Here we go Steelers, here we go! [clap clap]. Let the madness begin ladies and gentlemen. We've got 14 days to get through before the Pittsburgh Steelers try to add to their already NFL best six Lombardi Trophies. It won't be easy twidling our thumbs for that long. We'll get through it together.
Green Bay poses some matchup problems for the Steelers that we'll most certainly address, particularly in the middle and later stages of this week, and then all next week while I'm down in Dallas. Looking forward to that, bigtime. It's a marathon, not a sprint, so let's take our time reveling in and analyzing the Steelers 24-19 win over the New York Jets in Sunday's AFC Championship Game at Heinz Field.
IX - Gene Wojchiehowski marvels at the job done by Mike Tomlin this year. Couldn't agree more. Considering the circumstances, the fact that the Steelers went 12-4 is remarkable in and of itself. What's even more impressive is that Tomlin molded the team into championship form late in the season since their loss to the New York Jets in Week 15. The Steelers are 4-0 since that mid-December defeat, and outside of one poor half against the Ravens last week, they've really played at a phenomenally high level. Neal Coolong's early-January post about Tomlin's COY candidacy is starting to look even more prescient and well-reasoned. You've also got to love how Tomlin has kept his team from getting distracted with chest thumping in the media. By all accounts, the Steelers deserve to do just that more than any other team in the NFL right now. Their roster has lots of champions on it -- more so than New England; more so than any team. Period. But the Steelers have remained mum despite knowing they could talk all the _____ in the world and be able to actually point to something while doing so. But Tomlin has had, and will continue to have his team, focused on more important and gratifying things like preparation, camaraderie and hardware.
X - I'm so proud of Ben Roethlisberger since the unfortunate turn of events that occurred in March of last year's offseason. We won't rehash the specifics, but I would encourage you to re-read (or read for the first time) maryrose's April post titled 'Trading Big Ben Would be Among Top Five Blunders in Steelers History. He certainly wasn't alone in that sentiment.
Just a few weeks prior to that gem of a post, maryrose wrote an even more astute post, this one titled 'The Character of the Pittsburgh Steelers Has Never Changed.' Here's one of my favorite passages from the piece -- a tour de force commentary about how highly valued talent and past performance are in high-stakes, results oriented businesses like the National Football League:
Also true is the double standard dilemma, which is difficult for some people to some to terms with. In Utopia, there are no double standards. All are treated equally in every situation. In the real world, there is a standard for each of us, based upon asset and liability, deposits and withdrawals. In the NFL, there are 53 standards on every team. If you are a borderline practice player and you cause a stir in the locker-room, you are as good as gone. A star wide receiver, with more upside to weigh against the downside, gets more rope. When the great Bill Belichick was the defensive coordinator of the, Lawrence Taylor came to team meetings stoned out of his mind. He and Bill Parcels knew darn well, but they couldn't stop it, short of losing Lawrence Taylor. You do what you can and then settle for Sunday. Releasing a player like Taylor would only result in him wearing another uniform that beats you.
That's no different than corporate America. Break sales records every month and you will not hear a whimper for coming in late occasionally. Become a company deadbeat and you will be fired at the first indiscretion. It's called supply and demand, pros versus cons, and it's called real life.
An exceptionally well-written article by 'rose at a time when BTSC needed his calm, even-handed voice more than ever. The point of me including any of this is just to say that you don't give up and bail on a player as special as Ben Roethlisberger. The Rooneys did exactly the right thing by showing him tough love, yet ultimately standing firmly behind him. By doing so, they challenged a still impressionable young man like Big Ben to look in the mirror, to do the little things in his professional preparation and persona life, to not take his once-in-a-generation talent lightly, and ultimately just be the badass big-game quarterback that he was meant to be. Now, there will always be temptations for Big Ben, especially if he reaches the top of the mountain again so quickly in this year's Super Bowl. But I think he knows now what's at stake, and quite honestly, though I don't know the guy, I'd wager a hefty sum that No. 7 is having more fun and enjoying being in his own skin a whole more these days.
Looking back at this past offseason and what transpired with Roethlisberger and Santonio Holmes, I think about this lesson and then immediately think about just how much of a distraction Santonio Holmes must have been in the locker room. I honestly couldn't think more highly of a wide receiver from a talent stand point. If you have Holmes on your team, you have one of the most versatile, athletic, big-game guys on the planet. And it's not like the Steelers didn't know that. Yet, they quickly cut ties with Holmes when they had the chance, and it absolutely couldn't have been for the alleged transgression that put his name back in the news.
There were murmurings of Holmes' me-first attitude in Pittsburgh being a turn off and potentially even more cancerous in future years. The 2010-2012 season were a critical window where key veterans were playing their final few years at a championship level, while an infusion of complimentary youth rounded the roster out with ample depth. And the common thread throughout the roster -- both young and old -- is that nobody cared much about anything but winning. All that aside, it's imperative to note that given Holmes' contract situation, there was not much the Steelers could do but punt. With just one year left on his deal, the Steelers knew they'd either have to pay him in the '10 offseason, or watch him become a huge distraction all season -- both in the media, and in the huddle yapping in Ben's ear to get him the ball.
Holmes was a difference maker for New York this year -- in the regular season once he had served his four-game suspension to star the year, and in the playoffs. Still, I was somewhat surprised to see that Holmes had taken it upon himself to do a lot of the verbal leading on the Jets recently. I don't know. Somebody's got to do it, but is it really the guy who arrived that year and was forced to miss the first quarter of the season? Again, I couldn't think higher of Holmes as a player. I'd want the guy on my team in any one-game situation, period. But over the long haul, the Rooney family, Kevin Colbert and Mike Tomlin got this one right I believe. I'm not sure some of this impressive work Tomlin accomplished this year could have taken place in the exact way that it did had Holmes been around.
XIII - Kevin Blackistone of AOL Fanhouse writes that the Steelers are the team to beat in Super Bowl XLV. I don't necessarily disagree despite acknowledging that the matchup with Green Bay presents problems. Perhaps Vegas thinks those matchups are more heavily in Green Bay's favor than is warranted though, as the Pack are early 2.5 point favorites in the opening line.
XIV - Gang Green Nation, SB Nation's New York Jets blog, recaps the disappointing end to New York's season . I don't wish that empty feeling on any passionate fan, though in all reality, the vast majority of us must face the music each and every year. Thankfully for us in Steeler Nation, we've experienced that low fewer times than anybody else. If nothing else, it's nice knowing our beloved Steelers are again involved in the season's final game, which at least means there will be no meaningless games after the Steelers' final contest of the '10 season. We're blessed and I love it. While we're on the subject of the Jets, here's a quick read about the tough decisions that GM Mike Tannenbaum and the rest of the Jets' front office face this offseason as they decided which of their many free agents to retain. LaDainian Tomlinson is not one of said free agents, but some still question LTs future at 31 years of age after yet another playoff flame-out.
XL - I was pleased by a lot of things on Sunday night. One of them was Bruce Arians' decision to use Isaac Redman over Mewelde Moore, and to actually include him in the gameplan in select rushing situations. My rationale for thinking that was we might need Redman's ability to fight through contact and pick up yardage after contact. Not just in short-yardage situations, but any time he touched the ball. Redman didn't have a monumental game or anything, but he did run tough and effectively on all but one of his four carries. He finished with 27 hard-earned and important yards. No link here, sorry. At least to a recently written article. But in case you forgot, it should come as no surprise that 'the most interest running back in the world' contributed to the Steelers' march to Super Bowl XL this season. (Be sure to read the comments section on that one as well).
XLIII - Catch Tomlin, Ben Roethlisberger, James Farrior, and the game's MVP, Rashard Mendenahll in their post-game interviews right here.
More soon. Go Steelers!