Friday, October 21, 2016

3 Rivers Rundown 10.21.16: Steelers Mid-Season Report & Big Ben's Vacation

By Jaison Roberts, @Kratoslives

Most sports blogs have already given their mid-season reports, but this is the Steelers. Our mid-season just started, since Big Ben got hurt. How is this mid-season, you might be asking? Well, he is on schedule to miss his yearly 4 games.

At this time, the Steelers are 4-2. This is with two devastating losses, with the worst being the loss to Miami. That loss was the start of Big Ben's yearly vacation and his nagging injuries. His knee injury from the previous year flared up and needed another surgery. This wouldn't be as bad if it wasn't for the defense already being a walking M.A.S.H unit. Cam Heyward, Ryan Shazier and Bud Dupree are on the shelf. Not bad considering we are 4-2, but here comes the Patriots.

With our defense in complete shambles, this is the wrong team coming to town. They're going to kill us since we can't generate a pass rush. Tom Brady is going to go nuts and our secondary is his target. Our rotation of Tuitt, Hargrave and Heyward can't get pressure on the QB. Daniel McCullers & Ricardo Matthews are major disappointments. They have the size, just not the functional skills.

They were manhandled by a weak Miami offensive line that just ran right at them and through them. Not only was it sad but telling of things to come. Which leads to our own offensive line, which is hurt and influx with too many injuries. This is causing major problems with pass protection. That was clear when we played the Eagles and their "Wide Nine" defense. This defense worked so well causing break downs, the Dolphins duplicated it and got the same results the win. The great news our bye week is here.

When we come off our bye week, we get the Ravens and Cowboys. Even if the Steelers lose, we'll still be in second place. Hard to imagine that, but the Bengals have come back down to Earth. A Cowboys loss is out of the division, so not as bad as losing in the division. That will lead to the return of Big Ben and the return of offensive stability. Our defense will be up and running after the bye week so I'm hoping we'll have a chance of stealing a win or two.

Now back to our mid-season report, the Steelers are ahead of schedule which is amazing. We have found a new offense which seems to be 2 to 3 deep in skill positions, other than QB. The TE position is actually the most surprising with Xavier Gimble and Jesse James trying to phase out TE Ladarius Green.

The only weak spot remains our offensive line, due to injuries, not due to poor play. This is a great problem to have since in our recent past, it was just poor playing. Our defensive line is now in the same boat as our past offensive line with poor play, but it's due to injury. But most importantly it's also due to bad drafting & free agent signings (McCullers & Matthews).
Now here comes the real issue with our defense, our linebackers are still rebuilding. Yes, we have Shazier, Dupree and Timmons. Sounds good for a core until you realize Jarvis Jones is still under performing and Shazier & Dupree are hurt. Father time has finally caught up to James Harrison and the newbies at LB are still learning.

Speaking of our newbies at linebacker, they're a least a season away from making that position formidable again. Its great but still sucks since we are in the middle of this season. Now as for the Steelers defensive backs, other than Mike Mitchell, it's crickets and I do mean crickets. They make so much noise during practice and pregame warm ups but during the games, NOTHING. Other than improving on tackling they, all need hand transplants. Our special teams have held their own but no Splash Plays have come from them to this point.

The coaching has gotten better on the offensive side and the defensive side, excluding Carnell Lake. He continues to be the coaching staff albatross, so let me say, Carnell it's time for you to go. I can't believe I said it, but really Carnell Lake it's time for you to go. You were a great player for us but you are not a good coach. I feel you have a wealth of knowledge, but you may not be a teacher which is a problem if you can't convey the message.

So as we prepare for the second half, the team has a clear cut path to the playoffs. We just need to go .500 until Big Ben's return. Which means the offense should revolve around Le'Veon Bell and DeAngelo Williams. Stick to this plan that will give quarterback Landry Jones a chance to use play-action passes to move the ball deep. The whole league knows we are deadly when going deep.

Mike Tomlin, Head Coach: grade B+, would've gotten an A but Carnell Lake is on your staff
Todd Haley, Offensive Coordinator: A, you're proving why you'll get another head coaching job
Mike Munchek, Offensive Line: B, only due to the injuries
Richard Mann, Wide Receiver Coach: A+, your a God among men when it comes to picking talent
James Saxon, Running Back Coach: A, two words Bell & Williams
Keith Butler, Defensive Coordinator: C+, injuries are keeping your grade down
Mike Mitchell, Defensive Line: C+, Injuries and bad picks are hurting you
Joey Porter & Jerry Olsavsky, Linebackers Coach: B, injuries and Jarvis Jones
Carnell Lake, Defensive Backs Coach: C, Only reason why your grade is this high is Mike Mitchell
Danny Smith, Special Teams: C, Haven't lost or won a game, so I won't go higher

Overall Team Grade: B-, Again injuries and Carnell Lake are the main reasons why the grade is so low. You must prove it after the Pats & bye week or 3/4 season grade may be lower.

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