There's No Crying In Football...Unless The Patriots Win Again - By Neal Coolong
Steelers Fever Exclusive Editorial
|The game had everything a fan could not want. Another typically horrifying start by Roethlisberger. A bar full of people, all taunting me at every Patriots first down or Steelers miscue. Cowher choking at a critical point in the game. Some drunk idiot explaining to me that in his vast experience as a lineman in high school, that he "knew the whole time it would be the Pats and Eagles."
Ya gotta love the guy who picks the favorites, and goes around like Jimmy the Greek when he's right (that $5 I bet on the Pats with him in the Super Bowl is going to be money well-spent).
While I do agree with my other esteemed columnist on SteelersFever.com that the Pats were simply a better team, the Pats made the plays when they had to, and the Steelers withered. Roethlisberger's first interception was the worst throw he made all season (NOT a brilliantly concocted defensive scheme by Belechick and Crennel, as is reported all too often). There is no earthly reason why Cowher should not go for a 4th-and-1 from the goal line. Worst case scenario, they get the ball at their one-inch line, and a defense which has taken all the momentum from the game gets back on the field. Best case, Bus rams it in from a yard, we're down seven.
Methinks there is a strong reason why Cowher is 1-4 in these games, and 0-1 in the Super Bowl. That fade to Burress was a pretty stupid call in its own right. Look back at the numbers, Plex does not make much of an impact at the goal line. He's more of a 30-yards-and-in sort of receiver. I guess we'll find out next year his merit on this team when he's playing somewhere else.
Aaron Smith's holding penalty, followed by Clark Haggans' "we're-in-Kindegarten-so-play-nice" unnecessary roughness penalty came right after Reed field goal, Dillon scores from 30 out, game over. I'm so deflated, I feel like I had breast reduction surgery. Or something along those lines. Either way, I can't say I didn't see it coming. But I'm doing my best to forget. Look ahead.
We have to be encouraged about a few things.
1. Roethlisberger is only going to improve. With our running game coming back intact, and three Pro Bowlers on the line, that shouldn't suffer, barring injury. I nearly get choked up thinking of Bus retiring, but looking out for the team, Staley will shine. But no more Bus…ya know, I would love him to win a Super Bowl, but at the same time, I would like to put my kids to bed at night years from now telling stories of how The Great Jerome Bettis took a pay cut, was denied a starting job for the second consecutive season and took a massive pay cut. How did he respond? By throwing a tantrum in the media? By alienating the guy they brought in to take his place? No. He went out and had the best season of his career (on a game-per-game basis). He would be ending it like a man. Like a true first-ballot Hall-of-Famer. We don't need another Franco-to-Seattle disaster.
2. The absence of Burress will look bad, but the emergence of Randle-El as a down-the-field receiver is very underrated right now. When Roethlisberger isn't conveniently throwing wide right and high when 'Twaan is going across the middle, that hook-up is very effective. And they only have another year together.
3. This draft is going to be a good one in the sense that for the first time in a few years, Pittsburgh really doesn't have any immediate needs to be filled right away and often. Their line is solid and deep (despite the loss of Keydrick Vincent), they are solid at every skill position, and the slew of defensive backs they've drafted over the last two years are ready to step up. The one big angle they seem to be looking at is a pass catching tight end, which will only help stretch the defense even more. I'm not thinking a Gates or Gonzalez-caliber player, but someone big and athletic enough to go down the seam will keep the safeties not only out of the box, but off the edge as well. It will open up more of a vertical game. Not a bad thing.
That is assuming a quality wide receiver couldn't be a nice option with their first-round pick. While it's not as deep as it has been in the past, there aren't many teams really in need of that Big-Play guy (save Chicago). With Burress on the market, and Randy Moss being shopped around like Enron stock, A top-tier receiver could fall to fill Plex's place.
Regardless of what happens, the Steelers have the unique position to be able to draft the best player available in every round. Tell me you don't get excited thinking about finding another James Harrison or Willie Parker at free safety or tackle.
4. Since Dick LeBeau has already failed as a head coach, and Keith Wisenhunt doesn't have the experience to run his own team, we're secure in that our offense and defense will remain the same. More than likely (and long overdue), assistant head coach/offensive line coach Russ Grimm will get a promotion somewhere. Outside of that, it looks as if the largest pieces of our coaching staff will remain intact. That gives security to a relatively young team. The biggest offseason move will be giving Hines Ward his contract extension (effectively letting him retire a Steeler). Burress will go because he wants to be a part of a deeper passing game (which clearly is what you need out of your team in today's version of the NFL. Just ask the Vikings about their Model of Success). Vincent will go because, well, there's really no point in paying a backup guard roughly the same as your starter.
No other losses look eminent. Finding the silver lining has never been a strong suit of mine, but objectivity is. This is still a good team; one that wasn't the best in the game, but has a lot of room to grow. I won't ignore 16-2 anymore than I will ignore the pain of once again watching a Super Bowl in which Pittsburgh beat at least one of the teams there (both, in this case).
As for this column, I appreciate the feedback I have received this year. I know the Brass at SteelersFever.com really wants to make this site grow. And why shouldn't we? We write for each other. We write to express our views on the greatest franchise in sports history. We don't get paid, but we do have to put up with people like Anti-Steelers-Friend Chuck (who owes me a dinner after that Jets game, which, of course, was a fluke to him).
So spread the word. It's a site written by and managed by regular fans. I'll write on occasion, and come up with my mock draft sometime probably right after the Final Four (keep in mind, this is the guy who picked Roethlisberger falling to 11 two months before it happened. Look it up!).
Until then, may we dream of Lombardi's trophy, get sick when we see Tom Brady hoist his record third Super Bowl MVP and try to avoid the constant and never-ending story about Terrell Owens' efforts to play.
I'll toast all my readers with the beer(s) I'll buy with the $5 on the idiot who picked the Eagles and Patriots in the Super Bowl. Making money off Tom Brady almost makes me like him. Almost...