Don't panic over Steelers
Good article by Smizik:
Smizik: Don't panic over Steelers
Thursday, November 22, 2007
By Bob Smizik, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
A week ago, the talk of the town was the Steelers' chances of earning the second seed in the AFC playoffs and the possibility of them defeating the all-powerful New England Patriots in December.
This week, the talk of the town is about how awful the Steelers are and whether they'll even be able to win the AFC North Division. No one mentions the Patriots.
There is bitterness and anger among at least a sizable portion of the fan base. Some e-mails reaching this desk and other people in the media are vitriolic. There's a feeling of having been let down and a feeling of animosity toward the Steelers in general and coach Mike Tomlin in particular.
Get a grip, folks. It's only a game. Besides, there's no reason for animosity. The Steelers promised nothing other than to do their best. That's all they owe the fans.
No one, though, should continue to despair. The Steelers will win again. They will not, as one e-mailer insisted, lose all their remaining games. They're going to win their next two games, they're going to win the AFC North, they're going to the playoffs.
You're on your own after that.
We all ride the roller-coaster with the Steelers, some just take the ride a little too seriously. When they win, they look like Super Bowl winners. When they lose, they look like losers.
Here are some things to remember:
• They're 7-3, not 3-7.
• Willie Parker is the leading rusher in the AFC, not some failed running back.
• Ben Roethlisberger is second in the league in passer rating at an excellent 110.2, behind only Tom Brady and seven points in front of Tony Romo and 14 in front of Brett Favre.
• The offensive line, bitterly criticized and understandably so after the loss Sunday to the New York Jets, is opening up enough holes that the Steelers have the No. 1 rushing offense in the AFC.
• The defense, which also took a large dose of abuse despite allowing only 16 points in regulation against the Jets, is No. 1 in the NFL, allowing a whopping 40 fewer yards per game than the second-place team.
We mention these positives because of the considerable amount of negative finger-pointing that's going around. In a sport where even the coaches are hesitant to comment before watching the tape of the game, it's dangerous to casually place blame.
For example, the seven sacks by the Jets Sunday was widely considered to be the fault of the offensive line. At his news conference Tuesday, Tomlin suggested otherwise.
"It's not a five-man job," he said. "It's a unit job. Our failures in that area were shared by all."
He indicated the wide receivers share some of the blame for not getting open and the quarterback shares some of the blame for holding on to the ball too long.
While it's clear the line deserves some of the blame -- probably the majority of it -- let's not forget this same unit has cleared the way for the best rushing offense in the AFC. They are not the incompetent slackers too many are contending they are.
The best positive news concerning the Steelers is that their next two games are at home against the Miami Dolphins Monday and the Cincinnati Bengals six days later. The Dolphins are 0-10, the Bengals 3-7. The Steelers own an 11-point win against the Bengals in Cincinnati.
It's time to forget the loss to the Jets. Those things happen. Great teams are upset, and the Steelers are not a great team, despite what we allowed ourselves to think.
It remains entirely possible, despite the miserable showing against the Jets, the Steelers are the third-best team in the AFC. Certainly, they are not in a class with New England. When the Indianapolis Colts are healthy, and they're not and won't be for some time, they're better than the Steelers. But the rest of the conference is loaded with teams like the Steelers -- that can look terrific one week and awful the next.
Remember the anger and disgust in 2005 when the Steelers lost three consecutive games, to Baltimore, Indianapolis and Cincinnati, in November and December, to fall to 7-5. Many thought a playoff berth had vanished with those defeats. No one expected a Super Bowl win.
It's time to view the Steelers for what they are, a good team with flaws -- just like the majority of the NFL.