View Full Version : Finishing strong a must for Steelers

12-18-2009, 02:43 AM
12/17/2009 3:32 AM

Finishing strong a must for Steelers

http://www.observer-reporter.com/or/loc ... ley-column (http://www.observer-reporter.com/or/localsports/12-17-Lolley-column)

They are not quite there yet, but it appears the Steelers could be headed for a losing season.

That might be big news around these parts, but in many NFL cities, it's a way of life.

Admit it Steelers fans, you're spoiled.

If the Steelers fail to win two of their final three games, they'll finish 2009 with just their second losing season in this decade.

Think about that for a minute. It's something that can only be said about a handful of other NFL teams.

Considering the Steelers have won two Super Bowls since their last losing season in 2003, you've got a pretty nice little run, even though it's probably coming to an end.

What will be interesting, however, is how this team finishes.

After back-to-back losing seasons in 1998 and 1999, the Steelers appeared to be on their way toward another sub-.500 record in 2000. But they won four of their final five games to finish at 9-7, setting the stage for a 13-3 campaign in 2001.

The Steelers took a step back in 2003, falling to 6-10 after suffering through a five-game losing streak in the middle of the season. Again, the Steelers rebounded to win three of their final six games - with one of those losses a hard-fought, 13-10 overtime loss in Baltimore to end the season - and fought to the bitter end.

The selection of quarterback Ben Roethlisberger in the first round of the 2004 draft set the stage for a 15-1 record the following season.

A handful of the current Steelers were on that 2004 squad, which is part of the reason why they are struggling now. Many key players have gotten old.

But those older players can be part of the solution, just as Jerome Bettis was in 2004. Bettis knew he was at the end of his career, but his leadership helped keep that 2003 team from completely folding.

It's important that players such as linebacker James Farrior, Hines Ward and others have a calming effect on this team.

Sure there's disappointment that things didn't go the way they felt they would this season.

But things can turn around quickly in the NFL.

If the NFL draft were held today, the Steelers would be selecting 12th. They picked 11th in 2004, when Roethlisberger fell into their lap.

Who should you be watching in the upcoming bowl games as a possible first-round pick for the Steelers?

Nebraska defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, who would have gotten my vote for the Heisman Trophy, would fill a big hole if Casey Hampton leaves as a free agent. But he will be a top pick.

Keep an eye on North Carolina defensive tackle Marvin Austin when the Tar Heels play Pitt.

Florida cornerback Joe Haden or USC free safety Taylor Mays would help the Steelers' beleaguered secondary.

On offense, Oklahoma's Trent Williams or Anthony Davis of Rutgers would be a pair of offensive tackles the Steelers could plug into their line if right tackle Willie Colon is not re-signed.

Alabama linebacker Rolando McClain would be a nice addition as a replacement for Farrior.

There are so many directions the Steelers could go with a a top 15 pick.

McGuffey High School graduate Dave Sachs will be on the card for the World Extreme Fighting's card Jan. 8 at Robert Morris University.

The 27-year-old Sachs, who is 5-2 in mixed martial arts bouts, will fight Martin Stoilkov (1-0) in a 155-pound match as part of the undercard in the event.

Sachs, who is recovering from a bout of MRSA this summer, is eager to get back in the cage.

"That really knocked me out," said Sachs. "I had to go back to work full-time. Now, I'm training again and working as a personal trainer part-time. It will be good to get back to fighting."

F. Dale Lolley can be reached at dlolley@observer-reporter.com