"Death is nothing, but to live defeated and inglorious is to die daily." (Napoleon Bonaparte)

Face it folks, after only one-fourth of the 2013 season has elapsed, the Steelers already are finished for all intents and purposes. Nothing left to do now but bind our wounds for two weeks while we prepare for the next onslaught.

Sure the Steelers might rebound at some point this season and possibly even make a late run for the playoffs in this mediocre AFC North. But even if we somehow manage to accomplish this, what possible chance does this team have against Peyton Manning, Tom Brady or even Andrew Luck, armed as they are with solid offensive lines? In our current decrepit state, teams like the Broncos, Pats or Colts would blow us right out of the stadium. When you can't compete against the likes of Jake Locker, Andy Dalton or Matt Cassel, you'll be mere roadkill against teams that truly can bring it.

But now that the Steelers clearly have hit rock bottom, perhaps the silver lining is that the coaches and FO can earnestly begin the task of rebuilding a winning football team. No need to worry anymore this season about competing for the big prize; we just need to focus on making incremental improvements in our abysmal play. As we sift through these ruins, we've got nothing but time to groom our young players who show the most promise, while weeding out those who have proven themselves unworthy. Henceforth, we need to consider the remainder of the 2013 season chiefly as an extended preseason in preparation for 2014.

The main thing to avoid now is the idea that winning any of our remaining football games at all costs is what truly counts. At this point of utter and abject calamity, we must continue to sharpen our swords for future battles, while fully realizing that things might get still worse before they begin to improve. The enemy legions will return again to rub our noses in the dirt. And as the past four games have brutally demonstrated, the 2013 Steelers aren't anywhere close to being the kind of team that truly can compete for a playoff berth.

Mike Tomlin and his staff need to do something totally out of character for football coaches. They must face the reality that, at least for the time being, winning should not be the primary objective for the Pittsburgh Steelers. It's painfully evident now that no rash roster moves, nor any mid-season histrionics, will alter the outcome for the Black and Gold in 2013. On the contrary, in our lust for quick victories to soothe the raging throngs, we run the risk of residing even more permanently within Napoleon's "defeated and inglorious" netherworld.

While it might be difficult for us to accept now, the Steelers still have a modest nucleus of talent upon which to erect a credible NFL strike force. Despite the howls of indignation from fair- and foul-weather fans alike, not everyone on our 53-man roster deserves summary execution or permanent banishment. In Pittsburgh as well as in London, Big Ben is still Big Ben. Heath is still Heath and AB is still AB. Troy and Keisel are playing some of their best ball in recent years, plus a few of our rookie players have shown big-time promise even in defeat.

But beyond these positives, serious problems abound. After years of fiddling, the Steeler OL still isn't where it needs to be to provide adequate pass protection for #7. After spending #1 draft picks on two defensive line players and a linebacker in recent years, we still don't pressure or sack opposing QBs with any regularity. And a Steeler secondary presumed to have been one of the league's best in recent years suddenly struggles to cover receivers or stop running backs as they surge through our defense.

No small share of the Steelers' current woes is attributable to problems in player recruitment and coaching. In recent years, we haven't drafted the players necessary to remain competitive and we've been slow to develop the young talent on our roster. Furthermore, our coaches have missed the boat on a handful of draft picks who might have helped us but who now are helping other NFL teams.

Today, we find ourselves glaringly short at a number of crucial positions and without any near-term prospects for correcting this situation. We're simply not good enough now to compete and win consistently. We need to acknowledge this fact and exercise some patience before we can hope to get better.

Standing at the vortex of this storm is Mike Tomlin, a coach who inherited a championship-caliber team from his predecessor and enjoyed considerable early success. But as anyone witnessing the Steelers' first four games of this season can confirm, those heady days of dominance have passed. Nowadays we struggle against the league's perennial doormats and all of the smug assumptions of superiority comforting Steeler Nation in recent years have been revealed as naive bluster.

These truly are the times that try mens' souls and the eyes of Steeler Nation will be focused intently on Coach Tomlin during the next three months to evaluate the steps he takes to chart a new course for this football team. Recently, we've gotten the troubling impression that things are spinning farther out of control with each passing week. As we ponder the wreckage of our gridiron Armageddon, a prudent and minimal expectation is that we'll soon be detecting purposeful steps to restore our faith in a performance standard often cited but rarely exhibited during the past two seasons of futility.

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