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Old 12-26-2007, 08:33 AM   #1
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Default Steelers Record A Surprise

This is a very good read. I'm tickled pink with the success of this team thus far this season, considering I didn't expect those successes in Tomlin's first season as HC and despite the injuries that have befallen the Steelers off and on most of the season.

http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/07360/844475-194.stm

Steelers' record a surprise

Wednesday, December 26, 2007
By Bob Smizik, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

On the day before Christmas, Mike Tomlin said he was "not surprised by any stretch" that the Steelers were champions of the AFC North Division.

What else was he going to say?

But the fact is a lot of people -- possibly Tomlin -- were surprised, even if they will not admit it today.

The collapses of Baltimore (4-11) and Cincinnati (6-9) have been so complete it's almost hard to remember those teams, not the Steelers with their first-year coach, were the favorites to win the division.

The Ravens were 13-3 last year and allowed a ridiculously low 201 points. That's 38 fewer points than any NFL team has allowed this season with a week still remaining to play. They had Steve McNair returning at quarterback and Willis McGahee at running back to go with that superlative defense. The Bengals were 8-8, same as the Steelers, but had that exciting Carson Palmer-passing offense ready to roar.

The Steelers had a rookie coach, a quarterback whose progression was going backward, questions on the offensive line, lack of depth, at best, at wide receiver and an absence of the mystique of Bill Cowher.

All were formidable obstacles for the new coach, but maybe none more so than the spectre of Cowher, a probable Hall of Fame coach who has chosen to spend a year or two in broadcasting before resuming his football career. Tomlin was walking in a large shadow, one that he was reminded of frequently, particularly after defeats.

The mantra of Steelers fans after losses to Arizona, Denver and the New York Jets, all teams with losing records today, was that it would not have happened on Cowher's watch.

Ha! As though a Cowher-coached team never was upset, never disappointed.

Tomlin did not blink in the face of comparisons to Cowher. He clearly was his own man with his own way of doing things, and most people, including his players, seemed to like that way. Even if both of his coordinators were holdovers from Cowher's staff, Tomlin established a new and clearly different identity --for better or worse -- from his predecessor.

Now he is down to his final regular-season game, at 4:15 Sunday at Baltimore, and then the playoffs. It's never wise to look past an opponent in the NFL, but if ever there was team that has rolled over and died, it's the Ravens, who have lost nine games in a row. It appears their heroic but losing effort to New England Dec. 3 left the Ravens with nothing, as evidenced by their loss two weeks later to previously winless Miami.

Tomlin has a minor dilemma in front of him as he prepares for the Ravens. Does he rest, fully or partially, some of his regulars against the downtrodden Ravens or does he play it like every other game?

Ben Roethlisberger could use the day off, not only to rest his sprained right ankle but to avoid what has become the regular beating he takes from opposing defenses. Roethlisberger, easily the Steelers' MVP, has been sacked 12 times in the past three games and 47 times this season. Hines Ward likely could use the day off, not that he would ask for it. Same with Troy Polamalu, who has been playing hurt most of the season.

But Tomlin can't rest anybody, not at the start of the game, at least. To do so sends the kind of message that could make one team, his, relax and the other become inspired. If a sizable lead is gained, then, by all means, rest some players. But to do that at the start of the game is seeking the kind of trouble that even the Ravens can dispense.

It looks like the Steelers will play Jacksonville at home in the first round of the playoffs. The Jaguars have won six of their past seven games, with their only loss coming by three points at Indianapolis, the defending Super Bowl champion. The Jaguars are playing as well as anyone in the NFL, save New England. They beat the Steelers, 29-22, at Heinz Field Dec. 16. That's when the Steelers had Willie Parker, who was the league's leading rusher until a broken leg ended his season last week at St. Louis.

Parker's loss put the Steelers even further behind Jacksonville. But let's not forget that, when the teams last played, the score was tied with two minutes remaining. The Steelers are capable of beating Jacksonville, but it is a formidable challenge, even at Heinz Field.

Regardless of how far the Steelers go in the playoffs, it has been a good year. Better than most, including this column, expected. Nine wins seemed like a reasonable expectation. Tomlin and his team have delivered 10 and are looking hard at 11. That was good enough to win a Super Bowl two years ago. It won't be this year, but, if Baltimore is defeated, is something solid to build upon.
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Old 12-26-2007, 09:08 AM   #2
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Default Re: Steelers Record A Surprise

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....
Good post!!
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Old 12-26-2007, 09:42 AM   #3
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Default Re: Steelers Record A Surprise

Tomlin and his team have delivered 10 and are looking hard at 11. That was good enough to win a Super Bowl two years ago. It won't be this year, but, if Baltimore is defeated, is something solid to build upon.

Agree with Smizik - at best I hoped for a wild card slot preseason

Good article but odd last sentence - IMO the Ravens game has nothing to do with building a foundation of success for the future.

I would sit Troy & Ben - if they are not playing the whole game what is to be gained by playing them at all.
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Old 12-26-2007, 10:00 AM   #4
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Default Re: Steelers Record A Surprise

i am very impressed with our record this year. i was looking at maybe 7 or 8 wins with a new rookie head coach.
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Old 12-26-2007, 10:14 AM   #5
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Default Re: Steelers Record A Surprise

I don't know....as much as I'd like to rest Ben and a few others (and I realize they need it), we've got other starters out for the season and backup players that need the actual play time with all the remaining starters in order to prepare for the bigger games ahead.
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Old 12-26-2007, 10:16 AM   #6
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Default Re: Steelers Record A Surprise

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I don't know....as much as I'd like to rest Ben and a few others (and I realize they need it), we've got other starters out for the season and backup players that need the actual play time with all the remaining starters in order to prepare for the bigger games ahead.
but we dont need our other starters getting hurt before the playoffs.
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Old 12-26-2007, 10:40 AM   #7
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Default Re: Steelers Record A Surprise

The only reason I would play Ben is we all know how Ben plays after a game off its usually not very good
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Old 12-26-2007, 10:45 AM   #8
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Default Re: Steelers Record A Surprise

Pretty good read. All so true. I think we have to be thankful that the Ratbirds and Bungles imloded like they did.
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Old 12-26-2007, 11:11 AM   #9
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Default Re: Steelers Record A Surprise

I always had this team at 11-5 or 12-4, so I won't be shocked if they pull off 11-5. I will be shocked if they can make a run in the playoffs, since this team lacks one essential element all teams need to go deep into the postseason.
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Old 12-26-2007, 11:15 AM   #10
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Default Re: Steelers Record A Surprise

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but we dont need our other starters getting hurt before the playoffs.
It's a catch twenty-two, as they say. Damned if we do, damned if we don't.
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