The Pittsburgh Steelers will be coming off of a bye week to visit the New York Jets winless in their first four games of the 2013 NFL Season on Sunday, October 13. They have had some shining moments and more than a few that have been just plain ugly. During the bye week, the Pittsburgh Steelers picked up Levi Brown from the Arizona Cardinals due to a youthful, yet struggling, offensive line. With a bit of extra practice, it remains to be seen if the Steelers have finally figured out how to run an effective offense for sixty minutes. There are also questions on defense as defensive backs have been beaten on long passes and the Steelers have struggled at times to stop the run. Penalties have killed drives as much as sacks, fumbles and interceptions. The team has been compared to the 1968 Steelers team. Week Six will be a do-or-die situation.
The 1968 Steelers struggled due to issues that followed years of trading away draft picks for veteran players that were near the end of their careers. When Chuck Noll took over, he was determined that the Steelers would improve their situation, and it had to start with talent.
The 2013 Steelers have talent, but have infused youth into an area that has traditionally been bolstered by veteran players - the offensive line. Prior to the loss of Pro Bowl center Maurkice Pouncey for the season, left guard Ramon Foster was the eldest player on the offensive line. The Steelers brought in Fernando Velasco at center, adding veteran experience. With the poor performance of left tackle Mike Adams, the Steelers reached out and brought in veteran Brown who spent the bye-week studying the playbook and then split reps with offensive tackles Adams and Kelvin Beachum on the left side with the first-team today. Head coach Mike Tomlin has insisted that Brown will have to show that he deserves to start with the team.
Some of the best leaders on the 2013 Steelers team are nearing the end of their careers; Troy Polamalu, Brett Keisel. Even Roethlisberger is 'old' compared to a majority of the new youth movement in Pittsburgh. That has forced Pittsburgh to play each game as if it were a playoff game, to get a win at all costs. That hasn't come to fruition. Tomlin has preached improvement, execution and effort. He also stressed "belief". It comes down to the young players buying into the system on offense and defense. The bye week may have been a blessing, but will only be appreciated if the Steelers can turn the extra time to prepare into a win.
In this list, we will look at five areas that must be improved if the Steelers want to walk away from Sunday's game against the New York Jets as victors.
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The offensive line has to step up and play much better than they have during the first four games of the season in week 6. If quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is allowed time in and out of the pocket, he has the ability to not only extend plays, but find open receivers and run an effective offense.
Keep the running game in full gear
Rookie running back Le'Veon Bell scored two rushing touchdowns for the Pittsburgh Steelers against the Minnesota Vikings. It was the first rushing touchdowns of the 2013 NFL Season for the Steelers.
In what has been a stagnant rushing game, the Steelers need to utilize Bell, Jonathan Dwyer and Felix Jones against the Jets. With the running game in full gear, the Steelers offense will open up more options than short passes to move down the field and score.
Wrap up opponents when tackling
One issue that has plagued the Steelers defense during the 2013 NFL Season has been ineffective tackling. Defensive backs have been beaten by opponents, which isn't typical. If the Steelers defense and special teams players wrap up their opponents instead of using arm tackles, they will be more successful at stopping big plays.
Stuff the run on defense
The Pittsburgh Steelers defense spent the 2012 NFL Season at the top of the league. For some reason, that same defense has struggled to keep opponents from breaking big plays in the ground game.
If the Steelers can return to their stingy ways of stuffing the run, they will force the Jets to be more one-dimensional.
Takeaways not turnovers
Turnovers have killed the Steelers during the 2013 NFL Season. All of them have been against them thus far.
The Steelers need takeaways on defense. Interceptions are nill. The Steelers must increase their ability to make turnovers that go in their favor if they want to be able to either score on defense or just get the offense back on the field and moving forward for touchdowns.