Barnes Burner: Loss of former Steelers bound to lead to long, losing season


By Nate Barnes / Sports Editor

The Pittsburgh Steelers are in trouble: A 16-9 loss to the Tennessee Titans confirmed that. 

In fact, the loss should be viewed more as a 16-0 loss. The Steelers were gift-wrapped two points on a safety when Tennessee returner Darius Reynaud made a mental mistake on the game’s opening kickoff. 

The Steelers scored a touchdown in the fourth quarter, but that was primarily a result of the Titans playing prevent defense the entire drive with the game’s outcome already well in hand. 

For every single one of the 60 minutes played Sunday, Tennessee was the better team. 

For perspective, the Titans finished last season 6-10 and out of playoff contention. The Titans’ defense finished No. 27 in the league after allowing roughly 375 yards per game and were the worst-ranked scoring defense at 29.4 points allowed per game. 

That same Titans defense held the Steelers to 195 net yards of offense. 

But no, I’m sure Steelers fans aren’t worried that wide receiver Mike Wallace and running back Rashard Mendenhall don’t wear black and gold anymore. 

Speaking of running backs and receivers, the Steelers’ ground game mustered only 32 yards on 15 attempts against a defense that allowed 127.2 yards per game last season. On the outside, the longest pass completed all day was a 22-yard completion to Antonio Brown. 

Meanwhile, in his first nine attempts as a member of the Arizona Cardinals, Rashard Mendenhall rushed for 35 yards. Mendenhall finished with 60 yards on 16 carries.

Never mind that the Steelers allowed Mendenhall to leave and later cut his so-called replacement, Jonathan Dwyer. That move left the Steelers with Isaac Redman’s 9 yards on eight attempts Sunday, so that really worked out. 

In the passing game, Pittsburgh’s receivers had no separation and were unable to free themselves for deep passes from Ben Roethlisberger. Behind an offensive line now missing All-Pro center Maurkice Pouncey, Big Ben was also sacked five times and completed 21-of-33 passes for 191 yards and a touchdown, but also threw two interceptions. 

Meanwhile, in Miami, Wallace’s quarterback, Ryan Tannehill, finished 24-of-38 for 272 yards and a touchdown. While Wallace only caught one pass, Tannehill himself said Wallace was covered not only by Cleveland’s best corner, Joe Haden, but was also double-and triple-teamed all game. 

That sure would’ve helped on Sunday. Wallace taking the tops off every defense the Steelers played is essentially what netted Antonio Brown his six-year, $48-million contract.

This money could’ve gone to Wallace — you know, the receiver who in his first four seasons put up numbers that are nearly identical to those of the Detroit Lions’ Calvin Johnson when it comes to catches, touchdowns, yards and yards per catch. 

Moving forward, the Steelers lost Pouncey, linebacker Larry Foote and running back LaRod Stephens-Howling to season-ending injuries. Stephens-Howling tore his ACL, and Foote suffered a ruptured bicep. 

Now, Dwyer is back in the fold after Stephens-Howling’s injury, and the Steelers need to quickly find a starting linebacker. 

Regardless of what happens on the field, though, there is no real reason to hold out any hope for this 2013 version of the Steelers. And it’s becoming readily apparent there aren’t any reasons for hope in the future, either. 

Starting with the decisions to allow Mendenhall and Wallace to go, and following through with the decision to fire Bruce Arians to bring in Todd Haley, the ownership of these Steelers is now the real concern. 

Remember Arians? The guy who was the offensive coordinator in the run to a Super Bowl victory and then when the Steelers made another one in 2011?

Steelers fans and management ran him out of town, and what has he done since then? He won the Coach of the Year Award last season when he wasn’t even a coach and then landed himself a job as the head coach of the Cardinals. 

On to Haley, Roethlisberger completed 24 passes Sunday and finished with less than 200 yards. Something is wrong with that, and that something features the sequences when Haley calls three consecutive plays to Stephens-Howling, resulting in a three-and-out or three consecutive passes to Redman from inside the red zone. 

In the first half, Roethlisberger averaged about 9 yards per completion when he went 10-of-14 for 94 yards. That’s terrible. A good quarterback averages between 8 and 9 yards per attempt, not completion. 

But while Haley is on the sidelines and the same mentality exists in the Steelers front office, nothing will improve — not in 2013 and not in the foreseeable future.