By Michael K. Reynolds
By the time the Pittsburgh Steelers play against the Green Bay Packers they will have a good chance of already being eliminated from the playoffs.
Even with some help from others and a victory over the Packers it will only cause further indigestion over Christmas dinner for the Terrible Towel waiving faithful as a playoff berth will almost surely be in the land of Sugar Plum Fairies.
Which brings us to our Christmas wishlist. A Steelers Mulligan. Another shot at taking back a play or two in several of the games this season. The Emmanuel Sanders drop against the Baltimore Ravens. The dusting of sideline powder on Antonio Brown‘s shoes against the Miami Dolphins. The rare couple of shank jobs by Shaun Suisham versus the Oakland Raiders. Choose you pick. This really was a season of inches due to the AFC mediocrity.
But since Steelers fans will most likely be left with coal in their stockings for Christmas, it’s not too early to explore exactly what went wrong with this season. No matter how you look at it, a 6-8 record is clearly below all lines.
Here are the top five reasons in my book:
1. Not Taking The Off-Season Seriously.
It was obvious the 2012 version of the Pittsburgh Steelers who finished with an 8-8 record were in need of a major overhaul. But instead, only crickets were heard in the front office. You only need to look at a player like Fernando Velasco to know smart shoppers can make a huge impact on their teams in the off-season. Hopefully lessons will be learned and a more aggressive approach will be taken in 2014.
2. Underestimating The CBA
The Steelers have always trumpeted the importance of a great draft and the development of their own players. Unfortunately, the times have changed. The collective bargaining agreement of the NFL has made the players more frequently seen in shorts than pads for practice. The off-season has become a joke and the idea that you can develop players into Pro-Bowlers through mini-camp is a strategy of the past. This is a microwave world now in the NFL. You need your players ready to perform and you must plan accordingly.
3. Injury Shock
How many times have we heard this season from players and coaches that the injury to Maurkice Pouncey left them flabbergasted and forced to shelf most of their plans for their offense. First of all, Pouncey already had a history of being injury-prone, so it shouldn’t have been a surprise to anyone. But forging an offensive strategy based on any ONE player other than the quarterback is foolish. It shouldn’t have taken the Steelers an 0-4 record to shake off the Pouncey injury.
4. Player Mis-Evaluation
Marcus Gilbert at left tackle. Then Mike Adams at left tackle. Levi Brown at left tackle. While your best guy, Kelvin Beachum is gathering splinters. Ziggy Hood starting while Cameron Heyward watches idly by. Punter fiascoes. Over-inflated expectations for Jarvis Jones, Sharmarko Thomas and Markus Wheaton. Isaac Redman as starting running back. Felix Jones as number two and kickoff returner. Jonathan Dwyer released. Then brought back only to be grossly underused. Many point to the injury of Le’Veon Bell as being one of the key reasons for the Steelers slow start. I would contend that if Dwyer was given the starting job and some support from his coaches there would have been little impact. Sadly, Dwyer’s full value will probably be realized by another team in the future.
5. Aging Blindness
When broadcasters unfamiliar to the Steelers roster give reasons for the team’s demise, they often point to age across the board. But this isn’t entirely true. The Steelers roster has gotten much younger, particularly on offense, and in many spots on defense. However; where we have aged, we’ve done it in dramatic fashion. The Steelers secondary has deteriorated greatly over the year and the decision not to aggressively pursue resigning Keenan Lewis may set the team back several years in pass coverage.
What about you? What do you think were the main causes of the Steelers poor showing this year?