We're Witnessing the New Normal for the Pittsburgh Steelers

(Chaz Palla/Tribune-Review)

Yesterday's game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Cincinnati Bengals was an absolute thrashing that left Steelers fans shaking their heads.  The 41-10 whooping the Bengals put on the Steelers left little positives to take from it on the Steelers end.  The offense looked anemic, the defense was getting gashed left and right, and, frankly, the game was over by the end of the first half.  Unfortunately, fans need to start wrapping their heads around the fact that this performance is going to be something we see a lot more of going forward.

I've written on and on this year about the offense and its struggles.  We saw flashes of the old Ben Roethlisberger last week against the Los Angeles Chargers but even that didn't come without its downsides.  The fact of the matter is Roethlisberger is very far past his prime and we're going to see more performances like yesterday than we will like the one against the Chargers.  

The offensive line has been makeshift all season, and the longer the season goes on, the more it is getting exposed.  The team's patchwork attempt to keep this offense afloat simply is not working.  And frankly, there is not much hope of it getting better any time soon.  Once Roethlisberger leaves, there is not much in the way of replacing him.  Backup Mason Rudolph has shown to be exactly what he is, a backup quarterback.  In his spot starts over the years, he never instilled any confidence in the fanbase that he could be the quarterback of the future.  

So where does that leave the franchise?  They either have to go out and get a quarterback from another team (where there aren't many good ones to begin with) or the more likely option, they have to replace him through the draft.  With any new drafted player, it takes a while to get acclimated to the style and pace of the National Football League.  That applies tenfold to the quarterback position.  Of the top quarterback selections in this past draft, only Mac Jones of the New England Patriots has shown the ability to lead his team successfully week in and week out.  

There is a huge learning curve, which means us fans may not see the top quarterback play we've become accustomed to any time soon.  We've pushed off Roethlisberger's demise for as long as we could but deep down I think we all knew this was coming.  And just like winter, it is finally upon us and we have no other choice but to embrace it.

Unexpected Steeler Defensive Struggles

Unfortunately, the side of the ball that I've felt was the backbone of this team for most of this season has started to look just as vulnerable as the offense.  The Steelers defense, which hadn't surrendered 30+ points in the first nine games this season, has now given up 41 in back-to-back games.  While they've had to deal with injuries, that is no excuse for their complete inability to get a defensive stop these past two weeks.  

Every time the opposing team has the ball, I'm fully expecting to surrender points.  The strength of this defense, stopping the run, has completely fallen by the wayside.  In the past three games, they have allowed a total of 586 rushing yards.  We're talking almost 200 per game!  That just can't happen.  

I'm still optimistic that this is more an outlier than the norm, but regardless, we can't expect the defense to keep the Steelers in games any longer.  Each win is going to have to be a full team effort and I'm not sure this current roster construction is capable of accomplishing that anymore.

New Normal for Steelers

Admittedly, I turned the game off in the third quarter yesterday.  I couldn't watch any more of what I was seeing.  The Colts vs. Buccaneers game on Fox was much more entertaining and certainly a lot less frustrating.  However, I soon came to the realization that this is the new normal for the Steelers.  I, and all of us Steelers fans, need to come to terms with this.  We've competed at the highest levels of this league for a decade and a half now.  But as they say, all good things must come to an end and we're witnessing it firsthand.

With the toughest remaining schedule in the NFL, it doesn't look like it will get any better for the Steelers the rest of this season.  The Steelers first losing season under coach Mike Tomlin is very much on the table right now.  We very well may still see a stellar performance or two out of this team down the stretch, but I'm not allowing myself to fall back into that trap.  

This is a Steeler team trending opposite of the other teams in its division.  We've made fun of the Browns and "Bungles" for years now but we must now accept that those two franchises are heading in vastly different directions than the Steelers.  As a result, we also have to accept that this is the new normal for the Pittsburgh Steelers for the foreseeable future.  Buckle up Steelers fans... it's going to be a bumpy ride going forward.  On the road ahead lies a tough rest of the season and a very uncertain future that could be much of the same.