Sunday, October 9, 2011

1/4th of the Way Through: A Quarter Season in Review

Pictured: The 2011 Pittsburgh Steelers' offensive line.

Before I get started, I just want to join in the condolences to Raider Nation on the passing of Al Davis. I know it sounds weird coming from a Steeler fan, but without great villains there are no great heroes. Having a worthy adversary to battle against made being a fan that much more enjoyable. I'm sure right now he's wearing his tracksuit in heaven telling God to suck his dick or
else he's moving to Los Angeles.

On to the matter at hand: what the fuck happened to the Steelers this year? Prior to the season, when the schedules came out, people saw who the Steelers had to face and had visions of 14-2 being a worse case scenario. When Peyton's neck went boom, there was even talk that with a lucky bounce or two against the Pats, a 16-0 season wouldn't be out of the question. Needless to say that nonsense stopped real fast after the Ravens made them pick up the soap in week one. Seattle was next, and despite winning it wasn't the truly decisive win you'd like to see against a team starting Tavaris Jackson at QB. The Manning-less Colts were next, and the Steelers nearly suffered the indignity of having a game winning drive run on them by Curtis Fucking Painter before he remembered he's terrible and short armed his last 3 passes. To close out the first quarter of the year, the team traveled to Houston only to have the Texans put on a display of Arian Power all over the defense.

So that's what happened, but why did it happen? So far two things seem clear: the lack of off season workouts due to the lockout clearly hurt everyone as the first two weeks of the season were chock full of awful looking football, but as an older team it seemed to especially hurt the Steelers. There is just no semblance of rhythm anywhere on this team, the offensive line can't run block for shit, and the D-line has opposing teams cut blocking their balls off and so far can't seem to do anything about it. The second thing that seems clear so far is that apparently 3/4ths of the team did no sort of conditioning or training program during the lockout, as (with the exception of James Harrison's broken eye bone) player after player is falling victim to the kind of muscle pull type injuries that are the hallmark of an out of shape football player. Ben even joked that inviting his teammates to his wedding may have been a bad idea since it let all the coaches see how out of shape they got. Consider how bad things have become: they cut Max Starks during the pre-season due to questions about his neck being healed properly, and clearly they weren't alone since he went unsigned despite being 6'8 and 340-ish pounds, yet ended up having to sign him back due to injuries to FOUR other linemen already this year. Consider that Chris Kemoeatu's knee is pretty much Jell-o and cheetos dust, the front five for this weeks game will be the following:

LT- Max Starks, cut in the preseason and resigned.
LG- Doug Legursky, here primarily because he's the only other lineman on the team who can pull like Kemoeatu, plus gives the folks who like cheering for scrappy white guys something to look forward to.
C- Maurkice Pouncey, who must be feeling he somehow went back in time and is playing on his high school JV team again
RG - Ramon Foster, who's qualifications for being an offensive lineman in the NFL are that he's big, and well....he's big.
RT- Marcus Gilbert, rookie who's just barely finished reading the playbook

Oh yeah, those guys get to try to stop the Titan's defense who are looking like what the Steelers' defense normally looks like. Good luck with that.

But all is not lost, even if they don't win this game. Other than the Pats, there's no other games on the schedule you wouldn't feel confident going into. This team with the road ahead of them should in no way finish anything less than 10-6. As long as they don't break into a mass panic, they should be fine. What should help is Rashard Mendenhall's injury that will probably keep him out of this game. The last thing a team with this line needs is a back who tries to Dougie his way through openings. Isaac Redman should get the majority of work, and he's a Bettis-like back who puts his head down and plows, which even this offensive line of misfit toys should be able to block for.

The other big key is making sure Ben doesn't try to win the game all by himself. He's been getting in trouble going for the home run, and teams are keying on it, which is leading to turnovers. There's nothing wrong with a 5-6 yard gain, and those are less likely to get turned into pick-6's like long bombs tend to be.

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