Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Golden Age of Steelers Football Continues

For the past seven years or so, whenever a Steelers fan has complained to me about a loss or how bad the team looks, I remind them that regardless of how any individual game (or season) turns out, we are in the midst of a golden age of Steelers football: “Enjoy it now,” I like to say, “because these good times aren’t going to last forever.”

And despite the opening day loss to the Titans (and the remarkable level of doom and gloom that has surrounded it), this golden age continues. You know why? The Steelers still have a franchise QB in Ben Roethlisberger and one-of-the-best-ever defensive coordinators in Dick LeBeau, two of the primary reasons why Pittsburgh has been a Super Bowl contender almost every year since 2004.

I’m not necessarily suggesting the Steelers are going to rebound and have a good season. It may be that the lack of talent on the offensive line, at running back, and at wide receiver (where we have Antonio Brown and an intriguing prospect in Markus Wheaton but not much else), will drag the team down and leave us with a five- or six-win season. But what the Steelers have going isn’t fundamentally broken, and a strong turnaround could come relatively quickly.

It’s even possible that the 2013 team could rebound and surprise. (Le’Veon Bell and Heath Miller could make a big difference, though I fear their help will be too little, too late.)  And if you think that the 2013 opener was ugly, go back and watch the 1989 opener, which the Steelers lost 51-0—at home, to Cleveland. The Steelers followed up that beatdown with a 41-10 loss at Cincinnati. After those two games, I’ll bet no one though the Steelers would make the playoffs—and win a playoff game—that year, but they did.

And what if the Steelers win just five or six games in 2013…? Another thing I like to remind people—and this annoys them even more than the golden age sentiment—is that going 6-10 in 2003 was a blessing in disguise. That was just enough losses to allow the Steelers to draft Roethlisberger and bring us three Super Bowl appearances in nine years.   

So save your breath. No matter what happens this year, Mike Tomlin isn’t getting fired after this season (not with a contract that runs through 2016). And Todd Haley doesn’t deserve to get fired; he’s an excellent coordinator, the players simply aren’t getting it done. Do you really think Haley wants to be calling plays where Isaac Redman is the feature back and Emmanuel Sanders is serving as the deep threat?

I figure the Steelers are likely to get this partial rebuilding process finished in relatively short order. It’s what happens after the Roethlisberger/LeBeau era that Steelers fans ought to be worried about.


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