Here at Shutdown Corner, we want to help. So once a week, we'll go in and examine a team coming off a bad week, bad month, maybe a bad decade (you're in luck, Cleveland), and see what fixes can be made to turn around the season. So step aside, we've got this. Next under the microscope: The Pittsburgh Steelers.
What's right: To begin, this is the Pittsburgh Steelers we're talking about. Iconic franchise, legendary fans, as they're happy to tell you. There's a large well of civic goodwill and tradition upon which to draw, and head coach Mike Tomlin has not yet lost control of his program. Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger hasn't been awful, per se; Pittsburgh ranks in the top 10 in passing yards. Granted, that's of necessity, as Pittsburgh has needed to take to the air because of its pathetic run game. But when you're 0-3, you cling to whatever you can.
What's wrong, offensive division: On a macro basis, pretty much everything. The Steelers rank 28th in yards per game, 29th in time of possession per game, and dead freaking last (tied with the Giants) in turnover differential. Dig deeper, and it gets even worse, particularly in the running game: Pittsburgh is averaging three yards per run, ranking 31st in the league in rushing yards. Injuries to center Maurkice Pouncey and running back Le'Veon Bell have exposed the open wound that is the Steelers offense.
What's wrong, defensive division: The defense isn't terrible, ranking generally mid-pack in most statistical categories and as high as fifth in fewest yards allowed. The major problem is that time-of-possession stat noted above: the defense has to be on the field for long, long stretches of time, and in the National Football League, you give almost anybody long enough, they'll figure a way to pick you apart.
What we'd fix: The ground game. There's no way around it. Pittsburgh's inability to run the football is absolutely killing them. And it's not just the fact that Felix Jones is your go-to guy ... or was, until he got benched Sunday night in favor of Jonathan Dwyer. The offensive line has had all the blocking power of a leaf pile, and the Steelers receiving corps is a collection of guys you wouldn't pick for your fantasy team in a 20-team league. You can shift players around on the line to try to find a fit, but at the moment the Steelers' best hope is that Bell shows some kind of spark when he returns. Plus, Roethlisberger needs some kind of help, either from his blocking or offensive coordinator Todd Haley's playcalling, in order to get more comfortable, since it appears Roethlisberger will have to hoist this team on his shoulders for the foreseeable future.
The road ahead: Heigh-ho, heigh-ho, it's off to London the Steelers go. A winnable showdown at Wembley Stadium against the Vikings looms this weekend. Outside of that, there are plenty of possible victories on the schedule. The Patriots, Bengals, Ravens and Packers lurk, but outside of them? Opportunities abound over the next 13 games.
Is there hope for the Steelers?: Frankly, not a lot. There are so many moving parts here misfiring that it'd be like changing a tire when the car is still moving. With a healthy Bell, a smarter offensive scheme and some more discipline in holding onto the damn football, the Steelers could make the year respectable ... or, at least, not a point-and-laugh debacle.