It’s OK to be critical of the Steelers even though they’re 6-3
There’s an ongoing debate between Steelers fans/media and other Steelers fans/media regarding the 2023 edition.
The debate goes something like this: “Pittsburgh stinks, but it’s 6-3, so why are you talking about anything else but the record?” OK, that’s the stance of the Pro-Scoreboard crowd. The Pro-Negative Nancy/Nate crowd is more concerned about the performance on the field and how the Steelers have managed to acquire such a fancy record despite mostly playing like a team that should probably be no better than 3-6.
I understand both sides of the debate, but I’m a little more annoyed with the folks who can’t seem to understand why people are being negative about a football team that clearly doesn’t pass the eye test when it comes to being a true NFL contender.
Yes, the 2023 Pittsburgh Steelers are 6-3, and I’m truly grateful for that record, but that doesn’t mean I can’t comment on the lackluster performance of the team week in and week out. Your eyes aren’t lying to you each and every Sunday/Monday/Thursday.
This team is as bad as its stats say it is.
It’s 28th in offense. It’s 28th in defense. Nobody is really excelling except for T.J. Watt, who is going to excel under any circumstance because he’s a generational player, complete with 88 career sacks.
You could also throw in Chris Boswell if you want. He’d be a generational talent if kickers not named Justin Tucker were allowed to be called that. Even without that label, it’s safe to say Boswell is the greatest kicker in Steelers history, and they’ve sure needed him this year. What would Pittsburgh’s already alarming point differential look like without Boswell’s contributions in 2023? He’s 13 of 13 on extra points and 17 of 18 on field goals (his only miss came on a 61-yard try following one of the most puzzling penalties of the year).
Speaking of extra points, the Steelers have a grand total of 15 touchdowns this year (I’m assuming they went for two a couple of times, but this offense is too forgettable to remember when). In case you’re bad at math, that’s 1.6 touchdowns a game (1.4 if you take away two defensive touchdowns).
That’s right, the offense stinks. It absolutely stinks, and you can’t blame people for commenting on it. Matt Canada has been the Joe Walton/Ray Sherman of offensive coordinators, and that may or may not be because Kenny Pickett has been doing his best Cliff Stoudt impression while trying to be the first Steeler to truly replace a franchise quarterback in nearly two decades. Pickett has six touchdowns in nine games. Yuck.
We’ve been over all of that before, so let’s talk about the defense. It’s not really elite. Not only is it not elite, but it’s not even all that healthy. It’s down two inside linebackers for the rest of the year. It’s been missing Minkah Fitzpatrick for a while. And even when all of those guys were in there, the Steelers defense wasn’t exactly reminding anyone of the 2008 edition. The only thing keeping the Steelers defense relevant in 2023–outside of Watt’s 10.5 sacks–is a league-leading 18 takeaways.
That’s right, Pittsburgh’s defense couldn’t be more opportunistic and is on pace to snag 34 takeaways by season’s end.
That’s damn good.
The Steelers offense is really good at taking care of the football with only eight turnovers and is on pace for just 15 by season’s end.
Plus-10 in the turnover category; that’s really the only thing the Steelers have going for them in 2023 (other than Watt’s sacks and Boswell’s kicks).
That’s why people are questioning the team’s playoff-worthiness despite its 6-3 record. I mean, we did nothing but question the Steelers while they were on their way to an 11-0 record three years ago. We said that they were doing it with smoke and mirrors, and as it turned out, we were right.
People were questioning the Vikings and their 13-4 record a year ago. Minnesota was averaging nearly 25 points per game, but it was allowing over 25 points per game. You could see that the team was a house of cards and would likely collapse once the postseason began.
The Vikings, champions of the NFC North, collapsed at home to the wildcard Giants in the first round.
The biggest difference between the 2022 Vikings and the 2023 Steelers is that the 2022 Vikings were a hell of a lot more fun to watch. At least Minnesota excelled on one side of the ball. As already mentioned, this 2023 Steelers team doesn’t excel on either side of the ball.
And that’s why we continue to question things despite the Steelers’ awesome record. My goodness, we question every single thing all year round–even during the offseason. We question why the Steelers didn’t go to so and so’s pro day. We question so and so’s acceleration in the three-cone drill at the Combine. We question the draft picks, each and every gosh-darn one of them. We question why Omar Khan didn’t sign so and so. We question why Khan did sign so and so. We question the annual schedule reveal. We question the latest rule change.
Yet, we can’t question the performance of the Steelers when they’re actually playing games?
“There’s too much negativity in these articles, and I find myself coming here less and less each and every week.” That’s been a popular refrain on my old Steelers site for the last month or so (I still lurk). “I can’t handle all of the negativity,” is something a lot of people say on my old site, on my new site, and on a lot of Steelers sites.
You see that a lot on Twitter, too. “I can’t handle all of the negativity.”
I don’t understand, are you being forced to absorb the negativity like an iron infusion?
So let’s get this straight: You can handle the 17.2 points per game just fine. You can sit through the weekly snooze/frustration-fest that is a Steelers game in 2023. But you just can’t handle the negativity of writers, podcasters and radio hosts when they talk about the game in the days that follow?
Makes sense to me.
A football season is a long one, and there is a lot to discuss besides just “Scoreboard!” Imagine if we all reduced our Steelers coverage down to the final score: “The Steelers defeated the Packers, 23-19, at Acrisure Stadium on Sunday. Check back to the Steel Curtain Network for scores of future Steelers games. Goodbye!”
I know what you’re going to say, “We have to enjoy the ride, Tony! Worry about the playoffs when and if they arrive!” Hey, I get the whole “The journey is more fun than the final destination” argument, believe me. However, the Steelers ride hasn’t been a fun one for quite some time. Watching a Steelers win this year is like sitting in rush-hour traffic for two hours and then later discovering you have a flat tire when you’re a block from your house. Sure, you’re quite relieved when you finally make it home, but you damn sure better believe you’re going to complain about your journey.
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