"I went back to Ohio
but my Steelers were gone
no division title
there was no playoffs
Super Bowls had disappeared
and some favorite players
The Steelers had been pulled down
reduced to mere bystanders
A, O it's O for Ohio . . ."
Maybe it's me? The Steeler Face has lived in Ohio during five football seasons--and in none of those have the Steelers made the playoffs. From 1998-2000 the Steeler Face resided in Athens, Ohio and the Steelers finished 7-9, 6-10 and 9-7 respectively--and sat out the postseason each time. The Steeler Face returned to Ohio (this time, Cincinnati) in 2012 and the Steelers have finished 8-8 the past two years and have missed out on the playoffs for consecutive years for the first time . . . since 1998-2000.
"So I went back to Ohio
but my Steelers were gone
I watched on the TV
but they were not on
I was stunned and amazed
as playoff memories
just swirled past me
here in Cincinnati
Oh, no, I'm still O for Ohio . . ."
Nonetheless, the Steeler Face is finding it hard not to be optimistic about the near future after watching the Steelers win 6 of their last 8 games to close out the 2013 season, after a horrendous 2-6 start. This team never quit fighting and somehow found a way to make it interesting, and with two weeks to go, Pittsburgh needed 8 different things to happen to sneak into the playoffs and 7.99 of those things did. Too bad that it was too little too late.
"I went back to Ohio
but my Steeler Nation pride
had been paved down the middle
by an NFL that had no pride
Bengals in Ohio
replacing Steelers in playoffs
but 'We-dey' fills the air
from Athens to Cincinnati Ohio
I said, A, O, I'm O for Ohio . . ."
The only thing that didn't go the Steelers way was Kansas City's 24-27 loss in San Diego. Yeah, we could grumble about the illegal formation on KC's missed FG at the end of regulation, or the miss itself, or the touchdown that was taken away by a whistle that was never blown in OT--but the blame lies entirely in Pittsburgh. The Steelers simply put themselves in too big a hole to climb out of despite the valiant effort at the end. If the Steelers are going to dwell on anything it should be the Dolphins game--and not Antonio Brown's toe stepping out of bounds--but the 34 points the Steeler D allowed to a Miami team playing in the snow and wind at Heinz Field--a Miami team that would only score 7 points in its last two games of the season against the Bluff-alo Bills and N.Y. Jets. That Dolphins game was a killer.
Still, Steeler Nation should be proud of the way this team fought back, especially after the Miami game that left Pittsburgh with a 5-8 record and almost no hope. The cacophony of calls for Tomlin's firing, Big Ben being traded and Haley's public execution have thankfully gone away. Let's face it--Tomlin has never had a losing season, neither has Big Ben, and the no-huddle offense worked beautifully in the second half of the season.
Big Ben completed 28 touchdowns against 14 interceptions and passed for 4,261 yards, Le'Veon Bell rushed for 860 yards (breaking Franco Harris' rookie record for the Steelers) and 8 touchdowns, Jericho Cotchery caught 10 touchdown passes and Antonio Brown (along with Troy Polamalu) made the Pro Bowl.
The big question marks for the Steelers in 2014 are all on defense:
-- Will Troy Polamalu be back? Yes, he still has a year left on his contract, but it is for $10 million. Troy is a perennial pro-bowler and had an amazing comeback this year. He still has it. I hope the Steelers find a way to keep him--whether it is by extending his contract, asking him to restructure his contract, or just paying him the damn money. The Rooney's would do well to remember what happened after they prematurely gave up on Rod Woodson and let the future Hall of Famer depart via free agency in 1997--Rod picking off three passes in a single game as a member of the San Francisco 49ers . . . Rod winning a Super Bowl as a member of the Baltimore Ravens . . . or playing in another Super Bowl as a member of the Oakland Raiders. Ugh.
-- Will Ike Taylor, Lamar Woodley, Brett Keisel or anyone else on defense be back? Who cares -- keep Troy.
-- Will Hall of Famer Dick LeBeau return as defensive coordinator? Who cares -- keep Troy.
-- Will the Steelers rebuild the defense via the draft? They should, and more importantly, they should keep Troy.
Other off-season story lines to follow:
-- Will Jerome Bettis make the Hall of Fame? He should -- it is more than about damn time.
-- What is the future of the The Steeler Face? I'm sorry that I had a hard time keeping up with the blog in 2013. The Steeler Face will take time to consider how to reshape the effort in 2014.