Pittsburgh Steelers Must Come to Grips with Reality and Address Secondary

Robert TheodorsonSenior Analyst IJanuary 9, 2012

DENVER, CO - JANUARY 08:  Ike Taylor (L) #24 and Troy Polamalu #43 of the Pittsburgh Steelers pray together prior turnover the start of the AFC Wild Card Playoff game against the Denver Broncos at Sports Authority Field at Mile High on January 8, 2012 in Denver, Colorado. The Broncos defeated the Steelers in overtime 23-29.  (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)
Jeff Gross/Getty Images

Ike Taylor is not the young shutdown corner he once was, William Gay might be a decent dime package defensive back at best and Bryant McFadden has been missing in action since returning returning to Pittsburgh after his brief stint with the Arizona Cardinals.

After years of outright refusing to use a high draft pick and refusing to spend money to acquire a top-tier cornerback the Pittsburgh Steelers find themselves on the wrong end of a an ugly and downright embarrassing playoff loss.

Sunday night however, was not the first time the Steelers were taken advantage of by a quarterback who knew how to exploit Pittsburgh's greatest weakness.

The 2005 season seems like forever ago.

Gone are old reliables like Deshea Townsend and Ricardo Colclough, with young Ike Taylor and Bryant McFadden handling the workload, denying receivers at every turn.

This is back when the offense wasn't that good, but you could always rely on a staunch defense because, not only was the depth extraordinary, but the entire team as a whole was younger, full of life and played almost to perfection as a result of superb unit cohesion and exemplary coaching.

During Supe Bowl XLIII, every Steelers fan in the country knew how lucky the team was to win after Cardinals' quarterback Kurt Warner absolutely scorched the secondary for 377 yards and 3 touchdowns.

If it were not for Santonio Holmes' catch, which many consider to be greatest TD reception in Super Bowl history, the Steelers would have found themselves losing to a vastly inferior opponents, which is exactly what happened Sunday night against the Denver Broncos.

If the evidence from Superbowl XLIII wasn't enough to convince management to make some much needed moves, rewind to last year.

Superbowl XLV—Aaron Rodgers burned the Steelers' secondary for 304 yards, 3 touchdowns and had an amazing 111.5 passer rating. He manhandled those same defensive backs that had already been slowed by age and hurt by lack of depth.

Rodgers won the Super Bowl MVP, as he easily picked apart the Steelers secondary. Rodgers resembled a surgeon performing the way he sliced through an opponent that was obviously no match for him. Reflecting back, the game seemed too easy for him.

The numbers from last night's Wild Card loss are incomprehensible. If one wishes to truly reflect on what really happened last night, I must warn you, your head might explode.

Tim Tebow, who couldn't throw a proper spiral to save his life, threw for 10 completions resulting in 316 years.

That's 31.6 yards per completion.

That's a stat I would expect if Joe Montana, Tom Brady and Peyton Manning were combined to create some super human designed solely to play football.

Tebow's passer rating of 125.6 was also better than Aaron Rodgers' and Kurt Warner's superb, aforementioned Super Bowl efforts.

Ike Taylor, William Gay, and the vastly overrated Troy Polamalu—who doesn't actually appear to like to play his position a whole lot, for anybody who's been watching him for the past decade—laid down and accepted death from a guy who came into the playoffs looking like he was going to be out of a job on Monday morning.

Now, the Steelers turn to the draft, where millions—literally—will be hoping the team moves in the right direction and improves a secondary that is only getting worse.

The Steelers have historically drafted very well. It would be wise to bank on the fact that, if they do take a defensive back with a 1st- or 2nd-round pick, said player would be a starter for years to come.

Concurrently—or alternatively—the Steelers can take after the Houston Texans and go after some under-the-radar names in free agency.

The Texans, who had the league's worst secondary last year, added young stars Jonathan Joseph and Danielle Manning who have solidified the Texans' defense into one of the best in the league.

Only time will tell what the future holds for the Steelers.

But one thing is certain—things must change in Pittsburgh.