Steelers Beat Writer

Dale Lolley is a contributor to the Observer-Reporter and has been covering the Pittsburgh Steelers since 1993.

The Steelers are at a crossroads. And no, not simply because Ben Roethlisberger isn’t playing well.

He’s had stretches like this before. Remember his four-game stretch in 2017 when he threw three touchdown passes and seven interceptions, including five in a loss to the Jaguars.

That stretch was far worse than this current one. The only difference is that the Steelers won two of those games, going 2-2, not the 1-3 record they’ve posted this season. That stretch also came in Weeks 3 through 6, not at the start of the season.

But Roethlisberger, then 35, but playing with an elbow injury – he had dealt with elbow pain since 2015 – that would eventually require surgery, rebounded with 21 touchdown passes and six interceptions in his final nine games.

That team, however, also had Antonio Brown, Le’Veon Bell and a young JuJu Smith-Schuster. It had weapons that produced. And an offensive line that blocked.

Those things are as much, if not more, of an issue right now than the play of Roethlisberger. He’s no longer the engine that pulls the rest of the team. And the rest of the team isn’t playing well enough to cover for that.

Roethlisberger can certainly play better. But the rest of the team has to carry its weight, as well. That includes the offensive line, the wide receivers and running backs and, perhaps most importantly, the defense.

The plan going into this season was for the defense to be better than it’s played this season to help the offense, which is incredibly young outside of Roethlisberger, until it got its bearing.

This week would be a good time for that to happen, just as it did against the Bills in the opener.

  • In a league with replay and many camera angles, how isn’t an offside call on a field goal attempt reviewable?

It’s a scoring play – especially when the kick is blocked and returned for a touchdown.

The Steelers should have been up 17-14 at the half against the Packers instead of down 17-10. That doesn’t mean they would have won the game, but it most certainly didn’t help their cause.

  • Hard to believe right now, but the Pirates, who finished their season at 61-101, had a better winning percentage than the Steelers right now at 1-3.

Of course, when the Steelers’ schedule came out, even the most optimistic of fans had their record pegged at 2-2 with trips to Buffalo and Green Bay in that opening stretch.

The reality is that they’re one game behind where most people thought they would be heading into Sunday’s game against the Broncos. And four of their next five games are at home.

So, no, this season isn’t over. And they’re not about to punt on it yet.

That doesn’t mean they are Super Bowl contenders, but anyone who thinks the Steelers will simply quit wasn’t paying attention in 2019, when they lost Roethlisberger in the second week of the season and went 8-8 with Mason Rudolph and Devlin Hodges at quarterback.

This week’s picks

Broncos (plus 1) at Steelers: First team to 10 points wins it, right? The Broncos face either having Teddy Bridgewater, coming off a concussion, or Drew Lock starting against the Steelers. Either way, it will easily be the worst quarterback the Steelers have faced this season. If the Steelers can stop Denver’s running game, they should win this one. Take the Steelers, 23-16

Browns (plus 2) at Chargers: Baker Mayfield isn’t playing well. He completed just 15 of 33 passes last week in a 14-7 win at Minnesota, and now the Browns are back on the road for a cross-country trip. Mayfield has two touchdown passes and two interceptions in four games. But against Justin Herbert and company, he’s going to be forced to throw the ball more. Take the Chargers, 27-21

Packers (minus 3) at Bengals: This one is interesting given running back Joe Mixon’s status and what he means to Cincinnati’s offense. He’s dealing with a sprained ankle. Cornerback Jaire Alexander was injured against the Steelers and will miss this game, which levels the playing field. Still, it’s hard to bet against Aaron Rodgers in this spot. Take the Packers, 28-24

Colts (plus 6½) at Ravens: The Ravens found a way to shut down the Broncos last week in Denver. Now, they face the Colts, who might be more banged up than the Ravens. Lamar Jackson should run all over Indianapolis’ defense. Take the Ravens, 31-17

Dolphins (plus 10) at Buccaneers: Miami has been offensively challenged this season, especially since Jacoby Brissett has been at quarterback. And forget last week’s score in New England. The weather played a huge factor in the Bucs not covering in that game. They’ll blow the struggling Dolphins out. Take the Bucs, 34-17

Last Week: 2-3 Straight up, 0-5 ATS; Overall: 11-11 Straight up, 5-15 ATS.

Dale Lolley covers the Steelers for and writes a Sunday column for the Observer-Reporter.

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