As disappointing as the Pittsburgh Steelers playoff loss was, I concur with Dale Lolley that Pittsburgh's latest loss on the road against the Broncos Mile High represents a microcosm of the Steelers 2011 season. Pittsburgh had all of the elements of greatness, but just couldn't muster them at the right time.
So be it.
The Steelers face a lot of tough decisions in the off season, and there's no better way to get the debate surrounding those decisions started than with the 2011 season's final Five Burning Questions "Down But Not Defeated" Edition.
1. To their credit no one on the South Side would agree publicly, but had the Steelers won they'd have been without without Casey Hampton, Max Starks, and Bret Keisel and possible Chris Kemoeatu and Doug Legursky; did the Steelers in effect get "lucky" by not to have to face New England with such a depleted roster?
2. Aaron Smith, Chris Hoke, Casey Hampton, Hines Ward, James Farrior, Max Starks, Bryant McFadden, Larry Foote, Willie Colon, Trai Essex, Charlie Batch have all been mentioned as two Super Bowl ring owners whose time with the Steelers is ending either because of age, salary cap value, injury, diminishing or skills or a combination of the three? Who do you think comes back, no questions asked, who should come back at the veteran minimum, and who should begin what Chuck Noll termed his "life's work?"
3. After the Cleveland game Peter King called out Mike Wallace for lax blocking on plays in which he was not involved. Wallace started the year gang busters, but his production slipped during the second half of the year. Compared to Antonio Brown, Wallace's ability to finish catches and fight for contested balls lags behind Brown's. Wallace is a restricted free agent. With Emmanuel Sanders and Brown behind him, do you offer Mike Wallace a long-term, big money deal?
4. Which Steeler gave you the biggest pleasant surprise, and which gave you the biggest disappointment of 2011?
5. First, choose whether you want to be either Mike Tomlin, Kevin Colbert, or even Art Rooney II. You get one "do over" decision from the past year. What is the one thing that you do differently?
That's it folks, that's our final edition of the 5 Burning Questions for the Steelers 2011 season.
With Michael's blessing, we'll start a 5 Burning Questions 2012 off season series sometime soon, but those will certainly run less frequently.
Until then, I'd like to take a moment to thank all of you from taking time out to provide such thoughtful, engaging answers. I can't tell you the number of times I've thrown something out there thing it was an innocuous question, only to be amazed at the variety, quantity and quality of responses it generated.
That's truly one of the things that makes Behind the Steel Curtain special, and I am happy to have played a small part. Have a healthy and safe off season everyone.