Tackling Collateral Damage of 0-4

Practice in London (Lee/USA TODAY Sports)

Mathematically the season is still salvageable, but after what happened against the Vikings, the distance between the Steelers and the postseason appears ...

... to be about the same as that between Pittsburgh and London.

The rest of 2013, thus, is as much about next season and the season after that as it is the here-and-now focus on tying to finally win a game.

Not that the Steelers would ever acknowledge anything of the sort.

"That's not the way it happens around here," Ben Roethlisberger maintained on Wednesday. "You always stay focused. You always think you're in every game and every season until the end."

Fair enough.

And the Steelers will likewise maintain that this week's demotion of 2009 first-round pick Ziggy Hood and this week's benching of 2012 second-round pick Mike Adams were moves enacted with nothing more than beating the Jets on the club's agenda.

Still, this nightmare is destined to end eventually.

Where will the Steelers be then?

What if Ziggy is on his way to getting the Ziggy?

What if Adams doesn't get his old left tackle job back and fellow second-round offensive tackle Marcus Gilbert (2011) doesn't get any better on the right side?

The collateral damage could easily impact seasons to come.

That's "seasons," as in more than one.

Enough has been invested in the offensive line in general and the tackle position in particular that the results this season have to be perceived as discouraging as well as disappointing.

Some scouts will tell you it takes maybe three years, to really know if a player is going to cut it or not.

Mistakes can be made, but as long as they're not the same mistakes, as long as there isn't a lingering issue that just can't be fixed, it's often best to hang in there with what you have. Especially where high-end draft picks are involved.

Gilbert, in his third NFL season, has started 22 games. He's been playing at a "fairly good level," according to offensive coordinator Todd Haley, but apparently not good enough for the Steelers to consider moving Gilbert to fill the black hole at left tackle, a position Gilbert played and competed for briefly in training camp.

Adams has started 10 games in two NFL campaigns. It remains to be seen if and when he gets to start another one.

"You can't get your quarterback hit all the time and consistently beat like he has been getting beat," ESPN analyst and former Steelers running back Merril He told the DVE Morning Show.

"From Mike Adams' perspective, you gotta work on the things that put you in that position so when an opportunity, if an opportunity comes again to go play, that you don't make those same mistakes.

"What's unfortunate for him is he has a lot of issues within just the fundamentals and how he plays, from his footwork and his hands, how he plays the position. He struggles with a lot of his technique work."

That's a less-than-encouraging assessment.

Hoge isn't very high on Gilbert right about now, either. When asked what he thought the chances were that Gilbert and Adams were the Steelers' starting offensive tackles two seasons from now, Hoge responded "not very good.

"Just a lot of major issues that you should be better at at this point," Hoge continued. "At this level you shouldn't be making the consistent mistakes they're making at this point (in their careers).

"In two years you should know what you have, I don't care what position it is. You can see the growth, or lack thereof, but you know. You know what you have.

"You have to be a lot better, a lot more sound than they are right now."

Once perceived as part of the solution by the Steelers, Adams and Gilbert are now being viewed outside the organization as part of the problem.

That's unfortunate as it relates to 2013, and a bad omen down the road.

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