Steelers Learned An Important Lesson In Week 6

The Pittsburgh Steelers boarded their plane back home after a 30-15 loss to the Miami Dolphins and those of us that watched the game know that the score didn’t reflect the performance. If the Dolphins had more success in the red zone the score could have easily been 49-8. A sobering question faced the Steelers. How could an offense that has so much talent on the roster only score eight points?

An American Indian Tribe called the Zuni Indians had a saying that roughly translates to “bodies can handle hot coals, but cannot survive without their souls”. They were wise beyond their years. The Zuni had come to understand that their bodies could take the “hot coals,” or wear and tear of battle, if their souls were in the conflict. In contrast, an enemy who had lost its soul or will to fight was an easy foe to conquer. After the Steelers’ performance at Miami, we can only wonder if this is what’s happening with the team and if so, why? And most importantly, how does it get fixed?

Analysts point to a myriad of reasons as to why the Steelers seem to play soullessly on some Sundays. It’s impossible to touch on every issue but to name a few:  The offensive game plan, turnovers, the pass protection, the defenses pass rush, tackling consistency, and the Steelers inability to create turnovers have all been points of debate. Now let’s be fair, if everything were corrected, the Steelers would be performing pretty much perfectly. But there is a common denominator:  The Steelers play without soul on occasion, and this is the result of a problem, not the problem itself.

On the outside looking in, it’s impossible to say what the problem truly is. My guess would be that the offense has a lot of talent and no identity, while the defense is suffering from a mixture of developing talent and mediocre play-calling. The defense has skated by. Even with the poor performances in Philadelphia and Miami they still rank 12th best in points allowed. They have essentially gotten results as a whole that their parts don’t add up to. The offense gets hot and can put up points with the best of them. But the team needs to have a soul to effectively overcome adversity and truly become a Super Bowl contender. Just look at the last three seasons.

Last year the Denver Broncos had to prove they could win a Super Bowl with Peyton Manning in the twilight of his career. In Super Bowl XLIX the New England Patriots had to prove they could overcome the vaunted Seattle Seahawks defense and the year before that the Seahawks had to prove that they had a stout defense; ironically against Manning. Each Super Bowl winner was not only able to take the physical pain of the “coals,” but had the soul to overcome their perceived downfall.

When the 2016 Steelers make the necessary changes, it will be easy for all to see. They won’t rest on their laurels. Instead they’ll play with their souls, like a team that wants to prove every week that they’re superior to every opponent that stands in their way. The Steelers are talented, there’s no doubt about that, but the difference between being just another talented roster and a Super Bowl contender is the development of a team soul that cannot be broken, no matter how many hot coals they must face.

About the Author

Patrick Gelesh

Fourth generation Steelers fan, contributing from the Crescent City. Soon to be graduating with a master’s degree in Sports Management with an emphasis in football. My grandfather and mother witnessed the Immaculate Reception, they made sure I was brought up on classic rock and classic Steelers.

  • David Paul

    They’re 5-11 against bad teams under Tomlin. What makes you think they’ve finally learned their lesson?

    I do agree that they appear soulless in these games. Like they don’t believe in the mission.

  • SubSuper Dave!

    Soulless games does not a championship make!

  • Ray Smith

    My High School football coach had a sign in the locker, “Without Desire…DISASTER.” As corny and cliche as that is, it couldn’t be more true. The effort level was night and day from Chief week to Dolphin week. The desire was palpable during the Chief game and probably about 75% of that in the Jet’s game. The NFL skill level is so evenly matched that the phrase “Any Given Sunday” holds true and if there is a lack of intensity or desire, it can make for those lopsided scores we sometimes see. I think we pick apart the technical like scheme, execution and game plans as the culprit but if you break down why the scheme was bad, why the execution was poor etc it could be a result of a lack of focus. A lack of focus comes from a lack of desire and I firmly believe that is the root of the problem sometimes with this team. I wish there was a way we could analyze and quantify effort levels like all other stats, we might be saddened by the results from clunkers like that game. Good article!

  • Norton

    The game against the Fish was a perfect ‘Trap Game’.

    Coming off 2 big wins, the Steelers started to believe the hype, even though those wns, despite the score at the end, were not that impressive while in progress. The Jets hung around until the 3rd, and if not for KC’s ineptitude in handling the ball, that game could’ve gone either way.

    With NE then a bye up after Miami, the Steelers simply did not take this game seriously. The reports of conditioning issues in the 2nd half makes me wonder if perhaps they went out the night before the game and were perhaps ‘paying’ for playing too hard at the bars.

    This team has flashes, but they are not fundamentally sound, generate no pass rush, still cannot cover a TE and if Ben’s not on, they might as well stay home.

  • francesco

    The team goes as Ben goes.
    And Ben goes every second week.

  • Steelers Pride

    I wonder what their record is against winning teams under Tomlin? How about his winning percentage in general since taking over the head coaching job?How about we compare those numbers with other active coaches during his tenure? Wonder where he ranks among other head coaches? Never mind….

  • Beaver Falls Hosiery

    The Steelers sucked hind teat like any runt this past Sunday and may be again without Ben this Sunday.

    Maybe they need more “hot coals” to temper their souls.

  • SteelerFanInMD

    If the pre-season was an indicator, the offense will struggle to move the ball with out Ben.

  • Steel Realist PAul

    For decades, the soul of the Pittsburgh Steelers was one of the scariest defenses in the league.

    They haven’t had a defense to speak of for a few years now. And teams without a defense are rarely around at the end.

  • Bill

    You can look at over all records and this and that but it’s very difficult to win in the post season without home field advantage and you don’t get that when you lose as many winnable games as the Steelers do. And don’t forget that Tomlin’s has had a franchise QB for his entire career in Pittsburgh. His winning percentage is .634 with two Super Bowl appearances and one win. Oh, there is another coach who’s had a franchise QB for most of his tenure with the team and his winning percentage with that QB is .730 and six Super Bowl appearances with four wins. For Tomlin to move into that rare environment, he’s going to have figure out how to win most of those trap games.

  • Michael Mosgrove

    the lesson being that they are inconsistent as hell?

  • Steeler-Drew

    Good article. There is nothing worse than getting physically beat up and down the field on both sides of the ball. Throw out everything else and that’s what is most disturbing about the Eagle and Dolphins losses. For diehard fans it’s hard to stomach watching your team getting beat seemingly without a fight. You would think professionals are self motivated but Tomlin’s record against losing teams leads one to think they need an extra push and focus to get up for games they should clearly win.

  • Steve

    With Lebeau gone, don’t know if the Defense will ever be what it was.

  • gentry_gee

    When I think of soul, I think of Bettis, Ward, Troy, Peezy, Farrior and Heath. They’ve lost a lot of those guys. Ben is all that is left. And he never really had what those guys brought. There’s a void of accountability and leadership on this team.

  • Patrick Gelesh

    I wrote an article about player motivation last week called cogs in the machine I believe, search for it and check it out! Glad you liked the article, I’m doing a new lesson each week!

  • Patrick Gelesh

    Glad you liked it, these come out weekly now, I think there’s a stale locker room, Brown and Ben are stars in the media, bell hasn’t been implemented the way we thought, everyone’s kinda like “now what?” And the defense is sacrificing a pass rush to help a poor secondary because if they blitzed and the other team got the pass off it’d be one missed tackle then a touchdown…

  • Patrick Gelesh

    Mike McCarthy in Green Bay has had some pretty good qb’s but very good point

  • Patrick Gelesh

    I know the offense has gone through Ben almost exclusively. But I hope in his absence the offense learns to lean on bell… they’ll get a close look at this formula when they play Dallas.. it will give them an identity and hopefully a soul… I don’t know what to think about the defense, but most of it’s not good

  • Patrick Gelesh

    The talent level between today’s unit and lebeau’s units were night and day… when cowher beat the Seahawks in the Super Bowl the teams best unit was the d and they drafted appropriately, now the team “wins” with their offense and the defensive talent is way behind in comparison… but I don’t want to discredit you… I can’t name very many players on the Titans defense and they’re a competitive group… that’s a testament to lebeau

  • charles

    Your article is damnation of Coach T.
    First started watching NFL football in 1967. The small snippets of Steelers D that could be seen looked as this D does today. The 49-8 possible score is a sobering realization.
    Further, there is the appearance of Ben being spot on conflating injury and Tomlin practices. T cannot replace toughness with the chess game that football is. The perception was that Mike Tomlin was getting ‘it’ by the coaching staff he had assembled: Mann, Saxon, the Munch, etc.
    The ‘soul’ that you refer to is a reminder of a Jaguars game in, I believe, 08; and the team seemed to be right on the edge of just ‘playing for the money’. Ward was a ‘soul’, THE soul of the Steelers then. He challenged Ben to step up, which Ben has.
    Truth be told this team better find another Hines Ward or Joe Green. Or it might be next man up for Mike Tomlin as he rides on in to the sunset……

  • Steel Realist PAul

    A lot of talent is also gone. Think about the talent they had at each level of the D.

    OLB group and CB groups are weaknesses and there are no Troy’s, Ike’s, younger Deebo’s or Greg Lloyds.

  • Steve

    You are correct, the talent is not there, but talent is developed by the coaches, and if there not taught fundamentals, there not going to be in the NFL very long.

  • Steve

    Charles – This is what I have been saying this week. Where are the Leaders on this team? Yes Hines was a Great leader, but they also had The Bus and Miller to lead by example, who are gone now. The leaders of this team must step up and show the young guys how its done. Our leaders Ben, Heyward and Debo need to set examples to the Young guys, that you never quit, as was done this past week. Never walk around with your head down, run to the next play or you will be replaced and you may not get your job back.

  • Steve

    Right on Patrick on a quick summary of this team. Where was the running game against Miami? Ben and AB have to get this team together soon. These looses to lousy teams have to stop. Leadership is needed with this Team, to get a grip and right the wrong. Cam, Timmons and Debo need to get this D together, talking to the young guys.

  • Bill

    Yes and one of his QBs defeated Tomlin’s Steelers in the Super Bowl.