The proper words fail me...
So much for any chance of a Steelers Super Bowl repeat.
I started getting that sinking feeling last week with the Oakland loss. It was a slight tickle in the back of my brain when we dropped one to Kansas City, but I wrote that off as a fluke, even though really it was yet another case of Defense - Polamalu = FUBAR. And you could even rationalize The Big Gradkowski's win, what with the CBS commentators yapping on and on about Oakland being a real scrapper of a team.
But a loss to the always-hated-but-more-recently-not-even-so-much-of-a-rival-anymore Cleveland Browns, in which Roethlisberger was sacked five times in the first half? In which the Steelers put up a pathetic six points against the worst team in the NFL?
Unacceptable. To be perfectly honest, I can't even give an intelligent account of why I think they lost the game. I was too busy watching the Penguins come back twice against Montreal. And I gotta say, with the Steelers season basically over at this point barring at least three miracles, including a Lost-style plane crash involving the entire Baltimore Ravens team and David Garrard lapsing into a spontaneous sleep-induced coma, it's nice to have hockey. I haven't watched it since I was probably 15, and got back into it during the Stanley Cup runs.
As for the Steelers, I'm not sure what to say. It will be great to have Polamalu back next season, but he's getting older, and with two knee injuries in one season, I hate to say it, but I don't know how much longer he can be freewheeling around like a maniac. They have to get better players for the secondary. Bryant McFadden was a great corner during the Super Bowl run, and unfortunately, Ike Taylor's star-turn year in 2008 looks to have been a high-water mark. Tyrone Carter has done his best to try and fill Polamalu's shoes, but he's a second-stringer at best. William Gay? That's a gots-to-go situation. He fell apart trying to step up with Troy out.
On offense - and makes me weep to say it - I think Fast Willie Pee is probably moving on in one way or another. I love him, and he made me scream like a little girl in Super Bowl XL, but since the broken leg, he's just not the same. Mendenhall stepped up just the way we all hoped he would, and I'd love to see Colbert pick up a big bruiser-style back to set up Mendenhall and Moore. The receiving game is solid. I don't know if Hines is going to retire or not, but Mike Wallace and Santonio have the potential to be the best wideout combo in the league, between their shared speed and skill.
What I'd hope for in the off-season:
• At least one solid O-lineman to shore things up. Get Willie Colon outta there.
• A bigass running back, like Lendale White or Brandon Jacobs (and not ONE of them, one LIKE them)
• Help in the secondary
I've come to the unfortunate realization that the Steelers' special teams is just fucked. No matter what. They just can't get it done. I have no possible solution.
With the injuries, it's hard to call this a "hangover" season. The Steelers are just a mediocre team in a year when there are a lot of better-than-average teams, particularly in the AFC.