View Full Version : Steelers feasted on spoils of Super Bowl win, lose their hunger

11-28-2006, 06:50 AM
An Analysis: Steelers feasted on spoils of Super Bowl win, lose their hunger
Tuesday, November 28, 2006

By Ed Bouchette, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

The Steelers acted this year as do many Powerball winners: They celebrated their good fortune, then went out and blew all of it.

There are as many theories about what happened to the 2006 Steelers as there are sacks of Ben Roethlisberger. The assumptions target coaching, the quarterback, the line, the pass rush, the turnovers, injuries, motorcycles, bad luck, the Campbell's Soup commercial jinx, the "cheap" owners, NFL schedule makers and that $2.5 million home in Raleigh, N.C.

It may be something that on one hand is much simpler and on the other far more complicated. It may be that the Steelers enjoyed being Super Bowl champions so much after coming close for so many years that they just forgot what it took for them to win it. One veteran player recently described it as "overconfidence."

And here is what Deion Sanders, former Super Bowl winner, said about the Steelers this week on the NFL Network:

"You have to understand when you win the Super Bowl you can't just mosey into town because everyone knows you're coming. They can't handle their success."

That would fall in the realm of human nature. It's why writers have one best seller and can't reproduce it, or rock groups become one-hit wonders, why there are few duplicate Nobel Prize or Pulitzer Prize winners. It's a reason Super Bowl victors rarely repeat. Not only is it difficult to do, but once you've done it, you have "arrived."

As one member of the 2006 Steelers said, even if they have a losing season, they cannot take the Vince Lombardi Trophy away from them. If you had asked each member of the 2005 Steelers if they would accept a losing season in 2006 to win the Super Bowl in 2005, each would make that deal. It does not mean they had to have a poor 2006 season, but it is a way of explaining it.

Willie Parker said it after the Steelers fell to 2-6, that they weren't as hungry this season as they were last. Again, that's human nature; it's tough to stay hungry when your appetite has just been sated.

Somehow, Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots found a way to stay hungry, but those around the 2002 Patriots will say they acted very much like the 2006 Steelers; they were full of their first Super Bowl victory from the previous year.

The Steelers had come so close to getting to a Super Bowl the past decade -- a game they had not won in 26 years -- that maybe once they won it, the end of the journey was like taking the Nestea Plunge, pure relief, and then a soaking. They had AFC championship games at home after the 1997 season, 2001 season and 2004 season and lost each of them. Finally, they won a Super Bowl like no one ever had before, by winning three playoff games on the road to get there.

It was a single-minded purpose after they slipped to 7-5 last season. Nothing else mattered to them other than winning their next game. When they finally had a chance to look up, their next game was the Super Bowl in Detroit, where they did not play their best game but their opponent, Seattle, complied by playing worse.

The natural reaction after such an accomplishment that eluded them for so long would be to let out one big "Ahhhhh," before plopping down in the easy chair with their feet up.

There may have been nothing Bill Cowher could have done to prevent that kind of attitude and neither he nor ownership could deny the players, coaches and the rest of the organization the spoils of victory: The ring ceremony, the visit to the White House, the various commercials and trips. Cowher did his best to pooh-pooh his purchase of a new home in North Carolina, but when that news broke in March, it became an issue that would not go away.

Overconfidence, the veteran pointed out, is tough to combat and it can undermine a team in ever-so-slight ways: Not paying attention to detail, not working as hard, not playing with what Ward liked to call that chip on their shoulders. That can show up in small ways, such as a fumble here or there, a missed blitz pickup, a pass that should not have been thrown. Suddenly those close games they were winning in 2005 turn into losses. Those losses mount and the frustration rises until -- poof -- everything peaks in a 27-0 loss, a performance the coach calls "pitiful."

As a result, the Steelers not only find themselves helplessly out of a playoff race but bailing water to avoid either their worst record in Cowher's 15 seasons as their coach, or the worst record by any of the 40 defending Super Bowl champs, which Denver holds after going 6-10 in 1999 after John Elway retired.

Cowher was asked Sunday how he will keep his players in the rest of the games.

"It is the same thing everyone is dealing with at this point," Cowher answered briskly. "There are people that are 4-7. We have a responsibility to play and to play as hard as we can play."

It's not just a responsibility to the league, either. There's a duty to the fans, to those who pay their salaries and to their young players who are learning how a franchise under duress reacts in tough times. Their quest to repeat as Super Bowl champs ended Sunday in Baltimore; the job of winning another Lombardi Trophy starts today.


11-28-2006, 06:59 AM
Look down 83 someone already beat ya to the post on this..

11-28-2006, 07:08 AM
My bad, couldn't tell from the title. Oh well.