Pittsburgh Steelers: Top Five Underperforming Players Of 2014


This Thanksgiving season the Pittsburgh Steelers have to be grateful for a 7-4 overall record and a 5-3 conference record. If the NFL season ended today, it would be just enough to slip into the playoffs as the final wild card team.

What isn’t good enough is the performance level of some of the players wearing a Steelers uniform. Fortunately, there are enough over-achievers to mask the ineffective few.


What you may notice about this list of underwhelming players is that they are mostly on the defensive side of the ball.

Missed tackles in the run game and a lack of attack in the passing game has Mike Mitchell atop the SLACKERs list…and likely has the attention of upcoming opponent, Drew Brees.

The 27 year old former Oakland Raider and Carolina Panther Mitchell signed with the Steelers this off-season to be their starting free safety. In 11 games with the Steelers Mitchell has two pass defensed, zero interceptions and zero sacks. His two forced fumbles have been his only highlights — outside of his over-the-top strike on Michael Vick in the loss to the New York Jets.

Prior to his injury, Troy Polamalu was being accused of being too old to make the splash plays. Without a steady sidekick, Polamalu has been pushing even harder to give the defense a spark which sometimes puts the defense into vulnerable spots.

Defensive lineman Cam Thomas did not start his Pittsburgh career with a press conference like some of his teammates. No, the former San Diego Charger was signed to be a part-time run–stopper. Instead he has started in all but two games recording 17 total tackles and a half sack.

In other words, 11 game of nothing. Thomas has been rotated with veteran Brett Keisel and the rookie Stephon Tuitt yet neither player has been able to consistently receive more snaps than the under-achieving Cam Thomas. Thomas continues to avoid rather than attack the quarterback and his run-stuffing skills haven’t been revealed. Here’s to hoping changes during the bye week will give Tuitt more opportunities.

For years the Steelers have been searching for a complement to inside linebacker, Lawrence Timmons. Ryan Shazier’s disappointing rookie season has been marred with injuries which has forced Sean Spence into the starting role.

Spence has more speed than the other potential ILB replacement, Vince Williams, but it hasn’t translated into production. He can’t seem to get off blocks and looks lost in coverage. It puts the pressure on Timmons to cover-up Spence’s lack of ability and has led to shaky middlefield coverage. It won’t get any easier this week with tight end Jimmy Graham coming into town.

Sticking with under-achieving linebackers, the Steelers are still struggling to find a pass rush. They rank in the bottom of the league in sacks and turnovers. James Harrison leads the team in sacks (4) and he didn’t play a snap until the end of September. Jason Worilds (3.5 sacks) hasn’t been the force the Steelers have paid him to be.

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Many say his lack of sacks are the scheme but he has also struggled greatly in run coverage. The Ravens beat Drew Brees thanks to the pressure of linebacker Elvis Dumervil. Either Harrison or Worilds has to bring it in December or they will start it off with a loss.

It’s hard to find fault with an offense that is ranked 5th in total yards and passing yards but the play of second-year starter, Markus Wheaton, makes the ‘slacker’ grade.

Wheaton has caught just 36 of his 63 targets for 442 yards and two TDs — well below the numbers we would expect for a No.2 receiver in the league’s fifth best passing offense. Like Mitchell, the talent is there but the plays are not. The rise of rookie Martavis Bryant has helped to overcome Wheaton’s miscues. Wheaton either needs to grow-up quick or lose more snaps to Bryant and the reliable Lance Moore.

So while the Steelers are thankful for their first real playoff shot in three years, they must find a way to get more out of these four positions. Otherwise, December will lead to another season of mediocrity.