Steelers Spin: The Secret Motive Behind The Steelers 2017 NFL Draft

What was really behind the Pittsburgh Steelers somewhat bewildering strategy in the 2017 NFL Draft?

Adding depth to critical positions? Filling roster holes? Plotting for the future? Creating offseason competition?

Yes…but at the root, there was something even more radical. More profound. And it wasn’t even mentioned by NFL Draft gurus Mel Kiper Jr. and Mike Mayock.

You see…for all NFL teams, each draft has a general theme and the choices made are as much a statement about the team’s past roster as it is about the future one.

Some might be focused on increasing team speed. The statement they are making is their current squad is slow.

Others might be focused on drafting players who have won at the college level. They are basically saying that..well..their locker room is filled with losers.

Then, of course, there is the Cleveland Browns, where the annual theme is, “Let’s just hit the reset button.”

So what was this year’s draft theme for the Steelers, and what does it reveal about the team’s opinion of the current roster?

The Pittsburgh front office is as tight-lipped as it comes in regards to ripping on their own players. The draft is as close as you’ll get at determining what they truly think about their roster.

So let’s read the tea leaves.

It starts with a first round draft pick in linebacker T.J. Watt, who only had one full year as a starter at college in his resume. Remember when General Manager Kevin Colbert went on and on about how much the franchise values production at the college level above everything else?

Do you recall that Jarvis Jones selection?

Production at the university level? Watt entered college listed as a tight end. Does his production add up to first round pedigree by Colbert’s own standards? Hmmm.

And what about drafting a second round receiver in JuJu Smith-Schuster, who had difficulty getting separation from cornerbacks even at the college level? Welcome to the NFL, young man. Now try to get open against guys who are just as big and strong and who run a 4.3.

And then there is Cameron Sutton, a cornerback who couldn’t break 4.5 at the combine. How can he be counted on to keep up with the elite speed of the big leagues?

Of course, there is everyone’s favorite in James Conner, the inspirational running back from Pittsburgh. The story is phenomenal, but when judging on pure talent who could argue against it being a significant reach at round three?

But…there’s the rub. The Steelers didn’t enter this NFL draft looking for pure talent. They weren’t seeking out players based on their college productivity.

Instead, they were attempting to fill a significant team need. One that was painfully exposed in the AFC Championship against the New England Patriots.

That is, the will to win. An unimpeded focus on the being the best in the world. A total expression of passion and true love of the game.

Let’s be honest. If Ben Roethlisberger and Tom Brady were on the playground picking their team, don’t you think Big Ben would want to choose just about everyone on his offense over those of the Patriots?

And defensively. Was there really that large of a separation of talent between the two squads?

But the Steelers got embarrassed. Humiliated.

Sure you can say they got outcoached. That happens with pretty much every team competing against Bill Belichick. And you wouldn’t be wrong if you said they got out played on that any given Sunday.

Still, what was disturbing and undeniable, was the Patriots were clearly on a mission…and the Steelers, in comparison, were merely along for the ride.

Is that harsh to say the team didn’t have a “will to win”? It is if you’re looking merely at the 60 minutes during which the game is played.

But the will to win begins the day after the Super Bowl winner is decided. It carries through each and every day during the offseason. Do the players and coaches see the six months of the offseason as time off or time to take it to the next level?

It’s the work that is put in when no one is looking. And it’s even the work that is put in when everyone is looking…like when James Harrison documents his unrelenting work ethic on Instagram.

Were the Steelers lacking focus and dedication in 2016? Let’s see.

  • Does your All Pro wide receiver stream Facebook Live in the locker room the week before the Championship Game? Check.
  • Does your uber-talented wide receiver have to watch games at home due to his year-long suspension? Check.
  • Does your unbelievably gifted running back have to miss games at the beginning of the season because of his inability to comply with drug testing protocol? Check.
  • Does your year start off with a miserable team-wide pre-season performance? Check.

And the most challenging of all? How about your $100 million dollar quarterback spending more time talking about retirement than what he’s going to do in order to win another Lombardi Trophy for the NFL’s most storied franchise and greatest fanbase?

Yes…going into this NFL Draft, the Steelers front office clearly identified the team’s Achilles Heel. This is a team with extraordinary talent, especially on the offensive side of the ball. But they clearly are lacking the “it” factor.

It’s a squad with unlimited potential, but without the commitment it requires to be champions.

That is why, this year’s Steelers draft makes so much sense. In fact, it’s why it’s absolutely brilliant.

T.J. Watt? An unrelenting motor, a family pedigree of football pride, and a desire to be the best in his clan.

Schuster? No, he won’t be the team’s fastest player. But this is an offense that desperately needs a player who is more Hines Ward than Usain Bolt in the huddle, and he’ll fit the bill.

Conner? Probably the wisest choice of all. This is the closest the team has come to drafting Rocky Bleier than…well since Rocky Bleier. This guy will spend less time posting selfies, and more time bringing the Pittsburgh back to the Steelers.

And for those of you who have questioned the Joshua Dobbs selection, take heart. Roethlisberger doesn’t need a harmless, super-nice guy like Landry Jones backing him up. He needs a rocket scientist with limitless ambition to remind him of what an honor and privilege it is to be an NFL quarterback in this league.

“Are you done with that football, sir?”

Before you jump to the conclusion I am some sort of Big Ben hater, it should be said the jersey I wear for game day has the number seven on it. Heck, our family cat is named Ben, and is exactly as old as Roethlisberger’s NFL career.

And sadly, just like our kitty, there is a limited life expectancy on Big Ben’s opportunity to express himself in the NFL.

He’ll have plenty of time to open Roethlisberger Burger franchises in the future, but his time for football immortality is now, with the clock ticking down every precious remaining moment.

As the team’s on-field Chief Executive Officer, it is unfathomable Roethlisberger would make so public his mindset of having one foot on the football field, and the other on a golf course.

How is that being the leader of the team? How is that motivating your teammates to be all-in on the 2017 season?

I love Big Ben. He’s a great all-time Steeler, and I believe he has several more years to lead this team to glory.

But if he mentions the word “retirement” ever again, it ought to be in the office of Art Rooney II with a refund check in his hand for whatever is left on his contract.

If the Steelers are going to bring home any more hardware for Steelers Nation, it’s going to have to be with a much greater commitment than they have demonstrated the last few years. And that includes the entire organization.

Did I like this year’s draft? Absolutely. This team was talented enough long before NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell heard the first raining of boos in Philadelphia.

An infusion of heart is exactly what the team needed. Which is why this year’s draft is championship grade.

About the Author

Michael K. Reynolds
Longtime Pittsburgh Steelers fanatic and author of the acclaimed Heirs of Ireland series.
  • Ish Gadol

    Yes! You nailed it, Michael! And I hope this gets posted on the locker room bulletin board ~ laminated!

  • Michael James

    Brilliant article!
    Especially this sentence somehow deserves special attention:
    “Yes…going into this NFL Draft, the Steelers front office clearly identified the team’s Achilles Heel. This is a team with extraordinary talent, especially on the offensive side of the ball. But they clearly are lacking the “it” factor.”
    I don’t know how to put it, but somehow (from an outsiders point of view) it looks like especially our star players are either happy with what they’ve achieved and don’t look hungry anymore (Ben), have a very special focus on their own stats/brand (AB, Bell) or are simply unstable and don’t care for football that much (Bryant).
    Now I don’t know these guys in person and I don’t want to insult or be injust to any of them, but that’s just how it sometimes looks to me.

  • RickM

    My goodness, I feel like you’re opening a kool aid stand. First they don’t make sense…but then they suddenly do. I guess we drafted the only players in the draft who are actually committed to trying hard.

  • grw1960

    Have to agree, seasons are a grind in any sport. It takes a special type of focus and desire to finish games and seasons with as much heart as you started them.

  • Jaybird

    Yeah I got to disagree with you on several points Michael. We got killed in New England because of several things:
    1) Tom Brady is the best player ever and he absolutely took advantage of our subpar secondary
    2) we were absolutely out coached and out prepared.
    3) we really were lacking talent on the defensive side of the ball against a QB like Brady, especially in the secondary.
    4) to a lesser extent injuries to our recieving corps played a factor also

    There is plenty of heart on this team , it was just lacking talent in the secondary and also at WR/TE due to injury. Did AB have heart reaching that ball over the goal line against the Ravens? Bell gives a 1000% on the field and backs it up with the production to prove it. Harrison – enough said. Heyward has the biggest heart of all of em, and Tuit is right up there also. And Ben is a total winner. He’s got as much heart as anyone in the league going out there with injuries that would sideline every other QB in the league . He’s also got the biggest Ballz for doing that also.
    No I don’t think it was lack of heart or “winners ” mentality. I think we were a tired depleted , young team who was outmatched against a total buzz saw in New England led by the greatest player of all time.

  • Jaybird

    Yeah and if the draft broke a little different , we might have drafted Peppers or a corner in the first and a completely different slew of draft picks. The Steelers picked players they thought were the best available, most talented, and filled the biggest area of need . Period.
    To say we drafted for “heart” or the “it ” factor is pretty crazy .

  • StarSpangledSteeler

    Michael –

    I agree with about half of what’s in this article. I do think that Watt and Conner are both very “vocal” guys with a high “desire” to win. I also think JuJu povides us with some badly needed physicality. And I went back and watched the AFCCG this week and, you’re right, I definitely saw a lack of “fire” and lack of “aggression” and lack of “intensity” on the Steelers side.

    But in my opinion the Steelers did NOT draft to beat the Patriots and the Steelers did NOT draft to win now. When you spend your 2nd round pick on a depth WR and your 3rd comp pick on a depth RB and your 4th round pick on a depth QB, that does not show me a desire to win now.

    We’ve been over this a number of times, but I’ll say it once more… If Colbert really wanted to beat the Patriots he should’ve drafted a DB in round 1, then an edge rusher in round 2. And then doubled up on both of those two positions in the mid/late rounds. Maybe even 3 DB’s (2 CB’s and 1 safety).

  • RickM

    Totally agree. You do not make the AFC championship game without the likes of Bryant, Heyward, and others without having a lot of heart. Additional skilled players in several areas was the requirement of fhe draft, and obviously a much better game plan defensively against N.E.

  • Michael James

    Of course there are other players who would’ve fit the criteria. It’s just that you simply can’t dismiss the fact that “loving the game with a passion”, “no character red flags” and “team first guy” were three very important and visible themes in their draft this year.
    If you asked people about players who fit those criterias before the draft, most of the players the Steelers picked this year (rounds 1-4, since the others are rather unknown) would’ve probably been amongst the most mentioned prospects.

  • Jaybird

    And if you need” heart” on a football team you bring in veterans for that. If you need guys to show you what it takes to win , again you bring in veterans , not rely on rookies to bring those qualities.

  • Rob H

    I appreciate the obvious time that went into the article, and there are several points I agreed with, but I think you read wayyyyy too far into things as far as a narrative.
    This is the narrative, although they did put an emphasis on high football intelligence and character, what they also did was use the first four picks to fill immediate needs.
    Taking the next step involved a lot more than just getting better in the secondary, it was about filling the other holes that were apparent in the Pats game.
    A prototype Steeler edge rusher that could not only replace Harrison as a pass rusher, but who is also fluid in coverage.
    A physical receiver that can work all areas of the field, catch contested balls that move the chains, create space for himself in the redzone, and actually block someone in the run/reverse game.
    A smart corner who is a natural for playing man or zone in the middle of the field, and running with the Edelmans of the league.
    A physical, quick through the whole style of runner to compliment Bell, who can keep him from ever having to carry the ball 31 times in a single playoff game, and then injure himself the next week.

    Those four needs were all filled with the first four picks. Yes, character, intelligence, and a love for the game were all focused on, but no more so than the skill sets that were badly needed on the field in order to take the next step.

  • walter

    I dont agree with the heart comment but we definitely drafted players with “no character red flags.” If any more players get suspended for pot, I think the Steelers could be fined.

  • Joseph Shaw

    I think this is a terrific piece, very thought-provoking. I feel like the draft was heavily focused on character players, something we got away from at times in recent years. Totally agree on Watt, Conner, Dobbs and JJSS–it’s not just about numbers, it’s also about intangibles, and what they bring to the locker room and the sidelines. I’m excited to see how they’re integrated.

  • Nolrog

    I still say that Colbert walked in on one of the Rooney’s banging his wife, and this was his way to get back at them.

  • johnhoien

    I like what you are saying here.. It’s a perspective that I have not thought of.. It was however the way the draft board fell to them. In my opinion the Steelers were very focused on best player available & filled needs.. They happen to be people who are extremely motivated, clean character guys.. Motivation to play harder came when Ben said he may retire.. Especially when he said he was returning.. It was a nice kick the pants for those who needed it.

  • Nolrog

    I completely agree. And, IMO, free agency and the draft didn’t do anything to close that gap. In fact, it may have gotten wider.

  • Tom McConnell

    Disagree with this statement
    If the Steelers traded down, it would have changed every pick after. The prime need was Harrison’s replacement. Personally, I liked McKinley, but Watt has some time to learn & I would bet he learns fast. Colbert addressed needs. Maybe not in the order I wanted, but he did.

    When you always pick late, you must be picking more right than wrong. I’m certain that players they would have liked were picked early. Even the pick of a long snapper seems to be right on.

  • Phil Brenneman II

    Interesting look at the draft Michael and while there are so many variables to consider, I think you do touch on something that was probably important to the Steelers going into this draft. If not necessarily desire, it was at least getting character guys to add something more to this team as it currently stands.

    I think there are definitely points against what you say and some have pointed them out but at the same time, the results speak for themselves. We had a top 3 QB, a top 2 WR, a number 1 RB, and a top 3 offensive line and our team simply didn’t perform to that level on a consisten basis. Nobody on here can tell me they would trade the Steelers offense for the Falcons and the Falcons were blowing the Pats out in the superbowl.

    People want to keep pointing to the defense and that was certainly a prevailing factor but the offense definitely didn’t have whatever “it” is that they should have. So whether you can prove it or not or whether there are points you bring up that can be countered, I think you are definitely onto an interesting point that something intangible is not there.

  • Phil Brenneman II

    Not necessarily. Or at least, I think you can talk about hunger with young guys and hunger can be equated to heart.

  • Phil Brenneman II

    I don’t think it is crazy at all. Especially when we consistently hear Tomlin and Colbert talking about being able to measure will and heart. Add that in with the immense character we ended up with this draft and I think MKR is onto something.

    Do I think they take a guy they have rated a 7 over a guy with a 10 because they like his “heart”? No. But I think if it is a 9 vs 10 the heart, character and will were winning out in this draft.

  • Lambert58

    Well done, Michael. I think there is some truth to what you are saying about who we drafted. Though I would say that it is a bit of a harsh indictment on the players from last season. Saying they didn’t have a will to win is a bit of an overstatement. They had won 9 straight games going into the AFC Championship. I think it was a case of young team that was fatigued (as represented by Bell’s groin) and ran into a buzzsaw in NE.

    I look forward to seeing what these rookie ballers can bring to the table in the coming years.

  • pittsburghjoe

    Great take on things, Sir. Very nice read.

  • Jeff Burton

    Totally agree about Big Ben. The only time he should be saying the “R’ word is when saying, ‘I want to win one more Super Bowl before I …”. As far as the Draft I think the Steelers Brass behaved like they had their roster set and didn’t care after the 4th Rd. Yes, Holba will fill Warren’s spot but was he really worth a draft pick when there was still talent at DL, ILB and RB positions still available? The Brian Allen pick is a joke and there is no roster spot for Keion Adams unless they plan to move him inside. Their lack of enthusiasm showed in their undrafted FA’s as well, with only TE Scott Orndorf and OG/OT Ethan Cooper having a chance of making the roster. Tomlin’s remark, I’m ‘not looking to be impressed’ on the rookie mini-camp sort of says it all.

  • Eric Mack

    The Steelers never draft to win now. 2016 maybe the exception, but in the Colbert Era most drafts have one or two guys who can contribute as back ups immediately and the rest are guys they can see replacing or competing to replace guys who will be leaving in FA or retiring.

  • Jaybird

    Chuck Noll said ” if I need to motivate you , I’ll fire you”. If this team needs a couple of rookies , most of whom will not be starters this year, to provide “hunger” or heart , then the whole team should be fired.
    I personally think this team has plenty of heart, drive, and for the most part- talent, to win it all. I do like this draft class and they seem to be upstanding young men, but I think they were drafted for their talent and positional need first and foremost.

  • Jaybird

    You could also say this year’s draft class seems to be much more intelligent also, they have a high football IQ . Dobbs, Sutton, and Watt seem very bright. I think a lot of things go into evaluating these guys, and heart is just one of them. First and foremost I think they filled positions of need with the best players available. I don’t think the Steelers did anything different this year than they have in years past and why should they- they have been one of the best at drafting players.

  • Jim Foles

    This article makes it sound like we need Noll not Tomlin.

  • StarSpangledSteeler

    Nobody is disagreeing that edge rusher was our prime need. The question is HOW to best fill that need. I believe Jordan Willis plus Derek Rivers brings us more talent that TJ Watt plus Dieon Adams. And I will gladly debate you on the merits of both.

    But our second biggest need was DB. And by the time the 4th round ended, the only DB Colbert had acquired was a slow, thin, slot CB (Sutton) which, in my opinion, was an epic failure. And the fact we drafted zero “hybrid safety” prospects is also a failure.

    Finally, the Steelers trading down does not effect the fact that 23 teams passed on Obi Melinfonwu in the 2nd round. He would’ve been there at any point before that. And Willis didn’t go until 9 picks into the 3rd round, so we would’ve gotten him at 2.30 as well.

    I’m not trying to attack to you personally, I’m sure you’re a good guy, but I’m not sure how much you study the draft or draft values or prospect rankings. None of us can tell the future (as far as how good these guys will be) but we can generally tell where they are going to be drafted (within a certain range of certainty).

  • James Churchwell

    Man, All I can say is WOW, DAMN,MAN you MUST be inside my head, I promise you this is what I’ve been crying all along…We lacked the desire ( mental toughness) to be assassins.. Come out the tunnel with the intentions of destroying your opponent from the moment the ball is first kicked off to start the game until the game clock is displaying all zeroes at the end of the fourth qtr.Thanks for this awesome article it is without a doubt one of the best analytical observations I’ve read in a while.Good job Mr. Reynolds 🙂

  • Jaybird

    I’m just saying that I don’t think the Steelers did anything differently this draft . They addressed needs , picked high character guys and high football IQ guys who give them the best chance to win. I think that’s what they try to do every year. I don’t think it was a theme for this year’s draft .

  • RickM

    It will be interesting to see how this draft works out. Michael has obviously gone out on a limb calling this an “absolutely brilliant” draft. I hope he is right as I’d like another SB before the QB who – unlike Pouncey and Harrison – isn’t allowed to mention “retirement” decides to walk away. The whole draft IMO very well may rest on what Watt does. Other than him, JuJu and the LS, I’m not sure how much is there.

  • James Churchwell

    Sorry Michael, I forgot to say I totally agree with you on Big Ben, and the 4th round pick Joshua Dobbs ” Are you done with that football, sir ?”… just loved it!!

  • WB Tarleton

    I was cheering every word of this article…

  • Michael Conrad

    Good Article Michael. I say it starts with Tomlin and settling for players not good enough and keeping them around. S Thomas, J Jones and L Jones. The will to win is one thing but the fear of losing your job is another and that is what Belichick does he has players fearful of losing their jobs. He will have someone in place to take their place. Does Sammie Coats get a free ride for another year because he is fast but can’t catch . Does David Johnson get a free ride because he blocks. Does Mitchell get a free ride because there is no one with the ability to challenge him. Does L Jones add to the team other then comic relief as he is a joke of a backup QB.

    I say the draft was about picking 30th and not having a good plan. I think they were blindsided in the first and second losing the players they wanted and got behind in the draft. They at the end of the third round started to pick ahead of a players round. Conner and Dobbs were picked ahead of the round they should have been drafted in. I think it is a draft of players who have a chance to help out in the long run and the will to win.

    Football is about the will to compete and it starts with the coach.

    When I think of will I think of two players . Lebron James and Tom Brady . They are good but their will to win leads the whole team to be better. They don’t settle for oh well next year.

    When I hear a reporter or bloggers or team puppets say well its what they have and no one out there is better and they are stuck with this player or that player it makes me mad.

  • Tom McConnell

    I had a DB as my 2nd pick, but he was gone. I had WR in 4th, Goodwin. My point is we all have opinions. I looked at your grouping above & only agreed with one. I do study the draft & think I understand it pretty well. You’re assuming that someone else picking at 30 would have picked like or similar to the Steelers. A single change anywhere can change the entire draft structure. You also don’t consider if management thinks that they fit with the players already there. Interviews you don’t have access to. I didn’t think that Rivers was a good fit. A redraft of Red, so a wasted pick. IMO.

  • Bill

    What a great article!! With respect to Big Ben; I have noted on this site before that a wise utterance I’ve heard many times over the years in industry is that if you’re thinking about retirement, you’re already retired. I’ve also noted in the past the over-stressed hunt for ‘team speed’. What you need the most are football players: tough, relentless pursuit of being the best. What I want first are sore losers. You know like Number 75.

  • Ichabod

    I don’t think it is a heart issue…I think it is a FOCUS issue.

  • Ichabod

    Ish…great man correct?

  • RickM

    I want him to walk into the Steelers’ dressing room and say ‘you may have made it to the final 8 teams two years ago and the final 4 teams last year. But you really lack “commitment”. That’s why we drafted these rookies this year to give you more ‘heart’. That will really go over well.

  • Bill

    Big heart, Big desire begets focus.

  • RickM

    I agree that the mental focus just didn’t seem to be there. Part of it likely was two rookies in their first-ever Conference Championship and part of it was the D game plan and need for a little better talent. But they had won 9 straight football games to get there, so they hardly lacked ‘heart’.

  • Jeff White

    Thank You Michael! I’ve been waiting for this article. I was a bit disturbed by the recent trend of bringing players in with highly questionable reputations, i.e. Mettenberger, Justin Gilbert, and to some degree Ladarius Green. Management obviously has made a commitment to make a change in this department. It’s hard not to get mesmerized by SPARQ scores and athletic traits, but as important as these are they are just a part of the evaluation. This team needed more smart accountable winners with heart, and I believe that’s what they got in this draft class. At the very least we got players easy to root for, which is the main reason Steelers Nation is so strong to begin with. Looking forward to seeing these guys develop. Side note Jesse James is awesome!

  • will

    You really miss the most important point about the history of the Steelers with your point of view.
    Chuck Noll and DAN Rooney drafted Joe Green for not only his superior play but for his relentless will to win. One could see it throughout his college career. He wanted to win so bad he could not help himself for his outbursts. They did not follow your “wisdom” and bring in veterans for “heart”. Joe Green changed the complexion of the franchise…… starting as a ROOKIE!! And they followed up with high heart guys like Lambert, HARRIS, Swann and Blier among others. They did not bring in veterans…….you are missing the point for the entire foundation of winning for the Pittsburgh Steelers. This draft is maybe an attempt to recreate this winning strategy for the Steelers.

  • will

    Much of this absent “will to Win” has to lie at the feet of TOMlin. Belecheat would not put up with it.

  • Gregg

    I don’t know what you mean by buzz saw, but the Steelers were beaten by a team of roughly equal talent that clearly wanted it more.

  • RickM

    Does it apply to James Harrison who has retired once and says every year that he needs time to decide if he will come back? Somehow he doesn’t play like “he’s already retired”. Tell it to Larry Fitzgerald who has talked about retirement for 2 years and caught over 100 passes last year. Players can contemplate and even talk about retirement as they get older. If they still maintain their good work ethic, their musings about retirement mean nothing. Personally, the statement is a lazy generalization that doesn’t take into acccount the professionalism and personal pride of the actual player.

  • Gregg

    Michael, you shoot so straight it’s painful! Steeler’s motto is “Being Good is Good Enough” It extends from the players through the f/o and ownership.

  • Reg Sayhitodabadguy Hunt

    Yeah! But can they play though? Just joking but in all seriousness you may have a point there which leads me to a point I was trying to get across on another post If I was gm I would try to get as many die hard Steelers fans as possible based on there pedigree of course because they will automatically come with that will to win and not just collecting a check

  • Reg Sayhitodabadguy Hunt

    Actually I think they did if I’m not mistaken with ju ju and Conner don’t think they were the top player left in their position at the time IF I’m not mistaken

  • Nicholas Danaluk

    Wow! Somebody finally said what needed to be said. Goes double for game planning and team discipline.

  • RickM

    I think added desire is great for any football team. That said, this team won 9 straight games last year to make it to the final 4 teams standing. And they did that with a depleted receiving corps and two rookies in their secondary. The suggestion that the 2016 Steelers – as a team – lacked commitment and heart is frankly ridiculous.

  • Gregg

    Excellent reply, but I don’t give them a pass for being blind-sided in the draft. When you are picking 30th you can’t sit on your hands and blame the stars.

  • Ryan Alderman

    Really enjoyed this one!

  • Ryan Alderman

    Disagee with your interpretation, especially the last sentence.

  • Ryan Alderman

    Cannot help but wonder how a healthy Bell alone would have affected the outcome.

  • Reg Sayhitodabadguy Hunt

    Not to mention bell didn’t play the whole game due to injuries

  • Ben Saluri


  • SteelersGeek4Lyfe

    This makes a lot of sense, and I think you’ve done a good job articulating the underlying issue with the Steelers i in recent seasons. It can be hard to identify what has gone wrong because we’re so stacked on paper, but self destruction and distraction have been holding this talented roster back for too long. Hopefully this class can get the locker room culture back on track.

  • RickM

    The article starts off saying the drafted players have certain negatives, but their heart and character overcomes that and makes it a brilliant draft. My point is that virtually every player in the draft has exhibited heart and effort. They wouldn’t have made it to the NFL without it.

    It is acccurate to say that unlike some other players in the draft, we did not draft guys with red flags. But to suggest that our guys have more desire to succeed than guys drafted by other teams? I’m not sure what that is based on. I’m pretty sure every player drafted has made sacrifices and given it everything they have to realize their NFL dream.

  • Robert E Lil

    Great article. I actually loved this draft (outside of day 1). Compare this draft to the Alameda / Rainey year. The author is right

  • Jaybird

    Your way off with your comment on my “wisdom” . Yes the Steelers do get most of their talent through the draft , but they also have added guys like Pottsie, The Bus , and Ryan Clark in free agency. But that is not what my post was about. I said I think this team has plenty of heart. I think the team does not need to “recreate ” the magic of the early 70’s draft , they have been the best in the league for years at drafting players. You sound like this team is in disarray and needs to overhaul its way of how it acquires it talent. That’s BS. This team was one game from the Super Bowl , and I think they are even closer to making it now. I was disagreeing with the author saying the team needed to add “heart” to the team becuase a couple of rookies are not going to do that. The team has plenty of leaders and heart and desire to win with the vets on this squad .

  • Phil Brenneman II

    I’m not so sure that is always how they go about it. Looking back to 2014 for example they seemed to be very big into something tangible like size and speed. Shazier was the fastest LB in the draft, Dri Archer was the fastest player in the draft, Daniel McCullers was the biggest player in the draft.

    We have also seen them talk about things like a guy having a lot of INT’s being intriguing. It really does feel like this time they specifically focused on the character stuff. I think the prime example (if any) is the Conner pick. By any standard we can identify he was a clear reach at his position.

    Again, I am not saying they ignored high talent guys for these but I think anytime it was somewhat close they were going to go with the “heart” and character stuff.

  • Dshoff

    I just don’t agree with a 3rd on Connor and a 4th on a Qb. The Steelers will be happy if both become backups. Is that what you want out of your 3rd and 4th round picks? I don’t. Heck, I don’t really even agree with our 2nd on wr. These guys can have all the heart in the world, but as backups, it aint going to mean much.

  • Dshoff

    DeAngelo proved himself to be a really good backup when healthy, and he never got carries when Bell was playing. Why will Connor get carries??

  • Jaybird

    They were not of equal talent. We were without Bryant , Bell , and Heyward- three of our best players. The Patriots were a total buzz saw in that game. We were out coached , depleted in the recieving corps, and did not match up well with that team . I do not buy into the statement that the Steelers did not want it more or that they lacked heart or anything like that. The Patriots were a way better team that day.

  • Jaybird

    Ryan we would have still gotten an ass beaten. We had no receivers and Belichick was going to take AB and Bell out of that game. The Patriots were a better team than us last year. But don’t worry man , we’re better this year and are going to take them down!

  • Dshoff

    I disagree on the Holba pick. I completely changed my mind when Warren retired. That is a very important position and a 6th pick isn’t too high for the best long snapper in college. At least he is going to be starting, which is more than I can say for 3rd rnd pick Connor and 4th round pick Dobbs.

  • Craig M

    Spot on article sir. And I believe the will to win does not start with “it is what it is”. IMO

  • Jaybird

    Conner is no slouch, he put up huge numbers. Would he be there in the 4th? I don’t know.
    But you can easily have said this year’s draft was extra smart instead of high character guys and that would be true as well. Dobbs is jimmy neutron, and Sutton is the John gruden of film study, and Watt seems like a sharp tool.
    I just think the Steelers know what there doing year in and year out and everything from character, athletic ability , size , position of need ….etc are weighed and evaluated on each and every player every single year.
    I agree with you that this class seems to be high character, but I don’t think we drafted it that way becuase the team lacks heart or character. I think the team has tons of heart.
    As always, good debate Phil!

  • Mark

    I’ve watched every game that Ben has played for the Steelers. I still don’t get the feeling that he’s the most masterful at his craft and now that his ability to escape and create is slowing down. He’s going to have to use more intelligence than athleticism to make plays. I just didn’t understand all of the retirement talk when he had the least amount of sacks in his career. His drama with injuries and retirement talk has me thinking he’s not into making the push to beat New England.

  • ND_Steel

    No doubt, on the offensive assessment, but also remember they came into the Pats game having played two physical playoff games and on a short week. Their #1 RB was obviously hurt going into it, the Top 2 WR had no help (this was probably the biggest factor as Ben, Brown, OLine, and Williams actually played pretty well), and the defense was a sieve. Absolutely no excuse for the defense, the game plan was just abysmal and executed even worse. And that was about the most lopsided coaching job I’ve seen in quite some time. They lost this game by failing to get the #1 or 2 seed…not beating teams they should have, failing in pre-season, not having all their weapons available, getting out-coached at times…no focus or consistency. I’m good with Haley…this is year three with Butler, we need to see a more consistent effort from the defense. And for goodness sake, play aggressive defense in the playoffs. Refs call less in the playoffs, take advantage of this!

  • Robert E Lil

    What’s crazy to me is that us mental game – the decision making- it’s declining more rapidly than the physical play

  • ND_Steel

    That defensive game plan still infuriates me to go out playing so soft like that. It was just plain dumb and gutless. I am more down on Butler than anyone. He needs to step it up this year or we need to go in a different direction. Free releases, all day to pass, it was a joke.

  • RickM

    I have criticized Roethlisberger’s inconsistency on the road. But any knowledgeable football fan knows that Roethlisberger is a future HOF QB who reads defenses effortlessly. And with decent weapons he is every bit as good as any QB in the league, other than Brady and Rodgers.

    As for not your not understanding/acknowledging the number of times Ben has been sacked – and the other times where he has refused to go down when hit – well that just shows a bias against him. He’s easily taken more punishment than any QB in the NFL based on his style of play, and a woefully weak O-line in the middle of his career.

  • kjacksonpgh

    Michael K. Reynolds, this is such a well written article about the Steelers thought process to the draft. Even though the Patriots are so hated they do have an expectation among their coaches and fans to win a championship every year. I did not say to compete for a championship but to win it every year.

    They win with no name players but those players fit their system. They are smart and can adapt and dictate on offense and defense. Ben, Bell and Brown are very talented players but they are in the media too much and for the wrong reasons. Steaming, calling out players, suspensions, and other team violations that would not be tolerated by any Patriot’s coach.

    And yes they were caught cheating but even after being punished twice they still manage to manipulate the rule book and scheme and disguise to expose other teams weakness. The Steelers need to adjust their thought process in the draft and how they prepare for teams inside their division as well as teams outside of the division. If they don’t adjust soon the Patriots will surpass the Steelers in playoff wins and Championships.

  • RickM

    Yes, that’s definitely the correct starting point for analyzing the N.E. loss. It was embarrassing how poor a game plan Butler came up with.

  • Carlos

    This is a great read and I couldn’t agree more.

  • Brenton deed

    I think you’re reading too much into it. They learnt from the Jarvis Jones pick that college production does NOT compensate for athleticism and have been drafting athletes ever since in the high rounds Shazier, Dupree and now Watt. They take tough, smart, “effort guys” later (Williams and Marekevich)

    Art Rooney sets the tone in those review interviews…. a few years ago he said they’ve got to run the ball better and protect Ben … then came the OL picks and Bell.
    Last year he said we’ve got improve our pass defense.
    This year it was we’ve got to get to the quarterback.
    Those “end of season” interviews with him tell you a lot. Whether right or wrong the Organisation believes the main reason the Pats beat them is that they’d worked out the LeBeau defense and the Steelers didn’t have the personnel to change it up… maybe they do now.

    I think the Juju pick may have been about a fourth choice because of the run on DBs. I also think they’re picking people who can develop quickly given Ben’s age. So Juju is a bit of an outlier but they think he can be plugged in early and contribute.

  • will

    You posted: “And if you need” heart” on a football team you bring in veterans for that. If you need guys to show you what it takes to win , again you bring in veterans , not rely on rookies to bring those qualities.”. All I stated is that your point of view totally misses how the foundation of the Steelers was built. I never stated that “this team is in disarray and needs to overhaul its way of acquiring talent.” (I think they are from a coaching standpoint.).

  • LHW

    The “it factor?” Coaching? Put Belicheck in charge of this talented group and see what happens.

  • Beaver Falls Hosiery

    Hope it works.

  • NinjaMountie

    Sorry Michael, I just can’t agree with the seeming consensus. I like most of your articles but this one rubbed me the wrong way. First of all, you wildly overstated the “deficiencies” of the draftees in what seems like an attempt to justify this theory of drafting for a “will to win” as that is seemingly all they have to offer after the, shall we say, unsatisfactory evaluation of their on the field talents. Secondly, people need to get over Ben talking retirement. Who wouldn’t be thinking about retiring when you’ve made that kind of money, play a sport that’s beat up your body, and now has a young family? I know I would be and I absolutely love football. So, we all know he’s thinking about it but we don’t want him to talk about it? Why not!? Because it worries us that we will not have a franchise QB. Oh well! That’s life. Unless he looks like he’s mailed it in during the season (and I’ve never seen any evidence of this) he’s welcome to talk about retirement all day, every day.
    I get what you were saying but I think this team had the will to win they just simply ran up against a better team. It happens.

  • Alejandro Caballero

    Best article I’ve read on this site

  • RickM

    You put it well. I like Michael’s column normally, but this one rubbed me the wrong way as well. All the attention on one game last year as if the 9 game winning streak meant little if anything. The incessant Roethlisberger comments because he dares to think about retirement at 35. The belief that there was a seeming lack of commitment and heart on a team that was simply over-matched in the final game. And the suggestion that it was brilliant to draft players with a strong desire to win. Almost every player we’ve drafted over the years has had a strong desire to win.

    I certainly agree with his Bryant and Bell comments and even AB’s Facebook issue. But the rest of it pandered to those who want to believe players or coaches aren’t committed enough. I might understand that on a team that was regularly missing the playoffs. But not on a team that has won playoff games the last two seasons and was within a game of the SB in 2016.

  • StarSpangledSteeler

    I fear the same as you. And I hope the same as you.

    Oddly, I feel like the whole draft rests on what the two CB’s do. I actually have full confidence in Watt and JuJu to become good solid players (although I don’t think either one will become a “star”).

    But if Allen can turn into a solid #2 boundary press CB that will be huge for us. Or even an “anti-TE specialist” CB/S-type player. And I do think Sutton will be at least okay in the slot (as long as he’s not covering a TE).

    If those two guys exceed expectations, I can live with Conner and Dobbs being career back ups. (Not that I hope they are, just looking at floor projections).

  • NinjaMountie

    Patriots spanked a lot of other teams last year as well. We weren’t the only good team to lose to them. Does it get tiring and frustrating? Sure. Still, it is what it is and what it is is that they’re the more talented team; especially where it matters most at QB.

  • RickM

    Yeah, the Patriots outclassed a lot of teams, especially in Foxboro. Brady is the best QB in the game, easily. But the scheme we opted to play sure made it easy for him. Questioning our strategy, execution and personnel – that’s totally legit. Suggesting we lack heart and commitment? We were 4-5 and rattled off 9 straight wins to get the the AFC Championship. If that doesn’t demonstrate heart, nothing does.

  • Delboka

    I don’t understand the author’s profile pic…Is he in Antarctica?

    I guess that explains the tan.

  • Steve Johnson

    Nice article, but I disagree with the team lacking heart. They won seven straight down the stretch without their best DL – Cam Heward, star WR – M.Bryant, TE – L. Green, mediocre WR Corps. And yes, minus A.Brown, the rest of that group was mediocre at best. Lack of Heart? I disagree. However, I do agree with the QB once again running his mouth talking about retirement. Do it behind closed doors.

  • Rob H

    Good question, and for the last couple of years I had become very cynical about Tomlin ever keeping Bells carries at a reasonable level.
    But, IMO last year’s playoffs finally got it though to him that if he continues to run Bell “until the wheels fall off,” the wheels will continue to fall off, and at the worst possible times.
    I liked Williams, but after those first few games last season, he was mostly injured, and became a watered down version of himself, on 38 year old legs.
    RB is a position where rookies have no trouble stepping in right away. So, with Conner they now have young legs, and a style of runner (physical and quick through the hole) much better suited to not only provide a change of pace here and there, but also to use situationally, such as goal line/short yardage, and to close out games where we have a comfortable lead. No more situations like the Miami game where Bell was still getting carries in the last four minutes of a game where we led by two scores. That was monumentally dumb, and just as big of a coaching mistake as our defensive game plan against the Pats, and was ultimately just as big of a factor in that loss.

  • Simon Cutts

    My thoughts exactly. Except I called it drafting high character men who happened to play football very well.

  • Reg Sayhitodabadguy Hunt

    Or the yr they was going after team captains

  • Shannon Stephenson

    If I have a big gripe on Tomlin is that I have always felt he targets athletes over football players and have often joked that we are now the Raiders of the past and they are us. This is a year that I do agree that we drafted football players, a guy like a Dirty Red last year was so well received because as fans we see a guy who gets it done regardless of sub 4.5 speed and get behind the underdog. I think the Steelers may have seen this in him and wanted more guys like this and I for one agree. I will not go as far as saying the Steelers before this draft had no heart and lacks the needed desire to win, we made it to the conference championship and that does not happen through lack of effort or desire. To me sounds like a over reaction.

  • Conserv_58

    Bravo, Michael! Your commentary goes right to the nucleus of why this team can’t seem to be what they should be. I remember the teams of the 70’s had one common belief that carried them through to being so dominant for so long and that was they had an unbreakable confidence and conviction that they were going to win. They exuded swag, so much so that, just like the patriots today, they had the psychological edge before their games even started. Their well earned reputation as a brutally physical team preceded them and when they walked onto to a playing field they knew their opponents feared them, thus giving them the psychological edge. The Patriots have that same swag and until this Steelers team regains their swag they’ll continue to be bride’s maids to the Patriots.

  • Reg Sayhitodabadguy Hunt

    I like watt and his passion for the game but after Boykin and green I don’t know if I can trust THE F.O
    when it comes to evaluating medical issues and even if watts knees are okay time is not on their side when it comes to winning with Ben

  • Conserv_58

    I absolutley agree with your position because I’ve believed for years that this tem as a whole lacks the type of confidence and swag that the teams of the seventies and nineties used to have. Chuck Noll’s and Cowher’s teams had boundless swag. Tomlin’s teams have some individuals with swag, but the team as a whole doesn’t.

  • Sam Clonch

    Wow, THAT’S not subjective and based on personal opinions at all…

  • Conserv_58

    The key difference between Tomlin’s teams vs Chuck Noll’s and Cowher’s teams is the absence of an unmistakable and collective will to win. Coach Noll’s and Cowher’s teams collectively imposed their will on their opponents. They entered games expecting to win. Tomlin’s teams lack that same collective belief. It was obvious by their body language that they entered the AFCCG hoping not to lose. They feared the patriots before the game even started and that mindset is what separates the pretenders from champions.

  • ben tonelli

    Yes this exactly, but this isn’t done to match the will of the patriots. Saying James Harrison and Antonio brown are lacking will and effort is madness. They are two of the hardest working guys in the league and the steelers are surrounding them with guys that are willing to mimic that work ethic (hopefully)

  • Shannon Stephenson

    totally agree

  • Conserv_58

    Watching the body language of the Steelers’ players during the AFCCG proved, beyind the shadow of doubt, that the patriots had the psychological edge, hence the complete dominance the patriots displayed in every facet of the game. Both of the patriots’ lines dominated the Steelers’ lines, especially their OL. Other than the one time Hargrave got through they were impenetrable. The Steelers offense, defense and ST’s looked like a division II college team against the patriots. They were out played, out coached and out classed so much so that I never felt so humiliated to see a Steelers team be so thoroughly dominated. It was shocking for me to see how the patriots broke their will.

  • Conserv_58

    Therein lies the problem. The Steelers have individuals that exude the will to win, but collectively they don’t have that same team swag that coach Noll’s and Cowher’s teams had. The saying that it takes one bad apple to spoil the whole bunch applies to the Steelers. There is no doubt in my mind that having Le’Veon and Martavis get busted, AGAIN, for violating the substance abuse policy had a negative cause and affect on the team’s psyche.

  • Dorian James

    Great article, and a very honest and passionate one to be sure. Hearts and smarts is what Colbert said. I forgot which post I wrote it on but they are also attempting to shift the character in the room so people will hold themselves more accountable. Just about all of those picks are extremely High character guys. ZERO TOLERANCE this season!

  • FATCAT716

    I think Tomlin had the right mindset listening to that Facebook live video but I do thing that video hurt us mentally. Instead of getting mentally prepared for the patriots, most the week was trying to deal the video & keep the team focus. All week questions was being asked, I think it was tuesday or Wednesday when AB put out his public apology smh.

  • Conserv_58

    I made the comment soon after the draft that there is one common theme with the players they selected, especially rounds 1-4 and that is they each were leaders for their teams. I think three were team captains. Every one of them have very high football IQ’s, character, self discipline, work ethic and drive.

    As for the selection of James Conner with their 3B pick I adamantly disagree that it was a reach. His body of work at Pitt, especially his 2014 season shows a player that was highly productive. I don’t know about anyone else, but other than the signing of D. Will, I’m sick and tired of the Steelers bringing in RB’s that have no business being on this team. It’s pretty bad when Le’Veon needs a breather or he is injured they are forced to trot out guys that never get the job done. James Conner has proven that he has the talent to be a starting RB in this league. Therefore, based on talent alone, selecting him with their 3B pick was no only justifiable, but it was only three picks from being a fourth round selection.

  • NinjaMountie

    I have to agree with you. Couldn’t disagree even if I wanted to, lol.

  • Conserv_58

    I’m sure that incident had some negative affect, but it still speaks to their lack of a collective will to win. This is the AFCCG against the one team that has owned them since the Cowher years and if the players are going to allow AB’s bone headed video to derail them then, Houston, we’ve got a problem.

  • Conserv_58

    They may have had some heart and commitment when they entered the AFCCG, but the way in which they were totally dominated by the patriots, in every way, certainly suggested that with every uncontested pass completion, run and TD the patriots made the Steelers’ player’s commitment and heart was being drained from them.

  • ABdropkick

    Lol, “will to win”. That’s just something people assign to whoever wins, and then rationalize why they have it.

  • FATCAT716

    I agree but I think playing the patriots is more mental than anything & mentally they couldn’t have been 100% on there game mentally

  • Conserv_58

    Tomlin needs to be made to do and indepth study of Noll’s football philosophy.

  • snglparents

    try changing the coaching and defensive schemes there is a reason the pats have owned you for the past decade and that won’t change until you replace Tomlin. sheeesh.

  • Aj Gentile

    You didn’t explain why he is still going to carve us up

  • shawnd

    Congrats on a poignant analysis. One look at James Harrison’s workouts should be enough to motivate those arrogant enough to say they workout hard enough. Heck, James has me going to the gym weight room more often !

  • Carl Mendelius

    My problem with Colbert and Tomlin drafting philosophy is not the lack of quality, lack of passion, I don’t even care if they make big mistakes like Jarvis Jones. My problem with them is that they refuse to recognize that the secondary is as important as the LBs or DL. The bias with LBs in the 1st round is obscene and detrimental to the team. In this year they had a rare opportunity to draft a really good CB in the 1st round and opted again for a LB. Let me break you old news: Ross Cockrell is not good enough to beat the Pats, heck he is not good enough to beat the Bengals with Green, Ross and Eiffert.

  • Conserv_58

    Off Topic, but I’m surprised that the Depot staff hasn’t made mention of the RB, Terrell Watson the Steelers’ signed after releasing Green.

    How about it fellas? How about one of your break downs on this kid?

  • toonasteel

    I just hope that Matthew Marczi reads this article…..

  • RickM

    Having totally misread Sean Davis in 2016, I’m not going to say with certainty any players will or will not make it. So I will watch with interest if the CB’s can contribute based on your comment (not to hold it against you but out of interest). Like you, the selections just didn’t make the necessary sense to me in terms of addressing as many immediate needs as possible in a short SB window.

  • Jaybird

    Great post ben. my thoughts exactly

  • Jaybird

    The Patriots were a better team , no doubt. But it had nothing to do with the Steelers lacking heart. No one on the Steelers gave up or quit, they were just outmatched in almost all phases of the game.

  • Beaver Falls Hosiery

    He’s in Penguin’s land at the moment.

  • Doug McFee

    WOW! Spot on, Michael!

  • Jaybird

    Will please read all my posts on this thread. My main theme was that the team does not lack heart and that the Steelers did not draft players because they have”heart” .
    I said the Steelers have drafted like they usually do – talented players who fill needs. Occasionally they do sign free agents like Farrior and Clark, but not often. I post all the time and I never say we should sign this guy or that guy. I’m not a big fan of free agency. I know how the Steelers do business and that was actually stated several times in my posts- the Steelers drafted the way they always do.
    I’m sorry if you don’t understand my point about the team NOT lacking heart- becuase that is what the posts were about . The team does not lack heart.

  • Jaybird

    ND we just did not have the players to play those tighter coverages. When we did , we burned even worse. Bad game plan – maybe. Lack of talent and youthful inexperience- definetly.

  • Jaybird

    Perfectly said Ninja.

  • RickM

    For sure, that’s the only issue with Watt in my opinion. His love of the game is obvious and he could easily get better and better with his limited experience at OLB. It’s just a question of the knees holding up.

    I think management is well aware of the injury patterns, as they are well-publicized. They just choose to de-prioritize them and for some reason put greater stock in off-season physicals where players are generally healthy. Personally, you should never disqualify a player for one injury. But if they have multiple injuries to the same body area, that’s not a fluke it’s a physiological weakness. Fingers crossed for Watt.

  • RickM

    There’s a big difference between “psychological edge” and “heart and commitment to winning”. You gain a psychological edge because you are more experienced, more used to playing in big games, on your home field, you have deeper talent, etc. That does not mean you have more heart and commitment. It means you are more comfortable and confident in executing your assignments.

  • SilverSteel

    And just think if we do best them this year we will have beaten one of the greatest teams of all time. GOAT QB, coach and TE and awesome cast. What would that say about our team? We lost cause NE does not really have any deficiencies in all 3 phases and strong strategy and coaching. Not to mention their confidence, and home field advantage. I can live with that and still be proud of my team. We are really good but not the GOAT level yet.

  • Brandon Campbell

    Great defense is the difference…. They imposed their will by playing great defense….and running the damn Ball! That’s what we lack at this point also…

  • RickM

    There’s an easy solution for 60% of the fan base. Ben should walk out the door and leave us with the far more committed Jones and Dobbs. Then those folks won’t have to listen to him think about the next phase of his life. Pouncey can join him because he’s said he’ll retire when Roethlisberger does. Let’s see what the results are. Maybe then it won’t be so onerous for these folks to have listen to the occasional statement where he mentions the end of his career is approaching. Somehow I think his teammates, as professional athletes, know that this is just part of the game as they age. I doubt it phases them in the least, as long as he does his job.

  • RickM

    That’s a tall order SS, but it would be a super accomplishment. As you suggest, I think folks are underestimating how good the Patriots are. I can’t stand them, but they have built a powerhouse, maybe even more so right now.

  • blackandgoldBullion

    Great thought provoking stuff. I just think it’s more about Tomlin and I have outlined in the past. Butler wants to be aggressive. I have read and watched him speak about playing D and what he envisions. Overall they are not doing what Butler expects. So I have to come to the conclusion that Tomlin is playing scared when it comes to the D, forcing Butler to play guys off and trying not to get beat over the top. Butler’s philosophy is to be more aggressive even if they were to get burned occasionally. They would make a lot more stops and create turnovers playing more aggressively. I love the Butler mentality.

    Think back to when they used Ike Taylor playing man coverage, but the other CBs were off with help over the top. My point is that you have to have a Plan B if your initial plan does not work. Bellicheck always is prepared to adjust, not Tomlin. For example, I would have used Cockrell to cover Hogan against the Pats. He was able to cover AJ Green with great success and Hogan has a similar body type. Instead, Tomlin was scared.. I believe he instructed Butler to play off and then just stood around like a deer caught in the headlights the rest of the game. Unacceptable. Try something.

    It is a bit confusing because Tomlin allows Ben to be aggressive, routinely throwing deep on 3rd and short. I love the Steelers going deep. But if you want to impose your will on a team sometimes you have to practice running it down their throats in the Red Zone. You just cannot be predictable.

    Just look at the Ravens often beating the Steelers, even when they field a crappy team. The Steelers D is just too predictable. They must let Butler be aggressive if they want to change going forward. Then the whole team would play like they all had the “it” factor.

  • Constantinople

    Are Coach Tomlin and Mr. Colbert wearing the same tie in that pic??

  • Mike Lloyd

    Excellent piece Michael.
    Spot on observations.
    Hearts and smarts.

  • Steel Realist PAul

    An absolutely excellent angle, MKR. Thanks for helping my mindset.

  • Appreciate all of the great feedback. We may not all agree. But we do all care about this team.

  • John Phillips

    Win one for the … kitty

  • SteelerMike


  • Rusted Out

    It is disgusting. It’s also accurate. Please tell me when the Steelers have risen up and beaten Brady in the playoffs.

  • Robert Wallace

    Great story!

  • Ryan Alderman

    I do understand your assertion as well, definitely not disagreeing per se. Just at that point with regard to the injuries that we had that allowed teams to hone in on AB Bell clearly had emerged as the straw that stirred our offense’s drink, and him leaving that game when he did drastically changed it in my opinion. You know how games work, how important momentum is, TOP, esp with a young defense, and how a few plays here or there can determine outcomes. This game snowballed early and got out of control, no question, and I’m not saying we would have beat them regardless; but, as I stated originally, I just can’t help but wonder how a healthy Bell alone would have affected the outcome.

  • Ryan Alderman

    BTW, I DO agree that we’re going to get them next year. I look forward to playing them again.

  • Amante Da Prez

    Preach brother lol!! This is one of the most spot on articles ive read anout the steeler’s offseason.

  • Ryan Alderman

    I think it means some players can get by on talent alone and do, but when you level the playing field, as the NFL does, it takes more. Hines Ward did not come out of college as a stud prospect by any means, but at the end of his career he became a self-made incredible WR. Maybe the Steelers were tired of getting burned and decided to take a new direction. Of course, however, they drafted for talent as well, how could you not and win. I do see your point you’re making clearer with your rebuttal, however, and respect your stance as well. Even Ocho-Cinco I’m sure hit the weight room a little and ran a few miles in the morning after adoring himself in the mirror, right? 🙂

  • John

    I think people are misreading Ben. I think his retirement comments and other behavior is more linked to wanting to win and thinking the organization is holding him back. He wants guys that can help now. He was pissed over the receivers he had left in the playoffs. He clearly cannot understand whatever we were doing that resulted in us not scoring from the 1 in the first half against the Pats. He just wants to hear that we drafted guys that are all-in now and we will play hard and do the tough things, including not missing time. Against NE, he was lining up saying no Bell, no Bryant, no Green, no Wheaton, and no D against what the Pats run. You can imagine the eye rolling he was doing while trying to see what we could do to win.

  • SteelerMike

    Sorry, got cut off writing my post. I’m clearly aware the Steelers have never beaten Brady in the playoffs.

  • charles

    Steelers were as you said extremely talented… on O. The D, the Dline in particular is still infected with LeBeauism, that of occupying Olineman to let LBs make play. Butler has been humiliated by Bilk Bellacheat, and also by Philly, Dallas, etc. Butler needs to step things up to ‘Championship’ form. Coaching by tandem (T and the Butler) has produced pitiful results. T and Coldbert have to come to grips with the fact that a franchise qb is not enough, they need a franchise Dline to complement….

  • Randy Largent

    To me, it always comes back to the same thing which is well-chronicled in this article. A lack of commitment, desire and preparation… which all points to inadequate coaching. We all know the Steelers under Tomlin have had trouble beating marginally talented teams. And, even though we lacked the personnel to play man-to-man against the Patriots, does it really make sense to sit back and let Brady pick you apart. Tomlin may be a great guy, but he’s not getting the job done. And for all you morons who want to call me a racist, I’d still take Tony Dungy any day.

  • Rick McClelland

    Michael, this is definitely one of the most dead on articles I’ve read in a long time and something I’ve said myself. Both sides of the ball need to have an “attack, attack, attack” attitude for every game all the time. That is what makes the Patriots winners. They have the same problems with druggies and thugs that the Steelers have, yet the mindset for what it takes to win is completely different.

  • Riverstko

    Last week I was eating my lunch in the break room when a new employee sat and begin eating. First their conversation started talking about the NBA playoffs, I don’t watch NBA so I said nothing, just the others were talking. Then the “new guy” brings up NFL, the AFC, then the patriots. He said the Steelers will never beat the patriots, They are like 0 and 30 against Brady. I was so hurt, lost my appetite then I Erupted! I was so mad and said some things, even used bad language.I surprised myself. I went off! I Love my Team!

  • Jaybird

    Gotta beat the best to be the best , right.

  • francesco

    I’m not certain it is better players with bigger hearts that we need. But rather better coaching and a home field advantage.

  • Dirk Hardpec

    Totally the point with Ben. I could hear and see the frustration in Ben about Brown. He has to channel it better though. He should have called him out. IMO.

  • Rob H

    This isn’t to anyone in at the top of the page here.
    I just had to comment on how amusing the dynamic is here, where so many people try and piggyback their comments to the first half dozen posts, so their comment doesn’t end up at the bottom of the page.
    Not a biggie, just couldn’t help but notice, and couldn’t resist mentioning it.

  • StillersInThe6

    I agree. It was a well-written article that obviously had a lot of thought put into it, and I can appreciate that. However, I just simply cannot agree. The patriots didn’t beat us because they had a greater will to win. That is an over-simplification and and discredits the grind/dedication of the players on our team. So all of a sudden Antonio Brown’s streaming incident and Bell’s weed mishap take away from the obvious grit, blood, and sweat these two have put in to become what they are today?? You don’t get to become the absolute top players at your position as later round picks without a burning desire to win. Just no. The Patriots beat us because their team is simply better than ours (and everyone elses). We get beat 9 times out of 10 against them last year and it has nothing to do with our team’s will to win, imo.

  • Lambert58

    That game could have gone the other way in the first half. Losing Bell was a HUGE loss. He was such an important part of our offense all year.

  • mezzetin1

    Call it what you will, but Tomlin delivered a Lombardi, and lost the opportunity for another. Just like Cowher. However, I’ll say this: Noll nailed four skins to the wall, in six years. Belichick has won five, to his everlasting credit, but he did drop two. Noll never lost a Super Bowl.

  • Lambert58

    To say we would have gotten blown out if he was completely healthy is speculation at best. The Patriots were not a “way better team” than we were last year, but they were more seasoned and healthier for that game. Home field advantage is big for that team and we obviously had to overcome a decade plus of futility against them in Foxborough.

  • mezzetin1

    Enough! You wanna beat the patriots? Take the offense, and put the pedal to the metal. Take the defense, and blitz the hell out of Brady, unrelenting-like.

  • “WC”

    Loved Noll, Loved Cower, put they are no longer the coaches. Tomlin is. More often than not, we are so enamored with past glories, we fail to see what the future could be, or the person(s) in position to lead them.

    Past titles are the things that have many fans on the band wagon (so to speak). Many fans like myself have followed them long before the titles were ever achieved. So are feeling go deep. A lot deeper than the constant bickering about this and that on sites such as this.

    If you think about it honestly, many of you didn’t like Tomlin from the beginning and it still shows from the comments I have read. Just like many of you didn’t like Cower when he took over for Noll.

    Social media and the changes in technology makes it possible for us fans to express our feelings on sites such as this. Just speaking for myself, but the need to criticize each and every roster move with redundant commentary just doesn’t do it for me.

    I have always said that when the Steelers were the laughing stock of the entire NFL, the team owners heard the rhetoric, the terrible comments, etc., and went about doing something about it…….just as many of you just sit back and bash the Browns.

    The Browns are where the Steelers were long ago. You can laugh at them and all that stuff, but there will come a time when they will be laughing at us. For you see, they too won titles, but they failed to be competitive, whereas the Steelers won titles and still remain competitive. That’s a big difference in ownership and culture.

    Let me give you an example………

    Say you’re on a college football team. You look at the players you play with as brothers, through thick and thin. You bled, sweat, and forged a team and you have great success.

    Then comes the draft. The brothers you played with are now on other teams, and now they are no longer your brothers but your adversary. You fight to defeat each other, and then your enemy gets traded to you. All that time loving, then trying to defeat each other and then back to loving again, just like a television soap opera.

    Don”t get it twisted because this is still just a game.

    A man’s or a team’s will to win can never be truly criticized unless that is you are in their respective shoes.

    Lacking the “it factor” and all that is easy to say……..I bet you wouldn’t tell them that to their faces!

  • Applebite

    An attitude adjustment is as much needed in Pittsburgh, as a good defensive scheme….

  • will

    Got it…the team does not lack heart…….but if they did…..bring in a veteran. 😉

  • Jeff Burton

    Yeah but James Conner will add years to Le’Veon Bell’s career. My guess is he will be the defacto 3rd Down, short yardage, goal line back. He’ll also be featured as a hammer back clearing the way for Bell and passing catches out the backfield. It was at least a round too early for Conner but the Steelers knew what they were getting and he will be contributing right away. Dobbs is a different story. If he develops it could be brilliant. If he doesn’t it’s a dog. Nate Peterman and Brad Kaaya were both still available. Either one was more pro ready than Dobbs.

  • Jaybird

    The Patriots were the better team against us in the AFCCG. They killed us. They played better on offense , defense , special teams, and were better coached , prepared , and had a better game plan. I don’t think that anything I said was speculation, I think that was all true. The pats were better than us that day.
    But I think we have a shot this year against them , if we stay healthy and no one gets in any trouble.

  • Jaybird

    Lol. If a team doesn’t have heart it never will just by bringing in a player. But sometimes a team needs a missing piece- Dallas getting Charles Haley , Denver getting Peyton…etc.

  • sixnine

    You guys sit here and kiss N.E’s ass all day and praise their every move but criticize Colbert and Tomlin for the very same decision.Bellicheck used a 5th round pick on a long snapper because they new the value of having a great one but we as Steelers fans question using a 6th on one…wow…

  • MC

    They did nail it when it comes to drafting character and hard workers this draft but im a bit torn on the aggressiveness of that agenda. I can’t help but think shouldn’t the veterans of this team, the coach/es and everyone else in the front office and behind the scenes be instilling this winning mantra rather than having to draft a whole bunch of particular guys in the hope that they change the culture back to what it was?
    I love guys like Watt and the others with their mind set but what if we get beat simply by talent? could we be looking back at this draft in the future and regret not taking a better talent and value over one or more of these picks? As mentioned with JuJu and Sutton and their 40 times, I just hope they haven’t handicapped themselves but fielding a team that are great guys and attitude but simply can’t keep up with nfl level talent.

  • Shawn S.

    Every word of this article is AWESOME. I’ll be sharing many times over.

  • Roberto Vaquero Bazán

    Totally agree, Ben has lost his will and desire and his “leadership” is no where near to What is needed to lead a Champinship caliber team. Ben has all The talent in The world, and The team to do great things, but he has to go, in his mind he is retired and playing like one!

  • Roberto Vaquero Bazán

    Lol, you Nail it, everytime someone critics Tomlin, he is a racist!

  • ND_Steel

    We will never know, but even bad corners can clutch and grab to play tight coverage. NE gets this (if you aren’t cheating you aren’t trying), we don’t. The refs simply don’t make as many calls in the playoffs. You know how many penalties there were that whole game? 5…for 29 yards…for BOTH teams, including a 15 yd unnecessary roughness on Shazier. GB/Atl in NFC championship 10 for less than 100 yds combined. SB…13, again for less than 100 yards combined. I didn’t even look to see how many were against the secondaries, but I doubt more than 2-3 a game. Aggressive teams get rewarded in the playoffs. Pats have been doing it for years.

  • Rusted Out

    I normally change the filter to newest also.

  • Mark

    Ben misses too many open receivers because he becomes fixated and predetermined on where the football is going. When Rogers and Brady are at the best, Ben’s best doesn’t come close to theirs. I will put Ben behind Brees as well. I didn’t say he wasn”t a HOF QB and neither do I disagree with the fact that he has taken a lot of hits.

  • Lambert58

    Oh I agree they were better that day, I’m just saying they weren’t way better in general. If the two teams played ten games on a neutral field with a healthy Bell, the Steelers probably win 4 out of 10. But, of course, in NE, without Bell, it’s a different ballgame.

  • The Sun is Pro-Black

    Thank you

  • Rusted Out

    Then why does it bother you that there is such adulation for the Patriots? They’ve soundly beaten the Steelers whenever it mattered. The biggest obstacle between a 7th Lombardi is the Pats.

  • Bill

    Larry Fitzgerald never said he was he was contemplating retirement. It was a rumor that our wonderful media intermediately transformed into fact. It was started by some blogger, undoubtedly fueled by the fact that Fitzgerald’s contract had ended. When it came to light, Fitz vigorously denied it! As for Harrison, he usually qualifies his retirement statements by saying he wants to see how his body responds after rest, but emotionally, he still wants to play. As for the philosophical statement, “if you’re thinking about retirement, you’re already retired” it has a lot of credance! It alludes to the loss of the fire that drives one to excellence. If you lose that fire you’re partially retired. If you seriously consider retirement over an extended period of time, as it seems Ben did, it may suggest that the fire is ebbing. And I would certainly understand it. As the article delineated, he’s seen top players suspended, he’s seen the management fail year after year to significantly improve the defense, he’s seen the management sign players who were physically unfit, etc. Sometimes something new and unexpected can jolt the person and reignite the fire. Perhaps that’s what’s needed in this instance. Professionalism, work ethic and pride are a requirement but they do not light the fire; they’re are the result of it.

  • RickM

    No, you’re wrong on Fitzgerald. Both Larry Fitzgerald and Carson Palmer have said in their own words that they have contemplated retirement. And there doesn’t seem anywhere near the angst in Arizona as there is in Pittsburgh. As for Chuck Noll’s statement, times change. The statement was made around 40 years ago when salaries weren’t as high, there wasn’t the same knowledge about the concussion issue, etc. There are all sorts of athletes – in every sport – who mention possible retirement as they get older. Most of it is generated because they are asked more questions in this 24-hour news cycle; but some of it comes from their greater financial independence and concerns about long-term health. I’m not big on sweeping generalization statement, especially those made four decades ago in a far different football world.

    As for Roethlisberger it’s really simple. None of us can read the drive within him. He clearly has plenty of money from his previous $102 Million contract, and the first several years of this contract, to live the rest of his life comfortably and even set up his kids if he wants. Finances are not an issue to him. People should realize there must still be a drive in him…because he could so easily walk away. Instead, some fans wring their hands like 5-year-olds. And the others criticize him for everything he does; and of course articles like the one above fuel them to do it even more.

    We have 1, 2 or 3 years of Roethlisberger left. My approach is simple – I know he by far gives us the best chance to win so I’ll enjoy the competitive team we have with him on the field. I know how easy it would be for him to financially walk away, so he obviously still enjoys the competitive level of the sport. The last thing he likely wants to do is go out with a whimper. His boyhood hero (Elway) won the SB in his final two years I believe. and I’m sure Ben would love nothing more than to duplicate that. But as you say, management isn’t exactly helping him a lot on the D side of the ball – especially when 4 of the 8 draft picks this year were not D players. Personally I think some of the fan base needs a reset. Forget about his retirement and appreciate however many more years he plays.

  • Appreciate that Ish…

  • I’m like Rusted…I set mine to Newest. But you make an interesting point. I realize there is a posse of guys here who LIKE each other’s stuff so they rise in popularity. Gaming the system…but no big deal.

  • Me too.

  • We all have bouts of “getting comfortable” in our profession. It’s natural..but like all careers, usually it’s met by a swift kick by either our boss or the client. I do think this is the role of coaching.

  • There is a bit of a chicken and an egg scenario to this. The 70’s had that attitude…partly because they won every time. But you’re right…that team didn’t bow down to anyone. Swagger counts in this league.

  • Koolaid Yeah! Sorry…I had this image of a giant pitcher of Koolaid crashing through the monitor here. Oh…and that’s a straw man argument. No one said the team drafted the only players in the draft who try hard. But there are definitely players at every level (and it’s all relevant) who are more committed and who try harder. Jerry Rice willed himself to being the greatest receiver ever. For the most part, I’d put AB in that category, although it seems like he was more focused before everyone declared him the league’s best. It seemed like it’s been a little too Hollywood since then. But he still has an incredible work ethic. I put Tom Brady in that category. I don’t care for him as a player, but I respect his commitment to studying tape, mastering the game, relentlessly working on his accuracy, and staying in top shape. Have you seen him show up to camp in August 30 and 40 pounds overweight? He also won’t let anyone on his team slack…ever. That was the case with Joe Greene, Mike Webster, Jack Lambert, Greg Lloyd, Yes…there is a difference in the commitment level of NFL players. Some off them coming in oozing with talent, and others come in with a talent combined with an unrelenting will. Players also have different seasons. Sometimes they are more committed and other times in their career they are not. What made Jerry Rice so special was he was always 100% in. I think James Harrison is there. AB is there. I’m not sure Big Ben ever was there. That doesn’t mean he’s still not a great player. He can do at 90% what most can’t do at 140%. Which only means, he can still step on the accelerator. I’d much rather see him finish in a sprint, than fizzle to the finish line.

  • Always the true voice of reason…you get ’em Phil.

  • Totally disagree with “The Patriots were a better team, no doubt”. The Steelers had more talent on offense and we’re that far behind on defense (look what the Falcons offense did to the Patriots in the Super Bowl). But the Patriots had been on a mission for a year and the Steelers were trying to “peak toward the playoffs”. I never understood that strategy. The great teams win from gate to gate…and that starts with an incredible offseason, a productive preseason…and being ready from game one. The Patriots won without their Brady in the first quarter of the season. Just a better coached, more focused team with a quarterback 100% engaged. The Steelers have all of the talent necessary. I hope they do it this year.

  • Bill

    You spoke of how Fitzgerald retirement leanings after the 2015 season didn’t affect his great 2016 performance To be clear here: when I spoke to the lack of Fitzgerald retirement comments, I was referring to any comments he made after the 2015 season. The only retirement comments he made then was to refute Ian Rappaport’s speculation that he was thinking about retirement. And those repudiations were instantaneous, succinct and confirmed by his agent and his family. His present contact extends through the 2017 season and was signed in August of 2016. Thus he had committed before the 2016 season to play for two more years. Big Ben, on the other hand waited a few months before he committed to the upcoming season and that commitment is only for this season.
    Carson Palmer speaks of retirement regularly; he’s not above using it as contract ploy as he did with the Bengals.
    Chuck Noll did not originate the “you’re already retired” statement. It has been the mantra of American industry at least as far back as WWII. I first heard it from my father who was a production supervisor in the 50s. It is not just a football or sports truism; it’s timeless and it applies to any walk of life. With respect to sports, I suspect it applies more today than in the past because of the money that can be made by playing just one more year.
    You are of course correct when you say that we don’t know what Ben is thinking and that we don’t know if the burning desire is still there. It is interesting to note that if Big Ben had walked away, he would have owed the Steelers something like $17,000,000. All this having been said, I’m glad that he’s back and I hope he has a record setting season

  • Replied to you above. I think the injury excuses are a cop-out. The Patriots didn’t have Gronk among others. Tom Brady could get outrun by Rich Eisen. He’s not an extraordinarily gifted athlete. And his arm is okay. That being said, he’s (reluctantly) earned my respect because of his work ethic, attention to detail and absolute focus on being a champion. Roethlisberger is a more talented quarterback. I would have liked to see him use his many offseasons less as an extended Club Med and more as a way to improve his game, work with his receiving corps, and study the opponents until he had them memorized and come to camp super fit. He’s just never been that guy. That doesn’t mean I don’t think he’s a great player, and that I don’t love to see him play. But as a lifelong athlete and a sometime coach myself, I would have liked to see him be more “all in”. If he wants, he could have five more amazing years, break records, and win several more trophies. I think this “retirement” talk is just more of the same. He’ll be there for the regular season, and play impressively in the games. He’ll say nice things about his offensive line. But that’s not enough to be champion at this level year after year. You’ve got to be working the plan 12 months in the year, just like the rest of us tired blokes have to do in order to experience success. The NFL is an optional occupation. Play hard or don’t. But if you don’t, don’t cash the checks…and let others more excited about it have the opportunity. That’s in sports, that’s in life. And NO…that doesn’t make me a BEN HATER. I love the guy and am grateful for what’s he’s done for the team. And he’s been paid WELL for it. It’s more of, hey young man…finish strong. I am pretty certain that he’ll look back on his career 20 years later and will wish he had. GREAT offensive line. GREAT offensive weapons. It’s a dream scenario for a QB in his prime.

  • Yes…what he said.

  • As I said in my article it wasn’t about the “60 minutes in the game”. It was about an entire season and I don’t know how anyone could argue that the Patriots didn’t come into that game more on a mission than the Steelers. They certainly proved it with their comeback victory in the Super Bowl. As I watched that game, I kept thinking, “The Steelers need to step it up or they will lose this AFC Championship for the next five years.” It may be harsh, but they gave up in that game early. The Steelers are OOZING with talent, but if there isn’t a mindset change, they just are not going to be champions.

  • Thanks James…I laughed when I wrote it. I’m so glad there is at least one other person out there with my strange sense of humor.

  • Thanks WB…I could hear you.

  • More number 75’s. Absolutely.

  • James retired because he was dumped by the Steelers. If Ben had half the work ethic and leadership and role modeling of James Harrison we’d be on our tenth Super Bowl trophy and there wouldn’t be any Patriots dynasty. But as it turns out…there is a double standard. Ben is the quarterback. It’s the glory position. It’s the highest paying position, and it comes with added responsibility.

  • Nice…

  • The “hate to lose” is one of the strongest drivers there is. It’s what gets you working in February so you won’t have to deal with it in September.

  • I am afraid you are correct….the Patriots could win the next two or three before Brady leaves the game.

  • Thank you Carlos.

  • Actually…Pro Football Focus released a stat that you only like 37.7% of my articles. You’re going to have to pick up your game! For the record…I have NO problem with a player that retires because of injury concerns, burnout, love of family…or if they won the lottery. Just do it…and get on with it. The Brett Favre fiasco was ridiculous. And it DOES hurt the team.

  • Thanks Alejandro.

  • Don’t encourage him…

  • Lake Tahoe. What’s wrong with the tan?

  • Nice!

  • Swag matters!

  • I’m with you on the zero tolerance!

  • That is funny. But I actually think you can have guys on a 0-16 team with a will to win. So…no.

  • Excellent!

  • And he SCORES!

  • I appreciate that.

  • Actually…I would tell it to their faces. In fact…I just wrote it for tens of thousands. It also riles me that if you say something about Ben that it means you’re a BEN HATER. Or if you express dissatisfaction with an element of Coach Tomlin’s style that YOU ALWAYS HATED TOMLIN. These are big boys playing a big boy’s game. The reason the tickets cost hundreds of dollars each is because they signed up to receive our money. It’s football under the lights with professionals. This is not Boy Scout Troop 14. The NFL is an optional means of employment. They know what they have signed up for…and they actually have lots of opinions themselves! They are sports fans themselves and have been their whole lives. Can you really argue that the Patriots didn’t come into that game WAY more committed to their mission? I think their Super Bowl comeback proved the point. This is the NFL. If you want to be champion, it takes a LOT more than coming in second, third, fourth or fifth. If they want to be champions they will need to step it up….and that’s organization wide.

  • Right on!

  • Jaybird

    All due respect Michael – the 2005 Steelers , the 2007 Giants, the 2010 packers all got hot at the end of the year and won the Super Bowl . It was questionable if any of the three would even make the playoffs, yet they went on to win it all. You don’t need to lead from pole to pole. Plenty of teams have gotten hot, or healthy at the right time and went on to win the Super Bowl.
    And what skill positions did the Steelers have better players on offense?
    Bell was gone early so it wasn’t at RB. TE- New England even without Gronkowski. WR – AB , Eli, Cobi- over the pats Wrs ? I don’t think so. How bout Ben vs Brady? So how did Pittsburgh have more talent in that game? Pitt had more talent injured and suspended, but no way did they have more talent on the field.

  • Jaybird

    Lol on the PFF comment. I still think your wrong , but at least I can’t stop laughing. Good one .

  • Jaybird

    Mike I love Ben more than anyone on this site. But I don’t know how you can say he has more talent than Brady. Brady might be the best player EVER, even surpassing Jerry rice when it’s all over.

  • Thank you for the undeserved respect. Or maybe…by all saying “all due respect” you actually meant I was due none. I digress. The 2005 Steelers were an anomaly. The first Wildcard to win a Super Bowl. The others were exceptions as well. In fact, I’d say that out of all of the Super Bowl winners..the vast, vast majority were pole to pole, as opposed to closer at the gate. My point is…winning builds on winning. To play off a theory that you need to “save your wins for the end, because winning is much too fatiguing” is a fallacy. Win…win…win. Win ’em all. What’s perhaps more important is you have to DOMINATE. There are injuries, there are bad calls, that are strange bounces. There is a reason why the Patriots run the score up 40-10. That TREMENDOUSLY minimizes the chance that Joey Referee takes the game away, and all of the fans are whining about it after the game. Again…I am not referring to the “60 minutes” of play…I’m talking about the entire season. IF the Steelers were 100% in, they would have had Bell and Bryant and a FULLY prepared team at game one. We wouldn’t have been playing in New England. Think that would have made a difference? What if we got the bye and Home Field Advantage throughout? Don’t you think we could of? Maybe should have?I definitely think the Steelers had more talent on offense when considering the full season. They just didn’t make the best of it…and because of that, they had to get there the hard way, and it’s not a surprise they came in beat up and depleted.

  • I totally disagree with you. Because…I love Ben more than you. No…I do think that Brady is a better player than Ben. It’s hurts to say that, because I definitely think Ben has more raw talent. (Stronger arm, more athleticism, more evasiveness, more strength.) I also don’t think Brady would be Brady without Belichick. I think Belichick has proven that on several occasions when Brady has gotten hurt or suspended. BUT…I don’t think Ben would be a fit for the Patriots because Belichick demands too much from his QB’s and Brady is the perfect fit. The guy is flat out committed to his team, his career and his legacy. Again…not my favorite player.,but he is due respect. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying Ben is NOT great. I just don’t think he’s ever had a great offseason work ethic, and I wish he could have been stronger leader throughout. Brady is demanding on himself…and demanding on those around him…and that just hasn’t been Ben. BUT…here’s the optimist. If Ben was focused…he could step it up in the 3-5 years, and challenge Brady. A couple more Super Bowl trophies could make a huge difference. But with the drift toward retirement…I don’t see that happening. That was the point of my article.

  • NinjaMountie

    You have to watch that PFF. Some people think they’re sketchy. I’m not one of them. I actually like PFF.
    Seriously though, I understand where you are coming from. I don’t think you have a problem with players retiring or leaving for other reasons. You have to admit that there is a large contingent of the fan base that will find a way to complain about it though.
    I can virtually guarantee that a player talking about retirement every day (and Ben hasn’t yet) does nothing negative to the team or the player. How unprofessional do you think these guys are? Before you answer, yes, there are some unprofessional athletes. Ask yourself this. Would it really bother you or would you just go sit on the bus and listen to music like normal? Personally, the only neg thing I would think is how much it would suck not having them next year.
    These are grown men for the most part. Lets give them credit. Look at AV. That guys had a job that truly had distractions. Do you honestly think he cares if Ben is talking to reporters about the possibility of retirement. He’s not the only professional on the team.

  • Jaybird

    Your right, most of the time the winner goes wire to wire . But I just gave you three teams in a six year span that did not do it that way.
    Anyway , mike this team went through a rebuilding period after 2010. And yes it was a rebuilding period even though they avoided having a losing season. They have replenished a lot of talent and continue to do so. They lost to the pats becuse they are just not there yet talent wise and becuase the pats are a matchup nightmare for us. I think the team is about to turn the corner after a few very good drafts though . That and M. Bryant are going to put them over the top this year.

  • James Churchwell

    Not a…I don’t care what the other responders say that s%%t was funny LMAO… still 🙂

  • You sir…win the award for my favorite comment. Well done!

  • RickM

    No one can match Harrison’s work ethic, but it remains a double standard regardless of the position. As for us having 10 SB’s if Ben had half the work ethic James has, neither you nor I know how good or bad Ben’s work ethic is. Somehow he’s going to be installed into the HOF in the not-too-distant future. So it can’t be as bad as you seem to be suggesting.

    You feel that guys like Elway, Warner, Favre, Palmer, Roethlisberger, etc. don’t have the right to speak about retirement before their playing days are over. We don’t own their lives and careers so they have every right. It didn’t stop Elway from winning another SB, or Warner from taking the Cardinals to the ’08 SB, or Favre coming within an eyelash of taking Minnesota to the SB. So somehow I don’t think the players on our team will hide under the covers because he’s made it public. It would be helpful if media writers would drop the subject and stop sensationalizing it – so he can concentrate on football. The repetitive questions and references about a rather clear-cut statement (that he will take it year by year) are the real distraction. Based on the comments section, some don’t seem to get the rather obvious fact that he is being asked about it over and over. He is not continually bringing it up himself.

  • You’re a good man Jaybird, and a fine Steelers fan. We need more optimists like you.

  • Rick…Rick…c’mon. You’ve seen some of those offseason photos from Ben. You’ve seen the shape he’s shown up at many of the summer camps. This goes for high school, college and pros. You don’t use summer camp to get in shape…you use it to show off how awesome your offseason was. That’s why they do the fitness test on the first day on every pro and college campus. Have you ever seen Brady show up 30 pounds overweight?

    It also took Ben ten weeks to formally announce to the Steelers that he was coming back this year. Meanwhile…they had to be in a holding pattern for drafting, and free agency plans. So…no. It’s not just a fantasy produced by the media.

    The question is “why”? Why bring retirement up in the first place. You really don’t think he knew he would light up the fanbase and the media with a comment like that? C’mon…the guy has his own radio show. He knows exactly what he’s doing. Sure…he’s got a right to it. But for a guy who still has several good years left…and who has a team that inches away from competing for the sport’s greatest prize..why not keep that contemplation to himself?

    The whole retirement is just part of it. And Ben is just part of it. This is a team with huge talent, and a unique opportunity to dominate for the next couple of years. I wish they would be entirely focused and be “all in”. It comes down to the stars on the offense. If they REALLY committed themselves…this could be one of the greatest offenses ever to play. I’d like to see that. And I’d like to see Ben play the best years of his career. I think he can do it…but no…not while one foot is on the golf course.

  • Let me give you two scenarios. One…the franchise quarterback tells the media that he may retire after a disappointing (well…embarrassing actually) loss. Then he takes 10 weeks before he formally declares to the front office that he’ll be back. That’s almost three months!

    Now…scenario two. A week after the disappointing loss…this quarterback gets on a Skype call with several of his superstar receivers and running back. He says, “Guys…we could be the best offense of all time. But we wasted last season with suspensions, distractions and other garbage. Our offense is good enough that it won’t matter who the quarterback is on the other team. But we’ve got to be tight. We got start working now. We can’t count on just getting together for a few days in OTAs. We need to study tape, we need to spend time together getting our timing down. I want us to win every game next season, including during practice. But to do this…the four of us have GOT to work together. We’ve got to be a fine tuned machine. We’ve got to be fully committed. Are you guys in?”

    Scenario two? Unreasonable? Personally I don’t know why it doesn’t happen every year.

  • RickM

    I think it can be said fairly safely that Ben does not have the same work ethic as the guys you mention. But few players do. I am like you feeling Ben should play at a lighter weight as an example, but the bottom line is he will be receiving a HOF jacket down the road and you don’t get one without desire and a good work ethic. I have no doubt that his commitment this year will be similar to the past and my guess is he would love to go out with a SB like his idol John Elway.

    As for drafting highly motivated players, I will always believe that talent and motivation go together to make a star. A guy lacking in athletic ability will never be a star simply because he wants it more. You did start out mentioning some of the flaws of these players, but you then segued into a belief that their motivation would overcome these flaws and it became a brilliant strategy. I just disagree; I think you look for the best talent and desire combination. I hope these draft picks knock it out of the park and I can say you were right. But my first review of this draft comes back to the very flaws that you yourself pointed out. I hope there will be a winner or two, but overall I think they went away from logic and to often focused on desire and character. I also think they didn’t prioritize their needs properly.

  • RickM

    I agree with some of the things you say about Ben. At one time he wanted more SB’s than Bradshaw. A couple of seasons later he was glad he had continued his streak of no seasons under .500. Say what? So I don’t think the all-consuming desire is there, and it maybe never has been. But he remains an elite QB and if we don’t win a SB it will be because of our D, not Roethlisberger.

    Where your argument falls apart a little Michael is that Rooney said Ben has talked privately about retirement for several years. This is not a new thought in his mind, and yet we came within a game of the SB last year. I think that he can separate the retirement stuff from his play on the field. My absolute frustration with you is that you are a Ben fan and you are simply feeding the trolls who criticize Ben at every turn. You know that he is being asked about retirement, he is not raising it at every turn. He was told to shut up today by commenters because he answered questions from Fittipaldo and company who refuse to drop the subject.

    As for why he brought it up, my guess is it has really been on his mind and after a tough loss when someone took it for granted he would be back he let his inner feelings be known. There’s no going back after that. Now that it’s out there, my reaction is process it and move on trusting his commitment. I wish everyone would do the same as there’s no other alternative.

    My last comment is I think you are overrating our team a little. I am definitely not convinced we have a good enough D to carry us to a SB title. Our O is a powerhouse if they can stay on the field and Ben is committed. But there are definite holes in the secondary and in the ILB corps. Thanks for the spirited chat.

  • I don’t know…I think the best strategy is to ignore the trolls…and focus on having healthy dialog with those who live above the bridge.

    I’m not sure if you remember when Ben was a rookie and in his early years. His teammates said he was one of the most competitive guys they ever met and that he would play to the death even when it was a game of Ping Pong. I think he’s matured quite a bit over the past few years which has been GREAT as it seems he’s become a great family man. But he seemed to lose a little of the fire on the field during the process.

    If he’s got serious injury concerns, I think he should bail out…no question. But if it’s more a matter of being a bit burned out…I’d encourage him to really tap into those early fires…to finish strong. 35 may be more advanced for football players…but it’s YOUNG for life. He’ll have many years to regret giving 100% in his last years.

    Always enjoy the conversation!

  • NinjaMountie

    Was this an attempt to show how contemplating retirement and talking to the media about it can hurt the team or about how extra work may help?
    I thought we we’re talking about him “mentioning it to the press.” See, it doesn’t matter if he’s silent to the media he still would have taken his 10 weeks. So, again, how does it matter if he’s honest with the media about what he’s doing?
    It’s almost like you’re saying he doesn’t have a right to take as much time as he needs to make decisions on his life. Is that it?
    I don’t think Ben owes us anything. He wants to take 3 months, then take 3 months. I don’t care if he wants to talk to the media about it or keep it private. It’s his life.
    As for scenario two, certainly it could help. I don’t think it would be necessary until after the draft and you can get the rookies involved. Ben told them he was coming back when? Like almost two full months before the draft. He’s good.
    This is all about nothing. The only people that care are the fans because they want to blame someone for something.

  • Amante Da Prez

    I think its reasonable to question our desire to win. Your best players set the tone on and off the field, you cannot separate them. We have to analyze the smaller details because they normally reflect larger problems. Name a patriots superstar who defiantly will accept 15 yard penalties in order just to celebrate, or who would film the locker room post game for facebook live(call it what it is for selfish reasons). I am a huge steelers fan n AB n Le’veon Bell are my dawgs but i keep it real, it does us no good to run from the facts. The suspensions n off field distractions are things championship teams normally dont engage in n thats facts. Except for the 90s cowboys lol. Alright now im hopping off my soap box haha

  • Delboka

    You look like a leprechaun with HIV.

  • I keep thinking that Roethlisberger retirement talk was a not-so-subtle wake-up from a veteran who senses the same sort of malaise you’re railing on here. “I’m not going to be here forever!” He reminded them.

  • Obviously, we’re not going to agree on the merits of Ben going public with his retirement ponderings. It’s not just about Ben. I thought 2016 was a great example of not making the most of the talent. I don’t think they had a great offseason. The preseason was abysmal. Bryant missed the whole season. Bell missed a good chunk. And I don’t think Ben was at the top of his game. Too inconsistent. At times, they looked like they were in preseason form in the middle of the season. As fans, we wait for years for this special assembly of talent. We want the team fully committed and fully focused when they are. For me, the AFC Championship was a tale of two teams, one that had been fully committed for a full year (NE, fast out of the gate, AFC home field advantage) and one who stumbled and had to gain momentum at the end just to make it in. Yes…we had injuries, but that’s because we had to whip the horse all the way to the finish line, when if we had started better earlier, we could have been rested and healed. It’s been the modus operandis for this team for the last few years and I don’t think it’s a championship formula. I would have hoped it would be an obvious lesson for the team when they faced the Patriots, because the difference was clearly evident. Yet…rather than a lesson learned, we get the retirement saga…putting the team in a holding pattern. Last offseason we had the whole Bell and Bryant suspension drama. I disagree with the “Ben doesn’t owe us anything”. The last thing I knew, he wasn’t a volunteer for the organization. He’s consuming a massive amount of the team’s cap. He’s the leader of the team. He gets tremendous glory and compensation for being the quarterback…and a great one..yes. But that role comes with a unique responsibility. I’m just hoping that 2017 doesn’t end up being a repeat of 2016. I’m afraid it’s beginning to look that way already. The Patriots will be even stronger. Other teams will rise up to the top. Will we? In my opinion, championships are often won in the offseason. But you disagree. And that’s fine. I appreciate your perspective.

  • NinjaMountie

    lol…I need no encouragement when I know I’m right. 🙂

  • NinjaMountie

    You look at this a lot more emotionally than I would have suspected. Look, you can’t compare anyone to the Patriots. They’re one of those teams that come around once in a generation and have everything line up for them: GOAT Coach, GOAT QB, easy Div.
    What more do you want from this team? You complain about their formula stinking but yet they’ve won the most games since the start of the millennium of any team not named the Patriots. They’ve won (in a tie) the most SBs of teams not named the Patriots. They’ve been to more SBs than any other team not named the Patriots. I guess they must be doing something right.
    Also, a nine game winning streak is a little more than gaining momentum. Give them some credit. Geesh.
    Honestly, I hope 2017 is almost a carbon copy of 2016 with the lone difference being we win the AFCCG.
    Again, Ben doesn’t owe US anything.
    Seriously, I’m shocked at how you are looking at this team. You aren’t being objective at all. I’m sorry.

  • What do I want from them? I want them to win the Super Bowl every year. Duh. In the future, I’ll know that you never stop arguing, so I’ll avoid commenting on your points in the future. Checking out.

  • NinjaMountie

    Not to worry. I don’t ever see myself commenting on another one of your articles again. Have a good one.