New York Giants and Pittsburgh Steelers Start 0-4: End of an Era?

Courtesy of ESPN: It's not on Big Ben or Eli, but these two teams are done.

Courtesy of ESPN: It’s not on Big Ben or Eli, but these two teams are done.

These two teams have combined for four of the last eight Super Bowl Championships. The Pittsburgh Steelers and New York Giants are coming of ’12 campaigns that saw them miss the playoffs altogether, and are now a combined 0-8 through the quarter point of their season.

For New York, it was a blowout loss to the undefeated Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead that sealed their fate. The game was close until the end of the third quarter, but Kansas City broke it wide open with 21 unanswered second-half points. Eli Manning completed less than half of his passes and was sacked another three times, as the Giants offensive line continued to struggle in pass protection. Their defense allowed Alex Smith to throw for nearly 300 yards and a career-high tying three touchdowns in the 31-7 defeat. New York has now lost its last two games by a combined 69-7 score. Equally as disturbing for fans in New Jersey, the Giants lost those two games against teams that won a combined eight games last season.

The Giants are now giving up 34 points per game and are averaging just 15 points per outing. That point difference ranks them 31st in the NFL, just ahead of the Jacksonville Jaguars.

While Tom Coughlin-led teams have rebounded to make the playoffs in two of the past four seasons, hoisting the Lombardi twice during that span, this unit has a completely different feel to it. Manning is getting absolutely no help from a horrible offensive line and up until this week, Alex Smith himself had more rushing yards than the Giants entire team. That’s not necessarily a recipe for success. In addition, the Giants have struggled a great deal in the front seven on defense. Their linebacker group has to be the weakest in the entire NFL and their defensive line is no longer as dominating as it has been in previous seasons.

Overall, the Giants have the feeling of a cellar-dweller in what has to be considered one of the worst divisions in the entire NFL. Even if the Dallas Cowboys lost today to the San Diego Chargers, a tw0-game whole through four weeks simply looks insurmountable.

Courtesy of NFL.com: Tomlin's job is safe, but Pittsburgh's in trouble.

Courtesy of NFL.com: Tomlin’s job is safe, but Pittsburgh’s in trouble.

Meanwhile, the Steelers might even be in a worst situation.

They play in one of the most difficult divisions in football, a division that sent two teams to the playoffs in 2012 and three teams to the second season in 2011. While first place in the AFC North is 2-2, the way Pittsburgh has played in each of its first four games is about as bad as I have ever seen from this team.

Traveling to London, the Steelers fell 34-27 to a previously winless Minnesota Vikings team. In doing so, Pittsburgh’s defense yielded nearly 400 total yards to an offense that had struggled getting anything going over the first three weeks. Making his first start in a Vikings’ uniform, Matt Cassel put up a 123.4 quarterback rating with two touchdowns and zero interceptions. He’s the type of signal caller that the Steelers had dominated in the past.

This doesn’t bode well for a team that has now lost nine of its last 11 regular season games.

Ben Roethlisberger simply doesn’t have the necessary protection upfront to succeed. He has now been sacked 15 times and hit 21 times in four games this season. Some of that may have to do with a lackluster run game, but Pittsburgh’s pass protection is downright horrible at this point.

There have been 185 teams in the NFL start 0-4 since 1970 and only the 1992 San Diego Chargers ended up making the playoffs.

It goes without saying that the  season is pretty much over for Pittsburgh and New York at this point. The larger question is what they plan on doing moving forward? Both have utilized the philosophy of building through the draft and avoiding free agency. This is what enabled them to have success in the past. It could also be part of their downfalls at this point. Neither team has drafted well in the last few seasons, which has led to a decrease in the amount of talent on their rosters.

Mike Tomlin still seems to be pretty safe in Pittsburgh. He’s the franchise’s third head coach over the last 45 years (just think about that). It seems to reason that the powers to be in Pittsburgh will chalk these recent struggles up to personnel issues more than anything else.

Coughlin’s situation in New York is a bit more unsettled. He’s been on the hot seat for the vast majority of his 10 seasons in New York. Each previous time the media started to speculate on him being fired, New York responded in a big way on the football field. New York was a Week 17 loss to the Dallas Cowboys back in 2011 from missing the playoffs, which would have likely led to Coughlin’s departure. It then responded by defeating the division rival Cowboys, earning a trip to the postseason and running the table in route to a Super Bowl title.

That’s not going to happen this season.

Another loss or two over the next couple weeks may actually force the Giants brass to part ways with Coughlin. A team that came into the season with expectations of a division title faces the real possibility of starting 0-6, which would pretty much end Coughlin’s tenure there.

Barring an amazing turnaround, these two teams are likely going to be selecting in the Top 10 next May. This means that they need to actually start hitting on the draft picks that made them Super Bowl Champions in four of the last eight seasons. If not, we could be looking at a lengthy rebuilding process in Western Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

 

Vincent is the head sports editor at eDraft, co-host of eDraft Sports Radio (which airs every Monday and Wednesday from 3-6 p.m. ET) and a fantasy writer for Pro Football Focus. He’s also the news director at PFC and co-host of Football Debate Central with Ryan Riddle every Friday. He’s also a former league-wide featured columnist at Bleacher Report.