Pittsburgh Steelers echoing New York Jets' dysfunctional ways
By Adam Schein
Anonymous sources blasting teammates. ... Players apparently out of shape and not focused on winning. ... Defensive gurus exhibiting delusional behavior.
Your 2012 New York Jets? Nope. This is a sudden and stunning review of the state of affairs of the Pittsburgh Steelers. Members of this supposed model franchise are bickering, calling each other out, flocking to radio and television shows in a fashion that would make the Jets blush.
It's all pretty revealing and alarming.
An unnamed teammate recently told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that LaMarr Woodley was "awful" last season, mainly because "he wasn't in shape." Ryan Clark told NFL Network the unnamed commentary was "cowardly." Antonio Brown told ESPN that the Pittsburgh locker room was "divided."
Last season's 8-8 third-place finish in the AFC North was not a fluke. The Pittsburgh Steelers have real problems.
Mike Tomlin is a great coach, but he needs to regain the pulse of the team. Leaders have to step up this offseason.
The 2012 campaign was a topsy-turvy and tumultuous one for the Steelers. Receiver Mike Wallace's selfish and clueless contract dispute -- which didn't result in him gaining one extra penny -- set the tempo. After missing the offseason program, Wallace was ill-prepared for the new offense. He dropped passes and had a miserable -- and likely final -- season in Pittsburgh.
Running back Rashard Mendenhall was suspended for a game for not being a good teammate -- for essentially not giving a damn. After Ben Roethlisberger threw a decisive late-season pick against the Dallas Cowboys, a blame game with combustible offensive coordinator Todd Haley ensued. Troy Polamalu couldn't stay on the field. James Harrison and Woodley couldn't make a dent in the opposition's offensive line, let alone strike fear in opposing quarterbacks like they had in the past.
When they lost at home in Week 16 to the "little brother" Cincinnati Bengals, some thought it was an upset. I thought it was easy to predict.
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Forget the Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens; in the AFC North, the Bengals are better than the Steelers. They were better at this time last year, when the Steelers were licking their wounds after Tim Tebow and the Denver Broncos beat them in the playoffs; they were better in the preseason, when I picked Pittsburgh to finish third in the division; and they were better in Week 16.
Last season was not a mirage. There are personnel issues, chemistry issues. This team is living in the past.
The New York Giants, who also missed the playoffs, promptly shed three key veterans. Pittsburgh needs to follow suit and remake this team, fast.
Roethlisberger is a future Hall of Famer at quarterback. Now, tell me what else you like about the roster.
Yes, first-round pick David DeCastro, who was injured all year, should come back. But this offensive line had (and has) deeper issues.
General manager Kevin Colbert won't pay Wallace what he wants -- and he shouldn't, not with his ridiculous asking price. However, this means that in consecutive years, Pittsburgh's receiving corps is going to lose Hines Ward and Wallace. Tight end Heath Miller, meanwhile, is coming off a knee injury, carries a high cap number (almost $8 million) and could potentially be cut.
Mendenhall is unreliable on and off the field. I like Jonathan Dwyer, but is he the guy with whom to establish a running identity?
The Steelers' cornerback play has been poor for a while. Polamalu's consistent unavailability is a killer. Harrison is likely -- and rightly -- on his way out. Out of shape or not, Woodley had a miserable season.
As things stand now, Pittsburgh is destined for another frustrating campaign. Colbert must cut the cord on the past and eliminate the dead weight for 2013 and beyond. He shouldn't go into rebuilding mode, but the Steelers do need a bit of a makeover.
In that context, the comments made recently by defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau seem as if they came right out of the hyperbolic Rex Ryan playbook.
LeBeau told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review that the Steelers could've won the Super Bowl if, like the Ravens, they'd gotten good breaks with their health. That's disrespectful to the Ravens, who never saw cornerback Lardarius Webb return. It's also flat-out wrong.
Pittsburgh was flawed going into the season, with aging stars and a rare lack of talent, and conducted a failed chemistry experiment. Choosing Haley to run the offense while letting Bruce Arians go was a colossal mistake.
Hopefully for the great Steelers fans, Colbert doesn't listen to LeBeau. This team needs to change -- especially if it wants to keep up with the Cincinnati Bengals.