Pittsburgh Steelers season has been nothing short of discouraging

Dec 7, 2023; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA;  Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin (left)
Dec 7, 2023; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin (left) / Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

There was plenty of talk this preseason that the AFC North could be the best division in football. One game into Week 14, all four teams boast a .500 record or better. Minus Joe Burrow on Monday night, the last-place Cincinnati Bengals orchestrated a 34-31 overtime road upset of the AFC South leading Jacksonville Jaguars.

Masking the truth

Despite numerous shortcomings, the Pittsburgh Steelers owned a 6-3 record after nine games and had won four of its previous five contests, including a 17-10 victory over the current first-place Ravens. However, those many issues have caught up with Mike Tomlin’s team. To be clear, they exist on both sides of the ball despite a few solid individual performances.

The firing of offensive coordinator Matt Canada following a 13-10 loss at Cleveland was a Band-Aid for a team that is in need of a tourniquet. A 16-10 victory at Cincinnati saw the team roll up 421 total yards. The bottom line is that the team scored one touchdown and hung on for the victory.

Wasted opportunities

The Steelers were supposed to get well against the last-place Cardinals and Patriots. Instead, it was two more step backwards. Losses to Arizona (24-10) and New England (21-18) dropped Pittsburgh’s record to 7-6. The Steelers have scored 20 points or less in four straight and nine of their 13 contests.

For now, Mitch Trubisky is the starting quarterback while Kenny Pickett recovers from ankle surgery. This an offense that has produced 18 touchdowns in 13 contests. The team is barely edging out San Francisco’s Christian McCaffrey (17) and Miami’s Raheem Mostert (16) in that department.

A shaky defense with numerous injuries at inside linebacker, has laid plenty of eggs this season. However, this was a unit that looked overwhelmed earlier in the season when it was a lot healthier. The Steelers’ 21 takeaways and 36 sacks mask a lot of inefficiency. Some fourth-quarter heroics have saved the clubs from further embarrassment.

Last season’s surprising 7-2 finish after a 2-6 start by Tomlin’s club was supposed to be a sign of things to come. Instead, it has proven to be a stop sign, with progress failing to be made. In fact, this is a team that seems to lack confidence and appears to be questioning itself more and more on a weekly basis. The Steelers’ seven wins have not come easy, and four of the six losses have been by double-digits.

Hope is a good thing, but…

There’s still time to turn things around and there are opportunities against the Colts, Bengals and Ravens, all AFC playoff contenders. After two disheartening home losses in a five-day span, the questions grossly outweigh the answers.

These are ugly times in the Steel City, and there’s not enough makeup to cover up the mess. The soul searching must begin immediately, or this could all add up to an offseason of numerous changes for this storied franchise whose leadership is being questioned from the very top and throughout.