Big Lead Sports Bar

12/17/2006

What If?

Did you ever wonder...

What If... the Steelers could have moved the ball just a little against Jacksonville?

What If... Ricardo Colclough didn't fumble that punt against Cincinnati?

What If... the Steelers could have found a way to beat San Diego, especially when considering they held Ladainian Tomlinson to 36 yards rushing?

What If... the Steelers could have stopped Michael Vick?

What If... Big Ben doesn't throw any interceptions against Oakland?

What If... the Steelers don't hand Denver the game on a platter?

What If... the Steelers show up in Baltimore?

We'll have plenty of time to wonder about each and every one of these little questions in the offseason. Despite their recent run of wins against mostly bad teams, the Steelers are destined to spend January watching the playoffs with the rest of us.
But where should we be when looking at this team right now? Fighting for pride? Finishing strong for a departing coach? Garbage wins against garbage teams? Valiant effort?
A great number of fans and analysts like to sweep the first half of the season under the rug as if it never happened (it's happening in Miami, too---this isn't just a Pittsburgh thing). Unfortunately, those games also count, and that's why the Steelers are currently on the outside looking in when talking postseason.
Today was one of the rare 2006 games in which the Steelers had their way with an opponent, walloping the Carolina Panthers, 37-3. This was like the Steelers-Ravens game, only we were on the winning side today. Carolina looked totally lifeless behind the now 1-17 Chris Weinke. It's as if they knew going in they had no chance, and they played accordingly. Carolina didn't just mail it in, they FedEx'ed it, overnight.
What is it about the 2005 "Final Four" teams that has caused each of their respective 2006 seasons to be in disarray? The Steelers have battled uphill all year; the AFC runner-up, Denver, benched their veteran QB in favor of a rookie; Seattle has struggled with consistency all season, dealing with the defection of Steve Hutchinson and the injuries to Matt Hasselbeck and Shaun Alexander; and Carolina...well, today was a microcosm of their season. When you consider the fact that so many of this year's top Super Bowl contenders (Baltimore, San Diego, New Orleans, Dallas) didn't even qualify for the playoffs last year, it's just another reminder that parity rules the NFL.
Fast Willie Parker once again had a big game, with 132 yards rushing and his 14th touchdown of the season. I wonder two things when considering Willie's 1,331 yard season:
1. How many yards would he have if the Steelers weren't forced to throw (coming from behind) in so many games?
2. How many yards would he have running behind a consistent, dominating offensive line (like the one we saw last year)?
The key to today's game, other than ball control, was to not make mistakes. Roethlisberger managed to hit only Steelers with his passes today, no one fumbled on any plays that counted (SANTONIO!!!), and there were no horrendous personal fouls.
That being said, what about that Anthony Smith INT? Not only does he duck out of bounds to avoid contact, he taunts the Panthers in the process! They were already down 34, how much sand do you want to kick in their face? Honestly, nothing makes me more upset than when the Steelers resort to low-class crap like that, which I've seen all too much this year. Since when did we become the pro version of the Miami Hurricanes? At this point, don't be surprised to see Porter and a few cronies stomp on the Ravens logo before the game next week. Kudos to Dick Lebeau (and later Cowher) for grabbing Smith as he came off the field. But as I saw Smith yukking it up a minute later, I doubt either tongue-lashing made much of an impact.
With two games to go, we stare down three potential records for this season: 7-9, 8-8, or 9-7. Basically, the Steelers have defeated the teams worse than them and lost to the teams better than them. So 7-7 is exactly where they belong.
Their wins: 4-10 Cleveland (twice), 3-11 Tampa Bay, 6-8 Miami, 6-8 Carolina, 7-7 KC, and 9-5 New Orleans.
Their losses...11-2 San Diego, 11-3 Baltimore, 8-5 Cincy, 7-6 Denver, 8-6 Jacksonville, 7-7 Atlanta, and 2-12 Oakland.
So we have 6 wins over .500 or worse teams and 6 losses to .500 or better teams; the New Orleans win and the Oakland loss balance each other out. And there you have it: the Steelers' record "is what it is", as the cliche goes.
Going forward, I wonder about the ramifications of their quasi-.500 season. There is no doubt that a definitive winning or losing season makes offseason decisions a bit easier. But when the team hovers at mediocrity, what should be clear decisions may become cloudy. With just $150,000 of cap room, though, some difficult decisions must be made. I'd say the top candidates for Ex-Steelers include Joey Porter, Jeff Hartings, and Chris Gardocki. When factoring in the potential change at the helm, this will be an interested offseason regardless of their final record.
Next week, the Steelers cling to their miniscule playoff hopes in battling the Ravens. And one can only wonder...what if...

9 comments:

louis lipps is my homeboy said...

I say, I respect this team for holding together despite a shitty start.

Sure, it's all for naught at this point, but we're the Pittsburgh fucking Steelers... the team you love for 50 reasons Mondesi! We don't play for draft picks.

Yeah, we've beaten up on some shitty teams... would you rather we phone it in the rest of the year and lose to those shitty teams? Because that's what truly shitty teams do (and we should know, because we just played three of them).

I'm not trying to be some super annoying, overly optimistic guy that sits here and talks about bullshit playoff scenarios that aren't going to happen.

But, aside from the Ravens game, you can honestly say that we caught a lot of bad breaks and made uncharacteristic stupid mistakes that cost us totally winnable games.

Now, we are where we deserve to be I won't argue that. But I'll take a team that plays it's ass off the few weeks of the season to blow out some shitty teams (and hopefully get by two good ones) and finishes with a small shred of pride at 8-8 or 9-7 and miss the playoffs, than the guys that pack it in early and get a top 10 draft pick.

Because, if this team still sticks together, plays hard, and avoids all the infighting (I'm looking at you NY Giants!) when there's nothing to play hard and stick together for, imagine what they'll do next year when maybe their luck with some of those bad breaks is a little better.

Besides, high draft picks are overrated... haven't the Arizona Cardinals had one of those for like the last 40 years?

bucdaddy said...

Doesn't the NFL still set up its schedule so that top teams one year have to play other top teams outside the division in the next, and bad teams get to play other bad teams? Seems to me this sets it up perfectly for teams whose success wasn't all that successful in the first place, or who had fluke runs to championships (I ain't sayin'), to take a fall, while teams that didn't even make the playoffs last year suddenly look like world-beaters.

Is that what "parity" is?

The Burgher said...

I'd be surprised if the Steelers were to stomp on the Ravens logo next week.

Especially since the game is at Heinz Field.

mondesishouse said...

Jumping on the Ravens logo at Heinz Field would be pretty amazing. My fault. Nonetheless, I'm sure the Steelers will find some way to disrespect their opponent next week.

Dirty Sanchez said...

If there's a Ravens logo on the Steelers home field - well, that's just not right.

Steelers kick the shit out of teams and people (and Post-Gazette columnists) still complain. Of course, if the Steelers lose then there will be a flurry of blogs and columns that it's because Bill Cowher bought a house in Raleigh.

Are the Steelers one of the top 10 teams in the league right now? Yes. Are they going to be in the playoffs? No. It sucks but that's what happens when you cough up the ball like Sergei Gonchar about to get hit.

I'm with Louis. I'd rather they win down the stretch, and possibly kick the shit out of Baltimore in return for that showing last month, then limp down the stretch and start fighting. In case anyone believes that higher draft picks are a guarantee of success, remember Troy Edwards.

tbart213 said...

Actually, I think our O-line got by with some smoke and mirrors last year. We showed some real kinks in the armor, but managed our way around it expertly. I thinkt hat Marvel made the pro-bowl last year was a farce. We constantly had to keep a back or TE in to help with the speed rushers.

As someone once said...there's a fine line....

But in all seriousness, we managed our way around our OL and disguised it as an overpowering unit, which it hasn't been for quite a while.

Let's say for discussion sake, we finish 8-8...it's really not that far of a drop given the circumstances. I think we won last year despite being the 6th (insert your desired number here) best team, so if now we're 10th. It doesn't surprise the same way.

That's the kind of league it is.

Anonymous said...

Boo dirty sanchez, a Ryan
Whitney comparison would have been 80971240 times more accurate than picking on Lord Gonchar. Gonchar isn't Scott Stevens, but he initates/takes hits somewhat, which is much more than Whitney can say.

as for the Stillers, here's to hoping, like KSK suggest, hurt the standings (read: players) of the Ravens and Cell Block C(incinatti).

jweasy said...

Don't be so negative....all the stars will align and we will win out, other teams will start losing and playoffs here we come.

Kool Aid party at my house!

josh in dc said...

Two quick comments.

1. Apparently I am doomed to point out for the rest of my life that the Steelers of 2005 lost 2 games in OVERTIME with Tommy Maddox playing at his pick-6 best. They would have been 13-3 if not for those two games. Saying we were the 6th best team forgets those two throwaway games (no pun intended) where we were really banged up. How many games did the other 5 teams play with their backup starting?

2. Bring me more Kool-Aid! Next week's schedule could be worse for those who just want to keep the dream alive. As far as AFC WC contenders go:

KC @ OAK
TEN @ BUF
NE @ JAX
CIN @ DEN
NYJ @ MIA

Assuming we keep winning, not bad matchups (KC can't hurt us) if you are a desperate Stiller fan. I'll take NE (Jax RB's hurt), CIN(Cutler!?), and MIA( umm... faith?) at home. TEN and BUF is a push because they'll both lose in week 17 (NE and BAL, respectively).

Having pointed out how competitive these matchups are, I now fully expect all four games we need to go the wrong way, with the Titans and Bills playing to a scoreless tie.

But seriously, it could be lot worse, right?