View From The Press Box
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Coach's decision may cost Steelers
December 28th, 2009
When it comes to NFL coaches, only Bill Belichick may be more reviled among Steelers fans than Jim Caldwell these days.
Caldwell’s decision to yank his starters in the third quarter of a game that the Colts were leading Sunday may have also pulled the plug on the Steelers’ season.
Had the Colts beaten the Jets -- and it’s hard to envision that not happening had the incomparable Peyton Manning been allowed to finish what he started -- the Steelers would have had a much easier path to the playoffs.
All they would have had to do is beat the Dolphins and have the Patriots beat the Texans.
True, New England has already clinched the AFC East title but Belichick is the anti-Caldwell. He always plays to win.
Because the Jets rallied to beat the Colts, the Steelers now have to depend on several teams to win Sunday if they want the chance to defend their Super Bowl title.
And the NFL didn’t do the Steelers any favors by moving the Bengals-Jets game from 1 to 8:20 p.m. under flex scheduling.
One scenario that gets the Steelers into the playoffs is them beating the Dolphins and the Patriots and Bengals also winning.
The problem is if the Patriots beat the Texans in a 1 p.m. game, they will almost certainly lock up the No. 3 seed in the AFC playoffs. That would make the Bengals’ game Sunday night at the Meadowlands meaningless.
Thus Carson Daly is more likely to play quarterback for the Bengals than Carson Palmer.
As for Caldwell’s decision, which has been widely criticized, I couldn’t disagree with it more on several levels.
If the first-year head coach were so concerned about injuries why play key starters, like Manning, at all against the Jets? Also by easing up on the gas pedal, Caldwell is risking the team that has been the best one in the NFL this season not being sharp for the games that matter most.
Remember the Colts have a bye week between the end of the regular season and their first playoff game. The last time they took an approach similar to the one that will ultimately make Caldwell a genius or give birth to the phrase “pulled a Caldwell” didn’t work out so well.
The Colts came out flat in a divisional playoff game and lost to a team they had beaten by 19 points during the regular season.
If the Steelers, who went on to win the Super Bowl after stunning the Colts, benefitted from Indianapolis’ caution in 2005, they are paying for it now.
However, as angry as Steelers fans may be with Cadwell, he doesn’t owe the Steelers a thing.
They should direct their ire at a team that only needed to beat the Chiefs, Raiders or Browns to avoid its current predicament.
Not the coach who blinked when he had the chance to chase immortality.