MORNING STEELERS BUZZ
Did the Steelers being on a bye in week 4, bring up even more alarming signs for their struggling defense that was torched by the Oakland Raiders for 34 points in their 34-31 week 3 loss to Oakland?
A week after thrashing the Steelers defense, Carson Palmer and the Raiders offense looked more like themselves in a 35-6 road loss to the Denver Broncos, limited to just six points against a middle of the pack Broncos defense that had given up 58 points in the Broncos previous two games.
The Raiders went 1-12 on third down vs the Broncos, while Pittsburgh couldn’t stop them on third down last week, as Palmer and the Raiders went 7 of 12, including 7 of 8 on third down in the second half against Pittsburgh in week 3.
Oakland’s offense scored just 14 points in week 1 vs San Diego, 13 points in week 2 vs Miami and now 6 points vs Denver in week 4.
That was a mediocre offense that Pittsburgh gave up 34 points to and as the Steelers come out of the bye week, they enter a crucial game against the 3-1 Philadelphia Eagles, who arguably have the most complete offense the Steelers will have faced so far this season.
With Troy Polamalu expecting to play, we’re going to find out quickly if the Steelers issues in Oakland were more about just having no Polamalu and James Harrison.
As for Harrison, Steelers officials have not been optimistic for Harrison to play Sunday vs the Eagles but we’ll see if things change this week. Harrison had a setback following last Tuesday’s practice.
— It is crucial for Pittsburgh to avoid starting 1-3 because Baltimore and Cincinnati have both started the season 3-1. For the Steelers you don’t want to get in an early hole. The Bengals face Miami and Cleveland the next two weeks and should be 5-1 for when they come to Pittsburgh in week 7. Baltimore should get to 4-1 as they face Kansas City in week 5.
Rashard Mendenhall is on track to make his season debut vs the Eagles. After all this talk during the off-season about Isaac Redman being a viable No. 1 running back, Mendenhall’s return gives him the inside track to regain his starting job without much of a fight. Pittsburgh ranks 31st in the NFL in rushing yards per game (65.0) and yards per carry (2.6) and no running back has rushed for over 50 yards. In what was viewed as a mediocre season, Mendenhall averaged 4.1 yards per carry and had 9 touchdowns in 2011. While he leaves some yards out there, he’s a better back than he’s given credit for. Where the Steelers coaching staff is intrigued about Mendenhall is getting him the ball on screen passes and him making things happen in open space. Haley has a strong emphasis on Roethlisberger checking down to the running backs and there’s been a feeling in the organization that the Steelers have never maxed out Mendenhall’s potential as a pass catcher.
— Scary news in Indianapolis as Colts head coach Chuck Pagano has been diagnosed with a treatable form of leukemia, team owner Jim Irsay announced at a news conference Monday. Pagano has acute myeloid leukemia, where the bone marrow is producing abnormal white blood cells that interfere with healthy blood cells. Symptoms can include weakness, weight loss and easy bruising or bleeding. Treatments can include chemotherapy, drugs and radiation therapy.
The Colts are optimistic about Pagano making a full recovery but Pagano is not expected to be able to resume full head coaching duties this season. Therefore, former Steelers offensive coordinator Bruce Arians will become the Colts interim head coach and likely serve in that role for the entire season.