The Thin Red Line In The NFL: Are the Steelers That Bad?

Alan Shimel@@ashimmyCorrespondent IDecember 15, 2009

PITTSBURGH - JANUARY 18:  Mike Tomlin head coach of the Pittsburgh Steelers holds up the Lamar Hunt AFC championship trophy after defeating the Baltimore Ravens 23-14 during the AFC championship game on January 18, 2009 at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

I know it is all the rage to heap abuse down on the Steelers. If it is not the special teams players, it is the special teams coach. The offensive line is terrible and so is the O line coach. The defense is old, but not as old as the defensive coordinator. The offensive coordinator is so predictable, the QB holds the ball too long, the young head coach inherited a great team and ran it into the ground. Yada, yada, yada. 

But it is important to remember that there is a thin red line in the NFL between success and failure. In the recent past the Pittsburgh Steelers have been masters of being on the right side of that thin line. Buts lets face it, they have always been on the edge.  Last year on the way to their 6th Super Bowl title, they had their share of close games. 

In the second game of the season against the Browns, the Steelers scored an up-super like 10 points and held on. The Browns were driving for a tying touchdown late in the 4th quarter, but had to settle for a field goal on the cusp of the red zone. A key stop or else that game could go to overtime. The next week they got their butts kicked by the Eagles. The week after they squeaked by with an overtime win against the Ravens. Next game they were trailing with under two minutes and scored a touchdown against the Jaguars to win by 5 points.

The Steelers headed into the break 4-1, when if not for a key play here and there could have been 1-4. Besides three more loses, they also stole one from the Dallas Cowboys, beat San Diego 11-10 and had another squeaker against the Ravens on a disputed TD.  

Lets not forget the 2005 Super Bowl season either. The Steelers got their share of breaks and big plays at key times on their way from a mid-season funk to the Super Bowl. You don't come from the wild card spot to Super Bowl champion without the key plays.  But it is a fine line between winning and losing. A play here, a call there is all it takes.

You can't get all the breaks go your way all the time. Last year it seemed that every time there was a key make or break moment, the Steelers came up big. Now I am not saying it was all luck. But the talent difference in the NFL is just not that great. The law of averages has to catch up with you. This year it certainly has.  Once the train is heading down hill it is hard to stop the momentum.

So I agree that some changes need to be made during this off season. I am excited about some high draft picks for a change. But wholesale changes will only throw out the baby with the bathwater!