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Old 12-14-2009, 06:08 AM   #1
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Default Remedies to turn Steelers around

Remedies to turn Steelers around
By F. Dale Lolley, Staff writer, dlolley@observer-reporter.com

Mike Tomlin has tried the nice-guy approach. He's tried the fire-and-brimstone speeches. He's even threatened and made - at least minor - changes.

Nothing has pulled the Pittsburgh Steelers out of their current five-game losing streak, the longest by a defending Super Bowl champion in a non-strike season.

"He's the head coach. It's his job," said wide receiver Santonio Holmes of Tomlin's different approaches.

"And it's our job to go out and perform the way he wants us to. If we don't go out and perform, it's almost like he's got to go out and eat those words."

Lately, Tomlin's been eating so many words, he's likely skipped a lot of meals.

The question is simple: How do you turn around the Steelers?

At 6-7, the playoffs are only a dream, a situation that didn't seem possible after a 6-2 start. With just three games remaining, there's not a lot Tomlin and the front office can do to initiate change. The final three games will be used to assess who stays and who goes after this season.

"We still have the same makeup of the team from last year, and people are going to question what happened," said wide receiver Hines Ward. "I don't know. I really can't say. But you're going to find out these last three games who wants to quit and who wants to fight their tail off."

The Steelers aren't dead in the AFC playoff race. If they can win their final three games, they'll have a shot at sneaking into the postseason. Given the recent slide, there's no reason to believe that will happen.

So what has happened? How could a team that beat San Diego, Minnesota and Denver, who have a combined record of 27-9 heading into this week, lose to Kansas City, Oakland and Cleveland, three teams with a combined 9-27 record?

Let us count the ways?

Bruce Arians' offensive game plan has gained plenty of yardage, but the main offensive statistic - scoring - hasn't followed suit.

Despite being fourth in the NFL in total offense at 362.5 yards per game, the Steelers are 15th in scoring, averaging 21.4 points per game.

And the offense has been incredibly spotty. After scoring 27 or more points in every game during a five-game winning streak, the Steelers haven't reached that level once in its five-game losing streak. The Steelers have been held under 20 points in six of their 13 games.

Turnovers have played a part in that, as quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has thrown 11 interceptions. Entering the weekend, only seven quarterbacks had thrown more.

More important, however, the performance in the red zone offense is bad. The Steelers are tied for 18th in the league in touchdown percentage inside the 20, getting into the end zone on just 50 percent of those trips.

Add to that the NFL-record eight consecutive games in which the Steelers allowed a touchdown on a return - four on kickoffs, two on interceptions and two on fumbles - and you have a defense that has repeatedly been put in difficult situations.

That added pressure on an aging defense has led to giving up fourth-quarter leads five times.

The Steelers have given up 99 fourth quarter points. That's more than they've allowed in the first half.

Injuries have been a factor. Defensive end Aaron Smith, one of the key's to the run defense, has missed the past eight games. Strong safety Troy Polamalu has been limited to five games.

The Steelers have had injuries in the past and succeeded. Smith's primary backup, 35-year-old Travis Kirschke, has missed four games with a calf injury. Polamalu's backup, Tyrone Carter, is OK as a spot player, but the more he plays, the more his lack of playmaking ability is exposed.

The defense has not forced turnovers. No cornerback has an interception. Polamalu leads the team with three interceptions. Only Cleveland - with six - has fewer than Pittsburgh's eight interceptions.

The cornerbacks are allowing receivers to get behind them. The Steelers have allowed 10 passing plays of 25 yards or more, seven of which have come in their current losing streak. Opponents know that without Polamalu, there's little to fear in Pittsburgh's secondary.

Then, there are the special teams.

Tomlin released fullback Carey Davis and cornerback Anthony Madison - two of the best special teams players in 2008 - in training camp.

Davis was re-signed by the end of September and Madison - after stops in Cleveland and Indianapolis - was brought back two weeks ago.

But it's too late. Pittsburgh ranks 31st in kickoff return average at 25.4 yards - its highest since the 1970 NFL merger - and 23rd in punt return average allowed.

So where do the Steelers go from here?

Changes are coming regardless of what happens in the final three games.

The first will probably come on the coaching staff as Arians, special teams coach Bob Ligashesky, offensive line coach Larry Zierlein and defensive backs coach Ray Horton could be replaced after the season.

A host of veterans could also be playing their final games here. Nose tackle Casey Hampton, safeties Ryan Clark and Carter, defensive ends Nick Eason and Kirschke, running back Willie Parker, cornerback Deshea Townsend and placekicker Jeff Reed will be unrestricted free agents at end of the season. Right tackle Willie Colon, cornerback William Gay, punter Daniel Sepulveda and tight end Matt Spaeth will be restricted free agents.

Of the unrestricted free agents, a strong pitch will be made to keep Hampton, though others could be brought back after testing the market.

Some other veterans, most notably inside linebacker James Farrior, could see reduced roles in 2010. At 34, Farrior has lost a step and though neither Lawrence Timmons nor Keyaron Fox would be considered thumpers in the middle of the defense, that duo might be paired at times next season.

If Clark and Carter leave, acquiring a veteran safety to play next to Polamalu will be a necessity.

The Steelers also will take long looks at rookie cornerbacks Joe Burnett and Keenan Lewis now to get a better idea if either has the potential to push Gay and Ike Taylor out of the starting lineup next season or whether a cornerback needs to be drafted or signed.

The Steelers made a big deal of having largely the same roster from 2008 back for 2009. And many of those players were key contributors during the 2005 Super Bowl run.

But change can be good, and we'll definitely see some with the Steelers next year.

With cornerstone players such as Roethlisberger, Polamalu, running back Rashard Mendenhall and linebackers James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley in place, the Steelers don't need to make wholesale changes.

A subtle makeover will do.
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Old 12-14-2009, 06:31 AM   #2
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Default Re: Remedies to turn Steelers around

Some cleaning of house is needed.


Draft shut down corner RD 1. Sign athletic safety to replace Carter.
Bring Lewis and Burnett along. Starting spots to be earned, not awarded early.
Farrior is no longer a starter.


Sign or draft tough runner to back up RM.
Let Spaeth walk. Let Parker walk.
Sign or draft a big bruising TE with hands.


Fire entire offensive staff.
Install run / play action pass offense.
Throw screens more and also throw to the TE over the middle deep as well as always pounding the ball 50% of time, more in qtr 4.
Build an offense that can kill clock and move chains.
If guys play poor, sit them. No loud talk or crying wolf.

MOST important: Establish identity of Steeler ball. Run the ball tough. Have a hard hitting fast D. A nasty attitude.

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Old 12-14-2009, 07:01 AM   #3
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Default Re: Remedies to turn Steelers around


I think you left out, "find top-notch OL stuck under seat on school bus."

All generalizations are dangerous.
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Old 12-14-2009, 07:42 AM   #4
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Default Re: Remedies to turn Steelers around

I have a solution. Kick each and every one of 'em in the ass with a steel toed boot and remind them that they are being paid handsomely to get out there on that field and give 100%. 50% simply isn't going to cut it.

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Last edited by HometownGal; 12-14-2009 at 08:30 AM. Reason: Typo
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Old 12-14-2009, 08:24 AM   #5
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Default Re: Remedies to turn Steelers around

Step 1: Bend over
Step 2: Remove collective heads out of their collective asses.

That should help.
After reading the idiotic threads over the past couple of weeks, I ask the question - "Who is worse...Steeler fans or Eagles fans?" Keep in mind that Eagle fans do not know what it's like to win a SB much less 6 and 2 this decade.
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Old 12-14-2009, 08:37 AM   #6
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Default Re: Remedies to turn Steelers around

1) Healthy Troy
2) Healthy Aaron Smith

That should fix the defense.
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Old 12-14-2009, 08:49 AM   #7
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Default Re: Remedies to turn Steelers around

Anybody that watched the Iggles / Gints last night might have taken notice of a 6-0 250 lb Leonard Weaver moving the rock for the Iggles in tough situations. They had just gotten him from Seattle as a fullback and when they evaluated him noted that "his best skill" was running the ball. A fullback running the ball. Hmmm. Those tricky Iggles.

I'm old enough to remember that fullbacks can actually run with footballs. So I thought "Hmmm. We have such a specimen right here in Pittsburgh in the 6-2 260 lb. David Johnson.". "Could he run with the ball?" Do you think anybody in the Ariens "brain trust" has ever thought to see if he can carry the ball? And if he could do you think any of the 3 remaining defenses we're to face would be prepared to face such a load? Especially in the 2nd half?

From what little I've observed of said Johnson, we could have a nasty sumbitch to add to the mix. That is if the before mentioned "brain trust" had any use for a fullback

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Old 12-14-2009, 09:04 AM   #8
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Default Re: Remedies to turn Steelers around

Originally Posted by HometownGal View Post
I have a solution. Kick each and every one of 'em in the ass with a steel toed boot and remind them that they are being paid handsomely to get out there on that field and give 100%. 50% simply isn't going to cut it.
As long as we the fans get to do it!

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Old 12-14-2009, 09:14 AM   #9

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Default Re: Remedies to turn Steelers around

Bob Ligashesky, Larry Zierlein and Ray Horton right off the bat must and hopefully are gone. There are no more exscuses for their poor coaching over the last few seasons ENOUGH!

Arians as I have no comment on this coach I just have that gut feeling Tomlin is going to give him another year due to the fact he won that offense a Super Bowl last season even with a 23rd ranked offense.

1.Clark needs resigned, no better answer than that!
2.Possibly give Gay one more shot at corner next season, but if a veteran replacement is needed early please address.
3. Offensive line remodel, possibly a new center. Colon must go.
4. Compliment back for Mendy, a smaller, faster back. Maybe Parker
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Old 12-14-2009, 09:31 AM   #10
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Default Re: Remedies to turn Steelers around

Originally Posted by Godfather View Post
1) Healthy Troy
2) Healthy Aaron Smith

That should fix the defense.
I could make the argument that losing Smith has been even more important than losing TP, but I'd get killed for it. If you understand our 3-4 defense, you know that the defensive end position is probably the most important because of what it entails.

1. You are responsible for contain on more than half of the plays.
2. You MUST shut down the run in your inside gap under most calls.
3. You are not the primary pass rusher, but rather, your job is to occupy as many blockers as possible so as to get the LB's through.

There is no question that TP alters games with his play and that is why he is so valuable, but I'm just trying to make the argument AS' absence has also created a major void.

I think our defense could look very different next year. My guess is that we will have at least one new CB, Potsie could be gone or in a much reduced role, and we could be seeing 2 new guys on the front 3.
"It's not a lie, if you believe it."
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