Blog Entry

If Only

Posted on: January 5, 2010 5:55 am
Edited on: January 5, 2010 6:03 am
A wing and a prayer, that’s what it came down to, prayers that somehow a miracle will happen, or should we say three miracles?  It could happen.  After all, who foresaw the losses of the Bengals, Eagles and Steelers to the Raiders?  Who thought the Ravens would miss opportunities by stepping on their own toes?  Who would have thought that a rookie quarterback with 12 TDs and 20 interceptions would still be in the playoff hunt, Rex Ryan surely didn’t.  Miracles do happen, right?  After all, it was a miracle that I was cheering on the Cowboys in a game in 2005. 

However, Sunday the Steelers would find no miracles waiting for them.  The wing and a prayer ended officially when the Baltimore Ravens lost to the Oakland Raiders on Sunday.  Instead of preparing for the playoffs, James Harrison and Casey Hampton will be preparing (if there is such a thing) for the Pro-Bowl, while the rest of the Steelers players and coaching staff will try to figure out where they went wrong and why,  Knowing the only one’s to blame were themselves.  No doubt Mike Tomlin and many of the Steelers players acknowledged that time and time again..

What led to the breakdown of the Steelers this season?  Of course the fourth quarter meltdowns on defense had a lot to do with it.  After all, the Steelers had substantial leads in the majority of the games only to see them eaten away.  CBS Sports writer Mike Freeman would have us believe that we can trace it back to Mike Tomlin and “Camp Cupcake” but is that all to it?  In 2007, when Mike Tomlin first took the reigns of the Steelers, he did so with a firm grasp, and in training camp had the players practicing in full pads, the team seemed to have ran out of steam by the end of the season.  After going 10-6 and winning the AFC North that year.  Despite their 5-1 division record, the Steelers would surprisingly lose to teams that many expected them to dominate.  Losses that year included a rebuilding Cardinals team, a New York Jets team that ended it’s season at 4-12.   Of course there is the argument of a soft training camp leading to players not being in proper condition to be able to play a full four-quarters.

Some would also point to the injury of Troy Polamalu as being a big factor in the breakdown of the defense due to the number of turnovers.  What was also missing was the disruptive force of Aaron Smith.  Though the front line of the defense played well enough, the tipped or batted down passes seemed to have diminished under the line by proxy which allowed offenses to exploit the middle of the field all too often.  Sometimes, it seemed that the replacements were attempting to imitate the missing defenders rather then play their own individual strengths.  Again, we can look to 2007 when Polamalu and Aaron Smith went down, not to mention Ryan Clark, how suspect the Steelers secondary looked, especially when they went up against Tom Brady and the 18-1 Patriots.

We could say there’s an age disparity with the Steelers defense having either older players or much younger, inexperienced players and no depth in between and that age is finally catching up with the defense, and this is a plausible argument given some of  the uncharacteristic missed tackles made by James Farrior over the course of the season.  No doubt the Steelers defense is aging and the depth in position in younger players is a major need in next years draft and free agency acquisitions. 

Some might point and say that the Steelers secondary is weak, showing where the secondary consistently was getting burned.  With the exception of  Bryant McFadden, the secondary remained intact, with rookie cornerback, Joe Burnett coming in and well, playing like a rookie.  However, is that something really new?  Okay, it’s a given that the 2008 season, everyone and their brother on defense seemed to be registering an interception, yet the Arizona Cardinals in Superbowl XLIII did manage to uncover the weakness in the Steelers secondary.  So it’s been there.  It’s been a weakness in the Steelers defense even back to the days of Cowher.  It’s just that well…

Perhaps James Harrison hit the nail on the head to define what the actual issue was this season with the Steelers defense.  "I think at times we played as a team and, at times, we played as individuals," he said. "Sometimes it may have seemed that some individual things were more important than actually the whole concept of the team."(1).  With the fourth quarter losses to the Kansas City Chiefs, the Oakland Raiders and the Chicago Bears, it could very well be that once the offense gained the lead, defensively many players bought into the hype.  Superbowl hangover?  Perhaps.  Effects of Camp Cupcake?  Maybe.  Or perhaps it was the lack of a common goal that kept the defense over the past few playing as a unit and not as individuals.  It was no secret that for the past few years the defense was playing for “Coach Dad”.  There were no bones about it, the Steelers defense, especially last season, were looking to help get Steelers Defensive Coordinator Dick LeBeau into the NFL Hall of Fame.  And now, with the nomination and the likelihood of LeBeau being enshrined a probability, that goal was achieved. 

Whatever happened, it’s left fans, sportswriters and even Steelers players and management scratching their heads trying to figure out exactly what happened.  For a team with so much talent, both on offense and defense.  For a team that had the stars aligned for them in scheduling.  For a team that actually had the potential to make a strong Superbowl run for a back to back, it became a season of missed opportunities and  if only. 

(1) Steelers facing adjustments in personnel and attitude , Gary Dulac, Pittsburgh Post Gazette, 1/05/10

Category: NFL

Since: Dec 29, 2009
Posted on: January 10, 2010 12:13 am

If Only

No wonder Polamalu was on the Coke commercial in last years superbowl.  Misses a bunch of games, and the Steelers don't make it to the playoffs.  Sorry to say this but they were a mess this year.  Their running game was inconsistent, their defense had lots of injuries, and they couldn't win the division battles.  They were lucky to even be in contention.  The Jets were the opposite of the Steelers.  Thomas Jones, at 32 was basically the entire offense.  Also their defense was just scary this year.  The Steelers defense was still good, but it wasn't enough.  Here are the list of if onlys.1. If only Polomalu didn't get hurt for half the season.2. If only Mike Tomlin wasn't lieing when he said he was going to unleash hell.3. If only The Steelers had a consistent run game.4. If only they hadn't had fourth quarter breakdowns against Oakland and Kansas City.
Most good teams don't even put themselves into a position where Oakland or KC can beat them.  Quit feeling sorry for yourselvesCry and prepare for Next year!

Since: Sep 8, 2006
Posted on: January 6, 2010 3:31 pm

If Only

Great read mom....even though I'm a die-hard Colts fan, wy significant other is a die-hard Steelers fan.  I have to agree with some on here that the season was lost when Polamalu went down with his injury, and it sure has been born out that way.  I actually miss seeing the Steelers in the playoff's because now my wife has nothing to rib me about when they beat my Colts. Wink.  Fortunately that will have to wait until next year.  Good luck to them and I hope to see them at the top of their game soon.

Since: Jan 26, 2007
Posted on: January 6, 2010 12:41 pm

If Only

Personally, I think it all came down to a lack of focus, which is surprising for the Steelers.  For that 5 game stretch, they never seemed to execute very well at all.

Just goes to show how important the mental aspect of the NFL is.

Since: Apr 17, 2008
Posted on: January 6, 2010 12:11 pm

If Only

No to jump on the bandwagon, but a great piece of writing.  Allow me to add some other observations.  Here's what is really head scratching.  Look at BigBen's stats...26 TD's and !@ INT's this year...9-7 record and no playoffs.  Compared with last year  17 TD's and 15 INT's, numerous sacks and a 13-3 record and a Super Bowl title.  You mentioned a lack of a running game, yet Mrndenhall went over 1,000 yards?  I hate that we missed the playoffs, but here's where I think it will benifit us in the future.  1. We will have a little better draft position to improve where we need the most,  O-line and defense. 2. The Steelers aren't tempted to bring Polamalu back and risk a greater injury. now he'll definetely be 100% for next year.  3. Not making the playoffs will make the Steelers hungrier for next year and with their veteran leadership, will be more focused going into next season, so idiots like Mike Freeman won't sound off about out preseason and sound on to the fact that WE DID WIN IT ALL LAST SEASON!!  4. We were 2-4 in our division.  Did every Steeler fan expect to beat CIN and CLE twice every year?  WE dominated for who knows how long, and when they play us, its their Super Bowl because neither of those 2 teams will make the real Super Bowl anytime soon.  I expect the Jets to win in Cincinnati this week, despite the game being in Ohio, but reguardless, I feel its going to be the Chargers and Colts fighting for the trip to the big game.

Amazing how many bandwagon jumpers there are when the Steelers fail and the Bengals and Ravens succeed.  Just defending my Steelers and "Telling it like it is", I go from top 100 to a 98 rating.  No big deal though, cause verbally slamming a Ravens and Bengals fan is worth the price of admission anytime, anyday.  One last note is that the Steelers have played a lot of games the past 4 years.  Whatever injuries we have, none of them were say "Wes Welker" like to where it will affect us next season.  I believe Tomlin will learn form all this, because in three years, his 34-17 record is nothing to be ashamed about. He has more wins in 3 yearts than the Browns will have in 8-10 years.  Please post me back and add your views as to what I wrote.  Thank you!

Since: Sep 9, 2006
Posted on: January 6, 2010 11:48 am

If Only

meant both Freeman and Gregg Doyel provide me some good rant material.

Since: Sep 9, 2006
Posted on: January 6, 2010 11:47 am

If Only

Thanks Varsity and Boltnut... Freeman's defense, Mike really is more of an op ed writer then he's a reporter, so in actuality he's doing his job.  Though I think if he offered cookies like I did, he may get more of a positive response.  Smile  ... I might not agree with him but I'll tell you, they both provide me good rant

Since: Nov 28, 2006
Posted on: January 6, 2010 10:39 am

If Only

Great read.
I'm a loyal dedicated Chargers fan that admires your Steelers, their organizatoin and the devoted fans are among the best.
My favorite player in the whole NFL is Troy Polamalu. I think his injuries had as much if not more than anyother single issue.
Good luck next year and hopefully a bounce or two more will go your way.
Go Chargers...

Since: Jan 23, 2008
Posted on: January 6, 2010 7:05 am

If Only

Momluvs, first of all great writing as usual.  Second, after reading the sentence about Mike Freeman I can only think about how much better it would be if they got rid of that guy and paid you to write those articles instead.  I very rarely read his work anymore because everytime I do it seems to me that he tries to create stories versus reporting them.  I realize that he's trying to entertain as well as write but I think you've figured out how to do it and not allow the reporting to lose its integrity in the process which is something he hasn't figured out.  For that reason alone you'd be far more worth the money they're spending.

If you decide to apply for the job as I have suggested and need a letter of reccomendation I'd be more than happy to write you one.  It should be all you need based on how much the admins love me.

Anyway, once again, good work.

Since: Sep 27, 2009
Posted on: January 5, 2010 9:05 pm

If Only


Great article.

With Bobby Layne's association with the Steelers and spoken love and respect for the elder Mr. Rooney I have alway kept an eye on the Steelers progress. And of course there is Coach LeBeau's connection with the Lions there as an added interest. If that wasn't enough, being from the mid-west I always tend to cheer for those that have come out of the MAC Conference and found success in the NFL.

Anyways, I had the opportunity to see 6 or 7 games this year, the rest highlights via Sports Center and the NFL Channel. The lack of a solid, week in week out, running game I felt was a major problem. I love the fact that Ben can make things happen with his arm, but the Steelers need a little bit more offensive production from the run game. The lose of Troy for a good portion of the season was bigger than most people realize. It is of my opinion he is the leader of that defensive unit.

Again, great article.


Since: Sep 9, 2006
Posted on: January 5, 2010 3:41 pm

If Only

And yes include how the Steelers were humbled by having the Bengals sweep them.  Cry

The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or