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Steelers Rapid Fire Conclusions: Wildcard vs. Ravens

As black and gold streamers still drift despondently down the streets of Pittsburgh and with Terrible Towels at half mast, Steelers Nation mourns the premature ending to what has been one of the wildest of seasonal adventures.

The Pittsburgh Steelers 30-17 home Wildcard loss to their hated Baltimore Ravens rivals this weekend will go down as one of the more disappointing setbacks in the Ben Roethlisberger era.

The half-glass fullers among the Nation will look anxiously to the days ahead of free agency, the draft and new beginnings in 2015. But some of the wily veterans in our ranks will understand the importance of spinning an old cracking vinyl of salty Blues to properly chase away the somber ending. In this case, some quintessential Jimi Hendrix is the perfect end-of-season play:

After all the jacks are in their boxes,

and the clowns have all gone to bed,

you can hear happiness staggering on down the street,

footprints dress in red.

And the wind whispers Mary.

And with the music cranked at full volume, here is this season’s final edition of your Rapid Fire Conclusions:

And Just Like That…

It was almost surreal as Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco kneeled down for the last time and tossed the ball to the official thereby concluding the Steelers postseason run. Was that really the end? How could it be? Just a week ago the storyline was so different. Having won five of their last six and with an impressive record against strong teams the Steelers seem destined to offer up so much more.

But It Must Be Said

As good as the 11-5 result was for Coach Mike Tomlin’s regular season, this was a poor showing in the playoffs. With the home field advantage, a surging in confidence and a Ravens team that had played poorly of late the Steelers should have won the game. They should have already been preparing themselves for the ghosts of Tebow past. It would have provided a great opportunity to exact revenge against the Denver Broncos.

A broom is drearily sweeping

up the broken pieces of yesterday’s life.

Somewhere a Queen is weeping,

somewhere a King has no wife.

And the wind it cries Mary.

Blount Statement

LeGarrette Blount tried to warn the team many weeks ago when he…uh umm…conducted his protest with a Tennessee Two-Step. It’s one thing to rely heavily on Le’Veon Bell to carry the load. It’s another to ignore the rest of the running backs on the team. Tomlin lost this Wildcard game many weeks ago when he failed to give Josh Harris and Dri Archer enough rotations in the offense to establish them as a reliable Plan B. Or even a Plan C for that matter. The fact that they gave newly acquired Ben Tate the starting role is further condemnation of the coaches’ lack of confidence with their own back-up plan.

Power Line Failure

But don’t point to Le’Veon Bell’s absence as the primary reason the team lost. Over the course of the season the Ravens lost way more talent on their team due to injury. No, the rest of the Steelers offense needed to stand up and pick up the slack for Bell and unfortunately no one else was up to the task. In particular, the performance of the offensive line was below the line. Not only did they fail to open up holes but they gave up costly sacks and allowed the Ravens to pressure Big Ben the entire game. In particular, they didn’t hold up the point of attack. Ravens interior defensive linemen like the recently-released-from-NFL-juicing-suspension Haloti Ngata and Brandon Williams won the day, shifting All Pro Maurkice Pouncey and his teammates into reverse for most of the game.

The traffic lights they turn blue tomorrow

And shine their emptiness down on my bed,

The tiny island sags downstream

‘Cos the life that they lived is dead.

And the wind screams Mary.

Kmart vs. Nordstrom

There is no question the biggest disappointment of this year’s Steelers season is the Kevin Colbert free agency class. The Steelers Way is the Kmart approach in which the team scours for bargains long after the best talent is gone. This resulted in players this season like Cam Thomas, Arthur Moats, Darrius Heyward-Bey and Lance Moore. Meanwhile, other AFC playoff teams such as Denver (Peyton Manning), New England (Darrelle Revis) and Baltimore (Elvis Dumervil) have been significantly improved by being more aggressive and making good decisions. In this day of parity in the league maybe one superstar player can make a Super difference. Is it time for the Steelers to update their Way?

Blame It On The Groin

Speaking of disappointments with Steelers free agency, reports are now surfacing that safety Mike Mitchell played the entire season with a torn groin. That would explain the fact he never seemed to display the 4.3 speed he was touted to possess. But doesn’t that make things even more embarrassing for the team? It was obvious he wasn’t playing well. Why not rest him until he heals and play someone else as many fans were demanding? The Shamarko Thomas Mystery (as to why he can’t get on the field) remains one of the great unsolved cases in 2014.

Then Again. The Arrows Are Up All Around

It’s not all Blues for the Pittsburgh Steelers. They performed during the regular season above most everyone’s expectations. The coaching team, while stubbornly frustrating at times, remains among the best in the league. The defensive line is young and rapidly emerging as an elite unit (did you see what an impressive game Daniel McCullers had?). The linebacking corps is deep in the middle. The offensive line (despite their below the line performance against the Ravens) continues to grow under Mike Munchak’s tutelage and Big Ben’s offensive toolkit is as youthful and potent as that of any other quarterback in the league. With another good draft and a better free agency the Steelers will be favored to repeat as division champs next year.

Sad Goodbyes

Unfortunately, this year proved unkind to some of the Steelers great warriors in the likes of Troy Polamalu and Ike Taylor. Unlike their fellow colleague, James Harrison, they were unable to dig up some of their past greatness from the NFL time vault. Both Polamalu and Taylor deserved a grander exit and it was unfortunate there wasn’t one last great interception return to put a proper bow on their careers. But in the case this is the last time they wear a Steelers uniform we’ll let Jimi express our gratitude and sad farewell…

Will the wind ever remember

The names it has blown in the past,

And with this crutch, its old age and its wisdom

It whispers, “No, this will be the last.”

And The Wind Cries Mary.

Yes…maybe the wind will forget you, but we never will. Thank you gentlemen and Go Steelers!

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