Pittsburgh Steelers: The Absence of a Smile

TJ JenkinsAnalyst IDecember 11, 2009

Enough of the feel good, talk the team up stories that I've been hearing from everyone since the game ended last night.

Enough random play on words of the team's name, it's really not as clever as you think it is.

And enough making excuses Pittsburgh Steelers fans.

This is the worst team I've seen in a long time. The record doesn't quite indicate that. The performance does.

This current Pittsburgh team has no heart, no motivation, no desire to win and no fight in them at all.

Congratulations to the Cleveland Browns and their fans. Your win came at the perfect time for you to  rally around your team. You did the one thing that could possibly make your season a success—you beat the Pittsburgh Steelers in Cleveland.

Steelers, congratulations. Congratulations on quitting on your fans, your teammates, and most of all, yourselves.

On a night where Browns quarterback Brady Quinn completed only six passes, we saw our quarterback Ben Roethlisberger get sacked eight times, including at least five times on third down.

A lot of that is Roethlisberger's fault. He holds onto the ball too long, and has the reputation of a play-maker.

But what he needs to have a reputation for is being able to correctly read defenses. It seems that if his first two reads aren't open from the onset of the play that he's forced to move outside of the pocket and improvise.

Not that it doesn't work sometimes, but there are times where you've got to stay in the pocket and let things develop downfield instead of forcing things to go at your own pre-determined speed.

Joshua Cribbs per usual made his case for a huge contract tearing the Pittsburgh team apart in two facets of the game. Why the Steelers were kicking to him in the first place is beyond me, but someone needs to lose their job over that.

Yes. It's that serious.

Head Coach Mike Tomlin came out and said that they would not be kicking towards Cribbs, and yet they did it anyway. There's just entirely too much blame to pass around.

Should we blame the aging James Farrior for not being able to play any coverage scheme? And for apparently not being able to tackle a wide receiver running the ball from the Wildcat formation?

Should we blame Roethlisberger for making poor reads and even worse throws? For taking eight too many sacks?

How about Offensive Coordinator Bruce Arians? I mean it is his job after all to know the defense that he's facing and to assist Roethlisberger. He's supposed to be the one that decides to run the ball up the middle on third and one instead of attempting a pass and watching Roethlisberger pick dirt out of his facemask.

Or perhaps the blame should fall on the team and coaching staff as a whole.


That sounds more like what football is all about—win as a team, lose as a team.

Sounds good to me.

That poor showing on Thursday night was not without it's gutsy performance though. Outside linebacker LaMarr Woodley was doing everything he could to keep his team in the game with little avail.

He was responsible for an entire series' worth of stops at one point in the game.

We all know that I could go on for pages and pages about the statistics, the facts, etc. But I don't want to do that, it's mundane and someone's going to do it anyway.

The thing I want to talk about is a smile.

Yes kids, a smile.

A heartwarming thing a smile is, no?

Well, when Steelers fans think of the word "smile" their brains are automatically redirected to Hines Ward.

Ward was playing through a hamstring injury because he knew how important the game was. He couldn't run and he was essentially shut down for the entire game because he couldn't gain any separation in the man-to-man coverage that the Browns employed on the outside throughout the game.

Even with a 12 game winning streak broken, even with postseason hopes and dreams going up in smoke, the thing that broke my heart wasn't the absence of a steely reserve, a will to win.

No. What broke my heart was the absence of a smile.

Hines Ward did not smile on Thursday night. In fact, when we got to see closeups of him, he had a pensive, worried look on his face.

He knew that the season all came down to this game, a game that the Steelers had won for six years. There was no assurance of victory in this one. And there was no smile.

It's a stupid thing for me to think about really, how a smile could effect a game and all.

But a Hines Ward smile can brighten even the darkest of games, the coldest of games and make the improbable seem probable.

None of that happened.

The entire team was deflated and it doesn't really matter. They aren't a team that deserves to be in the playoffs. I hate to break it to you, but they just aren't a playoff caliber team at this point.

Playoff caliber teams don't quit. Not in a game where it's do or die.


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