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Old 01-04-2010, 06:53 AM   #1
A Son of Martha

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Default Bires: Call it a season

Bires: Call it a season
By: Mike Bires
Beaver County Times

Sunday January 3, 2009 11:53 PM

Miami Dolphins running back Ricky Williams (34) is smothered by the Pittsburgh Steelers' Tyrone Carter (23) during game action. The Steelers defeated the Dolphins, 30-24 at Land Shark Stadium in Miami, Florida, Sunday, January 3, 2010. (Robert Duyos/Sun Sentinel/MCT)

The time of death for the 2009 Steelers came at 7:08 p.m. EST Sunday. Thatís the exact time their last-gasp effort to make the playoffs officially flat-lined.

Baltimore put the final nail in the Steelersí coffin by winning in Oakland.

As the Ravens celebrated a return to the postseason, the Steelers were aboard their charter flight from Miami, hoping for a miracle.

That miracle didnít happen.

When the Steelers touched down at Pittsburgh International Airport, they learned their fate: Their Super Bowl defense was over.

But really, the end came around 11:30 on the night of Dec. 10 on the shores of Lake Erie. Thatís when the Steelers lost in Cleveland in a game that ultimately proved that the í09 Steelers were a few bricks shy of a load.

On that extremely cold and windy night, they were out-muscled, out-hustled and out-played by a 1-11 Browns team.

That loss, the fifth straight in a stretch that includes setbacks to lowly Kansas City and Oakland, put the Steelers on life support. They had to win three straight and get plenty of help from other teams to qualify.

They did show great fortitude with wins over Green Bay, Baltimore and Miami. But they didnít get the help they so desperately needed. New England lost to Houston while the Steelers were taking care of their business in South Florida. Then, the Ravens won.

ďThis is our bed, and we have to lie in it,Ē coach Mike Tomlin said after the Steelersí 30-24 win over the Dolphins.

With a 9-7 finish, Tomlin avoided his first losing season in Pittsburgh. But now comes the toughest part of this three-year regime. He must fix the mess the Steelers are in.

After Sundayís game, veteran wide receiver Hines Ward said that change is coming, and that change should be expected with the men who make up the roster and the men who comprise Tomlinís coaching staff.
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The Steelers have to find more playmakers on the field.

They have to find a way to fix that leaky defense _ especially the secondary _ that collapsed so often in the fourth quarter.

They have to make sure they have the right men calling the shots. Tomlin may have to fire an assistant coach or two for the first time.

There is a chance that Willie Parker, Willie Colon, Casey Hampton, Ryan Clark, Deshea Townsend and Jeff Reed wonít be back next year.

Tomlin is also going to have to take a long hard look in the mirror and see where he underachieved as a head coach.

Kevin Colbert, the director of football operations, must sit down with his scouts and see if their efforts contributed to the flawed season.

Did Tomlin, Colbert and team president Art Rooney II make the right decisions regarding player personnel?

This is the second time in five seasons that the Steelers have failed to make the playoffs after winning the Super Bowl.

At least in 2006 when they finished 8-8, they had excuses. Ben Roethlisberger had a near-fatal motorcycle accident that summer and went on to have the worst season in his six-year pro career. Bill Cowher was battling management over contract issues and seemed ready to end his run in Pittsburgh. Jerome Bettis had retired.

This year, the only real excuse the Steelers had was all-star safety Troy Polamalu missing most of the season with two separate sprained knee injuries.

All in all, the 2009 Steelers must be considered a failure.

They were 6-2 and looking super at the halfway point of the season ... but lost it.

Yes, itís going to be an interesting off-season. Itís going to be interesting to see how this proud franchise tries to fix all the things that went wrong.

Mike Bires can be reached online at mbires@timesnline.com
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