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If the Steelers Fall Short in 2012, A Combination of these Five Things Will Have Happened: Part II


In Part I, we go over the general unknowns of a transformed offense along with the lack of turnovers and sacks from a defense that, just two years ago, thrived on them.

Not to continue playing the part of the wet blanket, but there are a few more ways the Steelers could see something of a drop from 2011 to 2012.

Injuries to Ben Roethlisberger

Granted, this one is a bit too much on the nose – if Green Bay or New England or the Giants lost their quarterback, their team just wouldn’t be the same, either. Likely back-up Byron Leftwich has done alright as a spot-starter in his time in Pittsburgh, but with a pretty strong AFC North, could the Steelers keep pace with him under center? He hasn’t played since Gary Russell was on the roster. That’s a lot of downs to watch in the honorary Duce Staley Sweatpants.

More than anything, it’s about the lack of Roethlisberger on the field. He’s the field general. It’s hard to adjust to a new signal caller, invariably that new quarterback reads the field pre-snap differently. Try as they would to get on the same page before the game, when the rubber meets the road, it only takes one play where the team isn’t in the same mindset as the quarterback for things to go tragically wrong. And with an AFC looking as competitive as it is, one play could cost a team one game, which could cost a team a playoff spot or worse.

History Not Repeating Itself

I’ve raved about the Peter Principle, usually in reference to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, but it can apply to football players as well. The famous creed of the Steelers is “Next Man Up.” If the Steelers reload rather than rebuild, it suggests they constantly bring in starting-caliber players to fill back-up roles. It’s a great vision for any organization.

At some point, that will run out. Some could point to Jason Worilds last season. No one asked him to be LaMarr Woodley or James Harrison, but that’s exactly the point. If either of those two, or any other key player, is that good, eventually, Peter’s Principle says at some point the person filling in will be over-promoted.

Seems like there’s a lot of potential to see that this year. How will Steve McLendon adopt to the starting position for what appears to be at least the first six games (If/when NT Casey Hampton is put on the PUP list to start the year)? Willie Colon is a talented offensive lineman, will he be able to transition to a new position on the opposite side of where he’s played throughout his career? Will Larry Foote be able to handle what appears to be a full slate of snaps for the first time since 2009 when he was in Detroit?

Or, are any of those guys simply asked to do more than they’re capable of doing? It’s a fair question.

It’s Not Improving, It’s Leapfrogging

Looking back on it, the Steelers were a very good football team in 2011. They obviously were in 2010 as well. If you look at it objectively, there are a few reasons you can see why 2010 had more success than 2011, but how big were those differences, really? If an injured quarterback (who still played, mind you) was the difference between having the ball down six on the last possession of the Super Bowl and not winning a playoff game, that margin between champion and also-ran is far slimmer than we’re making it.

Enter in the Baltimore Ravens of 2010 and 2011. The difference in those two seasons, simply, as WR Torrey Smith caught a touchdown pass to beat the Steelers and eventually win the division (as well as a playoff game). In 2010, Anquan Boldin dropped a touchdown pass in the end zone, forcing the Ravens to settle for three points, and give the ball back to Pittsburgh in the playoffs.

Obviously that’s not the concrete reason, but the point is the Ravens didn’t overtake the Steelers because they suddenly because that much better of a team. The talent levels of both teams was outstanding, but the Ravens leapfrogged the Steelers in 2011.

Every contending team in the NFL will have improved in some way from 2011 to 2012. That doesn’t eliminate the logjam of talent that presently exists. The Steelers will have to leapfrog a few other teams, based solely on last year’s results. That is done during games more so than it’s done during the offseason.

FS Ryan Clark needs to recognize the window Flacco is aiming for on Smith, and he needs to get over to make the play. LB Lawrence Timmons needs to recognize the stretch run and not allow himself to get caught in the wash at the middle of the field, and pursue the ball carrier.

Those are just two examples, and they don’t tell a whole season (both players did far more good things than bad) but speaking on the team top to bottom, they need to beat the best if they want to be the best.

That isn’t easy to do. Doesn’t mean they can’t or won’t, but it’s worth talking about, even for the most optimistic of us.

Source: Behind the Steel Curtain

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If the Steelers Fall Short in 2012, A Combination of these Five Things Will Have Happened: Part I

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As Hanz and Fritz of The Simpsons said after selling the power plant back to C. Montgomery Burns, “We Germans aren’t all smiles und sunshine.”

I’m not German (“Not that there’s anything wrong with that”), but I am forced to drop a crowbar of bitterness on SteelerNation this morning.

We’ve been way too optimistic as of late.

Can’t blame us. There’s a lot to be excited about. Like every NFL team at this point of the year, we’re hopeful about things that, frankly, haven’t been established for the present.

One aspect of my regular life job is when my boss looks over a process we’re about to implement, and invariably asks, “So why will this fail?” It’s not a question asked in a sense of pessimism, but rather, one asked to make sure everything has been thought through, and to establish the risk of that particular process.

So why will the Steelers fail this season? What are the most likely things that would happen if the Steelers finish at or – Heaven help us – below .500?

Here are the first two of five reasons, in no particular order, why the Steelers 2012 season may implode.

General Failure of the Steelers Offense to Click

Ever have a blown tire on your car? Imagine all the tires are the same age, and you happen to hit one on a pothole, and POW! Thing’s gone. You’re low on cash, so you only get one extra tire.

One of the other three is bound to suffer the same fate, putting you into the same position you were in. The replacement of Bruce Arians was a widely accepted move this off-season, and the hire of Todd Haley, while with its dissent (myself included), brought about a sweeping feeling of optimism.

What if the problems Haley’s alleged to be fixing – establishing more rhythm-based passing, a stronger running game and better pass protection – only leads to other problems that were perhaps covered up by Bruce Arians? What if the Steelers succeed in creating a high completion percentage passing offense based off a strong running game, but can’t move the ball down the field?

It’s a fair question. Certainly, the individual talent is there, but is it realistic to assume, with the amount of new pieces coming together in big roles (the new manager, the new offensive linemen, the new Hines Ward-alpha leader), there will be some growing pains. Will those growing pains subside before the weather gets cold, or will we be discussing them at this time next year?

Defensive Anemia

It’s never sat well with me that the Steelers had the best scoring defense in football despite huge dropoffs in turnovers and sacks from 2010 to 2011. If you think about it, there were many times we were poised to write “Wish We Made Some More Plays” on the Steelers’ defensive epitaph.

It’s not like the Steelers played a dearth of great offensive teams last year, certainly not down the stretch. With strong receiving groups slated for 2012, like the Giants and Dallas, and good to great quarterbacks throughout the schedule, the defense is going to have to get even better for 2012.

Source: Behind the Steel Curtain

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The Broncos Get Crushed by the Patriots, 45-10, and the Steelers Probably Still Can’t Believe What Happened Last Week

FOXBORO, MA - JANUARY 14:  Tim Tebow #15 of the Denver Broncos walks on the sideline against the New England Patriots during their AFC Divisional Playoff Game at Gillette Stadium on January 14, 2012 in Foxboro, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

Tom Brady threw for 363 yards and six touchdowns as the New England Patriots dismantled the Denver Broncos, 45-10, at Gillette Stadium last night in the divisional round of the playoffs, and it wasn’t even that close. If it wasn’t for an uncharacteristically bad interception by Brady in the first quarter, the Broncos may not have scored a single point.

As for Tim Tebow, he looked pretty much like he did most of the year, and like he did at the end of the regular season when the Broncos lost their last three games and backed into the playoffs with an 8-8 record. Tebow was 9/26 for 136 yards and no touchdowns (still trying to wrap my head around those 316 yards on ten completions).

Back to Brady. Other than the interception, he was a surgeon. This may have been aided by the fact that the Broncos played a zone defense against New England, which is like trying to put a fire out with gasoline. Didn’t get that strategy at all.

But maybe that’s because the Broncos were one of the worst teams to ever find their way into the postseason. At any rate, this sure makes the Steelers loss last week even harder to take.

I’m not saying Pittsburgh could have defeated the Patriots last night, but I doubt that they would have lost by five-touchdowns, even with a plethora of injuries. Oh well, they have no one to blame but themselves for bowing out in the Mile High City.

On to the rest of the playoffs. Maybe the Steelers just picked the wrong NFL postseason to be a wild card team. Last year, road teams won 6 of the 10 playoff games. So far this year, the visitors are 0 for 6. The home teams have averaged 35 points a game and have won by an average margin of nearly two touchdowns.

I enjoyed the heck out of the 49ers/Saints game last night, even if I was rooting for New Orleans to knock one of the Harbaughs out of the postseason. San Francisco jumped out to a 17-0 lead before the Saints crawled back into the game. The 49ers were ahead, 23-17, when the two teams combined to score four touchdowns over the final four minutes in one of the most exciting finishes to a playoff game in recent memory. On a play very reminiscent of Steve Young to T.O. in the 1998 wild card game against the Packers, San Francisco went ahead for good when Alex Smith connected with Vernon Davis for a 14 yard touchdown pass over the middle with nine seconds remaining. Davis even came to the sideline crying like Owens did back in ’98. The 49ers won, 36-32, and advanced to the NFC Championship Game for the first time since 1997. The 49ers will either host the Giants at Candlestick Park next week or travel to Lambeau Field to take on the Packers for the right to go to the Super Bowl. As for the Saints, well, they just need to find a way to play all of their games at the Superdome where they are almost invincible. Unfortunately for New Orleans, they lost the tiebreaker to the 49ers and had to settle for the 3rd seed in the NFC.

I’m looking forward to another exciting day of playoff football. It will be interesting to see if the road teams can finally break the trend. Or maybe this is just “the Year of the Harbaugh.”

Source: Behind the Steel Curtain

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