5 Smoldering Questions on the Pittsburgh Steelers: Bye Week/Colts Edition

893818C2-8F19-4508-86EA-CE8704C8A0E7The bye week has come and gone with the Steelers gaining on the rest of the AFC North as well as the Chiefs without so much as buckling a chin strap. While the Steelers take a 6-2 record out of the bye week, their performance in the next 8 weeks will determine not only whether they get to play “January football” but also under what conditions. 

With that, we bring you your 5 Smoldering Questions on the Steelers bye week.

1. Mike Tomlin teams are 6-4 coming off the bye week, which isn’t bad, except for the fact that their last three bye weeks have been followed by losses to New Orleans, Seattle and Baltimore.

Do you think the Steelers can snap that streak or not? Defend your choice.

2. Mike Tomlin is fond of saying that each year brings a new team, and the 2017 Steelers are certainly getting contributions from players who wore other uniforms last season. 

At the halfway pole of 2017, which one new Steeler’s contribution has made the biggest difference?

3. One undeniable area weakness of the Steelers has been production in the Red Zone. What’s going wrong and what needs to happen to change this?

4. Every summer the Steelers coaching staff makes noises about lessening Le’Veon Bell’s workload, and every season Le’Veon ends up getting the lion’s share of the carries. The truth is that limiting a back’s carries is easy to do on paper but harder to execute in the heat of a game.

So the question is, do you think it is important that the Steelers coaches try to limit Le’Veon Bell’s carries over the next 8 games, and if so how should they accomplish this feat?

5. When the Steelers were en route to a 2-6 start in 2013, a member of the Pittsburgh media privately pointed to the rags to riches story that was the Indianapolis Colts rebuild thanks to their “Suck for Luck” campaign in 2011 and mused that maybe the Steelers should follow suit.

With the benefit of a little broader bit of hindsight, do you think that “Sucking for Luck” was worth it for the Colts?

14 comments

  • First! JJSS Speed!!!!

    1. Of course they can snap the streak. The question is, will they? They had six wins in a row before that. I think they will, because a) while it’s a road game, they’ve played well on the road this year, mostly. B) If we are going to take history as any guide, Ben and Martavis have had a few big games against the Colts the past few years. C) You have to read the opponent preview to find out the rest of my defense : )

    2. It is between Alualu and Haden IMO, but I think it really has to be Haden, even though Alualu has been very important in the absence of Tuitt. But having two very good corners is quite the luxury (not to mention Hilton! In fact, as I think about Hilton you could make a great case for him as well. The only thing is, he isn’t on the field every snap like Haden…

    3. They have played six of the top ten defenses in the past eight games. It’s just a lot harder to score when the field is so condensed. What they need is what it looks they are going to get in the second half, starting this Sunday—some less fearsome defenses. If they still can’t score in the red zone I’ll reassess….

    4. The truth is, they really can’t until such time as James Conner is more reliable in blitz pickup. I’m pretty sure that as soon as everyone trusts him, he’ll get a lot more touches.

    5. I asked much the same question in re Luck vs. DeCastro. The trouble is, the Steelers would have to suck for a whole season to get a top draft spot, and it just isn’t in the DNA of the organization. Besides they have invested too much in their offensive line and defense to throw away the prime years of these players. The real problem I see for the Steelers (if you want to view it as a problem) is that as they are comprised they are not going to lose 16 games, no matter who is at quarterback. They may have to invest some serious draft capital if they want to move up enough to take even one of the second-tier QBs.

    As far as the Colts go, they did what they needed to do. What they didn’t do was to put a good enough line around him to keep him on the field. But of course some of it is just luck….

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  • 1. Yes. The Colts are bad, and we gotta be in their heads a little after all the points we’ve scored on them recently.
    2. On defense, Haden. On offense, JuJu (a second WR Ben can rely on will be key come playoff time).
    3. See Rebecca’s answer.
    4. Yes, we should try to limit his totes some, especially Sunday with the Titans next up on a short week. Aside from Conner improving his blitz pickup so he can play more, we can mix in more shovel/screen passes, which are essentially runs from the WR position.
    5. No. They were bad enough that a Wunderkind QB wasn’t sufficient; they’ve done a poor job improving their defense, and especially their O-line. They’re not the first to ruin a potentially great QB by failing to protect him; Houston broke David Carr the same way, and [that Washington team] has done the same.

    5a. I agree with Rebecca that the Steelers are highly unlikely to go that route; their floor, even with Landry Jones, isn’t far south of .500. We’re unlikely to get a top-tier QB because both trading a bunch to move up in the first round and drafting for need are nearly anathema to KC & Co. Odds are we’ll do our best to work with what falls to us; if we’re lucky, we’ll find a gem to polish into greatness.

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  • 1. I sure hope so. I refuse to make predictions on games though so I will leave it at that. Superstitious much?

    2. If considering free agent signings of veterans, I would say Joe Haden. If you want to include rookies, TJ Watt without a doubt. He has, so far, gone beyond expectations, which were rather high to start with. But then you think about JJSS and his contributions…… Let me rephrase: Offense – JJSS, Defense – TJW

    3. I think it is the offense trying to force it into the endzone as soon as they get within 25 yards or so. This happens a lot when playing ultimate frisbee. A team will get near the endzone and then just try to get the score, forcing bad throws and bad decisions, rather than continuing to throw to the open player and eventually get in.

    4. I don’t think limiting Bell’s carries is necessary, especially this year since he took all of training camp and preseason off. If really wanting to limit his carries, James Conner has looked pretty good when on the field.

    5. I would say that it was, even with hindsight. He is a very good player that has had a bit of misfortune with injury. They got exactly what they wanted out of the deal by getting a franchise quarterback that could start from day one.

    Now, I don’t think it is something a team should do regardless since it means a tough, tough season for the fans, players, etc.

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  • 1. Steelers are good and on a roll. Indy is not so good. Should win unless Ben craps the bed.
    2. Haden followed by Watt, Alualu, and Juju. The defense has been much improved. The offense, not so much.
    3.They are outthinking themselves and getting too damned cute. They should impose their will down there. Either that, or perhaps some of the guys are confusing the Red Zone with the End Zone and think the goal is to get into the Red Zone. Remind them.
    4. Rebecca is totally right. Don’t risk Ben by having Conner in there in pass pro too much.
    5. Do anything you can to get your franchise quarterback. The problem wasn’t that they sucked for Luck. The problem was they didn’t protect him well enough. If this draft is as deep in QB’s as they saw, the Steelers may be tempted to trade multiple picks AND players to move up in the first round. It’s a big gamble, but we all remember the years of wandering in the desert between Bradshaw and Ben.

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  • cold_old_steelers_fan

    1) The Steelers should break the streak by beating the Colts but injuries and brain cramps happen so anything is possible.\

    2) Hmmm… Hayden but I can see that Watt, JJSS, Alualu and Hilton have all brought a lot to the table as well. If only Bryant can get up to speed then this team will be unstoppable.

    3) Lots of good answers before mine. Pick the one that sounds best.

    4) I would give Connor and Watson some more snaps but it will be difficult till Connors pass blocking improves (I don’t remember what Watson is like in PB).

    5) If the Steelers see someone special and can get him by trading up, as long as the price isn’t too steep, then I hope they move up and grab him. It may well be they see someone who has been overlooked in which case they can wait for him. Another possibility is we see a season of Jones/Dobbs followed by a better draft position though I would have to think someone really special would have to fall to 32nd for them to take that attitude.

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  • 1. Yes. New Orleans, Seattle and Baltimore are good teams, Indianapolis, especially without Luck is not. But see Homer’s caveat.

    2. The defensive players: Haden, Watt, Alualu. But JJSS is a star in the making.

    3. See Rebecca’s answer. The first half of the season was tougher than most people, including me, thought it would be.

    4. O’Connor needs to get on the field to get some experience. Practice is not enough to learn blitz pickup. Maybe we blow out the Colts and Landry comes in along with O’Connor. Dreaming…

    5. Nope. And, I would like to think that our team has too much pride to suck for a whole season.

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  • 1. Injuries, bad plays and bad luck are always possibilities. On the other hand, I can’t recall a Tomlin team that has ever been this well positioned in terms talent, depth, health and record coming off the Bye. The opportunity is there. It will be interesting to see what kind of killer instinct they can muster.

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  • And the rest.

    2. Haden, Watt and JuJu are all legitimately part of the conversation. The rookies are making the most splash s far, but Haden’s though subtle may be the most significant.

    3. Maybe just a tune up. Machines with so many complex, delicate parts may need to be properly aligned to work properly. In addition, you may have noticed that when this organization focuses on solving a particular problems they eventually succeed. Exhibit 1: pass defense.

    4. As more confidence is gained with Watson and Connor, more reliability in the passing game, this ‘problem’ can solve itself.

    5. The concept is flawed. The best quarterback in that draft, Russell Wilson, was available into the 4th round. Any team in the league regardless of record could have obtained him if so inclined.

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  • Luck, design, define intervention, it seems to be playing out. This is our year I believe. If in the end we all short I will be happy I’m a Steeler fan. Not everyone gets to feel like us at the end of EVERY season.. (7-2)…Homer, thanks for being a Steelers fan. I love that I get to read your words weekly. COSF thanks for your insight. Rebbecca, you are unbelievable at what you bring everytime I come to this sight.
    I hate what our game is becoming but I can’t stop being a PITTSBURGH STEELERS fan. I am lucky to have found such a collection of fans to be able to enjoy together what is the best Team in sports today.
    I believe this is our year.

    Chris

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  • PS. I wish I could edit my post for spelling. Sorry I didn’t edit it before I submitted. Go Steelers

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  • Toronto Steeler Fan

    1. I’ve never noticed this as a pattern (unlike, say, playing on the west coast, or the Road Ben pattern), so I think just based on the relative strengths of the two teams, we break the streak this year.

    2. I have to go with TJ Watt. He is the key to increased pressure and being able to get pressure with a 4-man rush. This allows us to drop another man into coverage and also forces the QB to get the ball out quicker. Without this, guys like Haden and Hilton (both of whom are good additions) are way more exposed and don’t look anywhere near as good.

    3. At this point, I think it’s all in their heads (and that includes the head of the OC). They got close to breaking out in the red zone in Detroit, but flubbed several times. I agree with Homer – just stop being cute and just impose your will.

    4. I agree with Momma – until Conner learns to pass block, we’re stuck with Bell getting most of the touches in the run game. There may be some ways to decrease this slightly (screens, reverses, etc.), but it is what it is for now.

    5. Franchise QBs are available at the back half of the first round. They may not be the absolute best, HOF-caliber QBs, but certainly good enough to take you to the Super Bowl. Guys like Wilson, Carr and Prescott were all post-1st-round picks in recent years, and if you want to include “pretty good” QBs, there are guys like Kirk Cousins and Andy Dalton, too.

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  • 1- From 2008 to 2013 we are at the other end of the spectrum. We had a 8-0 record during that span. Hopefully we don’t take our losing streak to those numbers. Someone mentioned in a comment about getting to cute in the red area. That’s how I feel about this game, we shouldn’t overthink it. Come out and pound the football impose their will on the Colts and they should be fine.

    2- I agree with Toronto, it has to be Watt for me as well. The 4 sacks are solid for a rookie what stands out for me is that he has shown the ability to drop into coverage and make plays. He has a pick and a batted ball or so but also has 4 passes defensed. The stats don’t jump off the page but the arrow is pointing up for the future of this young man. It will be interesting to see what happens the second half.

    I think all the guys we have brought in via Free Agency, Draft or trade have all contributed in some form or fashion and Colbert should be patted on the back for a job well done.

    3- I have always said that we are the best in the business at moving the ball inside the 20s. I would like to see what we can do running a bunch formation with Brown JuJu and Bryant. Maybe put Brown in motion some down there? IDK………….but any kind of improvement makes this team really scary for the other 31. Let’s hope the bye week rights the ship.

    4- He is the straw that stirs our drink. Ben is important to us on many levels but Bell being the focal point makes our team better. He got his needed rest during camp and the bye week should come as a refresher for his legs. I would love to find a way to get Conner some carries or even Watson but I couldn’t take him off the field unless he asked for a rest. Maybe putting both Conner and Bell in together in the red area could shake some things up?

    5- I couldn’t just say we are tanking games for anyone or anything that’s not an option in my mind set. I truly believe that you get what you put in.

    I didn’t see the J-E-T-S winning more than 3 games this year and many thought they would just throw in the towel from the beginning of the season to get their version of Luck. They have come out and played competitive football and until the debacle with the TD against the Patsies could have been in first place in their division. I think they are better off as a team for it. There are no guarantees that the number 1 pick at QB will save your franchise.

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