3 Things The Steelers Need to Improve During the Bye Week

With a running game that’s off to the worst start since 1950 and a 1-2 record, it’s not difficult to find areas of improvement for the Pittsburgh Steelers. One of the most widely anticipated problems for the Steelers this season – whether new offensive coordinator Todd Haley and Ben Roethlisberger would sync – turned out to be no problem at all. Roethlisberger currently ranks second among QBs in the NFL, has a 68 percent pass completion rate, and leads the NFL with eight touchdowns.

So what’s with the losing start? There are three things that the Steelers should improve in the bye week before Pittsburgh Steelers tickets are sold out for the team’s week four matchup against the Eagles.

1. Make vast improvements in the running game

No Steelers running back has surpassed 50 rushing yards in a game. In fact, Isaac Redman currently holds the season’s longest run at 13 yards. Without Rashard Mendenhall, Isaac Redman and Jonathan Dwyer haven’t been able to boost the running game. It seems that the Steelers’ hopes for rescuing their running game will lie on Mendenhall’s possible return to the field in week four.

2. Lock the opposing QB up with some pressure

While Mark Sanchez felt a little heat from Steelers defensemen in their week two loss to the Steelers, Peyton Manning and Carson Palmer enjoyed the cool lack of almost any pressure from the Steelers defense, and that has to change. Roethlisberger’s stellar play, if it continues, can make up for the occasional running game hiccup, but not if the opposing Qb has all the time in the world to toss for 250+ yards.

3. Invest in the Cornerback position

Cortez Allen, Keenan Lewis, and Ike Taylor are not making it happen for the Pittsburgh Steelers, and the cornerback position is going to need some serious attention if the Steelers hope to repair their ailing defense. Only Curtis Brown, who failed to impress in the preseason, waits in the wings.

With a stellar passing game and hope for the running game, the Steelers certainly have a shot at coming back from the bye week break a new team. Mendenhall’s return may not immediately resurrect run plays, but it will certainly help and Big Ben is proving why he’s still one of the best QBs in the league.

Steelers Defense Stops Jets in 27-10 Victory

The Steelers have gone back to an even 1-1 on the season following Sunday’s defeat of the New York Jets. Jets QB Mark Sanchez went 10-27 passing for a single touchdown. The entire Jets offense was only able to drive forward 120 yards in the first half of the game, much less in the second half. Meanwhile, Big Ben went about business as usual with 275 yards on 24 of 31 passes. Roethlisberger’s usual target Mike Wallace caught the 37-yard touchdown pass in the third quarter that shattered any hopes the Jets may have had of a late game comeback. And where was Tim Tebow? The popular young QB took the field for the Jets for just one drive, but couldn’t get the Jets in scoring territory after a 6-yard loss and Sanchez was back in the game.

Sunday’s game was a dramatic reversal for both teams following week one performances. While the Steelers’ defense lost control over the Broncos in a 31-19 rout, the Jets steamrolled the Bills in their season opener with a 48-28 victory. The Jets that took the field against the Steelers on Sunday were hardly the offense that fans expected from week one, and the Steelers defense, well, looked like the Steelers defense.

Next Sunday’s game against the Oakland Raiders will be fans’ last chance to get Pittsburgh Steelers tickets before the week 4 Bye that will give the Steelers a well-earned rest before moving on to face the Philadelphia Eagles at Heinz Field on October 7th. As Roethlisberger starts to come alive this season, fantasy football players may want to start giving receivers Antonio Brown and Mike Wallace a hard look. Despite missing the end zone, Brown is averaging 18.5 yards per reception, and has four catches for 74 yards. Wallace scored his first touchdown yesterday and is averaging just shy of 10 yards per reception on his four catches.

Steelers Hoping to Move Past Week 1 Loss With Upcoming Jets Battle

Peyton Manning and the Broncos proved too much for the Steelers on Sunday, with the squad suffering a 31-19 loss. The Steelers drew first blood after a quiet first quarter with a field goal in the second, and even secured the lead early in the 4th quarter. But Manning dissected the Steelers defense in 10 plays for a touchdown that started the route. A field goal and interception later, and the Steelers were warming up the plane. Manning’s debut for the Broncos brought the highest television ratings for Sunday night football games, as well as drawing 76,823 loyal fans with Broncos and Pittsburgh Steelers tickets.

Now the Steelers face what could be a tough challenge in the Jets, if their first week is indeed an indication that the Jets were just holding out for the games that counted during the 2012 preseason — the Jets failed to make the end zone in their first three games. Only a touchdown courtesy of the reserves in the fourth game saved the Jets from missing the end zone all preseason. But the Jets turned that all around in a week 1 defeat of the Buffalo Bills 48-28. Sanchez was huge in the 2012 Jets opener, completing 19 of 27 passes and logging three touchdowns. The defense came alive for the Jets as well, grabbing three interceptions, one of which was returned for a touchdown.

Last year’s Steelers would have scoffed at the Jets. After all, they had the best defense in the league. But this year’s Steelers look drastically different; the squad gave up 334 yards to Manning and the Broncos offense on Sunday. But the Steelers will also get two crucial players back from the bench, Ryan Clark and James Harrison. These reinforcements could give the Steelers the edge they need to face the Jets. Should the Steelers drop their next game against New York, they’ll go 0-2 for the first time in a decade.

Steelers Gearing Up For Battle Against Peyton Manning and the Broncos

With the Steelers’ first regular season only two days away, and a preseason that helped the Pittsburgh defense tighten up, all indications are that the Broncos will have a tough fight on their hands on Sunday. And what better general to lead the cavalry than Peyton Manning, who will be taking his first QB start for Denver. Historically, the Broncos are on top with an all-time record of 13-7-1 against the Steelers. But the last time the two teams met was in November of 2009, a meeting that resulted in a Steelers victory, 28-10. Pittsburgh Steelers tickets are still available but selling fast at HeadlineTickets.com. Will history side with the Broncos, or are the Steelers ready to put the past behind them?

The Steelers do have Ben Roethlisberger to answer the Colt’s Manning. And Ben certainly has more experience playing with his receivers than Manning can hope to have on Sunday. While Roethlisberger looked completely uninterested when asked about preseason games in press conferences last month, he certainly showed brilliant playmaking in the Steelers’ last game of the preseason against the Buffalo Bills. With the Steelers facing a tough penalty that put them on the 2-yard line, and Ben struggling against a wall of Bills defenders, the power QB put together a breathtaking play that left DE Mario Williams back on the D-line and Steelers RB Jonathan Dwyer open for a first down pass. If Ben comes out to play on Sunday, so too will the Steelers offense.

Following the Broncos game on Sunday in Denver, the Steelers will host the New York Jets at Heinz Field before traveling to take on the Oakland Raiders in their neighborhood, with a precious early bye week to follow. Check back next week for a wrap-up on this weekend’s game and information about more regular season Pittsburgh Steelers tickets.

Ryan Clark to Miss Denver Game, Steelers Defensive Line Finalized

Adding to the Steelers’ recent injury woes is recent news that Ryan Clark will miss the team’s regular season opener in Denver because of a health concern. According to team representatives, Clark carries a sickle-cell trait that makes physical activity at high altitudes dangerous. Clark missed the Steelers’ Wild Card playoff game last season for the same reason.

Clark’s condition first came apparent during an October 21st, 2007 game in Denver, where the safety reported severe pain in his side during the game. Later he became so violently ill that he had to have his gall bladder and spleen removed. Although Clark was permitted to return to play in 2008, he has since been forbidden to play in Denver. Instead, Clark will join his teammates on the sideline in plain clothes.

In other defensive news, the Steelers have announced the final version of their defensive roster for the 2012-13 season. Most analysts had concerns over the injury-plagued linebacker position, and the Steelers seem to have come up with an answer. Pittsburgh will keep nine linebackers, with James Harrison and Jason Worilds exiting the injury list and Adrian Robinson joining the squad, the defense looks to be solid. Surprisingly, the Steelers also chose to roll with four cornerbacks, instead of the five that many thought team coordinators would keep. Ike Taylor will be joined by Curtis Brown, Keenan Lewis, and Cortez Allen. Assuming the Steelers face no more injuries, their defense should compete.

There were cuts throughout the defense, including:

  • Josh Victorian CB
  • Terrence Frederick CB
  • Jake Stoller DE
  • Ikponmwosa Igbinosun DE
  • Marshall McFadden LB
  • Brandon Hicks LB

To see the final defensive squad in action (sans Ryan Clark) and see if the Steelers can hold on to the success they had in the preseason, join the team in Denver this Sunday with Pittsburgh Steelers tickets from HeadlineTickets.com.

Solid QB, WR Play Highlight End of Steelers Preseason

Another preseason is in the books for the Steelers, and amid costly injuries to key players on the squad, Pittsburgh has a great deal of positivity with which to enter the regular season against the Denver Broncos on Sunday, September 9th. One of the most promising notes from the Steelers’ Thursday night victory over the Panthers was the QB play — not from Roethlisberger, but from third QB Charlie Batch. While the final preseason game is traditionally the last chance for team management to determine last-minute player cuts, Batch gave the Steelers a good reason to consider rolling with three quarterbacks this season.

With Mike Wallace still nursing an injury, wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders also turned in a bright performance on Thursday that should secure him a starting slot position in the regular season, once Mike Wallace returns. But Emmanuel Sanders looks healthy, powerful, and ready to help cement what’s fast becoming the most dangerous and dynamic group of receivers in the NFL, perhaps catching balls thrown by three dynamic and dangerous QBs.

But the Steelers also had some potential wakeup calls that could influence cuts before the regular season. While undrafted rookie Robert Golden played solid defensive football against the Panthers, becoming a standout in the victory. Meanwhile, Damon Cromartie-Smith didn’t exactly turn any heads with his safety play, in fact turning in a lackluster performance that could endanger his spot on the team next week. Despite reasonable play, Rashard Mendenhall could also be in danger of losing his running back spot. Five running backs in a pass-heavy NFL might just be a waste of space this season, and Mendenhall is at the front of most lists for players that the Steelers could cut without losing too much steam.

Keep watching for cut updates as the Steelers approach the regular season. Until then, Pittsburgh Steelers tickets are available for the upcoming regular season, kicking off with away games against the Denver Broncos and Oakland Raiders, and a week 2 matchup against the New York Jets at Heinz Field.

David DeCastro Out With Knee Injury

It’s likely that first-round draft pick rookie David DeCastro won’t get a chance to prove to Steelers fans why he was worth the slot. During Saturday’s game against the Buffalo Bills, DeCastro tore his patella tendon and MCL. According to team officials, this probably means that DeCastro’s rookie year is over before the regular season even starts. After undergoing knee surgery, the young right guard will need to endure extensive rehabilitation, along with workout routines to return to his peak physical condition. This is a devastating loss for the Pittsburgh Steelers, who are now losing one of the big reasons most fans expected the O-line to improve this year.

Taking over for DeCastro will be Ramon Foster, who will be back starting at right guard for his third consecutive season. Foster went undrafted in 2010 only to start at right guard for the last eight games of the season. Last season, Doug Legursky was injured early in the Steelers’ schedule, leaving Foster to once again take the position for 14 games.

As far as the Steelers offensive line is concerned, there isn’t a lot of breathing room for any more injuries. At this moment, losing one more offensive line starter would mean that the Steelers would be sent back to the position they were in last year, short men and struggling to put a strong offense on the field capable of carrying the team through the season. As it stands, the likely solution for the Steelers will be keeping one of the young players they hoped to cut after preseason — which could reveal some hidden talent or leave the Pittsburgh offense struggling to convert 3rd and 4th downs.

The Steelers next face the Carolina Panthers on August 30th at Heinz Field. Pittsburgh Steelers tickets are now available for this game and all other Steelers games this season.

Steelers Special Teams Coach Al Everest Fired

The Steelers continue to “evaluate coaching and support staff” with the firing of special teams coordinator Al Everest, a decision that was announced yesterday. Now heading up special teams will be Amos Jones, who formerly served as assistant special teams coach. For many fans of the Steelers, the decision is far from a surprise. Pittsburgh Steelers tickets gave fans the chance to see one of the worst special teams units in the NFL since Everest took over in 2010. Kick and punt returning slumped to the bottom half of the league.

The preseason games for the Steelers special teams have been no more impressive, suggesting that coach Tomlin gave the special teams an ultimatum; one they failed to meet. But during both preseason games, returners the Steelers fielded were rookies, and the Steelers have shown positive growth in special teams during regular season games in the past. It’s difficult to speculate on the reasons behind the firing until Saturday’s game against Buffalo, when the Steelers could go with veteran returners, or continue with Everest’s strategy of relying on rookies in the preseason. There could be a difference of opinion on who’s returning kicks during preseason games.

Amos Jones was a part of Tomlin’s original 2007 staff, and has served as the assistant special teams coordinator under Bob Ligashesky and Everest. Jones was already doing much of the on-field special teams coaching in practice, and has a great deal of experience coaching in the past. Prior to working in the NFL, Jones coached high school and college football for 25 years, as well as another year spent coaching the BC Lions in the Canadian Football League.

This sort of mid-preseason coaching adjustment isn’t without precedent, and should cause alarm to fans. In his first year as head coach of the Chiefs, Todd Haley axed offensive coordinator Chan Gailey, likely for philosophical differences concerning the Chiefs’ offense.

LB Harrison Undergoes Knee Surgery, Doubtful for Start of Season

Although Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker James Harrison was in the hospital for knee surgery today that representatives called “minor,” the surgery casts doubts as to whether Harrison will be healthy enough to join the Steelers when the regular season begins. Coach Tomlin is reluctant to provide an actual time when he expects Harrison to be fully recovered. The Steelers will sorely miss Harrison if he does end up sitting out the first few games — the four-time Pro Bowl and 2008 NFL Defensive Player of the Year is a huge asset to the team’s defensive squad, and one of the reasons that fans line up to get Pittsburgh Steelers tickets every game.

Tomlin also dismissed rumors that Harrison’s knee had been an issue since early spring, when the surgery would have been received at a better time for the club. According to Tomlin, “we address things as they arise.”

Despite being one of the most dominant defensive players over the past ten years in the NFL, Harrison is no stranger to injuries and downtime. Harrison received surgery on his back last February and returned to play, only to miss another full month to an orbital bone fracture. But Harrison always makes it back to the field as soon as he’s recovered, and teammates are doubtful that his absence will extend too far into the regular season. According to fellow Steeler Brett Keisel, “they said he should be fine.”

With Harrison and Jason Worilds both out, Chris Carter is looking to get plenty of activity in the Steelers’ game against the Colts this Sunday. What Carter lacks in size (6’1″ 248 lbs.) he makes up in dedication and preparation, according to Tomlin. Although he’ll have his work cut out for him on Sunday, the young player hopes to use what he learned during the offseason following his rookie year to help him step up to a starting defensive position.

Run Effectively, Not Constantly Says New Steelers Offensive Coordinator Todd Haley

Steelers fans that assumed the hiring of Todd Haley as the team’s new offensive coordinator would mean a return to the team’s historic run, run, run attitude are probably going to be a bit disappointed. The NFL’s obvious evolution to a heavy passing offense in recent years has caused many teams to adapt to the new play style, including the Steelers. But with the addition of Haley, the Steelers hope to strike a balance between their running and passing games, with a three-pronged receiver route strategy complimented by explosive runs.

While talking with the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, Haley noted three key aspects of the Steelers’ running game that he hopes to improve this season. These included:

  • Creating offensive attacks that carefully blend both passes and rushes equally.
  • Identifying downs where the Steelers absolutely must run.
  • Still gaining yards even though a defense expects a run (and the Steelers oblige them).

By stats alone, the Steelers didn’t look all that bad on the run last season, averaging 4.5 yards per rush. But the real issues came on third downs and short-yardage situations, when the Steelers predictably passed when they probably should have drawn up a running play almost every time. These are the kinds of issues that Haley hopes to address during the season. Most analysts would consider a team that passes on first down every time very predictable, and that’s a great deal of the play the Steelers offered up last year.

The next chance to see Todd Haley and the Steelers try their new offensive strategy will be the team’s preseason home opener against the Indianapolis Colts on August 19th. Get Pittsburgh Steeler tickets at HeadlineTickets.com to see if Haley can establish a new way of thinking about offense in the NFL.