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MIRZA ZUKIC: Face the facts, the Steelers stink

by on September 23, 2013 11:00 AM

PITTSBURGH — The five turnovers the Steelers committed Sunday night were a convenient excuse for Mike Tomlin.

In his postgame news conference, the Steelers’ coach pointed to the turnovers again and again as the reason why the Steelers lost 40-23 to Chicago. Four questions he answered with some version of the following: We can’t turn the ball over five times and expect to win.

This is true.

But if you think for a split second the turnovers are the Steelers’ only problem, well … that’s wishful thinking.

The Steelers have issues in every aspect of their game. Lots of them.

Where to begin?

They can’t run the ball.

They can’t block.

They can’t convert third downs or red-zone opportunities. And that’s just the offense.

On defense, Pittsburgh is still struggling to put pressure on the quarterback, and in the absence of middle linebacker Larry Foote, teams are exploiting the middle of the Steelers’ defense.

The Bengals and the Bears both had success going up the gut at nose tackle Steve McClendon and the inside linebackers.

And yes, the Steelers are not forcing any turnovers while committing too many. Pittsburgh has nine turnovers in three games.

It’s hard to accept for a proud fan base like Steelers Nation, but you have to grin and bear it, folks: The Steelers are just a bad NFL team. Among the worst in the league this year.

Bad teams have lots of turnovers. They commit dumb penalties at crucial times, they can’t move the ball and they can’t get defensive stops in key situations.

All these are characteristics of this year’s Steelers, who at the very least are rebuilding if not in the running for the No. 1 overall pick in next year’s draft.

You’re all familiar with the Steelers rushing statistics. They have 156 yards in three games. What’s worse, each of the Steelers’ three active running backs has fumbled the ball at least once.

The play of offensive tackles Mike Adams and Marcus Gilbert was so bad that Tomlin gave Kelvin Beachum reps at both tackle positions Sunday.

“They hadn’t played well enough to justify otherwise,” Tomlin said.

Nearly a month into the season, Tomlin is trying to figure out his offensive line. That’s the kind of stuff you do in preseason, further proof of the state of disarray the Steelers are in.

And don’t try to pin this on Maurkice Pouncey’s injury.

This has nothing to do with the center position, and everything to do with how greatly a pair of second-round picks in Adams and Gilbert have disappointed. Their awful play is largely the reason the pocket collapses around Roethlisberger on every dropback.

The defense has played well in stretches but can’t make a stop when the game is in the balance. On Sunday night, after one of Shaun Suisham’s three field goals got Pittsburgh within 27-23 early in the fourth quarter, the defense allowed Jay Cutler and the Bears to march 74 yards rather easily and regain a double-digit lead again.

And Roethlisberger has become a turnover machine, with four on Sunday night and six on the season. He’s been overthrowing his receivers the entire season, and he doesn’t appear to be ready to carry the team.

On multiple occasions leading up to the regular season, Roethlisberger shrugged off questions about the perception the Steelers were in for a long season.

He even poked fun at reporters for questioning his steadfast confidence in the 2013 Steelers.

“The outsiders can doubt us all they want. That’s fine. There’s no secret that we want to be great so that we can rub it in all of your guys’ faces,” Roethlisberger joked in early September.

A month later, the franchise quarterback is aware of the grave situation the Steelers are in. Only three teams since 1990 have started a season 0-3 and made the playoffs.

“It’s a deep hole and it’s getting deeper,” he said, a concerned look on his face. “We’re going to have to give it everything we’ve got to get out.”

There’s no getting out. The Steelers are just a bad NFL team.

It’s OK to admit it to yourself. It’ll make Mondays less miserable.

Mirza Zukic is a sports writer that primarily covers the Pittsburgh Steelers and is the Gazette's track and field beat writer.
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