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Depth Kills; Steelers Lacking Passed Stars

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Depth Kills; Steelers Lacking Passed Stars

It’s going to take some deep down soul searching for this Pittsburgh Steelers team to overcome the hole they’ve dug for themselves up to this point. Even then they may not be able to overcome a lack of talent from a roster standpoint.

Disaster has been bestowed on the Steelers since Ben Roethlisberger tested positive for COVID-19 on the eve of a game against the winless Detroit Lions. Mason Rudolph would start for Roethlisberger, but would fail to manage more than one touchdown drive. The Lions would eventually slice through the Steelers defense like a warm butter knife, running for 229 yards with longs of 42, 28, and 21. Two guys you never heard of combined for 97 yards on five carries.

Last week against the Los Angeles Chargers, it was more of the same. Quarterback Justin Herbert toasted them for 90 yards on the ground. Austin Ekeler posted four touchdowns. The Steelers took the lead late, but a back up laden defense would give up the lead shortly after. And yesterday in Cincinnati… my goodness. Let’s not even talk about those specifics.

 

 

TJ Watt is surely still dealing with injuries that kept him out against the Chargers. He was getting into the backfield, but hardly bothered Joe Burrow all day. Cam Heyward was mostly handicapped by Mike Tomlin and Keith Butler’s decision to move him inside to nose tackle. Heyward would still be disruptive, but his efforts would go to waste with the inability of the middle linebackers to make any plays. Look no further than the benching of Isaiah Buggs… wait, they didn’t even bench him. They left him inactive! Understand that they thought so little of his play that he wasn’t even active. They dressed practice squad undrafted rookie Daniel Archibong over him.

This team knew going into the season what they had in Buggs. He has played a lot over the last couple of years. He was inactive for another game once because of his performance in the past. They knew that Stephon Tuitt would be out to begin the season, but who knows if they knew he’d be out the entire season.

If everyone is healthy, we know the Steelers have two All-Pro caliber players in Heyward, and Tuitt. Tyson Alualu re-signed in the offseason. He was a solid piece in the middle with those guys. Beyond that, it’s just a bunch of guys. Late round picks, and Chris Wormley who is more of a rotational guy rather than a starter.

Depth kills.

Devin Bush was supposed to be back for Week 1. He’s yet to show up to a game. Don’t get me wrong, he’s there physically. But that’s about it. You have to have heart and I’m starting to wonder whether Bush’s desire is still there. Butler was asked about Bush last week and said he needed to run to the ball. Ryan Shazier said Bush needs to dive into the playbook and the film room. The reasons for them to say these things were apparent on one play during Sunday’s loss:

 

He didn’t even move on the extra point. He was 10 seconds late to diagnose a run play right up the middle. Beside him is Joe Schobert and he’s been disappointing too. Not to the extend of Bush, but he’s made exactly one splash play all season. That coming last week when he stuffed the Chargers on a fourth and one. Behind them? Robert Spillane… and you guessed it, just a bunch of guys. And Spillane may be just a tad bit above just a guy. He’s also now out with a knee injury.

They drafted Buddy Johnson in the fourth round, but he’s only been active for one game and didn’t see any time besides special teams. He will likely be active this weekend, but he obviously isn’t ready to play any defense because they’re still dressing Marcus Allen, and Ulysses Gilbert III.

Again Depth kills.

 

 

It’s literally rinse and repeat for the secondary. Minkah Fitzpatrick is an All-Pro at safety. He’s having a rough year, but his play isn’t nearly as bad as it seems. He’s having to make up for a lot of other issues that don’t show up in the box score. Beside him is Terrell Edmunds. Former first round pick. He’s average. He typically does his job, but there isn’t any splash plays coming from him. Beyond them, you have rookie seventh round draft choice, Tre Norwood who has spent most of this season working as a slot corner.

It’s the same story at cornerback. They lost Mike Hilton, and Steven Nelson and replaced them with absolutely no one. Offensive line depth needed? They brought in practice squad level players in Rashaad Coward, and Joe Haeg. They brought back BJ Finney who had been traded from Seattle, and then released by Cincinnati. He’s far from the same player he was in 2019 before leaving via free agency.

DEPTH DEPTH DEPTH!!! This team has none. The roster literally goes from All-Pro’s to average Joe’s. There is no in between. This team needs role players, and depth pieces. It has neither. Watt, Fitzpatrick, Heyward, Joe Haden, Pat Freiermuth, Najee Harris

The Steelers were trending in the wrong way prior to the pandemic hitting. That just made the blow even worse. Competitive teams always work with the idea of what the salary cap is going to become, not what it is in the now. With a franchise quarterback eating up large chunks of salary, it’s almost a necessity to be up against the cap each year to stay competitive. The Steelers always usually make a bargain bin signing of some depth pieces and build through the draft. They had to go to the Salvation Army dumpster to find some of the guys they did this past offseason.

 

They’ve now been stuck with mostly practice squad players replacing starters. Taco Charlton, Derrek Tuszka, Henry Mondeaux, Daniel Archibong, and likely more real soon! The effort and heart is there from the stars, the rest of the season is going to ride on the rest of the team, though. They’re either going to dig real deep and find a little bit more, or that first losing season since 2003 is on the horizon.

#SteelerNation

The Steelers have always been a central part of my life. I grew up listening to WDVE tapes recorded off of the radio of Steelers fight songs, and wearing Steelers jerseys as a fashion statement. I joined the SteelerNation.com message board when I was 12, and this site has been a big part of my life ever since. I’ve found life long friends and met some of the best people on earth through this site. In 2015, I was able to help revive the site and develop a news website and all of our social media platforms. I can’t wait to continue to grow with all of you. Go Steelers!

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