The Pittsburgh Steelers chances of earning a playoff berth took another serious blow Thursday night as the Steelers lost their 5th straight game in what has become a stunning collapse for a team that had the look of being another Super Bowl contender, through the first eight weeks of the season.
The AFC playoff picture is bunched up and even if the Steelers found a way to turn things around and win out, which appears very unlikely, their conference losses (6) has them needing Jacksonville to lose 3 games, Baltimore to lose 2 games and the Jets losing 2 games for a chance to clinch the 6th seed.
JAX 7-5 (Miami, Indy, at New England, at Cleveland)
BAL 6-6 (Detroit, Chicago, at PIT, Oakland)
Miami 6-6 (at Jacksonville, at Tennessee, Houston, PIT)
NY Jets 6-6 (at Tampa Bay, Atlanta, at Indy, Cincinnati)
PIT 6-7 ( Green Bay, Baltimore, at Miami)
The Steelers clearly need a lot of help from the football gods and at this point, the playoffs are an afterthought. This team hasn’t been able to get a win since week 9 and getting just one win in the final three games is going to be difficult enough for a team that in some eyes has quit.
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*** The Pittsburgh Steelers were 6-0 in the division last year. This year they are now 1-4 against the AFC North.
***Did Thursday night’s loss seal Bruce Arians fate? No, not as of now. Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is a strong supporter of Arians which goes a long way and Arians was the offensive coordinator of a Super Bowl winning team that will have two 1,000 + yard receivers this year along with a 3,000 + yard passer and a young running back who is 60 yards away from 1,000 rushing yards, after only having 7 total carries in the first three games of the season.
However, sources indicate if the offense totally collapses in the final three games, head coach Mike Tomlin would evaluate the situation very closely after the season.
Arians main priority in the final three games is to rectify the Steelers redzone woes.
***Troy Polamalu will be evaluated by team doctors in the next couple days and barring a setback, is on track to return to the lineup in week 15 against Green Bay. The return of Polamalu may be the trick for the Steelers getting back on track but his potential return is a week or two late.
***Lawrence Timmons has taken a lot of criticism from the national and local media in recent weeks. Timmons has not been as consistent as the Steelers would like but he’s the least of their worries.
James Farrior is the problem at middle linebacker not Timmons. In his 13th season, Farrior has been over-worked and is not an every down linebacker anymore.
He’s been beat on numerous occasions including last night on runs to the outside and offenses continue to take advantage of Farrior in the passing game by getting elusive running backs matched up 1-on-1 against him.
Farrior is still a capable player but the Steelers needed to tone down his workload this season considering they have a reliable backup in Keyaron Fox.
Ward hurt the team by playing?
Being at the game you get the advantage of seeing the entire field on every play and I thought Hines Ward should not have played.
He could not get off the line of scrimmage to create any space and just wasn’t close to 100%. At least four of Cleveland’s sacks were coverage sacks as Ward and Mike Wallace could not create any separation.
***Speaking of Wallace, one area of his game that he needs to improve into year two is his route running. If a cornerback gives him any kind of space, he’s going to blow by them but against aggressive schemes, he has struggled at times.
***The offensive line has regressed in the second half of the season and it has taken Heath Miller out of the passing game.
The Steelers are forced to keep Miller as a blocker in passing situations, which has hindered their passing attack.
***How the Steelers fix their offensive line next season is up in the air. They have made long-term commitments to Max Starks, Chris Kemoeatu and Justin Hartwig. Also, the team has all intentions of locking up Willie Colon after the season.
Right guard remains a major problem and the Steelers can’t risk going into next season with Kraig Urbik or Ramon Foster as a candidate to start. However, a new right guard will likely be the Steelers only change for next season.
***Mike Tomlin went back on his word this week. Tomlin stated on Monday that there would be personnel changes and there was not one change in the starting lineup against Cleveland.
In fact, Keenan Lewis who took first team reps in practice on Tuesday, didn’t even dress.
Next week you can bet on changes. One change will be Ramon Foster starting at right guard.
At 6-7, it’s also time to get the young guys some opportunities including wide receiver Limas Sweed. The Steelers have to find out what they have in him.