Steelers Cowher In The Hot Seat

The boo-birds are again alive and well in Pittsburgh, and they have every right and reason to be upset with the Steelers. During the off-season, there was the usual rhetoric that comes from an organization that has issues. From evaluating the team to making changes to enhance the productivity, the story is the same in Pittsburgh as anywhere else that fields an NFL team.

For one week, the Steelers teased us all. That was week one of the season when they dominated the Baltimore Ravens and won going away.

What could have gone so wrong in such a period of time?

Thinking of the Steelers, those "Steel Curtain" defenses of the past have to come to mind immediately. The thought of heading into Pittsburgh to play the Steelers could be intimidating; they would punish a running back with a swarming, aggressive defense. A quarterback was never safe dropping back to pass, and at any given moment a Pittsburgh defensive back would lay a monstrous hit on a receiver.

The problem is, we are talking about the past.

Head coach Bill Cowher is on the hot seat in Pittsburgh, as his Steelers have dropped to 2-3 after a 33-13-blowout loss to the Browns in Pittsburgh. To add insult to defeat, the normally animated and emotionally charged Cowher did not appear to be overly disappointed with the recent loss.

"It did not take long for Cowher to start catching the heat again. Much like last season, we are struggling defensively and there is no indication that the trend will change any time soon," a team source said. "We may have eroded in believing that injury, scheme, and some other issues within the team structure were the reasoning behind our poor defensive play last season."

"Heading into this season, we made a few changes and thought that we had solved the majority or biggest part of the problem, but in the back of our minds, we knew that we had an offense that would balance this out."

Teams have found success spreading out the defense and getting the Steelers into the nickel and dime packages. The Steelers are not deep in the defensive backfield, but an underlying point to the demise of the Pittsburgh defense may be the inability to generate a consistent pass-rush.

Gone is the consistent pressure from linebacker Jason Gildon. Joey Porter is an athletic linebacker, Kendrell Bell is a gifted player, but if the Steelers cannot get to the quarterback they will struggle.

"Our front-seven dictates our success. If we are unable to get to the quarterback, we will struggle and play as poorly as we have in the past few weeks," the source continued. "Our defensive backs are not the type of corners that can man-up, play-in and play-out. Our safeties have struggled as well, we are giving up far too many crossing and intermediate that we always stopped with out linebacker drops and aggressive safety play."

One way to help a struggling defense is an offense that controls the ball, to keep the defense off the field. Again, there lies yet another issue within the Steelers football family.

The power rushing attack has left Pittsburgh, as throwing the football has become the passing fancy in the "Steel City".

Veteran running back Jerome Bettis has been relegated to the role of backup to Amos Zereoue as the starter. Pittsburgh has been victims of their own success. When Tommy Maddox replaced Kordell Stewart last season, the Steelers became an explosive offensive team, so much to the point that the team threw the ball well over 60 percent of the time.

"One of the goals heading into the season was to get back to being a balanced offensive football team. With Zereoue in the lineup, the thought was we would increase the speed and quickness in the backfield, which would open up our options," the source said. "Instead, we are seeing a faction within the team which would like to see us get back to running the football with Jerome (Bettis) and an aggressive offensive line. I can't say that I disagree with the notion, we are capable of running the football, but for some reason we get away from the run all too often."

"We need to help the offense and defense; right now we are making too many mistakes on both sides of the ball."

Right now, this Pittsburgh team is struggling; it may be time to go back to what has always worked.

Run the football Cowher, it may be your last resort.

Steel City Insider Top Stories