This weekend’s game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the New York Jets is huge for a number of different reasons. The Steelers, currently 0-4, are desperately trying to keep touch with the Ravens, Browns and Bengals, all currently 3-2.
The Steelers are catching the New York Jets at the worst of times too. After a thrilling win over the Falcons, the Jets are looking like a relevant football team led by a competent quarterback.
Pittsburgh, by contrast, is just searching for answers. The Steelers’ offensive line will receive much of the blame for their terrible start, and rightly so. Ben Roethlisberger has had no time to read the defense, and while Pittsburgh has moved the ball at times this season, their drives routinely end with a turnover.
While many of the faces of Pittsburgh remain the same, this team is far removed from its Super Bowl years. The Steelers’ talent has slowly deteriorated with age, and while some new players have been able to contribute in positive ways, that aging talent has not been replenished quick enough to keep up with the team’s needs.
In a way, the Steelers are the AFC version of the New York Giants. Both teams have aged poorly, and are now need of an infusion of youthful talent. For the Steelers, the problem is somewhat more deeply rooted. While Eli Manning has actively lost game after game for the Giants, Ben Roethlisberger has, for the most part, done a good job keeping the Steelers in most of their games, all to no avail.
Unlike the Giants, who are now 0-6, the Steelers still have a few moments left to turn their season around. With a win over a tough Jets squad, the Steelers could put one up on the board, giving them some confidence moving forward. Because their bye week came so early, it gave them a perfect opportunity to refocus on the task at hand.
Most teams competing at the lowest levels of the NFL are hosts to systemic problems, and that may be the case in Pittsburgh. For years, the Steelers have been able to constantly re-tool their roster, keeping up with outgoing skill by bringing in young players that could contribute at a high level. That hasn’t been happening for some time now, and it’s finally catching up with the team. Still, there’s a select group of very good players and leaders on the Steelers’ roster. The question now is, can they pull the dead weight?