The 2011 Steelers season is over. A season ended in a crash of flames and smoke into the Rocky Mountains. While hope springs eternal and it was not an impossible dream, this year’s Steeler team lacked the necessary components of Championship mettle to make winning a 7th Lombardi possible. Implausible if not impossible.
During the season one Steeler fan took umbrage over my insight and analysis on the Steelers personal. My words were forwarded along the internet and found their way to him. He responded to my words with accusations that I am a non believer and not a “true Steeler fan for life.” As funny as those words are coming from a fan that has probably never been to Pittsburgh, we just see the Steelers through different perspectives. I see the Steelers through the eyes of an Owner, GM or Head Coach as opposed to a black and gold glasses wearing fan. I love the Steelers but see each year’s personality for what I believe it to be. This personality is usually forged by the 9th or 10th week of the season and usually is what it is.
The 2011 Steelers were a very solid veteran football team. They were capable of beating any given team on any given Sunday. Their QB is a war horse. He is a competitor who will keep the Steelers in every game they play in. Just as he did Sunday in Denver rallying the Steelers from a 20-6 deficit into a 23-23 tie with minutes left in the game. The defense is also a tough veteran bunch who will keep the Steelers in every game every week. But the Steelers of 2011 lacked that Championship mettle and killer instinct reserved for teams like the Steelers of 2008. The red zone inefficiency which ties into the lack of a cohesive game plan killed the 2011 Steelers. This is especially painful when you have an inconsistent kicking game regardless of how many field goals were made in Denver on Sunday. The defense lack of pressure on the QB and lack of turnover production helped take way the ferociousness and aggressiveness of the Steelers defense. Roger Goodell helped take away some too.
The 2011 Steelers were a good football team. But they were not great. This was evident early on as they were pushed around by Baltimore and Houston early. After squeaking by juggernauts like Indy and KC the Steelers were again pushed around by playoff big boys Baltimore and San Francisco. High hopes were not held for any kind of a deep playoff run this year by this analyst. Implausible but not impossible.
Denver heard all the commentary of how they did not deserve to be in this game and played their over achiever tails off. Pittsburgh played to their personality. Red zone inefficiency and an incoherent game plan left the Steelers with a 6-0 lead when it should have been more. A defense that gave Tebow loads of time in the pocket gave up huge pass plays. Ike Taylor the Steelers best DB since Woodson had an epically horrid afternoon. Shades of Mel Blount in an AFC Playoff game in the 70s. One afternoon in the 70s Coach Noll actually benched Blount for his poor play. The Bronco’s surged to a 20-6 lead. Poor play calling and clock management near the end of the half cost the Steelers a shot at a field goal. That and a bumbling snap over Ben’s head that killed the drive. Shades of Chuck Lanza to Bubby Brister in a Denver playoff game? After Ben Roethlisberger, injured and heroic led the Steelers to a 23-23 tie ineptitude again crept into the huddle. With under a minute left and on the cusp of field goal range for our extra point kicker, Ben was sacked and fumbled. Though he recovered the 11 yard loss knocked the Steelers out of range and knocked the game into OT. It was there that the Steelers learned when you let an inferior opponent stay around long enough they will burn you. It didn’t happen in Indy. It didn’t happen in KC or Cleveland. But it happened in Denver. In a playoff game. And it was a fitting end to their good not great season.
The 2012 Steelers need to get younger and quicker. The Steelers are way over the salary cap and need to sign Mike Wallace to an extension. Guys like Hoke, Aaron Smith, Max Starks, James Farrior, Larry Foote, Hines Ward and Bryant McFadden have likely played their last game for the Steelers. Some may remain but most will be gone. It’s time for Tomlin to turn the page on Cowher’s players. 2005 was a long time ago. It’s now 2012. With Ben Roethlisberger at QB the Lombardi window remains open but the Steelers have to get younger and quicker and better.