The Verdict on the Pittsburgh Steelers: No More Excuses!

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The Verdict on the Pittsburgh Steelers: No More Excuses!

In the wake of the Steelers absolutely inexcusable loss to the Kansas City Chiefs, a hard look at two problem areas is warranted.

So, no more sugar coating, no more pulling punches.  Just the straight, blunt facts and the equally straight, blunt conclusions. 

Special teams:

2006:  Bob Ligashesky coaches the St. Louis Rams special teams.  The Rams' special teams rank dead last in the NFL.

2007:  Ligashesky is hired as the Steelers special teams coach.  After an exceedingly inordinate amount of time and effort spent on special teams in the offseason and in training camp, the Steelers special teams rank next-to-last in the NFL. 

2008:  All of the work on special teams seemingly comes to fruition.  The Steelers rank second in kickoff coverage and first in punt coverage, although both kickoff and punt return performance is still less than average.

2009:  Through ten games, the Steelers special teams rank twenty-ninth (fourth worst) in kick coverage, and average on kick returns. 

So, in three of the last four seasons, Bob Ligashesky-coached special teams have ranked among the very worst in the NFL. 

Was 2008 indicative of what the Steelers special teams normally are, or was it an aberration? 

Yes, talent and execution are important, and the players must bear some responsibility for failure.  However, no amount of practice or personnel adjustment can correct a bad system or bad game-scheming.

The evidence is clear.  This is not a talent problem.  This is not an execution problem.  This is a coaching problem.  Period.  Ligashesky-coached special teams are consistently bad.    Only an idiot could arrive at any other conclusion.


2001:   Bruce Arians is the offensive coordinator for the Cleveland Browns.  The Browns offense ranks 25th in the NFL. 

2002:    The Cleveland offense ranks 23rd in the NFL. 

2003:    The Cleveland offense ranks 26th in the NFL. 

This despite promising first-string quarterback Tim Couch running the offense in each of these years. 

2004:   Ken Whisenhunt is the the Steelers coordinator.  The offense ranks 11th in the NFL. Bruce Arians is hired as the wide-receivers coach. 

2005:   The Steelers offense ranks 9th in the NFL, and the Steelers win the Super Bowl, in spite of Bill Cowher's restrictions on his offensive coordinator.  

2006:   Ben Roethlisberger has one of his best seasons in regards to passing yardage, and the Steelers offense ranks 13th in the NFL, despite a high number of sacks,  interceptions and other turnovers.

2007:   Bruce Arians takes over as offensive coordinator. The Steelers rank 10th in offense. 

2008:   The Steelers offense ranks 20th in the NFL, a large decrease in performance from the previous year.  The Steelers win the Super Bowl in spite of Bruce Arians, not because of him. 

2009:   Through nine games, the Steelers offense ranks 15th.

Ten times last season and so far this season (including last season's playoffs), the Steelers had to drive in the last three minutes or in overtime to win the game.  When they used the no-huddle and Ben called his own plays, the Steelers were 6-0.  When Bruce Arians called the plays, the Steelers were 0-4. 

The Steelers offense has declined consistently since Bruce Arians took over as the offensive coordinator.  This is especially true of the running game. 

Also, what success the running game did have came on runs outside the tackles and wide.  Between the tackles the running game all but disappeared.  There was little or no success in gaining the tough yards to sustain drives.  Little or no reliability in short-yardage situations. 

This season, finally, it really looked like the running game was returning to form.  The offensive line has been performing better than at any time in the previous two seasons.  The running backs were beginning to find the holes and get needed yards to compliment the passing game. 

And yet, in the clutch, without fail, Bruce Arians woefully misuses the offense in general and the running game in particular.  Time after time against Kansas City, when only a few first downs were needed in short to medium-yardage situations, Arians once again was guilty of the most ill-conceived, illogical play-calling possible.  Every time. 

And the players paid the price for it.  Despite the Steelers' mistakes, Kansas City gave the Steelers every opportunity to overcome those mistakes and to win the game. 

But Bruce Arians would have none of it. 

Losing to Cincinnati is understandable.  Losing to Kansas City and Chicago is unconscionable. 

Again, the evidence is clear.  This is not a talent problem.  This is not an execution problem.  This is a coaching problem.  Period. 

And thus is necessary a message to Mike Tomlin and Kevin Colbert: 


You know what must be done. 

It's time for you to take responsibility for the coaching failures, and to stop blaming the players.

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