Steelers figure to go to 0-2

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Compelling TV in Pittsburgh tonight:

• Pirates vs. Padres at 7:05 on ROOT.

• Steelers vs. Bengals at 8:30 on ESPN.

The Pirates are fighting for a pennant; the Steelers are fighting to save their season. Neither game will be conclusive in those assignments.

The Pirates can more afford a loss, even though it might remove them from first place, than the Steelers. Teams that start 0-2 often do not have a bright future in the NFL.

My TV will be tuned to the Pirates until the start of the Steelers game. From there, I'll go back and forth but will concentrate more heavily on the football.

Despair reigns across the Steeler Nation, and considering the team's awful showing in its season-opening loss to Tennessee last week, such a feeling is understandable. But a bit of an overreaction.

The Steelers do not look to be as good as they have been, but nor do they figure to be as absent of offense as they were against the Titans. It also should be noted that the Titans took favored Houston, playing at home, to overtime before losing Sunday.

At PG+ last week, Gerry Dulac sized up the Steelers and the AFC this way:

"From what I've seen after just one week of the regular season, and after watching last night's lackluster game between the Patriots and Jets, I wouldn't despair that the Steelers are a team in trouble. Rather, they are like a lot of teams in the NFL, certainly in the AFC: They are just one of many who have little depth and rebuilt rosters."

Dulac went on to call the Bengals one of the best teams in the AFC, which they are and should be the favorite to win the North Division. Andy Dalton is not the equal of Ben Roethlisberger, but the Bengals have it almost everywhere else on the Steelers on offense.

The Steelers need to mount a pass rush against Dalton. If he's given time, his receiving corps -- led by A.J. Green, an extraordinary wideout who had nine catches for 162 yards against the Bears last week, and rookie tight end Tyler Eifert, who had five catches for 47 yards -- will hurt the Steelers.

The absence of tight end Heath Miller, still recovering from knee surgery, is a huge loss for the Steelers, and they'll be a better team when he returns. Steelers tight ends caught 81 passes last season, 71 of them by Miller. Last week, they caught one. Better performance from the tight ends will take some of the pressure off Antonio Brown and Emmanuel Sanders.

The Steelers also need to mount a running game, and they should do better at that this week. It would be hard to do worse. But it's a work in progress as the young line comes together. That process should accelerate when rookie running back Le'Veon Bell is recovered from his injury.

The Steelers don't look, at this point in the season, to have enough to handle the Bengals, but they have a chance to get better in successive games against Chicago, which beat Cincinnati, Minnesota and the Jets.


First Published September 16, 2013 12:45 AM


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