I read some of the comments that Art Rooney II made about the Steelers 2012 season and initially felt irritated that he was starting to lean toward the Jerry Jone’s style of ownership. I’ve been wondering just how the firing/hiring of the offensive coordinator was handled last year and it probably leads me to jump on comments a little quicker. After I read the actual article, I realized he was responding to reporters’ questions and not simply espousing his views about player and staff performance. However, that said, I thought his statements were meant to keep the media and Steeler Nation guessing about how he really felt and what direction the organization was heading.
When asked about the perception that there was a lack of discipline, he said he didn’t feel that was a problem but pointed to the poor turnover ratio. “When you’re on the negative side of the turnover ratio, most of those teams aren’t in the playoffs.” Well, I looked up the stats and the Steeler’s defense turnover stats are about the same for this season and the previous five seasons. With the exception of a really great year in 2010, this hasn’t been the strong point for the defense. Why point it out now? Perhaps because someone in the media pointed it out and it’s a safe topic? If this is really a concern, why do you keep the same defensive coach year-after-year? Don’t think this is a knock on Dick LeBeau – it isn’t. This is just me wondering why Rooney picked this as a problem.
Courtesy of NFL.com, here are some of the Steeler’s turnover stats.
Steelers Defense Stats:
2012 2011 2010 2009 2008 2007
Interceptions 10 11 48 12 20 11
Forces Fumbles 15 10 24 14 12 25
Sacks 37 35 21 47 51 36
2012 2011 2010 2009 2008 2007
Interceptions 8 15 9 14 15 14
Sacks 30 42 43 53 49 47
Turnover ratio -10 -13 +17 -3 +4 +3
I don’t have the full fumble stats from Steeler’s RBs, and WRs, but they are substantial and contribute the largest amount to the negative turnover ratio. Fumbles and dropped catches were rampant this year and spread among the offensive. Fumble-fingers Wallace needed some stick-em. Mendenhall was so overjoyed at being back on the field he figured that everyone would feel the same way and just get out of his way so he didn’t need to secure the ball. And those are just two of the offenders. Dwyer and Rainey had their share as did Antonio Brown. So the blame can be spread around for turnovers, but if you’re looking for something to fix do you get rid of all of everyone who fumbled? This year marked very low numbers for sacks on the Steelers QB as well as interceptions and it went to waste because of fumbles?
I see some of Rooney’s point, but does keeping the same coaches and expressing confidence in them help? (Rooney expressed full confidence in Todd Haley and Mike Tomlin.) Perhaps Rooney believes you have to give a coach more than one year to work miracles and I usually agree with that. However, something has to change. There has to be a meeting of the minds of Roethlisberger and Hayley and they need to buy into one another. Rooney has expressed support for both of them, but if they aren’t getting along well someone has to police the playground and figure it out. If the QB and the OC aren’t in sync, the attitude ripples across the defense. Yes, everyone needs to do their job and not worry about what is going on around them, but that isn’t reality. People are affected by what is going on around them.
Mr. Rooney also pointed to Ben’s injury as being a turning point in the season. I agree, but I’ll go back to my point from a previous blog of what did you do to prepare the team for potential injury to your first-string players? I don’t think they put much thought into it besides: “let’s try to design plays so Ben doesn’t get hit.” Well, ok Skippy, nice thought, but this is a violent league and he’s going to get hit. Now, go figure out a real back-up plan.
So, Rooney’s comments didn’t reveal anything to me and I honestly wondered if he borrowed from some of the sports pundits. The turn-over issue has been a constant question to LeBeau, Haley and Tomlin. I thought about searching for some of his phrases from among other articles, but decided that wasn’t worth the time. I support the Steelers whole-heartedly, but I’m left wondering what the Steelers believe they need to change for 2013. I don’t expect them to tell anyone. Things stay pretty close to the vest and I understand that. Just stop sounding a little like Jerry Jones, please Mr. Rooney.
One more thought: NicePickCowher already has a blog on Chris Rainey’s arrest and subsequent release. Here’s another example of someone given a second chance who failed to turn it around. It’s amazing how youth and emotions, one of the things we prize in football players, work against people. According to Alan Robinson’s article, there is more pending than just this arrest:
Last month, Rainey was issued a defiant trespass citation, a summary offense, after entering the Meadows Racetrack and Casino near Washington, Pa., on Dec. 2, the same day the Steelers beat the Ravens, 13-10, in Baltimore. According to the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board, a person can draw such a citation if that person agrees to stay away from a gaming center but returns.
Accordingly, the Steelers acted very quickly to release Rainey. It tells me that they don’t have a lot invested in him and his value was judged to be easily found somewhere else. He’s made poor decisions more than once. However, I find it hard to see him dismissed so quickly (before he has his day in court) when Roethlisberger wasn’t. I understand business and all that and I feel certain that Roethlisberger’s case came down to money. But, loyal fan or not, guilt or innocence aside, the Steelers have not handled everything about off-the-field activities in the same way: zero tolerance. You either have no tolerance or you don’t and you either let the courts work or you don’t. Either way, good luck Chris Rainey – maybe the Cowboys or the Jets have a spot open.
Some excepts from Rooney’s statements to the press are courtesy of The Pittsburgh Tribune Review and Ed Bouchette’s Twitter feed.