Steelers’ Slow Starts Result of Poor Leadership?

Ben RoethlisbergerThe Pittsburgh Steelers have played seven games this season. In six of those, they have trailed early and in only one did they ‘come back’ to win.

Most recently, the Steelers fell behind on the first offensive play from the Oakland Raiders and eventually found themselves in an 18-point hole at the half.

The question has to be asked, why can this team not get off to a hotter start?

Lack of preparation is an easy target to point at but I don’t buy it exclusively. Todd Haley and Dick LeBeau may not be in the best favor of the Steeler Nation right now but I’m not ready to say they don’t have their units prepared.

At some point it falls on the players to take the gameplan and get prepared. The coaches can’t do everything for them. Now, we can debate whether the gameplan is flawed or not ad nausea but I still believe the coaches have these guys prepared at the very least.

While not totally exonerating preparedness as an excuse, I can’t help but wonder about a leadership issue with this team.

Contrary to popular belief this team isn’t as old as many claim it to be. In fact, I think you can point to a large chasm between the young and the old that may be really dividing this team.

I don’t have the slightest clue what it must be like inside the Steelers’ locker room but I can’t imagine things are real good. Any time you have veterans throwing their weight around in terms of deciding what games the younger guys can and cannot play it just doesn’t look real positive.

Then of course Mike Tomlin came in and stripped every one of the right to enjoy some ping pong or pool. When these types of things become focal points of a losing team then you know there is a lack of leadership.

People are blaming the lack of leadership on Tomlin and there is some validity to that. As the head coach he has to set the tone on a weekly basis and these slow starts are proof positive that his leadership isn’t having an impact right now.

What responsibility do Ben Roethlisberger or Troy Polamalu bear in the leadership void? It’s hard to say because Polamalu has never been a vocal guy. Can’t ask him to be something he isn’t just because he’s a long-time veteran. I would call Polamalu a leader by example and just simply because of his play this year which has been significantly better than previous seasons.

Roethlisberger falls into an unfair leadership category because football always demands the quarterback is the “leader” of the team. Roethlisberger sometimes is criticized because he isn’t as fiery or emotional as Tom Brady.

That stuff doesn’t matter to me a whole lot. There are plenty of other good quarterbacks who aren’t like Brady yet they win games too.

I think Roethlisberger is a good leader but I think his message in the huddle often doesn’t get through with this team. Think of the turnover on the offensive line and in the backfield. About the only constant Roethlisberger has seen in this huddle are his wideouts.

I’m not making excuses for the Steelers’ QB because we always have the right to ask for more in terms of leadership but I think he has reached a limit where he can only say and do so much anymore.

Where then does the leadership come from if not from the coach, the QB or the all-pro safety?

Can it come from LaMarr Woodley? No, not after a stat line in Oakland that included all “zeroes.” Can it come from Ryan Clark? Nope. His credibility is shot now with poor play and his growing interests outside the team.

The offensive line has one significant veteran in Ramon Foster who can lead but how much can he offer? He’s banged up and frankly, is Foster a starter in this league or more of a back-up? How much leadership can he provide?

I don’t know what it’s going to take for this team to actually start a game on ‘fire’ and with some enthusiasm and I really don’t care. They know it’s a problem and it’s up to them figure out a solution. It would just be nice to see someone step up and lead from the get-go not just the final quarter.

Marc Uhlmann writes for and co-owns Follow him on Twitter @steeldad and follow the website at @SCBlitz. He can be heard Mondays on Trib-Live Radio at 630pm ET talking Steelers and is a blogger for ESPN 970 in Pittsburgh.


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2 comments on “Steelers’ Slow Starts Result of Poor Leadership?

  1. I think it’s more of teams getting up on the Steelers and just playing it safe . The way the Steelers play on offense the game is already being shorten . So why take risks knowing there are only a handful of possessions in the game, it also explains the lack of turnovers.We are about to play a couple of QB’s who won’t take the pedal off the metal it will be interesting to see what happens.

    • I second what bob is saying. Wasn’t it great to see the Steelers play with the lead against the Ravens for most of the game? We have got to get in front and not play from behind! Remember the Cowher days? Use the full compliment of the offense to build a lead and then dumb it down to a physical ball control field position offensive game to maintain the lead and burn the clock. Remember Bettis running Brian Urlacher over like he was cardboard! WE NEED MORE OF THAT! Last year Vontez Burfict thought he was tough until Willie Colon got on top of him and squashed him like a grape while telling him about his mama. That play seemed to turn the tide of that game and I believe that we took it from the Bengals. I know Colon had offensive penalties but he’s gone. Kemoeatu also had penalties and bad knees but was very physical -gone. We’ve got some quite guys on the O line now. Fernando Velasco seems like he could be a star, particularly next year when Pouncey returns. The point about the lack of leadership is spot on. It seems like the team needs a player or a cause to rally around.

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