No hiding what Steelers are now

PITTSBURGH – The Pittsburgh Steelers have two big problems: Their offense and defense.

Other than that, things are peachy.

Their 0-2 start is distressing enough, but the troubling part is there’s no overwhelming feeling that they’ve greatly underachieved.

There’s the lingering feeling that 0-2 is right where their talent level says they should be.

The good news is they should get better soon. Heath Miller has been cleared for full practice this week, and rookie Le’Veon Bell is getting closer to returning from his foot injury.

Coach Mike Tomlin made a Superman allusion in describing the importance of keeping expectations in perspective for Miller’s return.

He’s correct about that, but it’s hard to believe Miller won’t have a positive impact on the struggling offense. He and quarterback Ben Roethlisberger work well together, and Roethlisberger can go into Sunday night’s game against Chicago knowing there’s someone on the field who knows what he’s doing.

The defense hasn’t been terrible, but it hasn’t been generating pressure on the quarterback and creating turnovers.

Turnovers can often change the course of a game. The Steelers don’t have any in two games.

Roethlisberger said on Tuesday that he and Ryan Clark were the last two players out of the locker room after Monday’s loss in Cincinnati.

They talked, and decided to hold a meeting for veteran players. They want to discuss the importance of letting younger players know they can’t casually accept losing.

Will it help anything? It can’t possibly hurt. But a players-only meeting two weeks into the season speaks to the desperation that some of the Steelers feel.

Roethlisberger and Clark have been on Super Bowl teams, so perhaps they recognize how far the current group is from that level.

The issues here don’t seem to be related to attitude as much as it’s a lack of talent – on offense and defense.

Getting closer

One of the storylines for the Pirates in the last two weeks is their ability to get Starling Marte and Jason Grilli ready for the postseason.

Mark Melancon has done an excellent job closing in Grilli’s absence. But in compressed series, how good would it be to have two very viable options to close games?

The Pirates need Marte’s speed to at the top of the lineup to help an offense that isn’t terribly efficient or productive.

Wearing down

Pittsburgh Pirates manager Clint Hurdle loves what catcher Russell Martin brings to the team, especially his ability to handle the pitching staff and the way he controls the running game.

But Martin has almost become an offensive liability, probably because he’s played too much.

Entering Tuesday’s game against San Diego, Martin was batting .127 over the last 28 days. In the second half of the season, he’s hitting .217.

His OPS in the last 28 days is a putrid .503. (By comparison, Clint Barmes’ OPS is currently .586).

It may seem premature to worry about 2014 in the middle of a tight division race with daily developments, but one of the lessons Hurdle should take from this season is Martin needs more rest than he’s gotten this year.