By Dale Lolley
Posted Jan 6, 2008
Saturday night’s playoff loss by the Pittsburgh Steelers was a microcosm of the team’s season.
They gave up a long kickoff return, failed to get anything out of their own return game, couldn’t run the ball to ice the clock, and the defense failed to stop the Jaguars late in the game with everything on the line.
Yep, that’s the 2007 Steelers in a nutshell.
But there’s nothing wrong with this team a few offseason moves can’t fix.
The Steelers don’t need a total overhaul on their offensive line, they just need to make a move or two there – starting with getting Sean Mahan out of the starting lineup.
Mahan is a good guy to have around on game days because he can play some center and guard. But he proved this season he’s not somebody to be counted on in a game-in, game-out basis.
The Steelers can fix that problem, however, by sliding Kendall Simmons – who played some very good football in the second half of this season – to center, moving Willie Colon to guard and re-signing Max Starks to play right tackle.
The fact that the coaching staff didn’t make that move during the season may be its biggest mistake of 2007.
Even when Jacksonville lost defensive tackle John Henderson early in the first quarter of the game, Mahan wasn’t even what would pass for adequate, getting pushed around by Grady Jackson and Rob Meier.
That kind of stuff can’t happen.
But all season long, Tomlin talked about going with his gut feeling on decisions. In this case, his gut should have told him that kick from the 12 was the right play.
The Steelers clearly had the momentum at that point and Jacksonville still hadn’t topped 200 yards of total offense.
There was no reason to think that the Steelers wouldn’t come down and score another touchdown – which they did – and trying to score from the 12 just wasn’t the right call to make at that point.
Had the Steelers kicked there, they wouldn’t have needed to go for two after their next touchdown. They would have been up three points just by kicking the PAT.
“If I had a crystal ball and I knew we were going to lose by two, I probably would have kicked the extra point,” said Tomlin.
There was nothing wrong with the two runs by Najeh Davenport, even though they netted just four yards.
But the third-down keeper by Roethlisberger was a real clunker.
Jacksonville called timeout after the second-down run and the QB sweep was what the Steelers came up with.
“There was, particularly on the third-down play,” said Tomlin when asked if throwing the ball was discussed on that possession. “That was something we worked on all week and we felt good about it. We actually had the look and we didn’t execute it. Good job by them.”
Perhaps inserting Woodley into this defense and getting a healthy Aaron Smith back is all this defense needs to be special again.
The Steelers will make a strong effort to keep Faneca, who was tearing up when talking about the possibility of this being his last game in Pittsburgh.
The Steelers have about a month to get something done before the end of the playoffs. Look for them to try hard to make it happen.
Dale Lolley appears courtesy of the Observer-Reporter