By Ed Bouchette, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
The Steelers acted this year as do many Powerball winners: They celebrated their good fortune, then went out and blew all of it.
There are as many theories about what happened to the 2006 Steelers as there are sacks of Ben Roethlisberger. The assumptions target coaching, the quarterback, the line, the pass rush, the turnovers, injuries, motorcycles, bad luck, the Campbell's Soup commercial jinx, the "cheap" owners, NFL schedule makers and that $2.5 million home in Raleigh, N.C.
It may be something that on one hand is much simpler and on the other far more complicated. It may be that the Steelers enjoyed being Super Bowl champions so much after coming close for so many years that they just forgot what it took for them to win it. One veteran player recently described it as "overconfidence."
And here is what Deion Sanders, former Super Bowl winner, said about the Steelers this week on the NFL Network:
"You have to understand when you win the Super Bowl you can't just mosey into town because everyone knows you're coming. They can't handle their success."
That would fall in the realm of human nature. It's why writers have one best seller and can't reproduce it, or rock groups become one-hit wonders, why there are few duplicate Nobel Prize or Pulitzer Prize winners. It's a reason Super Bowl victors rarely repeat. Not only is it difficult to do, but once you've done it, you have "arrived."
As one member of the 2006 Steelers said, even if they have a losing season, they cannot take the Vince Lombardi Trophy away from them. If you had asked each member of the 2005 Steelers if they would accept a losing season in 2006 to win the Super Bowl in 2005, each would make that deal. It does not mean they had to have a poor 2006 season, but it is a way of explaining it.
Willie Parker said it after the Steelers fell to 2-6, that they weren't as hungry this season as they were last. Again, that's human nature; it's tough to stay hungry when your appetite has just been sated.
Somehow, Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots found a way to stay hungry, but those around the 2002 Patriots will say they acted very much like the 2006 Steelers; they were full of their first Super Bowl victory from the previous year.