“We met the challenges laid before us in the terms of the 2008 season. It was awesome…. But if you are a legitimate competitor, at the appropriate time you ready yourself for the challenges that lie ahead in 2009 and 2010. That’s the perspective I have and I don’t ask my guys to do anything that I don’t"
“But for me and what I try to see to this football team, is that we are not attempting a repeat. That special group of men in that locker room last night and the end of that game are gone forever.”
“There will be a new 53 men. A lot of the faces will be the same. But nothing stays the same in this game.”
“A few will come and go. Those that remain, some the roles will change, some will ascend, some will descend. That’s the nature of today’s NFL. Our focus will be about being the One. We are no different than any one else.” Coach Mike Tomlin, Feb. 3, 2009 Super Bowl Press Conference.
Those aforementioned words ring so true today for “who would have predicted that the Super Bowl Champion Pittsburgh Steelers currently 6-6 are a hair’s throw of being eliminated from the playoffs.
After that press conference, the Steelers lost CB Bryant McFadden to free-agency, LB Larry Foote, (released at his request because of diminished playing time on the field), and two key starters at the start of the regular season, DE Aaron Smith and SS Troy Polamalu.
There are sports analysts who attribute the Steelers failure to win games because of these losses.
Coach Tomlin says they must be ready for the challenges that lay ahead in 2009.
This is only the sixth season in 30 years, the Steelers lost four or more games in a row, and the outcome was not good.
In 2003, the Steelers lost five games in a row and finish (6-10). In 1999 six games (6-10); 1998 five games (7-9); 1991 four games (7-9), in 1988 six games then four games in a row (5-11).
As you can see, Coach Tomlin is not immune to failures and he certainly was not alone as a Steelers Head Coach.
However, many Steelers fans are throwing in the towel and chucking this season as a loss even though there are four remaining games to play.
They also are dependent on some losses from other AFC teams.
Tomlin stated, “We acknowledge that we have an undesirable pattern kind of behavior which produces a series of outcomes that are not what we are looking for.”
“Moving forward this week and beyond, we can’t continue to keep doing what we’ve been doing assuming the behavior is going to change and those outcomes are going to change.”
“We are analyzing all aspect…aggressive in working at potential changes in not only what we do schematically but who we have to do it in all three phases.”
Tomlin has put on his serious game face and sent out the signal to all the players, if they are not playing well they will get benched.
Shouldering this challenge he has intimated that heads are going to roll by first replacing some starters with younger players, in some instances rookies.
Attention immediately focused on the secondary.
It has been evident that since Polamalu’s absence due to injury, the defensive backs have been ineffective, especially Ike Taylor.
Tomlin plans to replace Taylor with either rookie Joe Burnett and/or Keenan Lewis.
This is the not the first time Taylor has been threatened to loss the starting position.
After allowing two touchdown catches by Denver Broncos WR Javon Walker, Nov. 5, 2006 which attributed to the Steelers sixth loss of the season, Taylor found himself practicing with the second-string defense the following week.
In addition, FS Ryan Clark or SS Tyrone Carter will be replaced for S Ryan Mundy.
DE “Ziggy” Hood will see more playing time and T Ramon Foster will replace G Trai Essex.
Thursday, the Steelers will be hosted by division rival (1-11) Cleveland Browns.
Again they face another subpar team who last week against the San Diego Chargers positioned themselves for a comeback.
QB Brady Quinn had a solid performance against the Chargers and has played well at times throughout the season, but has yet to develop any consistency.
In Week Six, the Steelers defeated Cleveland 27-14.
Cleveland, Tenn. and Denver are the only teams that did not amass fourth quarter points to come dangerously close to winning, or win the game against the Steelers.
The Steelers last four losses came from that fourth quarter surge.
Against the Chargers, Brady threw two touchdowns and with one minute and 16 left orchestrated an eleven play, 28-yard drive to setup a Phil Dawson field goal to get within seven points for a tie. Cleveland lost 30-23.
This is the final stretch.
The Steelers must take care of business in Cleveland before addressing a tough three-game closing schedule.
Tomlin’s young coaching career is now facing serious adversity and how he responds as well as his players respond will be paramount to the rest of the 2009 season.