we've learned they're 0-3 on the road so far this season...
Road struggles a concern
by F. Dale Lolley
ASHVILLE, Tenn. – Perhaps these Steelers just lack a killer instinct.
Don’t get me wrong; we’ve seen it at times, particularly in the friendly confines of Heinz Field.
On the road, however, things have been quite different.
This team just doesn’t seem to have moxie on the road, something that separates average teams from good ones and good ones from great ones.
The Steelers aren’t likely to find many road venues more accommodating than LP Field was Thursday night yet they still lost, 26- 23. Half of the crowd here was wearing black and gold.
But these Steelers stumbled and bumbled their way through a game against what should have been a far inferior team, one that had given up 30 or more points in each of its first five games en route to a 1-4 start.
When you consider the Titans came into this game averaging 17 points per game and scored 16 in the first half against the Steelers, you can see the issue.
This was a team the Steelers of previous seasons would have come out and put away in the first half before locking things into cruise control in the second half. For whatever reason, this group only does that at home, if at all.
Perhaps the leadership the Steelers lost in the offseason with the retirements of Aaron Smith, Hines Ward and James Farrior was a bigger loss than anyone imagined.
Certainly, the Steelers have competently replaced those three on the field.
Smith hadn’t played much in recent seasons, and Larry Foote and Antonio Brown split time with Farrior and Ward, respectively, last season.
Where’s the grit on this team?
Who’s the guy who is going to get in the face of others when they aren’t pulling their weight?
James Harrison is gritty and has the ability to speak out when somebody’s not getting the job done, but last night was just his second game of the year after he underwent knee surgery in August.
On offense, however, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has the team’s complete attention as a leader, but there’s a seeming lack of the fire that Ward brought to each game, even at the end of his career when he wasn’t used as much.
This team also lacks discipline, as can be seen from the fact it entered Thursday night’s game leading the NFL in penalties per game.
The Steelers did a better job in that regard against the Titans, but some of the penalties assessed against them were big, including a 25-yard pass interference call against cornerback Ike Taylor in the first quarter that put the ball at the Pittsburgh 2-yard line.
The Steelers forced a field goal in that situation, but those are simply the type of plays that must be cleaned up, particularly if you hope to win on the road – even against a below-average team such as the Titans.
If it only happened last night at Tennessee, it could have been chalked up to playing on the road on a short week.
Considering we’ve seen the Steelers muddle their way through all three of their road games, a trend has certainly developed. It doesn’t bode well for this team in the long term unless the Steelers figure out a way to solve some of the issues that confront it on the road.