NEW CASTLE —
Dear Pittsburgh Steelers,
Congratulations on not being swept by the Cleveland Browns this season.
You now have some 200 days to retool this roster, and based upon the disastrous last half of this season, it appears that you may need some assistance in returning this proud franchise to Super Bowl contention.
Therefore, we polled a handful of experts to offer some advice. What follows is the insight of a few fanalysts, who, as Black-and-Gold devotees and visionaries, need be known only by their nicknames.
Jahnny: Bring Hines Ward back as a receivers coach. The receiving corps shockingly lacks toughness and discipline, two hallmarks of Ward’s game. Antonio Brown needs to stop celebrating as if he just snagged the winning touchdown to earn Super Bowl MVP honors after a routine catch for a first down. Emmanuel Sanders simply must stop turning the ball over. Mike Wallace, assuming he’s back, needs to run crisper routes and fight for jump balls.
Dan’N’at: The receivers need to perfect the fundamentals, display a lot more desire and humility and realize that they are playing for the most respected and successful franchise in history. It’s a privilege to pull on that jersey every day, so stop the nonsensical dancing and gyrating after making a routine 6-yard catch.
The Conqueror: We were lucky Max Starks was able to return last year after his bouts with injuries and buffets. Mike Adams and Marcus Gilbert are not the bookends of the future. Even if both were reliable starters, it would be great to finally have some depth on the OL.
The Porsche: The defense is getting older and slower. Not even Colonel LeBeau can keep this bunch going much longer.
Dan’N’at: Larry Foote simply can't be our starting inside LB next season.
Lefty: Foote’s performance (almost) made letting James Farrior go look like a bad call. Larry’s best days can be seen on ESPN Classic when they’re doing their inevitable tributes to Tom Brady in a few weeks leading up to the Super Bowl.
The Conqueror: The Steelers sorely need depth at cornerback and most shutdown CBs are first-round picks. We got a glimpse of how much Ike Taylor is taken for granted when his consecutive games streak ended at 135. While offensive inconsistency and turnovers ultimately doomed the season, the defense had trouble getting stops on obvious passing downs. Keenan Lewis rounded into form as the season progressed, but, down the stretch, the other cornerback slot was filled with a revolving door of warm bodies who were repeatedly toasted, largely by pedestrian receiving corps.
Jahnny: We need a new punter. Butler is horrible. The Steelers probably lose, on average, about 40 yards of field position every game due to his weak punts. When we punt near midfield and need some touch and hang time to pin our opponents inside the 15, Butler invariably gets off a boomer that crashes into the end zone. Unacceptable.
Jahnny: Game management by the coaching staff, namely Mike Tomlin, was horrible. Too many times this past season, Tomlin made poor decisions. He needs to go back and look at every play from the 2012 campaign, scrutinize every aspect of it, and ask himself what he could have done better.
The Porsche: Tomlin has to improve, from a day-to-day coaching standpoint as well as on personnel. The players lack discipline and on-field leadership.
Dan’N’at: Will the eventual NFL head coaching vacancies take Todd Haley out of town? I hope he stays. The biggest blow this staff has sustained, though, was losing Sean Kugler (to UTEP). He’s a tremendous coach and I shudder to think what this O-line would have looked like without his skills.
Jahnny: Scouting and evaluation of talent has been down. Look at the 2008 draft: disastrous. Only Rashard Mendenhall (Really, we drafted a running back in the first round? Really?) and Ryan Mundy remain from that group and I think the Steelers would be better off with neither of them on the roster next year. Cameron Heyward two seasons later... waste of a No. 1 draft pick.
Jahnny: The Steelers need to re-examine everything, starting with their strength and conditioning program. When Heath Miller takes a body to the knee and blows out three ligaments, there’s nothing one can do about that. But when a guy such as LaMarr Woodley has repeated hamstring problems and Troy Polamalu has a calf injury that he admits could have been avoided given a more proactive approach toward preventive care, stretching must be emphasized in a much greater manner, and yoga, if not practiced, must be introduced and taken seriously.
Dan’N’at: The Steelers need a sports psychologist for Big Ben. I wish I were joking, but Roethlisberger just can’t make even the most obvious plays/calls depending upon the down, distance and score of the game. I think it’s high time for a licensed psychologist to crack the code of his inexplicable on-field decisions.
Pooh Bear: Wait, the Steelers played yesterday?
The Porsche: It is high time we dipped our toe back into free agency to get a few key guys (ala Farrior). We don’t have the time, luxury or track record to think we can build this team into a championship contender entirely through the draft.
Steve: In order to play in Super Bowl XLVIII on February 2, 2014 in East Rutherford, New Jersey, the Steelers are a mere shutdown corner, a few new offensive linemen, younger linebackers, a smarter coach, a smarter quarterback, more disciplined receivers, a stronger punter, a yoga instructor and a shrink away.
Until we meet again,
(Jahnny, The Conqueror, Dan’N’at, Lefty, The Porsche, Pooh Bear and Steve Treu cover the Steelers for The News.)
NEW CASTLE —
Dear Pittsburgh Steelers,
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