10 ways to fix the Steelers
Every three years, the Steelers go through their own accelerated version of a leap year. It happened in 2000, '03, '06, '09 and, yes, in '12.
There are numerous injuries. Veteran players underperform. Early-round draft picks don't contribute. They lose close games and lose some games that don't have any business being close. The playoffs don't happen.
In the past, they've always fixed what went wrong, and in a hurry. Each of the last four times they sat out the playoffs following a single-digit win season, they bounced back to have a double digit-win season and make the playoffs.
“The one thing Pittsburgh has going for it is that they are a really, really, really stable organization, and they're not going to rush out and do something that helps them for only one month or one year,” former Cowboys personnel chief Gil Brandt said. “They understand the big picture as well as anybody in the league.”
How do the Steelers do it? Maybe they don't always get the season right, but they always seem to get the offseason right. And this is one offseason they need to get right following an 8-8 season.
A top 10 list of what the Steelers need to get right — and right now, based on the recommendation of multiple former NFL executives and coaches:
1. Address the running game
Only once in 45 years have they run the ball as poorly as they did this season. They've used a first-round pick on a lead runner only once since 1989; they might have to do it again.
“You've got so much invested in that quarterback (Ben Roethlisberger) that (a running back) would be a wise investment,” former Redskins and Cowboys general manager Charley Casserly said.
2. Find a way to stay healthier
Staying injury-free isn't always staying lucky; often it's the residue of training hard, training long and training right. For LaMarr Woodley, linebackers coach Keith Butler said that means a greater emphasis on getting his hamstrings in shape. For Troy Polamalu, it could be as simple as staying slimmer in the offseason.
“I think winning eight games with all the injuries they had is almost mind-boggling, to do as good as they do,” Casserly said. “To me, the No. 1 issue with this team was being decimated by injuries.”
3. Stabilize the o-line
An offense that ranked only 22nd in scoring was never more efficient than it was when the oft-disrupted line stayed intact during a four-game midseason winning streak. Maybe that means finding a veteran-type lineman like Max Starks to provide some consistency until Mike Adams, Marcus Gilbert and Kelvin Beachum settle in. Or maybe it means they can't count on the frequently injured Willie Colon any longer.
4. Don't be stuck on the corner
If they've decided Cortez Allen is ready to start, Keenan Lewis could become expendable. If not, they'll need to find a way to pay Allen fair market value, yet still keep cap space for other important needs. That won't be easy.
“(Ike) Taylor and Polamalu, they've got to be playing at the top of their game, or they're in trouble,” Brandt said.
5. Get back to what they do best on defense
And that's pressuring and disrupting. They paid their linebackers more than all but one team in 2012 and didn't get a payback on their investment. That could mean selling some stocks and buying some new ones.
“(Jason) Worilds made some plays at times, but nobody else is establishing themselves at outside linebacker,” said Casserly, an NFL Network analyst. “Outside linebacker is crucial in that defense.”
6. Make sure BIG BEN is sold on Todd Haley's strategy
Maybe that requires playbook tweaking on Haley's part or more offseason collaboration. Whatever the method, Roethlisberger must believe in what he's being asked to do, or it won't work.
7. Find a deep threat
Roethlisberger needs to be able to slam dunk occasionally, not just dink and dunk.
8. Refine the D-line
Casey Hampton might be gone, and Brett Keisel will be next. The defensive line is a major concern, especially given Ziggy Hood's low-grade play and Cam Heyward's lack of development. This might require some creativity.
9. Tighten up the offense
They need another tight end, especially with Heath Miller's start-of-season status in doubt.
10. Bring in some new ideas
Mike Tomlin will hire a new offensive line coach, and he also has another staff opening. If he chooses to fill it — and how he fills it — could be telling.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Steelers trade 6th-round pick for Jaguars kicker Scobee
- Steelers notebook: LB Harrison believes Goodell will prevail in Brady ruling
- Bryant suspension opens doors for other Steelers’ receivers
- Steelers WR Bryant’s suspension upheld
- RB Williams believes he’s making seamless transition to Steelers
- Steelers notebook: Tomlin mum on Bryant suspension
- Big plays cost Steelers defense in preseason loss at Bills
- Steelers won’t change contract policy for Antonio Brown
- Healthy, confident Steelers LB Shazier ready for full speed ahead
- Rossi: Beleaguered Steelers need MVP from Big Ben