At this point we can probably stop playing the, “Well, if the Steelers can win this game the season might start to look different” game.
Following their latest defeat, a 34-27 loss at the hands of the previously winless Minnesota Vikings over in London, the Steelers are off to their first 0-4 start since the 1968 season. That, of course, was the year before Chuck Noll took over. So, yeah, it’s been a long ass time since Pittsburgh has seen a football team like this. And make no mistake, this team appears to be every bit as bad as their 0-4 record.
What makes it even worse is this goes as far back as the middle of last season.
Since the Steelers (barely) beat the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 10 to improve to 6-3, they have put together a 2-9 record in the regular season (just for laughs, they also had an 0-4 preseason record in there, too).
Some stunning numbers to help illustrate how we have reached this point:
Over the aforementioned 11 games the Steelers have turned the football over 32 times (including 11 this season). They have just 11 takeaways (including ZERO this season — they are the only team in the NFL through Week 4 that has not created a takeaway on defense). Their quarterbacks have sacked 36 times (including 15 this season). The defense has generated just 24 sacks (including just four this season).
And that my friends is how you go 2-9 over an 11-game stretch in the NFL. At this point there isn’t one aspect of this team that is even remotely interesting or encouraging. The offensive line is a tire fire where the best player might actually be the guy that was signed off the street in Week 2, the wide receivers can’t get open, and the defense stinks. Even as the offense started to show signs of life on Sunday it still wasn’t enough as the defense allowed a Matt Cassel-led offense put up 34 points. And they were never really a threat to stop them. When the offense isn’t there, the defense is at least OK. When the offense shows up, the defense lays an egg. That is the type of thing that happens when you’re a bad football team, which the 2013 Steelers most definitely are.
I’ve beaten this horse quite a bit this season, but we’re beyond the point of bad luck when it comes to the defense and forcing turnovers. This is something that has been going on since the start of the 2011 season, and I think it directly relates to the declining pass rush that seems to be getting worse by the week.
What makes things even worse is they no longer appear able to stop the run. Adrian Peterson’s 60-yard touchdown run to give Minnesota a 17-7 lead is the play that makes all of the highlights, but check out his second touchdown run from inside the five-yard line. Found this clip on YouTube and it’s amazing how the line just opens up. Every person in the stadium knows he is getting the football here. And he walked through a hole that was so big that just about any person on the planet could have made it through.
I think the most frustrating part of Sunday’s game — for me, anyway — was Emmanuel Sanders stopping his route and allowing Chad Greenway to intercept a pass, and then instead of touching Greenway to stop the play, he instead jumped around and threw a temper tantrum. In hindsight, the decision to keep Sanders and not take the third-round draft pick from New England is looking like a pretty bad move. It’s not that Sanders has been awful (but he certainly hasn’t been great), it’s that 1) The Steelers have a ton of holes to fill and need as many draft picks as they can get, and 2) They’re probably not going to re-sign Sanders and keeping him for one extra year when he isn’t going to be the difference between making the playoffs and missing the playoffs is really shortsighted.
So all of that happened.
The Steelers are now two games behind every team in the AFC North (including the Brian Hoyer-led Cleveland Browns) and can not possibly win their first game until Week 6 of the NFL season.
Strange times indeed.