Mark Madden: Steelers' problems might be too big
Steelers' problems might be too big
Ryan Clark holds his head in frustration as he sits on the sideline during the final seconds of the fourth quarter during the Steelers' 13-10 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals at Heinz Field on Sunday, December 23, 2012.
Posted: Sunday, February 24, 2013
By Mark Madden
Turmoil didn't cause 8-8; 8-8 caused turmoil.
But the fact remains that the Steelers locker room appears lousy with malcontents, laggards and tattletales. Which is worst? That's in the eye of the beholder.
Such malaise is common with most NFL teams. Localization thereof is just another reminder that the Steelers are no longer a "special" franchise - if they ever were.
So, who's at fault?
Coach Mike Tomlin is hardly blameless. He seems to cede a bit more control and lose a bit more discipline every year.
Linebacker LaMarr Woodley is the founder of the latest tempest. Critics like Ryan Clark may characterize the unnamed Steeler source as a rat, but no one is calling that unnamed source a liar.
It's common knowledge that Woodley was out of shape, overweight and lacked dedication. The proof was in his season: Just four sacks and a level of invisibility the Steelers can't afford from an edge rusher.
Clark and Antonio Brown are right when they say the matter should have been kept in-house. But, given that, why did they keep discussing it publicly?
Oh, right: Got to get on TV.
What's a bigger sin: Tanking a season due to lard and laziness, like Woodley? Or calling Woodley out anonymously after the fact? Stinking, or snitching?
Going 8-8 suggests the former. Gangsta culture dictates the latter.
Hines Ward knows where things went wrong: He retired. Humility lives.
"When you lose so much leadership in the locker room, that is where things present itself like that," Ward told the NFL Network.
The Steelers don't lack leadership. They lack followers. The Young Money Crew and the Florida Gators posse (known collectively as the No-Ring Mafia) seem to believe they got NFL life figured out. So shut up, Troy.
The Steelers also lack self-awareness. The Steelers, as an organization and as individuals, are rarely made to experience an unpleasant moment. As a result, they seem to believe they shouldn't. They run this town, and they know it.
But when you go 8-8 and miss the playoffs, you don't get treated like immortals coated in Teflon. Punks, loafers and lousy performances get called out.
Humiliation isn't always bad. It can motivate. Woodley's problems weren't sorted out internally, or privately. So tell the outside world and see what happens.
The idea of a player currently without a contract or team purchasing a car that costs $500K is dumbfounding, isn't it? Wallace is in a temporary profession making temporary money. But someday he'll be a TV star: Wallace will be the primary protagonist on ESPN 30 for 30's "Broke 2."
So, how will the Steelers straighten out their locker room?
Winning is generally a cure-all. It's also easier said than done.
The Steelers' biggest problem has traditionally been when they don't recognize there's a problem. But perhaps the Steelers' current problems are too big. Perhaps too many bad actors populate their roster. Perhaps there are insufficient replacements for the broken parts that need to be replaced.
Only one thing seems certain: The Steelers are a lot closer to a losing season than they are a Super Bowl.
On the field, the Steelers' best bet is turning their hopes over to Ben Roethlisberger, one of football's top five quarterbacks. But tradition dictates the Steelers strive for balance on offense and hard-hitting defense. Don't let Roethlisberger win the game in the first quarter. Ask him to bail you out in the last.
Didn't work in 2012. Won't work in 2013. Between inferior weaponry and outdated philosophy, the Steelers are wasting their $102 million quarterback.
You think 8-8 caused turmoil? We might see what 6-10 produces.