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Stlrs4Life
12-26-2007, 12:29 PM
http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/07360/844475-194.stm (http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/07360/844475-194.stm)

Steelers' record a surprise

Wednesday, December 26, 2007
By Bob Smizik, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

On the day before Christmas, Mike Tomlin said he was "not surprised by any stretch" that the Steelers were champions of the AFC North Division.

What else was he going to say?

But the fact is a lot of people -- possibly Tomlin -- were surprised, even if they will not admit it today.

The collapses of Baltimore (4-11) and Cincinnati (6-9) have been so complete it's almost hard to remember those teams, not the Steelers with their first-year coach, were the favorites to win the division.

The Ravens were 13-3 last year and allowed a ridiculously low 201 points. That's 38 fewer points than any NFL team has allowed this season with a week still remaining to play. They had Steve McNair returning at quarterback and Willis McGahee at running back to go with that superlative defense. The Bengals were 8-8, same as the Steelers, but had that exciting Carson Palmer-passing offense ready to roar.

The Steelers had a rookie coach, a quarterback whose progression was going backward, questions on the offensive line, lack of depth, at best, at wide receiver and an absence of the mystique of Bill Cowher.

All were formidable obstacles for the new coach, but maybe none more so than the spectre of Cowher, a probable Hall of Fame coach who has chosen to spend a year or two in broadcasting before resuming his football career. Tomlin was walking in a large shadow, one that he was reminded of frequently, particularly after defeats.

The mantra of Steelers fans after losses to Arizona, Denver and the New York Jets, all teams with losing records today, was that it would not have happened on Cowher's watch.

Ha! As though a Cowher-coached team never was upset, never disappointed.

Tomlin did not blink in the face of comparisons to Cowher. He clearly was his own man with his own way of doing things, and most people, including his players, seemed to like that way. Even if both of his coordinators were holdovers from Cowher's staff, Tomlin established a new and clearly different identity --for better or worse -- from his predecessor.

Now he is down to his final regular-season game, at 4:15 Sunday at Baltimore, and then the playoffs. It's never wise to look past an opponent in the NFL, but if ever there was team that has rolled over and died, it's the Ravens, who have lost nine games in a row. It appears their heroic but losing effort to New England Dec. 3 left the Ravens with nothing, as evidenced by their loss two weeks later to previously winless Miami.

Tomlin has a minor dilemma in front of him as he prepares for the Ravens. Does he rest, fully or partially, some of his regulars against the downtrodden Ravens or does he play it like every other game?

Ben Roethlisberger could use the day off, not only to rest his sprained right ankle but to avoid what has become the regular beating he takes from opposing defenses. Roethlisberger, easily the Steelers' MVP, has been sacked 12 times in the past three games and 47 times this season. Hines Ward likely could use the day off, not that he would ask for it. Same with Troy Polamalu, who has been playing hurt most of the season.

But Tomlin can't rest anybody, not at the start of the game, at least. To do so sends the kind of message that could make one team, his, relax and the other become inspired. If a sizable lead is gained, then, by all means, rest some players. But to do that at the start of the game is seeking the kind of trouble that even the Ravens can dispense.

It looks like the Steelers will play Jacksonville at home in the first round of the playoffs. The Jaguars have won six of their past seven games, with their only loss coming by three points at Indianapolis, the defending Super Bowl champion. The Jaguars are playing as well as anyone in the NFL, save New England. They beat the Steelers, 29-22, at Heinz Field Dec. 16. That's when the Steelers had Willie Parker, who was the league's leading rusher until a broken leg ended his season last week at St. Louis.

Parker's loss put the Steelers even further behind Jacksonville. But let's not forget that, when the teams last played, the score was tied with two minutes remaining. The Steelers are capable of beating Jacksonville, but it is a formidable challenge, even at Heinz Field.

Regardless of how far the Steelers go in the playoffs, it has been a good year. Better than most, including this column, expected. Nine wins seemed like a reasonable expectation. Tomlin and his team have delivered 10 and are looking hard at 11. That was good enough to win a Super Bowl two years ago. It won't be this year, but, if Baltimore is defeated, is something solid to build upon.

AZ_Steeler
12-26-2007, 02:05 PM
I'm not the least bit surprised by their record. This team just won the Super Bowl 2 years ago... all they needed was that breathe of fresh air they got with Tomlin. Once Cowher got his ring he should have left then!

Just imagine how their record would look if they hadn't lost to some of the bottom tier teams like the Cardinals, Jets, Broncos... To be quite frank I'm a little surprised by their record not being better than it is now.

MDSteel15
12-26-2007, 02:09 PM
Agree totally with you on that AZ! :tt02:

catlabman
12-26-2007, 02:53 PM
I thought that they would go 11-5, but now it seems they should be sitting at 13-2. I'm looking forward to the Pittsburgh vs. Jacksonville game, I might even be able to make it to Pittsburgh for the game. If I do, I hope to see some of you in the stands!

BlitzburghRockCity
12-26-2007, 03:00 PM
I'm not the least bit surprised by their record. This team just won the Super Bowl 2 years ago... all they needed was that breathe of fresh air they got with Tomlin. Once Cowher got his ring he should have left then!

Just imagine how their record would look if they hadn't lost to some of the bottom tier teams like the Cardinals, Jets, Broncos... To be quite frank I'm a little surprised by their record not being better than it is now.

We really shouldn't be surprised at all by this team being 10-5 right now, I think most of us figured it would be around that area when it was all said and done. This wasn't some slouch team that needed to rebuild when Tomlin took over, the expectations were as high for him as they were for Cowher and I think he did a nice job considering this is his first season as a HC and he spent the first months on the job just trying to get a feel for what he had to work with.

Losing to teams like the Jets & Broncos is just inexcusable IMO so that's something he's got to work on, being consistent week in and week out regardless of the opponent.

AZ_Steeler
12-26-2007, 03:06 PM
if there is ever a time to be consistent week in and week out then that time is now!

BlitzburghRockCity
12-26-2007, 03:11 PM
You got that right, this next game coming up and whoever we play in the playoffs will tell us a lot of how this team prepares in the face of adversity. A do or die scenario, Kreider & Parker out for the year with injuries, an OL that has had it's share of problems, a safety that was demoted for performance reasons, etc. so this team has much to prove and we'll see how they do in the coming weeks.

AZ_Steeler
12-26-2007, 03:20 PM
Maybe they've been sand bagging all year letting the other teams get their hopes all up thinking the o-line sucks.... I know it's probably wishful thinking but it would be nice!

BlitzburghRockCity
12-26-2007, 03:33 PM
If they were doing that I'm not sure if I'd be more happy to see them kicking butt or more pissed that they held back and lost those winnable games :bluelol:

Silverback 92
12-26-2007, 03:49 PM
Before I got booted from the official Steelers mb I predicted 10-6 at the beginning of the season but I was hoping for better....11-5 would be good also

DIESELMAN
12-26-2007, 07:39 PM
Just think of all those candy *** so called "experts" who were predicting us to finish 3rd in the North with a below .500 record. They want advice on the Steelers? Theres only one place to go......SA!!!!!

Captcoolhand
12-26-2007, 08:00 PM
Before I got booted from the official Steelers mb I predicted 10-6 at the beginning of the season but I was hoping for better....11-5 would be good also
Funny how for some strange reason getting Booted from Steelers.com not hard to do. :lol::lol:
:welcome: