December 30, 2012; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers running back Jonathan Dwyer (27) carries the ball past Cleveland Browns linebacker Craig Robertson (53) during the third quarter at Heinz Field. The Pittsburgh Steelers won 24-10. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Realistic Expectations for the Steelers in 2013

People who are Steelers fans don’t understand how passionate Steeler Nation is about their team and why.  You’ve probably seen the jokes on Twitter and other social media about how Steelers fans are stuck in the past.  I could retort that at least we have a past to be proud of – oh wait I just did.  But, I digress…

Until the 60s, the Steelers record really wasn’t something to brag about.  Based on the stats I found online, the Steelers didn’t even make the playoffs between 1947 and 1972.  (Remember, the Superbowl Championship as we know now it has only been around since 1967.)  However the team embodied the feel of the city and the surrounding area.  The coal mines and the steel mills had been the main industry since the second half of the 19th century and it was (and still is) dangerous back-breaking work.  The fans liked that their team represented their values outside of Pittsburgh, regardless of record.  However, when you have stuck with a team for decades and they have an incredible win streak to surpass any of the other teams for number of Superbowl championships, you are going to have a fan base with high expectations.

So, Steeler fans have come to expect more than a mediocre season from the team.  They have come to expect hard work and dedication to match the passion the fans project.  Last season was bitter for many fans because the roster was full of talented players and “on paper” looked like they should win more games than they did.  Ok, we’ve rehashed that quite a bit.  Take a look at Nice Pick Cowher staff writer Dominic DiTolla’s run down on that.  Let’s move on.

What is a realistic expectation for 2013?

Well, that crystal ball I ordered from Madam See-It-All, purveyor of reliable clairvoyant tools, doesn’t seem to be working properly.  Perhaps I need a crash course in crystal ball interpretation, but frankly I think it’s broken.  I guess I will have to try to stick to the facts.

Facts.  Well, we have very few we can put toward a prediction for 2013.

Player Turnover:

The Steelers had a chunk of veterans who left for greener pastures during the offseason, including James Harrison and Mike Wallace.  I think change can be good.  It’s possible that somethings had become stagnant and it’s time to shake things up.  However, there is a continuity issue.  The Steelers had good attendance during all the training activities so far, including veterans who want to help the new guys get settled.  However, I think that we won’t know how much the change out of players has affected the Steelers until we see how the first few regular season games turn out.

Coaching Staff Turnover:

While the Steelers have the same “Big 3″ (HC, OC, DC) that they had last year, there was still a fair amount of movement among the positional coaches.  There are 4 new position coaches:  Danny Smith, the Special Teams Coordinator; Carnell Lake, the Defensive Backs Coach; Jack Bicknell, Jr, the offensive line Coach, and Richard Mann, the Wide Receivers Coach.   I know that you can agree that Tomlin sets the tone and it shouldn’t matter if coaches swap out, but let’s be realistic.  That’s a lot of turnover.  Communication could still be an issue but perhaps will be ironed out by the first regular season game.

Veteran Input to the “System”

Both Todd Haley and Dick LeBeau seem to dislike the work system in relation to describing how they set up the plays.  Yet, it’s still a system.  Haley came in last year and changed so much of the terminology that the veteran players couldn’t keep things straight.  Sometimes it was simply a name change.  I don’t know if any of the Nice Pick Cowher readers have experienced a new boss who changed things for the sake of making it his or hers, but you can imagine the frustration.  Haley also had to do it without the input from the players because of the rules about communication between the teams and the players during the off season.  Now, Haley has invited input from the veterans.  There is a management theory about how if you give the workers a chance to “own” the process, their production is higher.  I’ve seen it in several different management systems, so I’ll forego quoting you an exact reference, but if you browse the management books at any book store, you’ll find it.  I’ve seen that approach have great success and this should work toward improving communication between the players and the coaches.

Back to Basics, Discipline Fundamentals

Tomlin new mantra for the players this year is about stressing working hard on the football basics.  He is stressing discipline and keeping the players focused through all four quarters.  I agree that that players need to do all this.  I question how they got away from it in the first place.  This is Steeler football.  I saw a comment on one of Scott Sinclair’s blogs about Cowher versus Tomlin that fits here.  I’m sorry that I don’t know exactly who said it – please comment on this article to take credit – but one reader commented that Tomlin has consistently set the Steelers up to play down to the level of their competition.  I completely agree.  There is adjusting the game plan based on opponent, which is all well and good, but this was more like deciding which games you could back your foot off the gas. Consistency suffered.  The Steelers have a reputation in the league and beating the Steelers during a regular season is similar to winning a championship game for some of these teams who have no other hope in their season.  They will save it all up for that one game.  The Steelers have to play like they are defending something big every game.  They are – the franchise legacy.

So, what is a realistic expectation?

It is NOT realistic to expect a championship.  I’m not saying you shouldn’t go into the season hoping.  We all have hope.  However, after an 8-8 season in 2012 and the significant amount of turnover among players and staff, it is realistic to expect to see the Steelers struggle a bit this season.  If you look at how strong the teams are in the AFC North right now, the Steelers have a challenge ahead of them.  It is entirely possible that the Cincinnati Bengals have gotten to the point this year that they will take this division.  Their wide receiver corp is impressive.  What will that struggle amount to in the end?  I think the Steelers could have a winning season, perhaps that 12-4 record some players felt they should have had last year.  However, I think they will need to be at a consistently high level of performance all year to get to the division championship and beyond.  I’m not sure the Steelers can maintain that this year.  I think the adjustments will continue this year.  I would expect progress on the running game, but I’m not expecting it to be a big contributor yet. I think the Steelers are at least another year away from the dominance the fans so expect and enjoy.  However, keep you Terrible Towels handy.  Anything can happen in the NFL and I’d love to be wrong.

What do you think Steeler Nation?


Any reference to an actual company or name called “Madam See-It-All” is unintended and purely from the imagination of the author. 


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