I recap every game the Steelers play. I even have a recap and notes written from Sunday’s affair in Cleveland. But I recap games the Steelers play.
I’m not sure they played Sunday.
Let’s not re-live that abomination. This team is at a crossroads right now, sitting at an iffy 3-3 with the hard part of the schedule still yet to come. If the Steelers play the way they did (or didn’t) in Cleveland, this is a 3-13 team and you can pre-order your Marcus Mariota jersey.
This isn’t to disparage the Browns. Somewhere along the line, they turned into a real NFL football team. I don’t know how much shame there is in losing to a cohesive, competitive team. What is shameful is the manner in which they lost. The Steelers have looked completely baffled on both sides of the ball, particularly in their last three halves against the Cleveland Browns.
The defense isn’t very good, and that’s to be expected with the personnel they have. When you have to go crawling back to the dusty corpses of Brett Keisel and James Harrison, you’re not carrying a top-5 defense anymore. Injuries to the actual talented youngsters Jarvis Jones and Ryan Shazier have set the team back even further. The defensive backfield is hot garbage, and Cameron Heyward really serves at the defense’s lone bright spot.
When your best defensive player is a 3-4 end, your defense is not going to win you games.
What is inexcusable is the lack of production on the offensive side of the football. This team has a legitimate winner at quarterback, a tandem of running backs as good as any in the league, and a wide receiver corps consisting of a bona fide star in Antonio Brown and a mix of young talent and veteran savvy behind him. The offensive line and their high pedigree has improved under Mike Munchak, especially when it comes to run blocking.
So why can the Steelers not score any freaking points? They move the ball up and down (and especially across) the field, but they come away empty-handed time and again. I get that there are 11 guys on the field trying to stop them, but you have to put up more than 10 points per game on offense. You have to.
That falls on the coaches.
While I believe the offensive coordinator is a position much more complicated and nuanced than the average dude on Twitter with an Xbox and Madden ’12 wants to believe, any of us can see that the offense is a problem right now. Much in the same way that I don’t need to be a gourmet chef to know my steak is overcooked, I don’t need a 10-year coaching background to know the Steelers are playing below their ability on offense. That’s a disaster, and it falls at the feet of the man charged with coordinating the offense.
I’ve been a defender of Haley’s for a long time, if only because I think most of the vitriol spewed his way is undeserved criticism from people who don’t actually know what he does. We’re past that now. It’s one thing to disagree with a play call that didn’t work, but it’s a whole new ballgame when an offense loaded personnel-wise barely hits double digits on the scoreboard.
Haley isn’t the right man for this job. I don’t know who is. But there must be someone out there able to get the most out of this team. Six weeks into the season, making a change now would solve very little in 2014, but by the time next year rolls around, the Steelers will need to have a new man on the sidelines or up in a booth, directing the offense. Haley just isn’t cutting it.
There are similar questions that could be raised about Mike Tomlin and, to a lesser extent in my opinion, Dick LeBeau. Those are questions for another article.