It didn't have to be this way, ya know. Your Pittsburgh Steelers had every chance to make the playoffs....It just wasn't meant to be. Some people point fingers at the coaches. Others blame the players. Sorry, folks. You win as a team, you lose as a team. This disappointing 8-8 season was a collective effort. After stewing about it for a week, it's time to break down what went wrong with the Steelers 2012 season and try and figure out the best possible way to get back on top. It sure beats watching the playoffs since there is no black-n-gold.
1)Coaching-I don't try to hide the fact that I'm not a huge fan of Coach Cliche. His inability to tell time and his habit of talking in circles is one of many reasons for this. However, I'm also a realist. I know that like Coach Chin and the Emperor before him, Tomlin will be around for the long haul. That said, he needs to find a new way to motivate his players. I fear that they're to the point where they've heard it all before and are just not listening to him. Tomlin also has to realize that he can't keep plays in his pocket for future use. Play for today, not tomorrow. As far as his assistants go, we know that we're searching for a new offensive line coach. Will the search go out for others? Dick LeBeau has expressed an interest in staying. Todd Haley has an interview lined up with the Cardinals. And Amos Jones, the (not so)special teams coach has got to go. I hate to see anyone lose their job. Maybe he can work in some other capacity for the team. Perhaps as an administrative assistant or something. He sure as heck isn't a special teams coach, not with the multitudes of penalties that this unit had. Is Bobby April or Ron Zook available? If not, how about some youngster in the college ranks to light a fire under these guys? Oh, and while we're at it, we may want to look into a new strength/conditioning coach, if we even have one. Maybe that would help keep these guys in shape and out of the trainer's room. One more thing, I'm all for hiring a quality control coach. Someone that can tell time and count players. I'd like to throw my hat into the ring for this one.
2)Offense-When the Steelers started out 6-3, everyone was riding high on Haley's "dink and dunk", Ben was mentioned in the MVP conversation and it didn't seem to bother anyone that we still didn't have a consistent running game. Then....Boom! Ben has a horrible game and gets knocked out versus KC, the offensive line starts dropping like balls through our wide receivers hands and the running game is stuck in neutral. Whether or not Haley stays, there will still be alot of changes with this unit. Kiss Mendy and Wallace goodbye. Max Starks is also a free agent and Willie Colon rhymes with injury-prone. Jonathan Dwyer led the Steelers with 623 yards rushing, the lowest total since Merril Hoge had 610 in '91. I know this is a passing league and I believe the Steelers need to put the ball in Ben's hands, provided someone will catch it. What they need to do is get Ben healthy, keep the line healthy to keep Ben upright, and find someone to run the ball to take the pressure off of Ben. They'll need to address running back, wide receiver and quarterback in the draft. Yes, I said QB. It's time to find someone that can be groomed to replace Ben if/when the time comes. Leftwich is a free agent. Let him walk. Sorry, Charlie, you need to move on, too.
3)Defense-The D came on towards the end of the year. Cortez Allen and Keenan Lewis emerged as budding stars for the secondary. Troy and Harrison looked like they were, finally, getting healthy. Lawrence Timmons showed signs of why he was a first round pick. However, it was the D that gave up 4th quarter leads early on in the season. It was also the D that only had 10 picks for the season. That's tied for 3rd lowest total ever. Overall, the defense forced only 20 turnovers. Sure it was the #1 defense in the league. That doesn't mean anything if you can't create mistakes and opportunities. The defense may see alot more changes in the offseason. Can the Steelers find cap space to lock up Lewis? Have we seen the last of Troy, Harrison, Hampton, Keisel, and/or Foote? And has anyone seen LaMar Woodley? The Steelers need to look at both inside and outside linebackers as well as the secondary in the draft. Once they do this, they need to work on tackling and creating turnovers and getting to the quarterback. You know, get back to playing Steelers Football.
4)Special Teams-The only bright side of special teams this year was that Shaun "Squeeze 'Em" Suisham only missed 3 field goals all season. The downside was that 2 of them came in the Cincy game that knocked us out of playoff contention. I found rookie punter Drew Butler to be inconsistent. He needs to work on that. And of course, the special teams unit needs to learn that you can't hold on returns and not be penalized. Better get some special teams gunners to help these guys.....soon!
All in all, I don't think that the Steelers' window is closed yet. But they'd better hurry. Fix this thing before it becomes unfixable. Don't rely on free agency. The Steelers are known for drafting and developing their own players. They need to concentrate on the draft and get these players ready to go. Here we go Steelers!!!!!!