The argument against this being the end of the Steelers' world

Matt Sullivan

Anthony Defeo described the Cleveland game as a "crapfest". I am certainly inclined to agree, it has taken me 24 hours to begin to think rationally about this. And others would have been wise to do so as well. Because the conclusions that some people are drawing from the facts are off base.

I'm pretty much in agreement with SteelCityRoller with this one. So if you read his recent piece on the Week 12 loss to Cleveland and didn't like his conclusions, then you can spare your blood pressure and move on to something more emotionally satisfying.

I wish I could say that I was shocked, surprised or dismayed by the reaction of some fans in the wake of what was an absolutely horrible performance by the offense. It takes a real concerted effort to produce eight turnovers and they should be congratulated for doing so. It would be hard to overreact to such a display but unsurprisingly some have risen to the challenge. As a long time Steeler fan I can remember when some in the fanbase were calling for the firing of Chuck Noll; not in the late '60s and early '70s when the team struggled, not in the '80s when they fell into relative mediocrity, but in the midst of their four Lombardi championship run. And I am certain that some who are crying nostalgic crocodile tears over Bill Cowher were probably after his head when the team came up short time after time during his tenure. One of the enduring myths is that Steeler Nation is a sophisticated fan base. No doubt many, maybe even most are, but not everyone, not by a long shot.

There is a part of me that hopes that some of you get your wish. Just get rid of Tomlin because he is just such a horrible coach (the previous should be viewed using the sarcasm font). Forgive me for what follows, but I am too much like my father and he didn't suffer fools. Quick short term review: as someone mentioned in one of the comment threads the team is currently 6-5 and playoff eligible if the season ended today. Quick long term review: please name the teams who have performed better than the Steelers over the last ten years and over the last forty years. But clearly you want, no, you NEED better, so fire Tomlin. And you might as well get rid of Colbert as well since he procured the players. I, for one, would be interested in your thoughts as to who would do a better job. But the real reason I am suggesting this course of action is that it is an unavoidable reality that some of the fanbase is so spoiled and their expectations so unrealistic that the only course of action is for an Old Testament solution, banishment to the wilderness. Perhaps if we spent a decade or so living like the Pirates, learning what its like to be affiliated with a truly bad team that some of us may, like comedian Lewis Black said in another context, get back on track. So let's try panicked and stupid and see where that takes us. If an alternative is generated that gets us to the Super Bowl just about every year then I am placing myself on record that I will sing your praises to the heavens. But if they should fail I can handle that. Can you? It is an unfortunate human truth that, as the saying goes, you never miss your water until your well runs dry.

On "the standard is the standard". I don't believe that the intention of this phrase was to suggest that there would never be failure or that it should be used as a club to beat players or management over the head when failure manifests itself. The statement is about expectations and aspiration. It is important in that if you are acquainted with leadership (good leadership) then you are aware that expectations and aspirations can have a positive (or negative) impact on outcomes. It does not and cannot be a guarantee for success. It does deprive the team of the psychological trap doors that come into play when trying to pursue a goal. The results can and sometimes will fall short, but the expectations will remain constant. That's championship thinking.

However, as others have pointed out, we have starters and reserves for a reason. There is a reason that teams pay franchise quarterbacks tens of millions of dollars more than other players. It would be one thing if the last two games happened with Ben at quarterback, a healthy Mendenhall, Troy, etc. And practice matters. If it didn't then Byron and Charlie might have been better prepared to play. And if Ben needed the reps to get and remain up to speed to perform at the highest level, then how realistic are the expectations for players who have nearly zero reps over the course of months, or years. That may be part of the reason that Dixon didn't come back, developmental suicide.

Brief review. The coaching staff and the team are failures because the players at the bottom of the depth chart lost a game by a margin of less than a touchdown. The team has a winning record, has never failed to have a winning record during the coach's tenure, only missed the playoffs once in five years, are on track to make the playoffs this year. Coach should be fired, or at the very least reevaluated or reprimanded or given a time out. Hold that thought.

Defense. Remember six weeks ago when everyone was saying that the defense was hopeless. That LeBeau had to go, along with Ike Taylor and Keenan Lewis and Casey Hampton. Didn't learn anything did we. Can't deny that the defense hasn't improved, but we decided to raise the bar. Not enough turnovers. Let me put it to you this way. If your defense holds a playoff team to thirteen points your offense should not need turnovers in order to win the game. If you factor out the points that the Browns and Ravens scored off of special teams and offensive turnovers the Steelers defense have given up an average of 3.5 points in the last two games. You want turnovers too? This defense has four Pro Bowl players who have been on the field together for less than one quarter the entire year. Hampton and Harrison seem to be finally rounding into shape. If Troy and Woodley can get and remain on the field in a consistent manner maybe there will be more turnovers. But, c'mon...

Fumbles. Don't really know why there were so many, but let's try this on for size. Third string quarterback, Cleveland in late November with the possibility of bad weather. Do you think the idea may have been placed both in the minds of the Steelers running backs and the Cleveland defense that the game may turn on what happens with that particular aspect of the game? Running backs are trying to be heroic and defenders knowing that their only chance against a superior opponent is to strip the ball. Who knows?

The Browns. I spent some time on Sunday arguing with another Steeler fan who was wondering why we weren't just running over the Browns like a steamroller. Don't get me wrong, we were the 'better' team and should have won, but I don't normally make predictions, but I will go on the limb now. The days of running over the Browns are about to come to an end.

I also predicted in the Checkdown this weekend that if the Steelers didn't win it would get pathetic. Right on that account too.

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