New Castle News

May 13, 2014

Greg Huston: Yes, there’s STILL plenty to like about Steelers

Greg Huston
New Castle News

NEW CASTLE — •I’ve spent my whole life trying NOT to be a Pittsburgh Steelers’ homer. I’m not afraid to criticize them for poor decisions, of which there have been many, but I support the home team as much as possible and generally like to give them the benefit of the doubt. After consecutive 8-8 seasons, I’m not on the “fire Tomlin,” “fire Haley,” and/or “fire Colbert” bandwagons. The Steelers had an incredible run of success from 2004-2011, winning two Super Bowls and playing in a third, and felt that they could squeeze another championship out of their existing, yet aging stars, and went for it. It backfired because those stars were misevaluated and the rebuilding should have started a little earlier, but I give the Steelers credit for making the decision of trying to win NOW. Over the last two seasons, those misevaluations caught up with them and they have worked to rid themselves of the bad contracts, have gotten younger at almost every key position and still, somehow, remained relatively competitive over those seasons. Sure, neither of the last two seasons had teams that were capable of winning the Super Bowl, but it wasn’t like we had to watch Jacksonville, either. Those people who want to fire all the coaches should actually be commending them for taking a below-average team to the heights of respectability.

•Most of the aforementioned vitriol toward the coaching staff has been aimed at head coach Mike Tomlin. All he has done in his seven seasons with the Steelers is amass a record of 71-41, never have a losing season, wining a Super Bowl and play in another. The guy obviously has no idea what he is doing. My favorite line from fans is that Tomlin has done all of that with previous head coach Bill Cowher’s players. It’s always nice to point out that Bill Cowher’s players went 8-8 in his last season, and then Tomlin took the Steelers to the Super Bowl two years later, and then to another Super Bowl two years after that. And as you know, the Steelers did not lose or pick up a single player over those five seasons — it was completely Bill Cowher’s roster. As mentioned previously, Tomlin should be given credit for keeping the Steelers respectable over the last two seasons as the talent had to be rebuilt. Another thing to keep in mind is that in the three seasons from 1998-2000, Bill Cowher posted records of 7-9, 6-10 and 9-7, missing the playoffs in all three years. Some called for Cowher’s head then, and then all he did was go 55-24 over the next 5 seasons, culminating with a Super Bowl in the 2005 season. My point is, good coaches can look bad when the talent is not there. That’s something that the Steelers recognize as well as anyone, which is why they don’t hit the panic button and fire everybody the minute something goes wrong. Tomlin can go 8-8 this season and still be coaching the following year. My prediction: the Steelers go 9-7 this year and then are back in the playoffs the following season at 12-4 (As long as Roethlisberger is healthy for both seasons). You heard it here first.

•That being said, it’s hard not to like this year’s Steelers draft class. For the first time in a lot of years, most of these guys will make the roster since there is not a bevy of veterans in front of them, blocking them from making the team. The roster has been reshaped and there are certainly still holes, most significantly at cornerback and wide receiver, but this draft class will have the chance to learn on the fly and fill them. Just about every Steelers fan moaned when Ohio State linebacker Ryan Shazier’s name was called in the first round Thursday night, but after re-evaluating, he looks to be the first of a few future starters gleaned from this year’s draft.

•The Buccos finished up a nice home stand on ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball, losing to the Cardinals, but going 6-3 over that stretch and getting their record back closer to respectability at 16-21. The hitting was the primary reason for the .666 winning clip over the last 9 games, but the pitching, especially the starters, continues to be a weak point. Until the starting staff gets its act together and becomes the force it was last year, it’s hard to imagine the Pirates ever getting seriously back into the pennant race.

(Questions, comments or ideas? Email Greg at: hustongregor@hotmail.com)