View Full Version : Steelers struggling to begin offseason

01-05-2010, 02:16 AM
Steelers struggling to begin offseason
Tuesday, January 05, 2010
By Chuck Finder, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

The Year After ended yesterday afternoon with a team meeting, with the Super Bowl XLIII champions lost.

"Everybody's kind of sitting in there, 'What do we do now?' " center Justin Hartwig described after the Steelers' post-mortem assembly on the South Side, the day after they concluded their season with a 9-7 record, a three-game winning streak and no more meaningful games for eight months. "It's like we have this ultimate purpose that we're fighting for every week, and now it's like that purpose is gone. It's a letdown for everybody.

"We're after wins. We're after the Lombardi Trophy. It's very black and white. ... Us winning that trophy every year is the standard. That's what we set out to do. Every year, unless you hoist that trophy, you simply weren't good enough."

"That's going to be our single focus, to make it to the Super Bowl," receiver Santonio Holmes added. "We don't want to think of anything else: just making the playoffs, or making it as a wild card. We want to be at the top of our division every year. We don't want to lose any games to our division opponents."

They know when and where their season went awry: the five-game losing streak and in divisional play, with a 2-4 North record and a 6-6 AFC mark.

They know how their season ended short of the playoffs: a failure to hold leads.

There's just one part they still cannot seem to fathom.

"It's tough, man," Holmes began. "To go out at any point knowing that we were capable of winning ... and to have five straight losses ... it hurts. We know that we control our own fate. And things didn't work out in our favor this year. You know, we had a lot of injuries, a lot of things go wrong, a lot of people missing in certain positions and out of place, or sometimes guys playing injured trying to help our team.

"You can't really point a finger at any one guy or any one position this year. A lot of things didn't go our way."

Linebacker LaMarr Woodley added that no blame should be heaped upon the replacements, the players who filled in for ailing Pro Bowlers Troy Polamalu and Aaron Smith in their 11-game absences apiece for knee and shoulder injuries.

"I still feel like we were able to win games without those two guys there," Woodley said. "Troy wasn't in there, so we weren't getting as many turnovers, but we still had a lot of opportunities. I mean, I feel like guys stepped up this year and did a great job, we just didn't close out the games. We gave up the big pass plays at the end. We didn't put pressure on the quarterback. We didn't do a good job wrapping up on tackles. We had the games won, it was just that we gave them up at the end."

Six of their seven losses came when the Steelers frittered away fourth-quarter leads.

But that wasn't all on the defense, either. Holmes said the offense played a critical role.

Scoring touchdowns, Holmes said, "we didn't get that job done as many times as we were supposed to this year, as many times as we would've liked to. We didn't produce enough points to win ballgames this season -- we put our defense in a bind at times. That's going to be our focus next year, how well we as a team score touchdowns when we get in the red zone."

Hartwig added: "I've never been on a team where all the games are so close. All those games we won last year, those close games, we didn't win those this year. I think that was the difference, us finishing games. It's not like you can put your finger on one thing: 'If we would've had this one guy, or if we would've done this one thing better, we would've had a better record.' Collectively, as a team, we didn't finish the way we did last year."

"I think we have a really, really good core group," Hartwig said. "We're capable of winning the Super Bowl with the group that we have. I would be surprised if there's a lot of turnover. ... Obviously, that's part of the business -- every year there's going to be change, with coaches possibly, with players possibly. Change is inevitable."

Added linebacker James Farrior: "I wouldn't change anything, man. I like this group. I like the coaches."
Bottom line on the line

Hartwig awaits the day when his younger offensive linemates learn the "details:"

"You know what, I was pleased with the way our offensive line progressed from where we started off last year to this year. I think we played better as a unit this year. With that being said, I still think that the sky is the limit. We got a lot of young guys in our room. ... A lot of guys have a lot of potential in that room. I think that guys need to pay more and more attention to little details. Once guys start getting those little things down, I think we have several players in our offensive-line room who are Pro Bowl-capable. I think that in time those guys will take the next step, hopefully."
LeBeau and Limas

Defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau informed his defenders in recent weeks that he planned to return next season, despite retirement rumors. "He told our defense they're going to have to kick him on out of here; I took his word for it," Farrior said. "I'm looking forward to coach LeBeau coming back next year. That was pretty much his message to us, 'You've got to get back to work.' "

Limas Sweed, placed on injured reserve Christmas week for illness/personal reasons, visited practice last week. "We all got a chance to see him, talk to him. Keep his spirits up," Holmes said. "I definitely think he's going to be more motivated to come back this year and prove ... that he's going to be a productive receiver in the NFL someday."
Quick hit

The Steelers, based on their 9-7 record and strength of schedule to break ties, will pick 18th in the NFL draft in April.

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01-05-2010, 08:31 PM
I hope they're miserable enough that they'll remember the feeling and show up and play hard ALL the time next year. They mailed it in one too many times to deserve to play in January this year.

01-05-2010, 08:49 PM
I hope they're miserable enough that they'll remember the feeling and show up and play hard ALL the time next year. They mailed it in one too many times to deserve to play in January this year.

I agree.

This could be a valuable learning experience for everybody.. This team thrives after learning to play with adversity. IF they can tweak a few things, esp a better OL, I foresee this team a legit team for the Super Bowl in 2010!!!