View Full Version : Steelers too vain?

10-06-2006, 12:59 PM
He thinks so:

Guilty of sin

By Charles Robinson, Yahoo! Sports
October 4, 2006

They are the lessons of avoidance that are supposed to keep us on the path. Stay virtuous, live right and avoid the seven deadly sins: Lust, gluttony, greed, wrath, envy, pride and sloth.

Applied to the NFL landscape, they are merely seven vices that shape the league and fill the sports pages. And believe it or not, each year they shape the Super Bowl chase. So in honor of the vices that sort out the pretenders and contenders, we give you a list of teams that have committed sins that are bound to shape the postseason.

Starting with everyone's favorite ?

The sin: LUST (otherwise known as unwholesome morality)
The sinner: Cincinnati Bengals

We know about all the arrests (six different players in the last year), the league discipline (Odell Thurman dismissed for the season), and the recent benching of wideout Chris Henry (leader in the clubhouse with four arrests in the last 12 months). What we don't know is how all of the off-the-field issues are going to come home to roost. But for those who are seeking a good example, Sunday's blowout loss to the Patriots was a perfect illustration.

Cincinnati has issues against good running teams, resulting in its standing as the league's 26th-ranked rush defense. Only the Titans and Jets have given up more rushing touchdowns (eight apiece) than Cincinnati (seven), and no team in the league has surrendered more first downs via the run (39). What does that have to do with Cincinnati's offseason problems? It has plenty to do with the loss of Thurman, who was the team's leading tackler in 2005. His improvement was supposed to accentuate the run-plugging abilities of offseason addition Sam Adams.

Without Thurman, the Bengals have been reduced to a group of chase and tackle linebackers ? a significant problem when you consider the strength of several Super Bowl contenders in the AFC ? San Diego, Baltimore and New England ? will be the running game. Worse yet, the season-ending injury to David Pollack had already left their overall depth at linebacker thin, and losing Thurman (who also had five interceptions last season) takes away another playmaking element. Clearly, the margin of error for Cincinnati's players has shrunk off the field. The only question now is whether the uncontrolled lusts of some of guys like Thurman and Henry will cost them too much on it.

The sin: GLUTTONY (otherwise known as overindulgence)
The sinner: Atlanta Falcons

Not to beat a one-dimensional horse, but the Falcons' current dominance in the running game is going to become a problem. Maybe not now or through Week 17, but when the playoffs come around, someone is going to solve the option attack that has lit up opponents to the ridiculous tune of 234.2 yards per game. Yes, for the third straight year, the Falcons are leading the league in rushing. And for the third straight year, they are trolling the depths of the league in passing offense (31st overall), after finishing 27th and 30th the last two seasons.

We can celebrate the Falcons' vaunted defensive aggression all we want. Certainly that and the running game should be enough to vault Atlanta into the playoffs once again. But the single-dimension offense promises to be the franchise's postseason undoing yet again, just like it was in the 2004 playoffs. It should be remembered that Atlanta destroyed St. Louis en route to the NFC championship game, rolling up 327 rushing yards. Then the Falcons encountered a defense that had one goal: hem in quarterback Michael Vick and the running game, and force the Falcons to throw the ball. The result? Atlanta rushed for 99 yards, and Vick completed 11 of 24 passes with one interception and no touchdowns. Oh, and the Falcons lost 27-10.

And yet, somehow, this postseason might be different? Not likely. Not with two of the league's best rushing defenses, Chicago and Seattle, expected to stand in the way. And not with the Falcons already showing in the loss to New Orleans that when they fall behind and need to move via a passing attack, the results aren't pretty. Perhaps the answer is a quarterback rotation with Matt Schaub. It sounds unconventional and far-fetched, but so is winning a Super Bowl while relying on the option attack.

The sin: GREED (otherwise known as overriding need for wealth)
The sinner: Indianapolis Colts

Greed ended the partnership of Manning
(left) and former teammate James.
Quarterback Peyton Manning called it a bittersweet day when he lost running back Edgerrin James this offseason. And yet, when James was asked why he left Indianapolis, he intimated that it really came down to one thing: The Colts weren't willing to pay him. Why? The team was already looking at being cap strapped with a massive amount of cash tied up in Manning, wide receivers Reggie Wayne and Marvin Harrison, defensive end Dwight Freeney and defensive tackle Corey Simon. The spectacular amount of cap room invested in those players meant James couldn't be afforded.

Now, all those players should keep their checkbooks in mind when they are struggling to establish a running game while facing their most difficult Super Bowl trek in years. Yes, business is business. That's understandable in this league. But there is a reality for highly-paid superstars in the salary cap era, too. If you truly want a ring, you have to be willing to forgo some of your own financial gains if you want your franchise to retain some cornerstone teammates. If Manning wanted to win a Super Bowl, he and some of those other stars should have found a way to free up the cap space to keep James a Colt while the Super Bowl window is still open the next 2-3 seasons.

Consider this: James is going to make roughly $5 million a season the next three years. Meanwhile, the extension Manning signed in 2004 pays him roughly triple that ? about $15 million annually. Maybe it's inconceivable to expect a player to take less than his maximum value for the good of the team. But New England quarterback Tom Brady (ahem, three time Super Bowl winner) did it when he signed for about $8 million less in guaranteed money than Manning, and almost $11 million less than Michael Vick.

The sin: WRATH (otherwise known as vengeful feelings toward another)
The sinner: New England Patriots

Perhaps wide receivers Doug Gabriel and Troy Brown, and tight end Ben Watson will be able to fill the void left behind by Deion Branch. But clearly, the Patriots' passing offense is feeling the pains of the offseason beef that ended with a divorce from Branch. Say whatever you want about financial logic and rules. The bottom line: the Patriots have plenty of acreage under the salary cap and could have afforded to keep Brady's favorite target without destroying the precious balance of the franchise's checkbook. Instead, the team took a hard line stance and basically told Branch they didn't think he was worth what the open market would dictate.

Make no mistake, the Patriots took it personally when Branch held out. And the suggestion that he pursue a trade was a vengeful ploy that blew up in their face. It certainly wasn't the first financial low blow attempted, either (see: Lawyer Milloy's last-minute release in 2003). The reality is, every offseason there is some kind of tiff with a player who wants to be paid. Disagreements that tend to end the same way: with New England incurring its roster-trimming wrath and talent leaving in a huff.

In reality, the Patriots came with an unnecessary iron fist this offseason and alienated a valuable player. Branch was a Super Bowl MVP who also happened to be the team's most dependable receiving option, and whose impact was bigger than just numbers. You can bet New England's militant fallout with Branch has plenty to do with Brady posting arguably his least efficient four-game stretch in his career. And you can bet his loss will loom large when key plays are needed for a Super Bowl run, too.

The sin: ENVY (otherwise known as an insatiable desire for love or success)
The sinner: Dallas Cowboys

You can look at this two ways: the endless need of Terrell Owens to be in the spotlight, or Dallas' desperate attempt to inject itself back into the league's hype machine. Make no mistake, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones has no regrets about the buzz of controversy that has swirled around his franchise since acquiring Owens. Dallas is relevant and entertaining again, just like it was during the ongoing soap operas that marked the Jimmy Johnson/Barry Switzer eras. But by tying themselves to Owens, the Cowboys have cast their lot with a player who has shown unparalleled and destructive jealousies throughout his career.

Forget the attempted suicide/accidental overdose/rogue publicist fiasco. Owens' need for attention was a problem from Day 1, with the gristmill churning release of his book on the eve of training camp. The donning of the Tour De France style jersey during training camp; skipping voluntary workouts in the offseason; oversleeping and missing meetings ? it has all perpetuated an ongoing circus of attention that Owens and the Cowboys have embraced.

But we know the end of this story. Whether it's Drew Bledsoe's recent comments that Terry Glenn is the best receiver he's ever thrown to ? or something else along the way ? the marriage between Owens and Dallas is due to fracture. It may be in the form of the typical T.O. sideline tongue lashing. Or it may be with Parcells walking away from the drama this offseason. The only question is whether the Cowboys can win a Super Bowl in spite of the circus they craved, because it certainly won't be because of it.

10-06-2006, 01:00 PM

The sin: PRIDE (otherwise known as Vanity)
The sinner: Pittsburgh Steelers

Porter (center) and the Steelers might have
become too cool for their own good.
Remember the blue collar, hard hat mentality that typified the Steelers? It's fading. If you haven't noticed, the Steelers spent the offseason loving themselves on multiple levels. There were the "we're-too-smart-for-our-own-good" personnel moves like failing to complete a trade for bruising back T.J. Duckett in favor of finding a short-yardage guy within the roster (the attempt failed). And lest we forget, at a time when every team in the league had red-flagged draft prospect Santonio Holmes, the Steelers tabbed him as the guy who would soften the loss of wide receiver Antwaan Randle El (it might take a few seasons).

But for real moments of vanity, you had to hear coach Bill Cowher's mocking comments of Cincinnati's "Who Dey" chant, or see Joey Porter's "I'm the biggest badass you ever met" sunglasses routine at the White House ceremony. And of course, there was Ben Roethlisberger's bulletproof biker mistake. Roethlisberger's accident and lack of work with his receiving corps in the offseason are costing Pittsburgh plenty. Not to mention the defense's consistent woofing during games, something that seems to have become an outgrowth of Porter's pre-game routine at the 50-yard line.

What made Pittsburgh great last season was that it stuck to its core run-first belief and developed a sense that it was an underappreciated team. Values that were supposed to stick after the Steelers made the mistake of integrating a pass-first mentality in 2002 and 2003. Cowher vowed to always remember the core values once Roethlisberger became the starter. And for two years, Pittsburgh made good on the promise. Now? The Steelers are 11th in the league in rushing and Roethlisberger has thrown 71 passes in his two starts (including an unthinkable end zone interception from first and goal on the Cincinnati 6-yard line). Hype, glitz and woofing won't deliver another Super Bowl. Core blue collar values and discipline will.

The sin: SLOTH (otherwise known as laziness)
The sinner: Chicago Bears? Baltimore Ravens? Philadelphia Eagles?

It's hard to say there can be anything lazy about an NFL player or franchise, but at the end of the season, complacency and a penchant for sitting stars always seems to cost someone.

Last year, look no further than the Indy's Manning, who threw a grand total of 14 passes his final two regular season games, then sat through a bye week in the playoffs and came out looking terribly rusty against an aggressive Pittsburgh defense. The same could have been said for Chicago, which sat quarterback Rex Grossman in the regular season finale against Minnesota ? despite the fact that he had only two games (and one start) under his belt.

The Bears paid dearly for that mistake, with Grossman going 17-of-41 passing and looking out of synch in a home playoff loss. And guess what? Chicago might be the biggest candidate for this sin yet again, considering they play in the NFL's weakest division and have a schedule that could lead to 13, 14 or even 15 wins and a cruising mentality heading into the postseason. There's no telling which teams will lock up their playoff berths the earliest and then start getting overly protective with their players. But you can count on it happening. And if there is anything to be learned from history, it's a sin that will surely alter the Super Bowl chase.