I have fought, fought, and fought some more. The Steelers are not the team that won the Super Bowl last year. As hard of a fact that it is to swallow, it is one that has to go down anyway.
I have argued with many people who have said for weeks that the season was over for the Black and Gold. Called some idiots, some bandwagon hoppers, and other just argued with to no end.
And it is starting to look like, maybe they were right.
After the Mike Tomlin decree to "Unleash Hell" in December, I thought the REAL Steelers would show their faces like the 2005 eventual Super Bowl Champions did. All they have done is show people that they are not the team that won their sixth Super Bowl just 10 short months ago.
The Steelers philosophy has been to grab a head coach and keep him for more than a decade. Is that the Steelers best course this off season? Tomlin has one year left on his contract, so the Steelers need to decide if they are going to let him enter the last year of his contract as a lame duck coach, or give him a contract extension.
In analyzing this, we have to look at the pool of coaches that are available in this off season.
In doing so, realize this; the Steelers will get which ever coach they choose to have. If Mike Tomlin is fired, every available coach will have Pittsburgh at the top of the list as their number one choice, EVERY ONE.
Holmgren, Shannahan, or even Jon Gruden would cancel every other interview that they have scheduled for a chance to meet with the Steelers. All the talk about wanting to build a team from the ground up is garbage. Every one of them wants to win another Lombardi, so Pittsburgh will be the first option.
But, what about all the coordinators and front office people? Reality is, most of them will be gone anyway. When Bill Cowher takes over for the Carolina Panthers, most of his coaches and front office people from Pittsburgh will be going with him.
Do you think Dick LeBeau will stay in Pittsburgh with either Mike Tomlin or a new regime comes in? Not a chance. Get ready for him to make the jump to Carolina with Cowher. Bruce Arians and Bob Ligashesky? You have to be kidding me? Any of the above listed coaches would can them before the ink is dry on their contract.
Kevin Colbert, who Cowher saved from the purgatory called the Lions, would probably be jumping ship as well, to join him in Carolina.
From a coaching and front office stand point, it is looking like the Steelers are going to have some serious changes coming anyway, does it make sense to keep Tomlin when we will basically be starting from scratch anyway?
As for players, the core of this team will remain in tact. The biggest question marks are Casey Hampton and Jeff Reed.
Jeff Reed, lets tackle the easy question first. He needs to be kept. Forget the off field stuff, the man can kick in Heinz Field. Forget the 51 yarder he attempted against the Raiders. The Steelers were heading into the crazy end of the field, where no team has any business sending a kicker in the game to kick from there. Which is ANOTHER big mistake from Tomlin that may have directly cost the Steelers the playoffs.
What the Steelers need to do though, is teach Dan Sepulveds how to kick off, because Reed can not kick the ball past the 10 yard line on kickoffs.
In discussing Casey Hampton, the real question is, what defense the Steelers will be running next year? None of the above mentioned coaches run the 3-4 and if Tomlin stays, and LeBeau goes, what are the Steelers going to run next year?
Look at the personnel and tell me that this unit is not close to running the 4-3 already. Last year, the Steelers drafted two 4-3 DT's and used the excuse they were going to convert them to defensive ends.
First round pick, Ziggy Hood, and sixth rounder Sonny Harris, both played defensive tackle in college, and would be able to switch back with ease. Aaron Smith and Bret Keisel would also be able to play both positions.
The Steelers could stop pretending that LaMar Woodley can drop into coverage and allow him to rush the passer on ever down. James Harrison and Lawrence Timmons could be used at outside linebacker, while Farrior could stay in the MLB position and Fox could back him up.
As for the secondary, it is time to figure out what the Steelers really have. Troy Polamalu should be placed on IR TODAY. Why even take the chance on a season that is already lost? Let him have the rest of the year off and come back fresh next year.
For every fan that wants to bash Ike Taylor, remember this; everyone has a bad game once in a while, Ike just picked the wrong week to have his. He is still a lock down corner and one of the best at covering receivers.
Will Gay has been picked on all year and with out Polamalu on his side of the field, things are not going to get all that much better for him. Now that he is probably out for the game Thursday against the Browns, it is time to see what rookies Joe Burnett and Keenan Lewis can do. If either of them plays well for the rest of the season, then Gay needs to be shown the door.
And he is going to need to take Deshea Townsend with him. I love Deshea for all he has done for the Steelers. He has been a great part of the two Super Bowl Championships, but reality is, I am tired of watching him chase people and not be able to run them down. The NFL is a young mans game and Townsend is no longer young.
On the offensive side of the ball, it is time to see what the kids can do. I think with Ward having hamstring issues this week, he needs to be sat down and Limas Sweed needs to show what he can do over the course of the game.
I am not saying Sweed is amazing, but I want to see what he can do as a starter. Let Ben throw him the ball 5-7 times and if he does not catch four of more, then cut him at the end of the game. Maybe giving him more chances, he will shine.
Santonio Holmes needs to wake up and realize that the Super Bowl MVP should not have gone to him and he need to perform better than he has been this year. I know he is drawing the other teams best defensive backs, but if he is really MVP material, that should not matter.
Heath Miller is playing like he already got his contract extension; that's right, he already did. Stop dropping passes and whatever you were doing before this year, do it again.
The Steelers are going to be strong going into next season, provided they don't think because they are the Steelers. Every other team is going to lay down and quit because they are playing them.
This team still has the talent to be the best team in the NFL, provided they start using that talent the way it should be used.