Sunday, October 31, 2010

A quick prediction

I try not to get into game predictions ~ I'm notoriously bad at such things ~ but I do have some thoughts on the remainder of the 2010 regular season and wanted to get those on the record.

First, let me state plainly what is in my head: The Steelers will be fortunate to win four more games this season. The frustrations that some fans have felt regarding the performance of the defensive unit (the Baltimore and Miami games in particular) will only grow as long as Aaron Smith and Brett Keisel are missing from the lineup. The loss of Mr. Smith has devastated the defense in seasons past; and while Ziggy Hood may prove a capable replacement there is no reason to believe he will approach the level that Aaron Smith has achieved in his career.

The inability to effectively stop the run will leave the Steelers offense playing from behind for much of the remainder of the season; and that means more emphasis on the passing game. The net effect will be that the Steelers, who are averaging 55.33 offensive plays a game, will have even fewer plays (and less time) to possess the football while the defense will spend more plays, and more time on the field.

All of this will mean that the Steelers will struggle mightily against the very best teams (e.g. New England, N.Y. Jets, Baltimore) and will see their competitive advantage reduced against teams who they would otherwise dominate (e.g. Cincinnati, Cleveland). Looking at the remaining schedule, we can expect close wins versus Cleveland, Buffalo, and Carolina. The games versus New Orleans, New England, New York, and Baltimore are almost certainly going to be losses ~ and those conference losses may nix whatever playoff hopes the Steelers have ~ while the games against Cincinnati are now toss-ups. And Oakland? It feels as thought the Steelers haven't beaten the Raiders since Ken Stabler was the Oakland quarterback.

Naturally there are certain factors not considered here that could change the Steelers' fortunes ~ e.g. turnovers by the defense, an exceptional ground attack by the offense, big plays by the special teams ~ but all things being equal the next nine games are certain to be a struggle.