Is this the beginning of the end of the Pittsburgh Steelers?
The Steelers have not played like a team with their sites set on another Super Bowl Championship, let alone a playoff team. Ben Roethlisberger is looking like a 38-year-old quarterback that should consider retiring.
Although the Steelers have an 11-2 record, they were fortunate to win against the Titans 27-24, the Cowboys 24-19, and the Ravens in Baltimore 28-24.
If not for the defense’s play, the Steelers would be looking at an 8-5 record and battling Miami, Baltimore, and Las Vegas for one of the last playoff spots in the AFC.
The big thing that is hurting the Steelers on the offensive side of the ball is the lack of a solid running game. Since the Steelers and Le’Veon Bell parted company, the Steelers have ranked near the bottom of the league in rushing every year.
This year the Steelers are averaging 89.1 yards per game running the ball, which is next to last in the league.
James Conner has had more than a fair shot to show what he can do. Although the starter on the depth chart, he is not the long term answer at running back.
The Steelers have a long history of great running backs going back to Franco, Harris, Barry Foster, Jerome Betts, Willie Parker, Rashard Mendenhall, and Le’Veon Bell.
James Conner is nowhere near the level of those backs.
The Steelers need a strong running game to take the pressure off Roethlisberger. That has not happened, and the Steelers offense is struggling.
The Steelers are averaging 335 yards a game offensively, which ranks 22nd in the league. The only potential playoff teams lower than the Steelers are the Miami Dolphins, The Washington Football Team, and the New York Giants.
The Steelers are 4-2 against teams with winning records and will close out the season with games against Cincinnati, Indianapolis, and Cleveland.
The Steelers could finish 12-4 as games against the Colts and the Browns could end up in the loss column.
The Steelers defense has kept them competitive in most games this season, and they are second in the league in total defense, giving up 302 yards a game.
Defensively, the loss of linebacker Bud Dupree is going to be a massive blow to the Steelers. Since the loss of Dupree, the Steelers are 0-2. What’s concerning is how they have lost.
The Steelers were up 14-0 against Washington at the half and were outscored 23-3 in the second half. In the game against the Buffalo bills, the Steelers had a 7-0 and lost the game 26-15. The Steelers were outscored 17-8 in the second half.
The Steelers are going to the playoffs. That is not even a question. The Steelers would host at least one game if the playoffs were to start today.
The lack of a running game and the loss of Bud Dupree all adds up to an early exit for the Steelers in this year’s playoffs.
The defense has always been a strength for this team. It’s time to focus on the quarterback of the future. The Steelers need to draft a replacement for Ben Roethlisberger and draft a running back to bring back a solid running game to the Steelers.