With their injuries and uninspired play so far in 2011, the Pittsburgh Steelers are in trouble. The defending AFC champions stand at just 2-2 and are coming off a 17-10 loss to the Houston Texans, and though the team's problems have been clear for a while, the Steelers haven't shown much improvement. Pete Prisco's latest power rankings at CBSSports.com reflect that reality: he moved them down to No. 11. "If Ben Roesthlisberger [sic] is out for a period of time, the Steelers are in big trouble," he says. "Their lines are really struggling."
The Steelers don't expect Roethlisberger's injury to keep him out of Sunday's game against Tennessee, but whether he can stay healthy for the full season remains a question. That's bad news, obviously, given the quality of his backups. As noted elsewhere on SB Nation Pittsburgh, neither Charlie Batch nor Dennis Dixon is a particularly inspiring option.
Further, the No. 13 ranking reflects a composite of ESPN's panel. John Clayton (17), Ashley Fox (16), and Walker (15) were far less kind to the Steelers in their voting this week.
Rebecca Rollett of Behind the Steel Curtain, SB Nation's Steelers blog, seems to agree with the more dour assessment of Pittsburgh:
I'm generally an optimist, willing to assume that there are good and sufficient reasons for personnel decisions, coaching schemes, and so on to which we as fans are not privy. But I'm also a pragmatist, and the general sense of malaise in the locker room last night during the post-game interviews was unnerving to me.
Sunday's game against the Tennessee Titans (3-1) will test the Steelers' resolve. Tennessee has won each of its last three games by a combined 34 points and leads the AFC South.
This may be the fate of the Steelers all year long. Look good one week, and not so good the next. Expected to see more from this talented group of receivers while the defense continues to show signs of age.
Maybe it’s just grudging respect left over from Billick’s days as the Ravens’ head coach, but I think that ranking is overly generous at this point. The Steelers looked worse than the score of their 17-10 loss against the Steelers indicated, and they’re fighting injuries all over the field. The news that James Harrison will be out several weeks makes things that much worse.
The Packers, Saints and Ravens are Billick’s first three teams, while the Bengals are at No. 22 and the Browns at No. 25.