for the team. It’s highly unlikely that we’ll see head coach Mike Tomlin hit the road. He’s well-liked by fans and players alike, and he’s proven his worth as an NFL head coach. The staff around him, however, may see significant changes as will the roster.
Expect the 2014 Steelers to look a lot different than the 2013 version with plenty of young talent to go around. Their record may suffer in the immediate future, but a youth movement is needed before the Steelers can get back to their winning ways, and that’s exactly what we’re likely to see this offseason.