Pittsburg Steelers no longer the “Men of Steel.”
For the past 17 years, the New England Patriots have ruled the NFL. They have won five Super Bowls and in a few days, we’ll find out if it’s going to be six when they play against the Philadelphia Eagles. It will be their eighth appearance in the Super Bowl in that time period, losing twice to the Giants. One team has been in the rearview mirror and that would be the Pittsburgh Steelers, The Blue Collar Middle America “Men Of Steel”.
The Steelers, a team of hard-working, no-nonsense, smash mouth football tradition, were the most respected football organization throughout the 1970’s with Hall of Famer players: Mean Joe Greene, Jack Lambert, Franco Harris, Lynn Swann, Rocky Bleier, John Stallworth, Mel Blount,and Jack Ham. That group of players would lead the Steelers to Four Super Bowl Championships in just six years time. It was the Greatest Steeler team of that era according to owner Art Rooney. Fast forward to this century and you have the likes of Hines Ward, Troy Polamalu, Jerome Bettis, James Harrison, Antwan Randle El, Santonio Holmes, Brett Keisel, Heath Miller, Willie Parker, and Rashad Mendenhall. They finally made it back to the Super Bowl after several year’s absence with help from Big Ben Roethlisberger. In the past 17 years, the Steelers went from a team of contenders to a team of underachievers. Some blame the coaches, some blame the players and some blame both. The Steelers are known as a“Boatload of Talent without a Boatload of Smarts”.
The old saying of “On Any Given Sunday” has definitely reflected this edition of the Steelers since 2007. They’d over promise and under deliver so much that NFL analysts stopped predicting them to battle it out for a Super Bowl. Year after year, the Steelers would meet the Patriots during the regular season or playoffs and each time the Patriots would hold serve. The Pats have won 10 out of the last 12 games between the two teams. Each time Bill Belichick would out coach the Steeler’s Mike Tomlin. Many of those times the Steelers would be either routed or out of the game early. Some would point to Tom Brady’s ability to pick apart the Steeler’s Defensive Secondary with ease. Others would credit Woodhead,Welker, Edleman, Gronkowski, and Blount.
The Pittsburgh Steelers tied with the Patriots for the best record in the AFC. They were, however, missing their best defensive player: Ryan Shazier. The young linebacker injured his spine in a season ending hit. A few weekends ago, they were up against a Jaguar team that had a mediocre Quarterback at best in Blake Bortles. Jacksonville’s strength was its number 1 defense. The Steelers showed their lack of intellect when it came to this game. Despite Ben throwing for 469 yards and five touchdowns, the Steeler defense was actually worse than Jacksonville, giving up 45 points. They made this less than average Blake Bortles look like an All-Pro Quarterback. And despite spotting the Jaguars a 28-7, lead the Steelers came back with a vengeance, but came up short. This is a game that they should have won handily. Top Three QB, best receiver and running back in the NFL, yet not good enough to defeat a team that would lose to an undermanned New England Patriot team the following week. There were so many mental mistakes, bad clock management moves, and play calling that a gallant effort was left for naught. The plays that really stuck out were fourth and inches plays with the Steelers pitching right or left and losing yardage. Or the forced passes when the biggest, strongest quarterback over the past 30 years only needed a QB sneak for a foot or less, yet the coaches opted for the tougher to gain plays that failed miserably. This has been the Steeler’s “Achilles’ Heel” for such a long time… Bad Play Calling.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the Steelers WORST mistake, in my own opinion. Before Christmas, the Steeler’s released the Team’s greatest Linebacker since Jack Lambert and Jack Ham, of course we are talking James Harrison. I knew that this was a mistake as the team decided to go with youth and forget about the guy that was their most solid defensive player over the past two decades. Many Steeler fans gave up on James and said good riddance. Not me, however. It seemed that someone else hadn’t given up on him either, the second smartest coach in all of Sport’s History, Bill Belichick (the Boston Celtic’s Red Auerbach was the greatest with nine NBA Championships as Coach and several more as the General Manager). There is a good chance James Harrison wins his third Super Bowl Ring on Sunday. There’s also a good chance Steeler’s Management and fans will regret another one of their legendary bad moves.
Renee Leavitt, a sophomore, studies political science and theology. She is a staff writer for Le Provocateur.