It is Feb. 1, 2009 and the Pittsburgh Steelers have just hoisted their sixth Lombardi Trophy. All was good in Steeler Nation, the fans were happy, the press in Pittsburgh was praising their Black and Gold like they were gods on earth.
A few months later the Pittsburgh Penguins would follow up this success by bringing the Stanley Cup back to the Burgh.
It is now late in the 2009 NFL season. Teams across the league are battling for those prized playoff spots that may lead them to glory. In Pittsburgh however, things are not looking up.
The Penguins are continuing their winning ways, and finally back to full strength; the Pitt Panthers football team is going to a good Bowl game for the first time in several years, minus the Sun Bowl laster year where they lost by three.
The Pirates well, maybe this year, eh?
There's one thing thats detracting from all of this. You know what that is?
The Steelers are losing. In fact, they have lost five straight games. What is worse than losing five straight? They just might lose the rest.
As a Steeler fan I know that this is a hard pill for fans swallow, in fact it just might be somewhat lethal. Now many fans will jump off the Steeler wagon and wait until next year, or the year after when the team is playoff bound once again. And the press in Pittsburgh?
They are doing what the press does with all teams who actually lose a few games in a row. They are making them seem like the scum of the earth. I have watched every Steeler game this season, last season, and many before that; and yes the Steelers have problems.
Their o-line is mediocre, Big Ben is having a roller coaster season, their special teams isn't very special at all; and their defense, well, sometimes it just doesn't show up.
In my previous article titled "Pittsburgh Steelers: Changes Will Occur, but Are Expectations Too High?" I picked apart some the changes the Steelers will need to make in the off season if the losses continue, and yes, I did pick apart the coaching staff.
There was one coach I did not say that may not be returning next season was the head coach, Mike Tomlin.
When a team loses a series of games in virtually any sport these days, the media goes straight for the jugular. They go straight to the top of the food chain, the head coach.
It's never the defense who comes in with no passion to win; it's never the offense who can't produce, the receivers that cannot seem to catch a pass. It's never the special teams who let teams go 90-some yards for a touchdown.
It's never the offensive coordinator who puts a quarterback in the shotgun on third down and one, when he has a running back who is perfectly capable of gaining that yard and maybe more.
No, my sports writing friends, it is never any of these. The blame goes straight to Tomlin. "He's still young," or "he's crying wolf" were among the things I read on the local paper's web pages today, and in day past.
Indeed he is a young coach, and yes he has said some things such as, "we'll unleash hell here in December," and spoke of "Redemption Sunday."
Why did he say those things? Because he has one advantage that almost nobody in the media has. He sees this team every single day in practice. He knows what his players can really do when they put their mind to it.
The media only sees his team on Sundays, Mondays, or maybe Thursday night. One day a week.
There is an old saying that goes, "you can lead a horse to water, but you can't make it drink." Well, Tomlin is doing just that. He is doing his best to lead his team to water so they can be successful on gameday. The problem is his team is not taking his bate.
Now the media is blaming it on him, the guy who may be the only one on the team at this point who has any passion left.
We are all guilty of this, and unless we are called out on it we will continue to do so.
Before we play that blame game, let us look at what Tomlin has done thus far. In the 2007 season he lead his team to take the division.
The very next season he lead them to the AFC Conference Championship, and then on to Tampa. Not only did he get them to Tampa, he brought them back with a little reward.
Nothing major, just a Lombardi Trophy.
Think about that. He takes over a team that is coming off an 8-8 season and within two more, they are Super Bowl Champions.
There are staff changes that could, and probably will be made in the off season. Why should the Rooney's let him go given what he has accomplished, just because of one season where they could still finish with an ok record?
Think about it.
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