I remember like it was just yesterday…
The Pittsburgh Steelers were 6-2, and fresh off a dismantling of the Denver Broncos. They appeared to be every bit as good as the team that won the Super Bowl last season, and I proceeded to pick them as my AFC representative in the Super Bowl (and I thought they’d win it, too). But nothing could have prepared me for the catastrophic fall the Steelers were about to go on.
Over the past five weeks, almost every Pittsburgh game I’ve watched has made me sick to my stomach. Week Ten versus Cincinnati was a display of two solid defences, but also offensive ineptitude. The top passer threw for only 178 yards (Carson Palmer), and the top rusher had just 36 yards (Rashard Mendenhall). Steeltown fell 18-12, and I thought nothing of it – just a blip on the radar.
Week 11, at Kansas City. Redemption at Arrowhead. At least, it was supposed to be. Instead, the Steelers let the Chiefs hang around, and were dealt a humiliating loss in overtime, 37-34. Ben Roethlisberger threw for just under 400 yards, but the defence was incapable of making a stop. To make matters worse, Big Ben suffered a concussion, and would be out for the next game.
When the Steelers travelled to Baltimore with Dennis Dixon under centre, I wasn’t giving them much of a chance. They ended up losing in overtime (again), but at least I saw signs of life from the squad. Surely it would be step in the right direction.
Week 13, and Oakland comes to the Steel City to face a pissed of Pittsburgh team. But as one of my friends pointed out in the dying minutes of the fourth quarter, the Steelers got Gradkowski-ed. Giving up 308 passing yards and three touchdowns to a journeyman quarterback – not the mark of a championship calibre team.
Which brings me to last night’s ‘game’. The Steelers held Brady Quinn to just 90 passing yards, but were gashed for 171 yards on the ground. Roethlisberger was sacked eight times, and Pittsburgh looked dreadful on offence.
The Steelers now sit at 6-7, now all but out of playoff contention. I see this as a dent in my pride, but for Steelers fans, this may not be so bad. Think back to 2006. Pittsburgh was coming off a Super Bowl win, and went 4-1 down the stretch just to finish the season at 8-8. They were rewarded with the 14thpick in the draft, and came away with Lawrence Timmons, a key cog to their defence. If the season ended today, they’d be picking in roughly the same position, in what’s considered by many (including myself) to be a very deep draft. Pittsburgh should be able to grab another top flight talent in the middle of round one, give him a year to develop, and plug him right in.
The Steelers wrap up their season hosting Green Bay and Baltimore, and then taking a trip to Miami. It’s very possible this team finishes the season on an eight game losing streak. There will be angry fans across North America (surprisingly enough, at the Bills in Toronto game, there was more Steelers gear than any team other than Buffalo). But remember, a similar situation happened just three seasons ago. And it only took two years after that for Pittsburgh to hoist the Lombardi trophy again.
TWO POINT CONVERSION
– is there any team that builds drama like the New England Patriots? Stop the presses! Four players were late for practice and promptly sent home – the world is ending! Oh wait, it’s just an isolated incident
– the New Orleans Saints’ point differential this season: +189. The St. Louis Rams: -175. When you’re good, you’re good. When you’re bad, you’re a Ram