Time has a way of sneaking up on us all. One minute you are driving your first child home from the hospital, incredibly frustrated with how inconsiderate all the other drivers are for going so fast, don't they realize you have precious cargo on board. The next moment you blink and there walks your son across the stage at his high school graduation. Startled, you look over at your wife and say, "What just happened?" Life just happened and hopefully you didn't miss it. Each success and failure, every laugh and every tear, because when they are gone they ain't never coming back.
I read a post by a young lady on social media recently where she stated "I hate I wasted all my skinny years thinking I was fat." The statement was meant to be humorous, but it proved profound nonetheless. Appreciate what you have while you have it.
The Steelers are faced with a similar dilemma this season. It doesn't seem possible that Ben Roethlisberger, their long awaited franchise quarterback, is competing in his 15th NFL season? The same QB who won two Super Bowls in his first five years hasn't won another in going on a decade. I understand the majority of QBs never even play in a Super Bowl, much less win one, but Ben isn't just any old QB. He is a two time champion who is still playing at the top of his game. Ben wants another title, and he is working hard to make that happen.
Ben is the only remaining player from the last Steelers championship team of 2008. That means every other player on the team has something to prove and a desire to cement their Steelers legacy. However, I don't feel the players are the only ones with something to prove.
Head coach Mike Tomlin, OC Randy Fichtner, and DC Keith Butler also fall into that category. All three men possess a championship pedigree. Tomlin won one Super Bowl as an assistant with Tampa Bay and another as head coach of the Steelers, and Butler is also a two time winner. Fichtner was a position coach on the Steelers last championship team. But winning another title would mean something a little different for each man.
This season to date may just be Tomlin's best coaching job of his career. The off season of drama carried over into the first quarter of the season, and the team appeared to lack focus and discipline. Many individuals, myself included, laid the blame squarely at Tomlin's feet. I speculated that ownership needed to step in and specify just how they expected their franchise to operate. Whether that happened or not, we will never know, because that isn't how the Rooneys handle their business. They address concerns quietly behind closed doors, showing respect to everyone involved, rather than in public.
So what did Tomlin do with all this turmoil swirling around him? He stayed the course. He was as cool as the other side of the pillow. He displayed confidence and composure as the leader of the most stable franchise in the NFL. He weathered the storm until the winds settled down, and as of late has enjoyed smooth sailing. The team is a direct reflection of its head coach. Some teams around the league should really start paying attention.
Tomlin needs to win another title to get the Bill Cowher monkey off his back. He gets lumped in a group with George Seifert at San Francisco and Barry Switzer at Dallas - coaches who supposedly won titles with the previous coach’s players. There maybe some truth to those claims, especially with the other two gentlemen, but how is that their fault? You win or lose with the hand you’re dealt. Tomlin winning another Super Bowl would definitely put those whispers to rest.
This is Randy Fichtner's first year as Steelers offensive coordinator, so he has only just begun to put his stamp on the offense. His innovative play design and creativity have already paid dividends for the offense and they are one of the top units in the league, with room to grow. Ben and Randy have a great chemistry and it shows on game day. Winning the title would justify the faith that Tomlin and the front office displayed in promoting Fichtner.
That brings us to Keith Butler. Butler survived a disastrous start to the season by his defense. His game plans appeared woefully lacking in creativity and design. However, to his credit, he has made the necessary adjustments to turn the defense around. They went back to basics, focusing on their fundamentals, and simplifying the game plan to avoid pre-snap confusion. If Bulter can turn this diverse group into a top ten unit capable of competing for a championship, he should be in the running for Comeback Coordinator of the Year award. I don't know if that is a thing, but if it isn't, it should be. It would also get Butler out of the huge shadow cast by living Steelers legend Dick Lebeau. It must be cold there in his shadow. This season may finally shine a little light on his own abilities.
The Steelers as an organization are fighting hard to not waste these 'Roethlisberger Years'. First things first, they must focus their attention on a frustrated, wounded, and dangerous Jaguars squad. I feel certain Tomlin learned that lesson last year.
This season's Steelers team has plenty left to prove, including a tough remaining schedule just to make the playoffs, but their arrow sure appears to be trending upward.