NOTE: I don’t normally take outside article submissions, but Michael Reynolds has asked that I post his thoughts on the start of the season. I am sure this will produce some interesting discussion in the comments. ~ DB
By Michael Reynolds
The familiar refrain of “Here We Go Steelers” is most aptly replaced by “Here We Go Again Steelers” as to somewhat channel former NFL Coach Dennis Green, “We are who we thought we are.”
The spin doctors of the Black and Gold public relations department, which now apparently includes all coaches and players, has been hard at work in the offseason trying to quell the fears and concerns of Steelers Nation, but unfortunately, for all of us, the people waving the towels have been right all along.
We were concerned last season by our level of competitiveness and were hoping for an aggressive Steelers offseason. Instead there was nothing but the typical sound of crickets.
We could see the offensive line being manhandled throughout the pre-season. After assembling a collection of four goose eggs we were still being told, “The pre-season is just the pre-season.”
The truth of the matter is that we haven’t had a significant forward push in our offensive line since we shoved Alan Faneca out the door and the great tragedy is we may be squandering the Hall of Fame career of a quarterback in his prime. This kind of talent doesn’t come by often. A brief and painful recollection of who was behind the center for the Steelers during the 80’s and 90’s should provide all of the convincing necessary.
We’ve lost the first three games of the season, all four of the pre-season and four out of the last five of the previous season. The panic button has long been worn out and proven ineffective. It’s time to push another button–the reality button.
The standard may be the standard (as is one of Mike Tomlin’s favorite phrases), but the problem is the standard is that of a sub-par football team. Our 8-8 record of last year proved it to the fans. But letting go of Willie Colon, Mike Wallace and his Bayou buddy Keenan Lewis while making only a Guy Whimper in free agency demonstrates an organization in denial. If we close our eyes, we’ll only get better.
And the newfangled zone blocking scheme? So far it’s only proved capable of cut blocking our Pro Bowl center out for the season. We’re putting all of our eggs in the basket of a rookie running back with a bum wheel that hasn’t played a minute of regular season football. We’re playing teams with two high quality tight ends while our talented one is on the sideline wearing a knee brace.
What we have is an offense that is only effective against a prevent defense.
Trying to keep positive is a quality trait until it rises to delusion and leads to wrongful personnel strategy. A team understanding its offense is going to struggle keeps Reggie Dunn on the team knowing that kickoff returns may be our best offensive weapon. The dog house gets emptied of our most effective young runner, Jonathan Dwyer. And players like Alan Baxter suit up instead of older “higher pedigree” players who have been unimpressive for years and are close to free agency eligibility.
The front office has been shooting too many air balls on its draft picks the past few years which would be bad enough for any team, but especially for an organization convinced it doesn’t need to take free agency seriously. If you’re going to rely on the draft, you need to nail it, and you must retain your young talent.
Instead we continue to shop at garage sales and dollar stores thinking we’re so much smarter than all of the other personnel departments. There is no way to spin this any further. We lose close games to weak teams because we are now one of them.
We love our Steelers which is why many of us have been following them all of our lives. And we know these are young men, who for the most part, are doing the best they can and are laying it all on the field.
But it’s time for ownership, the front office and the coaching staff to take some reality pills and make some adjustments to the “Steelers Way” because it’s due for an overhaul.
Otherwise, “the standard” is nothing more than a blindfold that will have us plummeting toward another 20-year Super Bowl drought.