The Pittsburgh Steelers have lost their first two games for the first time since 2002. If they don’t turn things around, then things are going to get ugly.
According to the USA Today, 11.6 percent of teams who have started 0-2 since 1990 have made the playoffs.Only three teams have made it at 0-3 during that span, per NFL.com.
The Steelers’ problem is from an offensive standpoint. They can’t run the ball nor can they score. Pittsburgh has totaled 75 rushing yards through the first two weeks combined; only the Giants are worse.
It’s not going to get easier to run the football against a solid Chicago Bears defense that will be looking to shut down the Steelers’ attack. They rank 13th best against the rushing attack in the season’s first two weeks and are expected to continue their success.
Pittsburgh suffered a major injury to its offensive line when All-Pro center Maurkice Pouncey went down with a season-ending ACL injury. They have been unable to establish any consistency on the ground or even through the air. Receivers aren’t getting open and quarterback Ben Roethlisberger isn’t finding holes in the defense and doesn’t have enough time to throw.
Offensive coordinator Todd Haley is in his second season as the play-caller. He wants to establish the smash mouth football mindset the Steelers once had with Jerome Bettis and back in the 1970s. However, this team doesn’t have the personnel to fit his scheme.
Pittsburgh needs to abandon the run as their main focus and put the ball back in the hands of Roethlisberger. The Steelers ranked 23rd in rushing when the won Super Bowl XLIII against the Arizona Cardinals. Even with their suspect offensive line, if they can set up the run with the pass, this team can be successful.
The Steelers, who average 9.5 points per game in the first two weeks, need to make some changes quickly. Establishing a no-huddle sequence during the first possession of the game could help loosen the mind and tire out the opposing defense early. Roethlisberger went 6-of-10 for 103 yards out of the no-huddle last Monday against the Cincinnati Bengals. The key to a successful running game is being able to wear down a defense. Pittsburgh could do it early on to set the tempo of the game.
Wide receiver Markus Wheaton is a chip the Steelers haven’t released offensively. At this point, they have nothing to lose. The organization doesn’t usually start rookies this quickly, but Wheaton could provide a spark with his speed and upside.
The offense will also get some help with tight end Heath Miller expecting to return to the lineup on Sunday night. Miller had been out the first two weeks with an ACL injury from last season. The veteran had his breakout statistical campaign in 2012 with 71 catches for 816 yards and eight touchdowns. He is the security blanket for Roethlisberger that will draw some attention towards the middle of the field and away from the outside.
While the Steelers rank 24th against the rush, their pass-defense is ranked ninth and has been able to keep them in games. Defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau’s unit has been doing their job keeping the team afloat.
The Steelers can reverse their offensive issues in one week and can turn things around. They need to do it quickly or things will continue to go south.