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Thursday, September 19, 2013

Are the Steelers the worst team in the NFL?

The Pittsburgh Steelers are winless after two weeks of the 2013 season.  In the NFL this year 25% of the league has two wins, 50% is 1-1, and the other 25% have not managed to taste victory.  “Well that just makes sense.”  Well, technically such and perfect distribution of wins and losses is probably more of a statistical anomaly than most of us realize.  And just as there are at least a couple surprising 2-0 teams, there are three or four surprising 0-2 teams, with the Black & Gold definitely being one of the unpleasant surprises.
 Truthfully, I think there were few Pittsburgh fans who realistically expected this to be a great year.   Sure they have missed the playoffs every year that’s divisible by “3” since the start of the millennium – maybe it’s some sort of hex from Jeff Reed.  But they rebound well, including going to the Super Bowl once during each of the last three rebounds (’05, ’08, and ’10).  So I think the expectation was they would be competitive and build momentum.  Lay the foundation for the next championship run.  But just as no memorable Steeler has worn #13, Steeler fans may want to forget about the ’13 season quickly.  But c’mon, are they really that bad?
Well, statistically, the Steelers’ offense is in the bottom 25% of the league, being ranked 26th in passing and 31st in rushing.  More concerning is the run defense is ranked 25th.   On offense, the only team behind them in rushing are the NY Giants, who are also 0-2.  The Giants are first in passing and have a balanced but average-ranked defense even after facing the other Manning from Mile High. They play 0-2 Carolina this week, meaning we can guarantee that at least one team will be 0-3.  Minnesota plays Cleveland, also both 0-2.  So there are at least two teams starting the season 0-3 barring a rare sister-kisser.  Let’s hope Minnesota can beat the Browns for two reasons: The Browns going winless would be some consolation to Pittsburgh fans in a down year, and we don’t want to face an 0-3 Vikings Team in London. 
The other 0-2 teams are Washington, Tampa, and Jacksonville.  Washington has RG III recovering from knee surgery, but offensively are still much better than Pittsburgh.  Defensively they have been thrashed, giving up over 200 yards per game on the ground and 300 through the air.  They’re giving up 500 yards per game to Pittsburgh’s 320.  But they played Philly and Green Bay, we played Tennessee and Cincinnati, which aside from having a lot of repeating letters in their names also aren’t very strong offensive teams.   Tampa and Jacksonville, however, well they just don’t look good. 
Tampa has the second worst passing offense in the league and is mired in a leadership controversy at quarterback. Outside of Tampa fans, who really thought Freeman was a great QB though? Pittsburgh fans might mumble “Kordell” to fans in The Cigar City.  Aside from QB, they are a middle of the pack team.  Then there's Jacksonville. Man they are bad. They might not have a solid chance at a win until week 10.  Other than the #2 ranked pass defense, they are 28th or lower in the other three areas.  They lost to the resurrected Chiefs and the Raiders, and the next 8 weeks are playing teams that all look to have playoff potential.      
So, no, the Steelers aren’t the worst team this year.  But right now there are only four or five teams that look worse than them.    They can separate themselves from bad company with wins in the next couple weeks, get back to .500, which is where they may be lucky to finish at the end of the season.  You can’t win ‘em all, but Steeler fans have come to expect excellence.   While we may be frustrated and disappointed right now, we can still root for a perfect season of other sorts: 0-16 for the Brownies.   

Aaron Hunt

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