What exactly is the mindset of the 2012 Pittsburgh Steelers, now with just 3 games left on the schedule and the playoffs getting closer by the day? Are they truly a confident team like we always hear them talk about, or is there some doubt in the locker room with their identity and what they are capable of?
It would be hard to blame them if there are doubts about the game plan every week, players being able to step up, who can return from injury, etc. We’re so used to this team oozing confidence like there’s no tomorrow but based on their track record so far, confidence may just be a word thrown around too much simply out of habit.
Yes this team is full of veterans who have been there, done that, so why aren’t they here now, doing it again this season? Is it injuries? Maybe just an off year or dumb luck? Or is it something deeper that needs to be addressed in the off season by way of personnel changes both with players and coaches? Maybe it’s everything.
Brett Keisel spoke this week about how he felt the team was simply not ready to play, and Mike Tomlin agreed with him at his weekly presser on Tuesday. Then you hear other players talk about how they also weren’t ready to play, such as Curtis Brown (as reported by Dejan Kovacevic of the Pittsburgh Tribune Review), Sure, as I‘d heard, Brett Keisel gave a rousing pregame speech in which he warned teammates, “If we don‘t come out to play, this team can beat us!” But when a green player such as Curtis Brown confesses afterward that he “probably drunk the wine a little bit” after Baltimore and “didn‘t prepare well enough,” the coaching staff must see it and act on it.
More players spoke after the loss to the Chargers about what’s been happening to the team; Ben Roethlisberger: “I have no clue. If I knew, I don‘t think we‘d do it anymore.”
Isaac Redman: “Can‘t say.”
Even Ryan Clark, always the most candid and colorful of the room, was reduced to this: “The team with the lesser record has played better than we have.”
It’s this type of talk, backed up apparently by the head coach himself, that makes you wonder just what this team does every week in practice. What is their mindset in meetings, and how do they prepare for a seemingly lesser team vs an elite team? We know that they can win, because they’ve done so but we also know they don’t always play up to the standard they are capable of.
Why is it then when they absolutely HAVE to win, they usually do but any other time it’s a complete crap shoot?
Injuries are always part of the equation, and can’t be used as the primary excuse; the Steelers have injuries every single year just like everyone else but even when relatively healthy they still find ways to play down to their competition. Doing so doesn’t always mean that you lose, it means you let teams hang around that have no business being in the game in the 4th quarter.
I’ve said it once if I’ve said it a thousand times, as much as we hate to hear it, teams like the Patriots know how to win no matter what the circumstances. They will put you away and make sure there is isn’t even a thought of a comeback from the opposition. If they put 50 points on you, it’s your fault for not stopping them, not their fault for running up the score.
Once, just once, can’t the Steelers do that? Put the team away and if you get a chance to run up the score when you’re up by 17 points with 8 minutes to go, then just do it! Score 1 more touchdown just to be safe, so what! There’s nothing wrong with that, it doesn’t make you an un-classy organization, it helps make you a winner consistently. It’s that killer instinct on the field that we always talk about but haven’t seen in Pittsburgh in years, if not decades.
Why don’t see our Steelers take advantage of the constant gifts they are given by the rest of the league and win the games they are supposed to? If that were the case, Pittsburgh would be leading the division or at least tied for the lead with Baltimore.
Yet again though, either on offense, defense, special teams, coaching, or some combination thereof, somebody is dropping the ball.
The coaches; how many poor decisions of long field goals, not going for 2, or not going for it on 4th down do we have to endure before something gets corrected? How many more badly called games will Todd Haley have before something clicks? A delayed handoff on 4th and 1, seriously? That’s vintage Bruce Arians if I ever saw it, but I digress.
The point is, I don’t really know if this Steelers team has a firm grasp on their identity, because every time they have a chance to showcase what they feel they are capable of, they fall short. When you think they should spread out a defense and attack, they end up running the ball. If they try and run the ball, you wonder why they don’t attack the middle of the field more through the air. I realize it’s a fine line but until this team figures out what they want to be and executes enough to win consistently we’ll continue to be on this roller coaster.