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Old 02-04-2009, 06:45 AM   #1
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Default Diner News: Steelers have work to do to defend title

Diner News: Steelers have work to do to defend title
Feb. 3, 2009
By Michael Lombardi
National Football Post

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Michael Lombardi surveys NFL topics in newspapers from around the country and adds in his own analysis and perspective.

From Jeffrey Marcus of the New York Times ... "You won't hear me say words like repeat and defending," Mike Tomlin said Monday at a news conference with the game's most valuable player, Santonio Holmes. I think repeating and defending Super Bowl champions in today's NFL is somewhat of a misnomer. Given free agency, the demands of the game and the peripatetic nature of modern football, Tomlin said that the consistency common in Pittsburgh's Steel Curtain era was history and that his team would most likely change some between now and the start of the 2009 season. "It's not the reality in todays NFL," Tomlin said. "That special group of men in that locker room after the game last night is gone forever: it will be a new 53 men," the coach said in a thoughtful 20 minutes with reporters. A lot of the faces will be the same but nothing stays the same in this game. The roles will change. Some will ascend some will descend.

Lombardi: As far as repeating, I'm not sure but the Steelers will be contenders again next season. They have some major problems but they can fix them and be a better team in '09 than they were this season. However it doesn't mean they will win it all again. The Titans are proof that the best team doesn't always win or even get to the Super Bowl.

The Steelers, from their owner on down, do not get overly excited about their big wins or overly depressed over their big losses. They have a comprehensive plan that's renewed and re-evaluated each year. This balance in their thought process allows them to keep building and staying the course which is critical to having a competitive team every year. This approach starts with Dan Rooney who sets the tempo and pace for the company.

The Steelers won this year without a legitimate left tackle, without their first-round pick contributing, without their second-round pick contributing, without a contribution from any draft pick, without a legitimate punter and so on. They won with a core of solid players. Yet next season they face some radical changes in the offensive line where four players are free agents and they have some significant holes to fill.

Free agency forces you to reshape a new team every year. Nevertheless, as long as they can keep the nonreplaceable players from leaving, the Steelers will rely on their foundation and plan to lead them and fix their problems. I suspect they will be a better team next year but I have no idea if they will repeat. In the NFL, the old saying, "One day at a time" is really the right approach.
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