Who’s to Blame for the Pittsburgh Steelers Morass?



Noun: morass

Plural noun: morasses

An area of muddy or boggy ground

Synonyms: quagmire, swamp, bog, marsh, muskeg, mire, marshland, wetland, slough, moor

A complicated or confused situation

Synonyms: confusion, chaos, muddle, tangle, entanglement, imbroglio, jumble, clutter

Okay, this definition is not to justify the thousands spent on my undergraduate and graduate education, but a special thanks to those who’ve supported me along the way.  No, this is to capture the state that is the once-proud Pittsburgh Steelers football organization.

Since the middle of last season and through the bye week, the Pittsburgh Steelers have lost 10 of their past 12 regular season games, this in spite of a generally easy schedule during this period.  But there are symptoms of deeper issues that belie the six-time World/Super Bowl Champions:

–        Their once great defense is now a porous mess, particularly as it relates to their run defense, currently ranked 25th versus the run and 24th, overall.

–        Their defensive secondary is the oldest in the National Football League (NFL), the same defense that Tim Tebow – yep, that Tim Tebow – obliterated in their last playoff appearance and this is with a rarely healthy Troy Polamalu at Strong Safety.

–        Their offensive line is in shambles, prompting an acquisition of Left Tackle Levi Brown to replace the disappointing Mike Adams who was a human sieve against the Minnesota Vikings during their last game.

–        Their ‘franchise’ Quarterback (QB), Ben Roethlisberger, is unhappy, having watched his beloved Offensive Coordinator, Todd Arians, be let go by the Pittsburgh Steelers and replaced with Todd Haley, who has implemented an offense that has stifled Roethlisberger.  The reason for the move has been a case of ‘the blame game’ in that the Pittsburgh Steelers ownership is believed to have made a nepotistic hire as Haley’s father, Dick Haley, was the Pittsburgh Steelers former Director of Player Personnel during their 1970s heyday, although Steelers Head Coach Mike Tomlin has since stated that he was behind the change.

–        They are the NFL’s 9th oldest team by average age and have the 7th least available salary cap space with only $1.1 million dollars to spend, should they even have any desire to acquire a player to rankle their moribund team.

In a move that can only be considered a desperate move by Tomlin, he has now decided to ban any games – i.e. billiards, poker, video games – from being played in the Pittsburgh Steelers locker room.  It’s highly doubtful that being prohibited from game-playing has led or contributed to their current winless state.

So, who is to blame for the Pittsburgh Steelers current morass?  And, if anything is done in the off-season to rectify the situation, who will be the scapegoat for deeper-seeded issues that have plagued arguably the NFL’s preeminent organization?

The primary blame, in my opinion, starts and ends with the current General Manager (GM), Kevin Colbert.  Colbert has struggled, mightily, to build both organizational depth and development.  He has also missed several opportunities to rebuild and reload the organization with youth and skill at every position.  His continued preoccupation with drafting in the higher rounds at the same positions – usually Linebacker and on the Defensive Line and only recently, with marginal success, the Offensive Line – has saddled the organization when injuries occur as is the case when Maurkice Pouncey was lost for the season on Opening Day against the Tennessee Titans.

He has yet to draft and develop a possible backup QB when Roethlisberger gets injured which often occurs due to Roethlisberger often holding onto the ball for too long a period of time, something the hiring of Haley, who favors the old run-oriented offense, was supposed to provide to mitigate the injury risk.

Also, Colbert and this organization has failed to ‘get with the times’ in both their offensive and defensive schemes, hanging onto Defensive Coordinator Dick Lebeau’s 3-4 defensive set and attempting to return to the power running offense of the 1970s and 1990s.  There is no doubt that Lebeau is one of the greatest Defensive Coordinators of all time; however, given the aging defensive personnel, some adaptation to counter today’s offensive schemes might help the defense’s fortunes.  As for the offense, had the Pittsburgh Steelers had a premier Running Back to spearhead the offense, the 1970s scheme might work; however, at a paltry 58 yards/game average and the in dubious distinction of having their leading rusher garner the lowest seasonal output in over 30 years – 623 yards by Jonathan Dwyer – such a scheme and direction is failed, at best.

Sadly, the ‘fall guy’ that may be blamed for their struggles will be their Head Coach, Mike Tomlin, he who has guided the Pittsburgh Steelers to two Super Bowl appearances and one Super Bowl title, Super Bowl XLIII in 2009.  Tomlin, the same coach who guided them to the Mecca with younger, more adept personnel will be the scapegoat for their failings, this season.  If Tomlin survives a possible horrid season, it will and should be done by ridding himself of Haley who has burdened their offense with inept schemes and designs.  Does anyone have Bruce Arians’ phone number?

No matter who is to blame, the Pittsburgh Steelers need to break themselves from the past and rebuild their organization to adapt to the modern game, going forward, before a return to their early years of ineptitude lingers for a long period of time.

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