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Mark Madden: The Steelers created this rotten football team, and it can’t be fixed

It’s the nature of sports fans to be optimistic, however cockeyed. To believe that a team perceived to be underperforming can be fixed.

Coach ’em up. Tweak the lineup or strategy. Trade all our bad players for all their good players. Find that secret sauce that’s a cure-all, or at least a step in the right direction,

That’s almost always fiction. Teams are what they look like.

The Steelers can’t be fixed. They’re a bad football team. This is the year to finally get that high draft pick.

The defense was supposed to prop up the offense. Whether or not that was possible, we’ll never know. When edge rusher TJ Watt got hurt, the defense imploded.

With Watt, the Steelers got five takeaways and seven sacks in the first game. Minus Watt, they totaled one takeaway and two sacks in the two games since.

Without Watt to occupy the foe’s attention, Cam Heyward has gone quiet. Everyone on that side of the ball has gone quiet.

Despite the hype, it never was a great defense. The numbers reflect. Now it’s a bad defense.

Like last season, the defense is vulnerable to the run: Cleveland rushed for 174 yards Thursday night and controlled the ball doing so. The Browns got every yard they needed. In the loss prior, New England ended the game by pounding the rock for the last 6:33.

Defense was supposed to be the Steelers’ cornerstone. Watt’s injury sabotaged that, if it was ever true.

The offense is an unfocused abomination. It doesn’t score points. That is all the people need to know. The Steelers have four offensive touchdowns in three games.

Quarterback Mitch Trubisky hasn’t been good. But switching to rookie Kenny Pickett wouldn’t be a panacea.

If you want Pickett to get experience, fine. But what if it’s bad experience? The Steelers play at Buffalo, at home vs. Tampa Bay, at Miami and at Philadelphia in Weeks 5-8. Those are all play0ff-caliber teams. You want to throw Pickett to those wolves?

Starting Pickett Nov. 13 at home against New Orleans seems reasonable. That’s the game after the bye week. The Steelers will be 3-5 by then, maybe 2-6. The pressure will be off. Pickett will be that much more ready. It will be about learning, not winning.

That’s not soon enough if you want Pickett to save the season. But he can’t. Nothing can. Pickett’s timetable should be based solely on what’s best for his development.

Offensive coordinator Matt Canada was a terrible hire. He’s unqualified. He got the job because he was already on-site and already on payroll as the quarterbacks coach. Mike Tomlin’s coaching tree is non-existent because he doesn’t like to hire coaches whose acumen challenges his.

With the ingredients provided offensively, the Steelers needed a master chef to whip up something tasty. Canada is a journeyman short-order cook.

This isn’t about the Steelers playing bad. The Steelers are bad. This is the level their talent dictates. They wouldn’t make the playoffs even with Watt playing the whole year.

It’s a team horribly flawed in the assembly. It invested money and draft picks in areas less important.

Football’s four most important positions are quarterback, cornerback, edge rusher and left tackle. The Steelers are properly staffed at only one of those, and that guy is hurt. Pickett provides hope for the future at quarterback. (You hope.)

The offensive line has been steadily disintegrating. David DeCastro, Maurkice Pouncey and Alejandro Villanueva last played for the Steelers in 2020. Each was in decline before that.

So, the Steelers used their top two picks in each of the last two drafts on shiny new toys: A running back and tight end in ’21, a quarterback and wide receiver this year. Rebuilding the offensive line was an afterthought.

The Steelers haven’t drafted an offensive lineman in the top two rounds since DeCastro in 2012. That’s incredible.

The offensive line doesn’t totally stink. But it’s not good. There’s nothing dynamic about it. There’s no cornerstone.

The Steelers are rotten.

But blame goes to the entire organization. They are exactly what they created.

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