Saturday, January 04, 2014
2013 Steelers: What went wrong
Since I've already touched on what went right for the Steelers in 2013, here's a look at what went wrong in the second part of this series
The Steelers scored 19 points in their first two games, then allowed 74 points in their next two to fall to 0-4.
The team also turned the ball over 11 times in those first four games, with Roethlisberger accounting for nine of those giveaways with fumbles and interceptions.
Pittsburgh went 8-4 after that start, but needed one more victory – or a correct call by the officials on two separate plays in the Kansas City-San Diego game in Week 17 – to get into the playoffs.
The biggest issue was big plays.
The defense allowed an astounding five runs of 40 or more yards and 12 passes of that length or greater.
The defense was better in the second half, but still had some letdowns, most notably a pair of long runs allowed in a 34-28 loss at Heinz Field to Miami Dec. 8, that helped keep the Steelers out of the playoffs.
Injuries also played a factor. In addition to losing Pouncey in the season opener, the Steelers also lost inside linebacker Larry Foote for the season in that game. All told, the Steelers ended the season with 11 players on injured reserve, including Pouncey’s replacement, Fernando Velasco, and linebacker LaMarr Woodley.
The run defense was also not up to its usual stout standards. Pittsburgh allowed 115.6 yards rushing per game and 4.3 yards per carry while opponents scored 18 rushing touchdowns.
The rushing yards per game and average per carry were the teams’ worst since 1999, while the rushing touchdowns allowed were the most since the team gave up 20 during a 5-11 season in 1988.
The rushing offense, as a whole, wasn’t much better. Despite Bell’s surge, Pittsburgh averaged 74 yards rushing per game in the first half of the season and 99 yards per game in the second. The 84.2 yards per game average for the season was Pittsburgh’s worst since the 1970 NFL merger. And its 3.5 yards per carry average was identical in the first half and second half.
It helped cost offensive line coach Jack Bicknell Jr. his job.
There were also some issues in the kicking game, particularly with the punters.
Drew Butler, the team’s punter in 2012, was released just prior to the opening of the regular season and replaced by Zoltan Mesko, a Patriots castoff. Mesko was inconsistent and had just three of his 34 punts downed inside the 20.
He was replaced at midseason by Mat McBriar, who also dealt with some inconsistences. McBriar did, however, place 13 of 40 punts inside the 20.