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Old 12-13-2009, 12:55 AM   #1
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Default Steelers' collapse is a team-wide endeavor

Steelers' collapse is a team-wide endeavor
http://www.pittsburghlive.com/x/pitt...s_657547.html#
By Mark Kaboly
Daily News Sports Editor
Sunday, December 13, 2009

It's the question that everyone is asking: What's wrong with the Steelers?

"That's the million-dollar question," said linebacker James Farrior after the Steelers lost their fifth consecutive game Thursday that all but knocked them out of the playoff race just months after winning a record sixth Super Bowl.

So what is wrong with the Steelers?

How did they go from winning a Super Bowl, starting the season 6-2 and being labeled the best team in the NFL after beating the Denver Broncos on the road, to the team that lost to Kansas City, Oakland and Cleveland in one disastrous stretch?

Well, that's the problem. Nobody knows the answer.

Farrior doesn't. "If somebody knew that answer, I think we would be doing better," he said.

Hines Ward doesn't. "I have no idea. I really don't have an answer."

Casey Hampton doesn't. "If I could explain to you how we are losing and what is going on, we wouldn't be losing."

Reigning defensive player of the year James Harrison? No clue. "I am going to tell you what everybody else is telling you: I don't know."

Even the men who are paid to come up with such answers on television broadcasts are at a loss for words.

Former Super Bowl-winning quarterback Trent Dilfer, an NFL analyst for ESPN, breaks down hours and hours of film per week on each team, yet he's also baffled by the Steelers' demise.

"I have no idea," Dilfer said. "It's mind-boggling. I'm frustrated because I take great pride in how I study film and what I look for and trying to be ahead of the curve, and I was dead wrong on them."

Indications point toward the culprit stemming from overconfidence after winning a Super Bowl title in 2008.

"We have to realize that we are not the '08 Pittsburgh Steelers," safety Ryan Clark said.

Even so, they played like the '08 Steelers for the first half of the year. At the midway point, they were 6-2 with two fluky road losses to Chicago and Cincinnati. Publications such as Sports Illustrated were picking them to play in the Super Bowl and wondering whether they'd lose another game.

Five weeks later, the Steelers are 6-7 and all but out of the playoff hunt.

"We have the same team as last year," Ward said. "How do you win a Super Bowl one year and not make it and lose five straight the next year?"

Not being able to pinpoint the problem has been extremely frustrating to the players.

"When you go to work every day, you feel like you put all the effort that you need to, you study tape and do all the little things that go into the work week and when you come out and play, it just doesn't happen," Farrior said.

Each phase of the Steelers' game can be blamed for the collapse.

Offense

Despite projecting to have a 3,000-yard passer, 1,000-yard rusher and two 1,000-yard receivers for the first time in nearly a decade, the offense has been lacking at times.

The unit has rarely been able to put games away.
The Steelers gained 258 first-half yards but managed only 13 points in a Week 3 loss against the Bengals. Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger had an interception returned for a touchdown, and Limas Sweed dropped a touchdown pass in the end zone a little bit later.

The offense failed to score a touchdown the next time the Steelers played the Bengals, struggled in the red zone against the Chiefs and didn't score a touchdown against the Browns' 32nd-ranked defense.

Defense

When your defense gives up five fourth-quarter leads, the unit that was No. 1 in the NFL two consecutive seasons has become an enigma.

The defense is still ranked in the top five in the league but has failed to make critical plays in crucial situations.

"Right now, the difference between this year and last year is we're not making those plays," veteran defensive back Deshea Townsend said.

The Steelers allowed Chicago, Cincinnati, Kansas City, Oakland and Baltimore to score on the final drive of the game to win.

"We are not getting it done," Hampton said. "It is what it is now. We know how to win, but we just are not doing it."

Injuries to Troy Polamalu and Aaron Smith could be a reason. Smith has missed the past eight games, and Polamalu has missed two four-game stints in which the Steelers are 2-6.

"Yeah, those are hard losses to overcome," Dilfer said. "That doesn't explain why you only score six points against the Cleveland Browns. That doesn't explain why it takes you four quarters to score against the Raiders. It doesn't explain a lot of other issues."

Special teams

Bob Ligashesky's unit has contributed a lot to the losing streak and fall from grace. Jeff Reed missed two field goals in a Week 2 loss to Chicago, but that paled in comparison to the kick coverage unit giving up touchdown returns in four of five games during midseason.

It got so bad that two weeks ago coach Mike Tomlin signed two veterans off the street, Corey Ivy and Rocky Boiman, and put them right on the field.

Coaching

Tomlin started his third training camp in curious fashion by giving veterans days off much more than usual. He then gave the team the entire bye week off, raising even more eyebrows.

Last week, he made a public comment about making changes with a veteran, Super Bowl-winning roster, then did not follow through on his proclamation.

"Mike Tomlin has to accept a lot of the responsibility,
" NFL.com's Vic Carucci said. "His team seemed to lose interest in the past few weeks, and especially (Thursday) night."

The Steelers have three games left on the schedule against three playoff-caliber teams. Although the Steelers are not in an ideal situation, three wins and a whole bunch of losses by Jacksonville, Baltimore, Miami and the New York Jets could land them in the playoffs.

Anything less than that will keep the Steelers on the sidelines for the postseason.

"This is like a bad dream," Hampton said. "It's unbelievable, man."

The Terrible Timeline

A chronological list of some reasons that may have caused the Steelers' fall from grace this season:

March

Third receiver Nate Washington and cornerback Bryant McFadden are not re-signed and leave via free agency.

Owner Dan Rooney is nominated by President Obama as Ambassador to Ireland, meaning day-to-day operations will solely belong to son Art II.

July

Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is faced with a civil lawsuit and sexual assault allegations.

August

Coach Mike Tomlin runs a noticeably softer training camp than in previous years.

September

Management ceases negotiations with Ryan Clark, Casey Hampton, Willie Parker and Jeff Reed, each of whom is in the final year of his contract

All-Pro safety Troy Polamalu injures his knee in the first quarter of the season opener and misses four games.

October

Defensive lineman Aaron Smith injures his right shoulder and is sidelined for the rest of the season.

Reed is arrested for the second time since the Super Bowl, this time for allegedly scuffling with police outside a North Side bar.

November

Polamalu suffers another knee injury that keeps him out of the lineup for four more games.

Steelers give up fourth kickoff return for a touchdown in five games when Kansas City's Jamaal Charles goes the distance.

Roethlisberger sustains the fourth concussion of his career and misses a game against the Baltimore Ravens.

Wide receiver Hines Ward says locker room is divided because of Roethlisberger's absence from the Ravens game.

December

Tomlin vows to make changes following a fourth consecutive loss, but the starting lineup remains largely intact in a 13-6 loss to Cleveland Browns.

Mark Kaboly can be reached at mkaboly@dailynewsemail.com or 412-664-9161.
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Old 12-13-2009, 07:24 AM   #2
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Default Re: Steelers' collapse is a team-wide endeavor

reasons:

lazy and poor coaches.

players who are either lazy, selfish, old, average at best or all four.
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Old 12-13-2009, 08:53 AM   #3
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Default Re: Steelers' collapse is a team-wide endeavor

I don't buy the "superbowl hangover" excuse by this team or any team. What's that supposed to mean, anyway? That was last season, and now you have a job to do this season. Win games.

These are full grown men, paid bazillions of dollars to do a job, or lose it. What more motivation do you need?
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"We're not going to turn our backs on him," Ward said. "We're going to treat him like our brother. We're going to accept him back and be very supportive of him and help him get through this. In this locker room, he's still our quarterback."
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Old 12-13-2009, 09:07 AM   #4
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Default Re: Steelers' collapse is a team-wide endeavor

Good article.

My opinion is the soft camp was the biggest factor.
You cannot practice one way, then throw a switch, and play another.
If you train soft - you will play soft.

Coaching is my 2nd choice.
Poor choice for ST coach in the first place. Very bad track record.
Players don't fear a coach giving huge vacations during the season.
Threaten to make changes, then do nothing ?
This team thinks Mike T. wants to be there friend.
Coach Cowher was very clear = There was only one captain on his ship.
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Old 12-13-2009, 09:33 AM   #5
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Default Re: Steelers' collapse is a team-wide endeavor

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bobby_Walden View Post
Good article.

My opinion is the soft camp was the biggest factor.
You cannot practice one way, then throw a switch, and play another.
If you train soft - you will play soft.

Coaching is my 2nd choice.
Poor choice for ST coach in the first place. Very bad track record.
Players don't fear a coach giving huge vacations during the season.
Threaten to make changes, then do nothing ?
This team thinks Mike T. wants to be there friend.
Coach Cowher was very clear = There was only one captain on his ship.
ummmmm...I know I would not want to be on the other side of a Mike Tomlin conversation right now. Soft is not part of his vocabulary.
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"We're not going to turn our backs on him," Ward said. "We're going to treat him like our brother. We're going to accept him back and be very supportive of him and help him get through this. In this locker room, he's still our quarterback."
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Old 12-13-2009, 10:49 AM   #6
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Default Re: Steelers' collapse is a team-wide endeavor

Quote:
"We have the same team as last year," Ward said. "How do you win a Super Bowl one year and not make it and lose five straight the next year?"
Helium head syndrome. While I realize that there is a whole plethora of problems plaguing the team this season, I've seen underachievement on both sides of the ball - particularly the D, which most likely is as a result of leftover co ckiness of being the defending Super Bowl champions. We aren't the first team to tank the season after winning a Super Bowl and we sure as hell won't be the last.
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Old 12-13-2009, 11:21 AM   #7
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Default Re: Steelers' collapse is a team-wide endeavor

I think our lack of defensive depth had a lot to do with it. Add the fact that our defense got "old" real quick and you have a problem. Realistically we lost Troy...Aaron...McFarland..and Foote from last years squad. 4 new starters combined with several players over 30 years old is not usually going to give you alot of week by week continuity.
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Old 12-13-2009, 11:24 AM   #8
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Default Re: Steelers' collapse is a team-wide endeavor

What HTG said. This is still the same team that won the SB last year. This is still the same team that racked up top 3 ranked offenses and defenses earlier in the season. This team that lost to the Browns, the Chiefs, and the Raiders is still the same team that put the smackdown on the Broncos, the Vikings, and the Chargers.
They've got all the same weapons they had before... they're just not playing with any sense of urgency or heart.
I think a lot of people here are grossly overreacting. 5 game winning streak= don't change a thing. Follow it with a 5 game losing streak and all of a sudden everybody's over the hill and ready for retirement...
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Old 12-13-2009, 11:43 AM   #9
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Default Re: Steelers' collapse is a team-wide endeavor

Quote:
Originally Posted by stillers4me View Post
ummmmm...I know I would not want to be on the other side of a Mike Tomlin conversation right now. Soft is not part of his vocabulary.
Actually I'm more interested in the conversation between Tomlin and Art Rooney. Oh to be a fly on the wall in that office when they have that conversation. If you were Rooney what would discuss with Tomlin?
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Old 12-13-2009, 11:46 AM   #10
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Originally Posted by mesaSteeler View Post
Actually I'm more interested in the conversation between Tomlin and Art Rooney. Oh to be a fly on the wall in that office when they have that conversation. If you were Rooney what would discuss with Tomlin?
I would start out with a conference call to Ireland.
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"We're not going to turn our backs on him," Ward said. "We're going to treat him like our brother. We're going to accept him back and be very supportive of him and help him get through this. In this locker room, he's still our quarterback."
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