Steelers Report Card/Week 14: Same (Very) Old Steelers Face Tenuous Future

Paul LadewskiCorrespondent IIDecember 11, 2009

CLEVELAND - DECEMBER 10: Santonio Holmes #10 and Hines Ward #86 of the Pittsburgh Steelers look on from the bench towards the end of their game against  the Cleveland Browns at Cleveland Browns Stadium on December 10, 2009 in Cleveland, Ohio. The Browns won the game by a score of 13-6. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

Here’s my take on the Steelers’ 13-6 defeat against the Cleveland Browns (the Cleveland friggin' Browns?!) on Thursday evening:

1. They said hell would freeze over before the defending champions lost five games in a row, so maybe we should have known that Cleveland would be the place. What should concern Steelers World far more is the future of this team, because it couldn’t be much darker if it was stuck in the middle of the Fort Pitt Tunnel right now. 

Take a look at the two-deep roster. Ryan Clark, Justin Hartwig and Jeff Reed are 30 years old. Brett Keisel and James Harrison are 31. Casey Hampton is 32. Tyrone Carter, Chris Hoke, Aaron Smith and Hines Ward are 33. James Farrior and Deshea Townsend are 34. Charlie Batch and Travis Kirschke are 35. And the two most important players – Troy Polamalu, 28, and Ben Roethlisberger, 27 – are 30-something in football years. 

Other than Keyaron Fox, Ziggy Hood, Rashard Mendenhall and Mike Wallace, there's not a lot of potential here.   

Brace yourself, Steelers World. The fall could be so steep for this team in the years to come that Kennywood might have to name a ride after it. 

2. OK, lemme see if I got this straight. Head coach Mike Tomlin just guided one of the most storied franchises in football history to its worst losing streak in six years, pretty much ran it six feet into the ground, and Steelers management will reward him with a cushy contract extension and a juicy raise in a few months all because the team won one Super Bowl in spite of him. 

Hey, Mr. Rooney, where do I apply for one of those?

3. Basically, the players quit on Tomlin the way he had quit on them after the debacle against the Oakland Raiders days earlier, when he pretty much dismissed their playoff chances as null and void. 

Tomlin was on the money for a change – his team was history at the time – but he violated one of the golden rules in coachdom: Never, ever give your team a chance to mail it in, because chances are it will do just that and you’ll look really stupid when it happens. 

4. Tomlin promised changes for the Brown game, but when it came time to act on his words, Mr. Unleash Hell backed down again. Cornerback Joe Burnett was on the field for a few series, and Keenan Lewis didn’t play at all. In fact, Lewis was placed on the inactive list. 

The veterans haven’t been pushed hard enough since the start of training camp, but when a head coach hasn’t been in this position before, it’s impossible to know it and act accordingly. 

5. Tomlin did replace Stefan Logan with Mewelde Moore on the kickoff return unit. He was concerned about the wind conditions, and Moore is the most sure-handed one of the bunch. 

Problem is, Moore couldn’t break one if you spotted him 10 yards of open field. Furthermore, the move took place only days after Logan had his best game of the season – three kickoff returns, 45.0-yard average. 

Oh, and any time offensive coordinator Bruce Arians wants to use Logan on 3rd-and-medium is fine with me.

6. Arians versus Browns defensive coordinator Rob Ryan was no contest. The way to beat the Steelers is to crowd their wide-outs and blitz like crazy, and the Browns executed the plan as well as any opponent this season. 

Of course, it would have been nice to have a blocker in the backfield once awhile, but Roethlisberger hadn’t had a concussion in two weeks, so why bother, right?

7. I'm appalled but not surprised by how little respect the Steelers star players get from the referees these days.

Roethlisberger (horsecollar tackle), Harrison (chokehold) and Ward (arm bar) should have drawn penalties, but the obvious infractions were ignored.

Grab one of the Mannings by the neck and it's 30 years in prison without parole.

8. Browns multi-purpose monster Joshua Cribbs killed the Steelers again. If the Browns don’t ante up soon, Cribbs reportedly will ask to be traded, and you just know that Steelers management has him on their short list already.

Yeah, right.

9. Farrior played the game with a Steinway on his back, but this one is on defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau, who can’t seem to cut the cord with some veteran players, either. 

Prior to the 2008 season, Farrior signed a five-year, $18.25 million contract, money that could have been used to sign, oh, I don’t know . . . Cribbs maybe?

10. Boy, I sure hope the Penguins have taken notes the last five months.

The grades:

Offense regulars

WR Hines Ward: D

       Weekly grades: B/B/C/B/A/A/D/A/C/B/B/B/D

        Season average: B

LT Max Starks: F

          Weekly grades: B/F/C/B/C/C/C/A/C/D/B/B/F

          Season average: C

LG Chris Komoeatu: F

          Weekly grades: D/C/B/A/B/B/B/C/D/B/DNP/C/F

          Season average: C

C Justin Hartwig: F

          Weekly grades: F/C/B/A/B/B/B/A/D/B/B/B/F  

          Season average: C+

RG Trai Essex: F

          Weekly grades: C/B/C/B/D/D/C/C/F/C/C/B/F  

          Season average: C

RT Willie Colon: D

          Weekly grades: D/B/C/A/C/C/A/A/F/D/B/B/D

          Season average: C+

TE Heath Miller: C

          Weekly grades: A/B/B/A/A/A/A/C/C/D/C/D/C

          Season average: B

WR Santonio Holmes: B

          Weekly grades: A/D/F/C/B/A/C/A/B/B/A/A/B

          Season average:  B

WR Mike Wallace: F

          Weekly grades: B/C/A/B/B/B/A/A/D/D/D/C/F

          Season average: C+  


QB Ben Roethlisberger: C

          Weekly grades: A/B/A/A/B/B/B/B/D/A/DNP/A/C

          Season average: B

RB Rashard Mendenhall: D

          Weekly grades: C/B/INC/A/A/D/D/A/C/A/B/A/D

          Season average: C+

RB Mewelde Moore: D

          Weekly grades: B/C/C/A/B/B/B/B/B/C/D/C/D

          Season average: C+

          RB Willie Parker: INC

                   Weekly grades: /C/B/DNP/DNP/D/INC/INC/INC/B/C/C/INC                                                                                   Season average: C

Defense regulars


LE Travis Kirschke: F

          Weekly grades: C/B/C/C/B/B/B/DNP/DNP/DNP/B/DNP/F

Season average: C+

NT Casey Hampton: C

          Weekly grades: B/B/B/C/B/A/C/A/B/A/D/B/C

          Season average: B

RE Brett Keisel: D

Weekly grades: A/B/C/B/B/A/A/A/B/B/C/B/D

          Season average: B

LOLB Lamarr Woodley: A

          Weekly grades: D/D/D/D/C/B/B/B/B/A/A/A/A

          Season average: C+

LILB James Farrior: F

          Weekly grades: B/A/C/B/C/A/A/B/B/C/B/C/F

Season average: C+

LILB Keyaron Fox: F

          Weekly grades: A/A/C/C/B/D/A/A/F/C/B/C/F

Season average: C+

RILB Lawrence Timmons: C

          Weekly grades: DNP/B/B/D/B/A/B/DNP/B/A/A/B/C

          Season average: B

ROLB James Harrison: D

          Weekly grades: A/B/A/A/A/B/A/A/C/A/B/A/D

          Season average: B+

LCB William Gay: D

          Weekly grades: C/C/B/B/B/C/D/C/B/D/F/F/D

          Season average: C

RCB Ike Taylor: D

          Weekly grades: C/B/A/A/B/D/B/C/A/A/C/D/D

          Season average: C+

SS Tyrone Carter: C

          Weekly grades: C/B/B/D/A/D/D/A/B/B/B/C/C

Season average: C+

FS Ryan Clark: C

          Weekly grades: B/B/A/B/A/B/B/DNP/A/D/C/B/C

Season average: C+


Special teams regulars


PK Jeff Reed: A

          Weekly grades: B/F/C/A/B/B/D/B/C/B/A/B/A

          Season average: C+

P Daniel Sepulveda: C

          Weekly grades: A/A/A/A/B/B/B/A/A/B/B/A/C

          Season average: B+

KR Stefan Logan: INC

          Weekly grades: B/D/A/C/B/B/B/C/C/B/C/A/INC

          Season average: C+

PR Stefan Logan: INC

          Weekly grades: C/C/C/F/C/INC/C/B/B/B/B/F/INC

          Season average: C



HC Mike Tomlin: F

          Weekly grades: B/C/D/A/C/B/B/A/D/F/C/F/F

          Season average: C

OC Bruce Arians: F

          Weekly grades: C/D/C/A/B/A/C/B/F/C/C/F/F

          Season average: C

DC Dick LeBeau: F

          Weekly grades: A/B/C/B/B/A/B/A/A/A/B/F/F

Season average: B