View Full Version : Consistently left in postseason tatters, Steelers must recreate history or else

01-11-2009, 09:38 AM
Consistently left in postseason tatters, Steelers must recreate history or else
Sunday, January 11, 2009
By Gene Collier, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Matt Freed/Post-Gazette

The Steelers were confident in their defense last season, too. And then David Garrard ran for 32 yards on fourth down on a Saturday night in January and the season was over.

Fifty-five days have passed since the one on which Mike Tomlin pronounced his offense "discouraging" and "not a finished product." In the three hours leading directly to that description, the Steelers weaseled around the San Diego Chargers, 11-10, with no touchdowns.

Now it's time to do some critical measurements, because if it's still not a finished product, it'll soon be finished as a product, along with the better half of the 2008 Steelers.

You want urgency? Look only to the insurgency.

The Chargers have arrived in the city that is merely the stage of the biggest victory in the history of their franchise, the 1994 AFC title game, and rarely have the Bolts been associated with this much rolling thunder.

"They've got a lot of momentum and they've looked really impressive," said Steelers defensive captain James Farrior as his teammates wound down their preparation for today's AFC playoff game. "They'll come in with a lot of emotion, looking to get their revenge."

The Steelers will posit that what is to happen beginning at 4:45 on the North Side is not so much about the opponent as it is about them, about their confidence, about their abilities, about their intentions.

This is a loose, confident team with an exceptional defense -- the best in this NFL -- which is exactly what it was at this time last year, a loose, confident team with an exceptional defense -- the best in the NFL -- and it looked up at the scoreboard halfway into the third period and found itself behind 28-10.

Could that happen today?

"Easily, if we don't do what we do," said Hines Ward.

"It can happen to anyone," said Larry Foote, "if you don't take care of your business."

The Steelers' business today is as much about selective memory as it is about standard Steelers truculence. They've got to forget, for example, that despite the panicky rally that put them ahead 29-28 against Jacksonville last January, they still allowed David Garrard to flee 32 yards on a fourth-and-2, the big cup of poison that essentially ended last season. They've got to forget they've allowed 72 points in the past two home playoff games.

Those things shouldn't have a place in your consciousness when you've got to deal with Darren Sproles, who with 173 all-purpose yards today would own the most prolific consecutive games output in the history of the playoffs (one more than Anthony Carter's 500 in two games with the 1987 Minnesota Vikings). When you're lining up against Philip Rivers, who has thrown only two interceptions in the past seven games (and one or none in 14 of 17), you can't be wondering why Heinz Field's been a veritable house of playoff horrors.

"We've been playing extremely well in the passing game," said Deshea Townsend, whose playoff experience surpasses that of any Steeler but Ward's. "I think from last year we've made up a lot of ground in that area. The biggest difference is the way we've created turnovers."

It's true that the Steelers intercepted 20 passes this year against only 11 last year, but the more inconvenient truth is that an offense that ranked 17th last January is at a squishy 22nd today, with its running game having wilted from third best in the league to 23rd. A quick start against the Chargers might not seem out of the question, but the Steelers haven't scored on an opening drive in the past seven games.

"I think we just have to play confidently, play the way we play in all three phases," said Ward. "Most of us have been around long enough to know that it's the playoffs and that you can't just show up and win. It takes a great game and I think people know that. We've added some young guys who get it now -- like Lamarr Woodley and Lawrence Timmons. Everyone realizes what it takes at this stage, control the ball, don't turn it over, do what you do."

In Pittsburgh's postseason attempts to simply do what it does, Heinz Field remains the place where it's least likely to do it. The Steelers are 3-3 there in January, playing comfortably or with any authority exactly once, a 27-10 victory against Baltimore in January of 2002.

"We're always confident, always the same team that way," Foote insisted. "Most of us were in the Super Bowl. The playoffs are always about the team that focuses the most."

The Steelers, it says here, have enough focus and just enough of everything else to win, 24-14. If they don't, who can really be surprised?

Dulac's mark Last week: 1-3 (.250) Season (before yesterday): 167-93 (.642)
Gene Collier can be reached at gcollier@post-gazette.com. More articles by this author

01-11-2009, 10:21 AM
Consistently left in postseason tatters, Steelers must recreate history or else

Or else what? :noidea:

Comparing the team this year to the MASH unit that took the field against the Jags a year ago in the WC game is a bit of a stretch.

Fire Haley
01-11-2009, 11:19 AM
I say mesa should be banned on gamedays.