The Pittsburgh Steelers are coming off a tough road loss to the Denver Broncos last Sunday night. If the Steelers are going to right the ship and get in the win column against the New York Jets, there are five Steelers who need to step up and step up now.
Former Steelers offensive coordinator Bruce Arians was always a lightning rod during his tenure in Pittsburgh. When the Steelers won, Arians got more credit than he probably deserved. When the Steelers lost, Arians got more fault than he probably deserved. Such is the way with coaches, particularly coordinators.
Now that former Kansas City Chiefs head coach Todd Haley is the new play-caller in the Steel City, he moves under the microscope. The Steelers will not win or lose just because of Haley’s play-calling. The fact is, he needs to call a better game against the Jets than he did against the Broncos.
The Steelers need to be less predictable. Far too often in Week 1, the Steelers were run on first down, run on second down, pass on third-and-long, rinse and repeat. Haley needs to open up the playbook, keep the Jets defense off-balance and—most importantly—stretch the field.
Steelers running Isaac Redman struggled mightily in Denver last week. Redman had just 20 yards on 11 carries for a putrid average of 1.8 yards per carry. Part of the blame falls on the overly predictable play-calling of Haley and part of the blame falls on an offensive line that could not have run blocked for Barry Sanders against the Broncos.
However, part of the fault definitely lays squarely on Redman. Redman lacked the burst we have seen from him in the past that had made him such an effective change-of-pace back for the black and gold.
If the Steelers offense is going to start firing on all cylinders, then much of that will fall on the shoulders, or in this case, the legs of Redman. Maybe Redman was still hobbled by nagging injuries in Week 1. Whatever the reason, Redman needs to show up big.
If Redman wants to get the lion’s share of the carries until RB Rashard Mendenhall returns, and if he does not want to be supplanted by former Georgia Tech standout Jonathan Dwyer, then he needs to have a big Sunday.
The offensive line
The Steelers’ offensive line has been a source of concern for years for the team. There were high hopes heading into the preseason after the team spent its first two picks on highly touted linemen David DeCastro (Stanford) and Mike Adams (Ohio State). After the potentially season-ending injury to DeCastro and the lackluster play by Adams, expectations have been calibrated.
Even with lowered expectations, the offensive line was still a disappointment against the Broncos. The run-blocking was downright terrible, and OL Doug Legursky, who took over for injured OL Ramon Foster, had a particularly bad game.
The good news for the Steelers is that Foster is good to go for Sunday and OL Marcus Gilbert, who left the Broncos with a hyper-extended knee, is also probable for the Jets game. Additionally, the Steelers hope they can get more consistent play out of Adams, who struggled at times in relief of Gilbert.
Pro Bowl LB James Harrison missed last week’s game, and despite Harrison’s insistence that he would be ready to go for the Jets game, it appears the Steelers will be without his services this Sunday. Harrison provides an edge, an aggressiveness and a nastiness to the Steelers defense that was missing last week.
With strong safety Troy Polamalu also potentially out this week, the Steelers will need a big game out of second-year LB Chris Carter.
Carter will need to provide the defense with a spark, and help put pressure on Jets QB Mark Sanchez, which was lacking against Broncos QB Peyton Manning. With many key components of the Steelers defense aging, Carter needs to show that there are young guns on the roster ready to step up and be plugged into defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau’s scheme.
Wide receiver Mike Wallace missed all of training camp and the entire preseason due to a holdout. Whether it was a little rust, a lack of knowledge of the Haley playbook or just the play-calling, the speedy Steelers WR was not the game-changer he could have been against the Broncos.
While Wallace did haul in a TD pass from QB Ben Roethlisberger, he finished the game with just four receptions and 37 yards—the longest reception going for 14 yards. We all know that Big Ben likes to throw the HR ball, and nothing will help open up the running game for the offense like stretching the field in the passing game. No one is more capable of doing that than Wallace.