All In The Head - By Marc Simon
Steelers Fever Exclusive Editorial
|If someone came up to you last summer and told you that the Pittsburgh Penguins would have more victories by the first week of November than the Pittsburgh Steelers, you would have said, "Whaaat are you smokin'?"
Yet here in the November of our discontent, The Penguins hav seven wins, and the Super Bowl champions have two. Maybe they should try wearing hockey skates.
As the Steelers stumble through this Murphy's Law of a season, where everything that could go wrong has gone wrong, and playoff hopes have dropped faster than the price of a scalper's ticket outside Heinz Stadium, you wonder how the last games will play out.
Incredibly, the Steelers have to go 6-2 just to reach .500. Some black and gold-eyed optimists still believe they can run the table. Win eight in a row? How about winning one in a row.
This is the same team that won 26 regular season games over the last two seasons, not to mention making an unprecedented run to a Superbowl victory. They had 19 of 22 starters coming back. So what's the problem? The obvious answer is turnovers and stupid penalties. But perhaps these errors of commission and misguided frustration are symptomatic of something else.
It could be that Jim Nance, the NBC announcer who along with Phil Simms comprises the "A" team of CBS's NFL coverage hit the Steelers problem right on the head. Literally. Appearing on talk radio, Nance said that he thinks the Steelers flop directly relates to a lack of concentration at key moments.
It's as good an explanation as any. At various times this year, the Steelers have looked like world-beaters-the first halves of the Cincinnati, Atlanta and San Diego games, the second half of the Denver game come to mind. Conversely, you have to wonder where their heads were at when those games were on the line.
There was a rash of interceptions in the red zone against the Bengals, Chargers, Raiders and Bronco. Red zone fumbles against the Broncos, Bengals and Falcons. A false start penalty against Atlanta on the last play in regulation time, depriving the Steelers a chance to at least attempt a game-winning field goal. Special teams breakdowns, game after game.
The penalties for excessive celebrations were especially empty-headed. Get flagged once for carrying on like T.O., shame on the player. Get flagged twice, shame on the coaching staff. And speaking of the coaching staff, most of the time Coach Cowher looks bewildered on the sidelines, not belligerent like he used to be.
Whoever inherits this team next year-you don't really think Coach Cowher will be back, do you-will start with a solid nucleus of young stars and pro bowl veterans. But as we have seen all season, good players and focused players are two different things. Just look at the Penguins.