Down-right ticked off is about the only way I could describe the Steelers’ Nation over the last 48 hours as the wounds from a serious butt-kicking remained open. We have high expectations for our team and that often qualifies us as ‘spoiled’ when things don’t go well. Fine, call me spoiled but it is what it is. We demand better.
This team stands at 7-6 and currently holds the sixth and final spot in the AFC for the playoffs and would need to go 3-0 and get serious implosions from both Indianapolis and Baltimore to move up the ladder at all. Those are possibilities mind you, but the Steelers have to take care of their own house before they worry about others. This team is not far from turning this thing around and the only thing stopping them is themselves and their current philosophy.
Here’s where they can change things right now…
- Stop being what you are not. No matter how much the powers that be want this team to be a physical, running offense, it isn’t going to happen. Just because the team had success in three straight games doesn’t eliminate the fact the rest of the season has been basically wasted on failed rushing attempts. Start spreading the field and get David Paulson and Will Johnson off of it. Was it any coincidence that the Steelers’ touchdowns came with those two on the sidelines Sunday? No. Let Ben be Ben and get back to the passing attack that led the league on third down conversions and time of possession. This is not the 1970’s.
- Utilize Chris Rainey. Was I the only one who saw the entire Baltimore Ravens’ defense flow with the movement of Rainey on a beautifully designed play where Charlie Batch hit Heath Miller with a big gainer? Teams know when he is on the field and they fear his speed. You are allowed to use that concept more than once per game last I checked. Get him involved more in the passing attack as well. If the Patriots can constantly dump the ball to Danny Woodhead why can’t we do it to Chris Rainey?
- Get Steve McLendon on the field. All off-season and all pre-season all we heard was how great Steve McLendon was going to be this year. He was a beast in training camp and during the pre-season and then…. Nothing. This is not a knock on Casey Hampton per se because I’ve been very impressed with what the veteran has been able to do, but McLendon is too talented and hungry to be collecting dust on the sideline. He consistently holds his own and gets a good push on the few snaps he’s been in there. Get him on the field more often especially in passing situations.
- Let Lawrence Timmons loose. Lawrence Timmons is arguably the best tackler on the field and yet much of the time he sits back in zone coverage or has man-to-man responsibilities on a back or tight end. If you look at the games where Timmons has been the most effective, those are the games where he is allowed to attack the line of scrimmage. Think the Washington game for example. This defense needs playmakers right now and using Timmons as a ‘floater’ does nothing for him or the defense.
- Play and coach with urgency. I’m really not interested in your ‘business-like approach’ right now with three games to go. I want to see guys on the field and on the sidelines looking like these games matter. I want to see effort and fire which were were both sorely lacking by far too many guys on Sunday. I’m all for the ‘standard being the standard’ but who says the standard can’t use some fire every now and then?
- Get Mendenhall involved. Based on what I’ve seen from Isaac Redman the last couple of weeks, is getting Rashard Mendenhall some touches really that bad? The way this team is going, a fumble or two from Mendy is par for the course. Time to change things up a bit and use his explosiveness in spread packages.
I don’t have all the answers but I know what I believe this team needs to do. Now it’s a matter of doing it. No need for the drawing board because everything the Steelers need is right there in front of them. Time to step up and get it done!
Marc Uhlmann writes for and co-owns www.steelcityblitz.com. Follow him on Twitter @steeldad and follow the website at @SCBlitz. He can be heard Mondays on Trib-Live Radio at 4pm ET talking Steelers.