Re: Time to panic?
Well, if last night proved anything, it's that NFL analysts don't know jack shit.
I watched Playbook last week and listened to how the Steelers should dominate the Patriots because Ben is a great QB and we have a running game now and how the only shot New England had was to rely solely on Tom Brady. And I wanted to believe.
But deep down, I just couldn't.
The offense has struggled week to week, and its already pathetic O-Line is now chock full of back-up players. And given that the STARTERS on this unit (with the exception of Pouncey, who has played really well) tend to suck so bad that no other team in the league would even dream about using these guys in any capacity, well, safe to say, I knew to expect multiple sacks.
Then you add in our "improved" running game. I'm sorry, but I haven't been impressed with Bendandfall - sorry Mendenhall - for the past three seasons. I know that he's had a few impressive games and/or runs here and there, but the guy is just too inconsistent. He couldn't run against a horrible Browns defense last year when we really needed a win and it was too windy to throw the ball. And now he couldn't run against a crappy Pats defense that gave up 200 yards or something ridiculous to Peyton Hillis, a guy no one had ever even heard of before this season. Now granted, the Steelers did kind of give up on the run early, but multiple 3 & outs and backfield tackles will do that to you.
As for Ben - I tend to go easier on him than most people because he's played behind the worst O-Line I've ever seen year after year (seriously, I'd take the Redskins' O-Line over these guys) and has still managed to produce big numbers and big victories. But he's seemed to be off his game lately and I think that there are three main reasons: 1. trouble focusing in light of all of his recent off-the field problems and other pressures 2. no time to throw and 3. the lack of a WR who can run AND catch. For all of you who were rejoicing when Santonio got the boot, how are you feeling now? Holmes, like him or not, was a game-changing receiver. Ward and Miller are tough, but they're not fast. Wallace is fast, but he's not tough and occasionally gets a case of the Sweeds and drops important passes. And Randel El is worthless except on the occasional gadget play. Sanders might evolve into a true threat, but for now, he hasn't really stood out. Holmes was tough AND fast... the kind of WR who could take a 10-yard pass and turn it into a 40-yard TD. Just look at his game winner against Cleveland yesterday. THAT is what we are missing.
Finally, can we all finally agree that our defense is the most overrated unit in the NFL? I'm so sick of listening to these so-called experts gush over how brilliant the Steeler defense is, only to watch them get carved up either in the 4th quarter, or throughout the entire game, like last night. You want to know how to beat Pittsburgh? That's easy. Throw the ball. To anyone. Hell, just throw it up for grabs; it doesn't matter. Of course, if you want a surefire touchdown on every pass, just throw at William Gay. And no, I don't mean throw in his general direction. Throw it DIRECTLY AT HIM as if he were the intended receiver. Guaranteed, one of your WRs will get to it before he does.
Ultimately, failure starts at the top. People have been chanting "Fire Bruce Arians" in Pittsburgh for years, and it's time that happened, but I think a bigger house cleaning is necessary. Mike Tomlin has been coasting on Bill Cowher's legacy for long enough. He has no ideas, no solutions, and no clue how to coach a team that needs leadership. The only reason he has a Super Bowl ring is because he inherited a mostly complete team. And I also would go so far as to say that it's time for Dick LeBeau to retire. He is one of the greatest coaches of all time. But after last season and what we've seen of this one, I'm starting to think that the game has passed him by. His schemes no longer seem to be effective, and offenses all over the league are exploiting that. It might be time to bring in a fresh mind.