Friday, December 11, 2009

Curtain Call in Pittsburgh

Remember in the offseason when the Steelers came really close to signing Colts Center Jeff Saturday? Remember how they were going to move him to guard?

Do you think the Steelers wish Saturday had decided to leave Indianapolis after all? The answer is a resounding "absolutely!"

Saturday is in the middle of another Pro Bowl season, on a 12-0 team, as a vital piece of the protection that has catapulted Peyton Manning towards (perhaps) his fourth MVP trophy. The Steelers offensive line on the other hand has been relatively brutal while the Steelers have limped to a 6-7 record, including embarrassing losses to the Browns and Raiders.

The offensive line is just one of the issues in Pittsburgh.

Remember when it was announced that Troy Polamalu got hurt and everyone in the media insisted the Steelers would be able to move forward without him? After all, they had James Harrison and company to carry the load. Yeah, that turned out to be false as well.

It turns out the Polamalu is in that elite level of the elite level of NFL players; also known as the list of players that are absolutely essential to a team winning important games. A list that doesn't, and never has, included names like Tom Brady, LaDanian Tomlinson, Ben Roethlisberger, Donovan McNabb, Bob Sanders, and Chris Johnson. Think about that for a second. That's how important Troy Polamalu is: Peyton Manning, Larry Fitzgerald, and Ray Lewis status.

In other words, Polamalu are the Steelers identity rather than just a great player. Similar to how Peyton Manning, Ray Lewis, and Larry Fitzgerald are their teams identities.

And the Steelers problem goes a little deeper than just the poor offensive line, and the absence of Troy Polamalu.

Truth be told, the Steelers haven't exactly been a model of consistency this decade. As opposed to their rivals; the Patriots and Colts, for an elite team the Steelers have been relatively erratic. Take a look at how their decade has played out since 2001 when this second Steeler run began.

2001: 13-3, L in Conference Championship vs New England.
2002: 10-5-1, L in Wild Card round vs Tennessee.
2003: 6-10, Missed playoffs.
2004: 15-1, L in Conference Championship vs New England.
2005: 11-5, Won Super Bowl.
2006: 8-8, Missed playoffs.
2007: 10-6, L in Wild Card round vs Jacksonville.
2008: 12-4, Won Super Bowl
2009: ?, Missed playoffs?

In other words, the Steelers are always in contention, but never duplicate the same kind of effort in back to back seasons the way the Patriots and Colts have.

In other words Steeler fans, this isn't a players issue, it's not a one year issue, it's a franchise issue. The team is unable to put together back to back season efforts.

On the positive side, your team, (unlike at least 26 of the teams in the NFL) is a legitimate Super Bowl contender every season.

Expect the Steelers to be back in 2010.

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