No Soup For You! - By John Smathers
Steelers Fever Exclusive Editorial
|Max Starks' mom and soup ... it's all so clear to me now. It's mmmm, mmmm, chunky goodness that you can eat with a fork, but apparently the Steelers should have stuck to the stuff that requires only a spoon, because the season thus far has slipped through their forks like chicken broth.
Willie Parker was right. The Steelers just weren't hungry this year -- too much soup.
Here's where I flirt with lunacy, but I'll try to stay coherent and cogent.
The Steelers are like that chunky soup that they shovel into their mouths in the commercial: There's lots of substance, but it's not solid. Translation: The Steelers put up the numbers, but they can't produce the points to win.
I don't know. Does that make sense? Sorry, but like everyone else, I'm fishing for answers. It's been so difficult to make sense of this season. When they follow a Super Bowl season with ... this ... it makes everyone a little looney.
Let's try this: How many of you had a teacher back in the day that handed back all your tests from the current grading period and allowed you to throw out the worst score? It wasn't quite like a mulligan. It wasn't a do-over, but more of a throw-away, like it didn't happen. I had a few like that and we all thought that was a great idea. I bet the Steelers would, too. Not that they could throw out their worst game so far this season, because let's face it, they'd still be pretty much out of the running and it would be hard to pick the worst one anyway. Oakland? Yeah, probably. But you could make a case for some others, too.
No, I mean look at all the statistics and throw out just one. Turnovers would go in a landslide, for sure, with penalties running a distant second, I think, even though the Steelers are far from the most penalized team in the league (third fewest in the NFL). They might lead the league in stupid penalties, but turnovers are definitely the stat to throw out.
The Steelers are bottom of barrel in turnover margin (-11), total turnovers (24) and interceptions (14). The team at the top of the AFC North, Baltimore, leads the league with a +14 margin and 25 takeaways. Funny how it works out that way, eh? If you could coach turnovers or the ability to prevent them, you would think that maybe each team would hire a coach that specializes in it. But I guess it's not that coachable. Just protect the ball and don't force passes. I mean, what else can you say?
But does that mean the Steelers are a 'bad team?' That seems to be the consensus with the radio guys around the 'Burgh. I'm hearing 'bad' and 'stink' a lot this week. Certainly, the Steelers' ability to finish drives, or get them started in some cases, has been bad. But is the team itself bad?
The Steelers are sixth in the league in total yards, eighth in first downs, eighth in third-down conversions, eighth in total yards allowed and fifth in first downs allowed. Sure you can offer counter arguments against all these stats, but this is the same team that put up similarly great numbers last year. They could be a whole lot better in the rushing department (16th), their bread-and-butter, but when you're behind so much ... well, you know.
I saw bad on Monday night. Oakland is bad. Yes, we lost to them, but the Steelers can lose to anyone when Ben Roethlisberger throws four interceptions.
No, the Steelers are not bad. Playing bad and being bad isn't the same thing. Scoff, if you like, but all 2-6 teams are not bad. The Denver Broncos finished 6-10 the year after they won their last Super Bowl, mainly because John Elway retired. Were they bad? No, Cleveland (2-14) and New Orleans (3-13) were bad that year. Rather, the Broncos were lost, in need of direction, but they were not bad.
Maybe the linchpin came out when Ricardo Colclough muffed that punt against Cincinnati while Willie Reid stood inactive on the sideline. Or maybe it started off the field long before that. It takes very little for the wheels to come off in the NFL.
I will try to sum it up: They weren't hungry enough to begin with, their star quarterback acted like he was indestructible and found out otherwise, things got off to a predictably rocky start (even if no one was predicting it) and now everyone is trying to score 21 points every time they touch the ball. The last time I checked the most you can possibly score on one play is just six, which is the same amount the other team can score on an interception return.
This Steelers team did not lose that much, at least in terms of a net loss, from the team that won the Super Bowl. They are just pressing. No fun, no confidence and, hell, no swagger, a word I detest (what does that mean anyway? ... is that just a fancy way of saying 'we can trash talk and back it up?'). The Steelers left that all on the stage at their downtown Super Bowl celebration rally.
Who Dey??? Dey is 2-6.
Well, I said it in my last piece and I'll apply it to the Steelers now: Relax. Forget about the playoffs. Play out the final eight games like it's a clean slate and get back your ... ahem ... swagger. Then we can take a look at next year and see how hungry you are.
There should be no motorcycles, no country music videos, no SI covers, no trips to foreign countries, no soup commercials. But there should be a lot of hungry Steelers.
Most of the Steelers are under contract through next season. There is no reason -- except for turnovers -- that this 'bad' team can't be a division-winning 12-4 next year. And they can be mmmm, mmmm good again.