The 2015 Pittsburgh Steelers have passed the quarter pole and find themselves at 2-2. Lot’s of Steelers quarterly analysis has been bandied about, some good, some bad, and some systemic. This 2015 Steelers 1st Quarterly Report will simply offer 5 random thoughts on the state of the Pittsburgh Steelers.
- 1. The Death of the Steelers Defense has Been Greatly Exaggerated
- 2. The Steelers Secondary Isn’t a Primary Concern
- 3. Kevin Colbert & Mike Tomlin Don’t Make Good Fear-Based Personnel Decisions
- 4. Will the 4th Time Be the Charm for the Steelers Kicking Situation?
- 5. Can the Steelers Prove the Other ½ of “Life without Roethlisberger”
1. The Death of the Steelers Defense has Been Greatly Exaggerated
If there was one article of faith heading into the Steelers 2015 season it was that the defense would struggle. Objectively speaking the case for a resurgent defense was strong. But during preseason the unit looked lost.
- Four games into the season the Steelers defense looks to be a source of strength.
No one is ready to say that Keith Butler’s defense is the equal of the units Dick LeBeau fielded in 2008 or 2010. But the Steelers defense is playing well under Keith Butler. The Steelers defense is once again securing turnovers, albeit in modest numbers and, perhaps more importantly, pressuring the quarterback.
Butler has unleashed Cameron Heyward and Stephon Tuitt. Tuitt already has 3.5 sacks, and Heyward has two. Butler has also skillfully devised an outside linebacking rotation which maximizes the talents of James Harrison, Bud Dupree, Arthur Moats and Jarvis Jones.
2. The Steelers Secondary Isn’t a Primary Concern
The Steelers secondary figured to be it’s the most worrisome spot on the depth chart, with Troy Polamalu retiring, Brice McCain bolting for Miami and big question marks surrounding Cortez Allen and Shamarko Thomas.
- Indeed, it seemed that the success of the Steelers secondary would hinge on the resurgence of Cortez Allen and emergence of Shamarko Thomas.
Four games into the season, nothing could be further from the truth. Cortez Allen has logged 32 snaps with the defense, or 11.4% while Shamarko Thomas has logged just four, per Pro Football Outsiders.
Despite this, the Steelers secondary, while perhaps not a strong suit of the team, is playing well enough to win. The Steelers are not giving up big plays, and both Antwon Blake and Michael Mitchell have shown an ability to deliver some vicious hits.
3. Kevin Colbert & Mike Tomlin Don’t Make Good Fear-Based Personnel Decisions
Steel Curtain Rising has long lauded Mike Tomlin and Kevin Colbert for their “collective pair” in refusing to make personnel decisions out of fear. After all, as the 2009 free agency period began, they cut Kendall Simmons before either Trai Essex or Chris Kemoeatu was signed.
Yet during the Steelers 2015 training camp, the duo appeared to lose their nerve.
- They traded away a conditional draft pick to get Brandon Boykin.
- They also traded away a 6th round pick to get Josh Scobee.
Boykin has logged all of 12 snaps with the defense, and the Josh Scobee experiment ended in disaster. Perhaps its is a little harsh to say that the Steelers brain trust lost their nerve, but trading away draft picks is decidedly out of character for this franchise, and thus far neither trade has yielded any benefit.
4. Will the 4th Time Be the Charm for the Steelers Kicking Situation?
The 2015 Steelers woes at placekicker are well documented. There is no need to repeat the parade of injuries here. The Steelers have signed Chris Boswell, who has the resume of a versatile but untested kicker.
The Steelers can only hope the law of averages works in their favor with respect to Boswell.
5. Can the Steelers Prove the Other ½ of “Life without Roethlisberger”
According to Chris Adamski of the Pittsburgh Tribune Review, the Steelers are entered last Thursday’s overtime loss to the Ravens with a 1-6 record against Baltimore without Ben Roethlisberger. Now they’re 1-7 vs. the Ravens without Big Ben.
- However, the Steelers are also 9-2 without Ben since 2004.
There’s no secret to the Steelers relative success without Ben Roethlisberger. Kevin Colbert and Mike Tomlin believe in deep depth chart at quarterback. That’s why when Bruce Gradkowski went down, the Steelers immediately signed Michael Vick.
- With games against San Diego, Cardinals, Bengals, Chiefs and Raiders, Michael Vick has no cake walk.
But he also has Le’Veon Bell and Antonio Brown, arguably the NFL’s most dynamic running back and best wide receiver. He has a solid offensive line, and dependable weapons in Markus Wheaton and Heath Miller.
Vick has the tools around him, now it’s time to see if he has enough left in the tank to make it happen. His success or failure will define the Steelers 2015 second quarter.