One of Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin’s most infamous “isms” occurred when he said, way back in 2009 in the middle of what would become a playoff-derailing five-game losing streak by the defending Super Bowl champions, that his team was about to unleash hell in December.
It was one of those Tomlin quotes that quickly got fans pumping their fans enthusiastically before becoming an ongoing punchline that would follow him forever.
But, again, the ‘09 Steelers were proud champions, so it stood to reason that Tomlin would have enough confidence in his troops to make such a bold proclamation.
There has been no such bold statement uttered by the head coach regarding his 2021 edition, other than “we’ve got to get better.” That’s what you say about a young football team which these Steelers clearly are, with the exception of a few key pieces, namely Ben Roethlisberger.
When the Steelers were struggling early in the year, specifically on offense, there was hope that they would be better as a team by the season’s end. After starting 1-3, Pittsburgh rattled off a four-game winning streak, stoking the flame that these youngsters were getting it, that they were rounding into shape.
No, nobody was expecting a Super Bowl in 2021 (well, some always are, but you know what I mean), but I think the expectation of the arrow pointing up seemed more than realistic.
Then, the tie with the Lions happened.
After that, the hell really started to be unleashed...on the fans, on the viewers who were forced to sit through one bleep show after another.
Just how bad have the Steelers been during their 1-3 post-tie slide? So bad, they’ve trailed by at least 17 points at certain points of all three losses.
Sure, the Steelers bounced back from a 27-10 deficit against the Chargers on Sunday Night Football back on November 21, but they failed to close the deal at the end. Yes, Pittsburgh answered the bell in a big way by defeating the Ravens by one point just at Heinz Field just one week after losing 41-10 to Cincinnati at Paul Brown Stadium, but what about the 29-0 hole that the team fell into in Minnesota just a few days later on Thursday Night Football?
True, the Steelers made a game of it, but so what?
Young football teams on the rise don’t continue to dig themselves the same holes at the end of the season that they frequently fell into at the beginning of the season.
After 13 regular-season games, there is actually less hope about the future of the Pittsburgh Steelers than there was before Week 1. Why? Because of everything I’ve just written here. Because of the lack of progress. Because of the repeated mistakes by both the offense and the defense.
Chase Claypool seems to have lost that great character everyone thought he had when Pittsburgh drafted him out of Notre Dame back in 2020. Those young defensive linemen, the guys filling in for Stephon Tuitt and Tyson Alualu, haven’t proven capable of being anything other than the backups everyone kind of knew they were.
James Pierre is now on the bench in favor of Ahkello Witherspoon, an intriguing talent but one who has only shown flashes of that talent so far during his career. Is he finally on a permanent upswing, or is he currently experiencing the hot part of a streaky career?
Pressley Harvin has been nothing but inconsistent as a rookie punter.
As for Matt Canada, the rookie offensive coordinator, we don’t know if he has what it takes to design an offense at the professional level or if he’s only good at handing the keys over to his 39-year old quarterback after three quarters of futility.
I can go on, but I won’t.
The Steelers are in hell right now, and with one month left to go in the 2021 regular season, we don’t know if this hell is temporary or eternal.