Steelers endure harsh criticism

PITTSBURGH -- The Steelers gave sports columnists plenty to opine about though for the wrong reasons in an abysmal 16-9 loss to the Titans. The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review’s Dejan Kovacevic didn’t hold back in wondering just what the Steelers are doing under second-year offensive coordinator coordinator Todd Haley. I’m not sure how much Haley has to work with right now given the state of the offensive line and running backs, but his play-calling was indeed puzzling at times on Sunday.

• The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s Gene Collier is incredulous that a team with a tradition of running the ball could not pick up one first down in the run game against the Titans. No question the ground game is a mess, and there are no easy fixes given the loss of Pro Bowl center Maurkice Pouncey to a season-ending knee injury and with rookie running back Le’Veon Bell still recovering from a mid-foot sprain.

• Steelers.com’s Bob Labriola writes that the Steelers have been historically bad in their season opener, comparing it to past opening losses at home in 1994 and 1989. The loss to the Titans wasn’t as lopsided as the ones the Steelers suffered in ’94 and ’89, but just as in those games it was hard to find any positives following the team’s 0-1 start. Steelers fans grasping for any hope should be reminded that the Steelers made the playoffs in both ’94 and ’89.

• The Steelers’ loss was compounded by the season-ending injuries suffered by Pouncey and inside linebacker Larry Foote. The Steelers players brushed off the team’s 0-4 record in the preseason, but the team didn’t play any better in the first regular-season game.

• Pouncey’s injury is a devastating blow to a young, offensive line that is still finding its way, but who takes over for Foote at inside linebacker? The Steelers have very little experience among their backup inside linebacker and the players there aren’t even well-known yet to some people in the Steelers’ locker room.

• The Post-Gazette’s Gerry Dulac had to give a game ball to somebody, and he chose wide receiver Jerricho Cotchery. The 10th-year veteran scored the Steelers’ only touchdown and he made several third-down catches that moved the chains.

• Dulac graded the Steelers after the loss. He didn’t go Blutarski on the Steelers (all Fs) but he didn’t spare them either, particularly the coaching staff.