As the Pittsburgh Steelers head into their bye week, there is much to be excited about. The team is 6-2 and atop the AFC North by a comfortable margin and they would also have the top seed in the AFC were the postseason to begin today. The future even looks brighter when you look at the next four games but there are too many question marks right now that must be addressed.
Why are Things Lining Up?
In the four weeks following the BYE, the Steelers will play Green Bay and Tennessee at home and will travel to Indianapolis and Cincinnati. The Packers will likely still be without Aaron Rodgers and Indianapolis is a team in a complete quagmire. The Titans are capable of beating anyone but they haven’t shown a lot of consistency. The Steelers have already beaten the Bengals and actually have a better record IN Cincinnati recently than in Heinz Field.
The argument that they should come out of this stretch no worse than 3-1 is valid. A 4-0 run here would also have validity to it as well but I’m not going to get too far ahead of myself.
The Steelers should also have both Marcus Gilbert and Stephon Tuitt back on the field. I was told that had the Lions’ game been a postseason one, both would have played. The extra week right now comes at a great time for them. It also comes at a great time too for several other guys nursing injuries and dealing with those nagging boo-boos that happen during the season.
Where is the Improvement Needed?
We saw the defense take a monstrous step forward in the red zone against Detroit but what about that pass defense? After giving up an average of just 147 yards passing per game, the Steelers were torched to the tune of over 400 yards by Matthew Stafford. His success was due in part to poor coverage and not enough pressure. Stafford is the best quarterback Pittsburgh has seen this season and if that is a harbinger of things to come against other good QBs then I have serious concerns.
The Steelers’ Red Zone offense has struggled and it’s a combination of poor execution, poor play-calling and poor use of personnel. These are things that can be addressed and fixed but these things must happen now. Kicking field goals will beat the Bengals of the world but it won’t get you past the Patriots in the regular or postseason. The lack of creativity, good play-calling and solid execution constantly haunt the offense.
One other place that improvement is needed is on special teams. Specifically, I’m talking about Jordan Berry who needs to punt better and with more consistency. Dropping the ball inside the 20 is easily his forte but he also has to be able to hit some big punts when the team is backed up in its’ own territory. It’s unlikely this is going to significantly change but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t need attention.
There’s so much to like about where the Steelers are right now but they’d be the first to tell that they can be better. If the goal truly is to secure home-field advantage and advance to the Super Bowl then the little things have to be taken care of and sooner rather than later.
Photo courtesy: SI.com