Pittsburgh Steelers Continue to Be No-Shows in the First Half

(Philip G. Pavely/USA Today Sports)

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The Pittsburgh Steelers had yet another lousy performance yesterday, losing 36-10 to the Kansas City Chiefs.  I had prepared myself for a dismal end to the season for this team, which has continued to underperform as the season has gone on.  But what they've done in the first halves of games has left many in disgust and raising their eyebrows.

As was announced during yesterday's broadcast, the Steelers have gone five straight games without scoring a touchdown in the first half.  Not one.  That is extremely alarming for a number of reasons, and I cannot comprehend how this could be.  A few games could be circumstantial or coincidental, but five games is a trend.  Therefore, I wanted to dive deeper into the possible reasons for this alarming trend.

The first reason is the players that this offense features.  However, I don't want to harp on this one too much because I've talked about it ad nauseum all season long.  An aging quarterback playing behind a porous offensive line is a recipe for disaster and we've seen that disaster bubble up as the season has progressed.  It has led to an abundance of short throws, dialed up to avoid hits to quarterback, Ben Roethlisberger.  It's also worth mentioning that these short throws are constantly behind the first down line to gain.  They have led to more punts and less first downs.  Needless to say, it's really hard to score points that way.

Speaking of short throws leading to punts, the next factor is, without a doubt, the play calling.  The offense continues to start games with the first series or two of plays predetermined.  There are a few reasons why teams do this.  First, after watching film all week on your opponents, it allows the offense to stick to a game plan they feel will exploit the opposing defense, regardless of the sequence of events at the beginning of the game that could dictate otherwise.  Secondly, it focuses on trying a variety of plays to expose an opposing defense's scheme for the game, giving the offense a plan of attack as the game progresses.

Now, if you expound on that second point, you see why the offense has been more successful in the second half as of late.  However, when facing offensive juggernauts such as the Kansas City Chiefs, the game is over long before the points start hitting the scoreboard in the second half.  I feel the first point deserves more attention though.  The game plan coming out of the gate for this team has been dreadful, to say the least.  It has reached a point where I'm expecting a three-and-out on nearly every first half drive.

So is offensive coordinator, Matt Canada, at fault?  I want to say yes, I really do.  The play-calling all season long has been stale and lacks imagination.  However, at the same time, as I mentioned earlier, this offense was doomed from the onset due to personnel.  I'm not sure what could be done to make this offense more efficient from week to week with the players currently rostered.  

And yet while saying all of this, I would not be shocked in the slightest if Canada were fired.  That's the life of an offensive coordinator - when the offense isn't performing, the first guy blamed is the offensive coordinator.  If you can't find a way for your offense to succeed in today's NFL, you're not going to last very long.

The coaching deficiencies don't stop there however.  Something has to be said about the team coming out flat each week.  This would place due blame on head coach, Mike Tomlin.  

Whether it's something that needs to be changed at practice or leading up to the game on gameday, the team all-around is lacking crispness and discipline each week.  You can't continue to play from behind every game and expect to be successful in the NFL.  This doesn't apply just to the offense either, as the defense has looked just as bad.  This has been shocking to see as it is pretty uncharacteristic of the Steelers teams we've been accustomed to watching over the years.

All in all, this is a top-down problem that the Steelers are facing.  Tomlin doesn't appear to have these guys properly prepared, Canada's game-plans have been ineffective, and management allowed this offense to head into the season with far too many holes.  While they still have a chance to make the playoffs, I'm starting to convince myself that the best move for this team is to lose the last two games to get a better draft pick.  

It's bleak but this team clearly needs change and a higher draft pick is one step in the right direction to improve it.  I'm going to enjoy what are most likely Roethlisberger's last two games for what they are because going into each week expecting a competitive Steelers team has just become too far-fetched at this point, especially in the first half.