I’m a very positive person. I mean, a very positive person. In my glass-half-full world, the Pittsburgh Steelers can do little wrong. I typically don’t yell and scream for coaches to be fire, for drastic changes to be made or even depth chart changes.
I trust the coaches, realize they will forget more than I will ever know, and typically leave it at that. However, after the Steelers 21-14 loss to the Baltimore Ravens in Week 9, the team’s performance is still stirring deep inside the recesses of my mind.
If there has been one constant throughout this 2016 season, it has been predictability.
Let me give you an example of one of the many trends and narratives which most everyone, or maybe just me, thought would be proven wrong this season:
Ryan Shazier is learning the NFL game, and the inside linebacker position, and will be able to play a full season. Therefore, stripping the injury prone label off the former first round draft pick.
This is how my brain functions. Always staying positive, but going back to the theme of the season, predictably, Shazier has already been injured and missed several games.
Oh, but there’s more...
Rather than the Steelers changing things to stop their streak against sub-.500 teams on the road, they predictably have changed nothing and have now lost 12 of their last 17 games which fit the bill.
Todd Haley has such a deep arsenal, calling plays certainly won’t remain an issue, yet his play calling has been down right predictable.
Pittsburgh has had so many special teams gaffes the past few seasons, there is no way they run such high risk plays in 2016, yet we have already talked about bone-headed decisions and gaffes throughout the season.
Ben Roethlisberger constantly laying an egg coming off injury will end, because the team would be wise enough to know he needs a full week of practice, and maybe an extra week off to become fully ready to play. Instead, Roethlisberger’s latest dud came at the expense of sole possession of first place, and the third straight loss for the Steelers.
Sadly, I could keep going. The Steelers inability to change, to adjust, and to succeed with any regularity is downright mind boggling.
I don’t often like to cross-reference sports, as they are all so unique to their own area of the sports realm, but this current Steelers team, and coaching staff, reminds me of the Dan Bylsma era with the Pittsburgh Penguins.
I realize not all Steelers fans are Pittsburgh fans like me, but under Bylsma the Penguins won a Stanley Cup in his first season, when he took over midway through the year, and failed to ever get back. He brought in a fresh philosophy, was able to get the most out of the superstars on the team, but as time wore on, his philosophy became predictable.
Bylsma’s ultimate downfall was the inability to adjust. In the playoffs he would insist the team just “play their game” and the rest would take care of itself. The result was a mind-numbing display of the Penguins falling into defensive traps and never making the adjustments necessary to win.
Bylsma has since been dismissed of his duties with the skating birds, and their newest coach, Mike Sullivan, is the antithesis of Bylsma from a coaching perspective.
This is where the Steelers find themselves halfway through the 2016 season.
The hubris coming from the coaching staff and players is palpable. The just “play our game” and the rest will take care of itself attitude is evident from the preparation, play calling and even the execution on display almost weekly. Could it be possible the Steelers have been believing all the hype surrounding the team in the early portions of the season? It certainly seems like it, but the season isn’t over.
While Bylsma’s job was ultimately sacrificed with the Penguins, I’m not suggesting a drastic change like firing Mike Tomlin, Keith Butler or Todd Haley. Instead, it would be a breath of fresh air to watch the team, and coaching staff, approach each game with humility and the willingness to do whatever it takes to win. If it means scrapping the plan to throw the football early and often, then you do it. If it means you have to start sending 5-6 defenders to pressure the quarterback, then you do it.
Whatever it takes to finally shake off the predictability of this 2016 season. If the team fails to do this, it ultimately could lead to the demise of several players and coaches, but with 8 games remaining in the season, they have a chance to right the ship. They have a chance to regain fans’ trust, and to turn the season around.
It starts with the head coach, and trickles down to the players. Rather than hearing Mike Tomlin announce the team will “unleash hell”, maybe, just maybe, a more realistic approach is what the doctor ordered. Holding players accountable for their poor play, making the adjustments necessary and being the true leader this team is desperately searching for.
Then again, they could just continue on their current course losing to bad teams on the road, playing well at home, and experiencing bone-head decisions from both a player and coach perspective.