The first six eight weeks of the 2013 Pittsburgh Steelers were hell to go through. The team was a mess. The offense couldn’t keep Ben laid out on the turf, couldn’t score points, and looked like they had taken ten steps backwards in what should have been solid draft picks developing for starting roles. The defense was finally showing its age despite three previous seasons of defying its critics, couldn’t stop the run, and couldn’t get a turnover if the Pillsbury Doughboy handed one to them. The coaching staff couldn’t prepare the team week to week, looked lost with trying to manage the game and clock, and had cow-eyed responses when asked how they were going to fix the problems. Sorry to make you relive that whole mess. But things seem to be turning around for the Steelers, and our heroes are sitting in a position where they could make a strong playoff push the last five weeks of the season. But, are the Steelers doing more harm than good to themselves with this winning streak – especially if it continues?
Now, before you Hulk out on me and rip your favorite Donny Iris t-shirt in two to lash out, know that this is more about playing devil’s advocate and posing a question that’s been on my mind since The Good Guys beat the Browns last Sunday. I love my Steelers, and as a fan, I want to have fun watching these guys play – win or lose. The first eight weeks of the season weren’t fun to watch. The last three have been better, much better. But, as someone who also contemplates the future success of this franchise, I can’t help but wonder if the second half success of the team is hurting the success of team in the years to come. A better record means picking in the middle or higher in the draft. If the team makes it to the playoffs and wins a game or two, it puts them even further down the draft sheet. When things were ‘bad’ the first four weeks of the season, I think many of us took comfort in the fact that the Steelers would more than likely draft very high if they continued to play so poorly. There are many glaring holes on offense and defense, despite recent success, and having one of the best rated prospects in the country fill one of those wholes looked like a good consolation to a bad season and a good start for things to come.
The other thing that concerns me with the potential of amnesia with all this winning. Will the Steelers and Steeler Nation forget the first half of the season if they can beat out the other AFC teams currently backlogged at 5-6? I still fully believe that there’s accountability that put this team in such a bad position to be fighting for its playoff life. SOMETHING made this team go 0-4 the first four weeks and 2-6 the first half of the season. Will all that be lost and swept under the turf on the South Side if the Steelers end above .500 or even at .500? Do the players and coaches get a pass for one more season because they were able to ‘turn it around?’ How many more Tom Coughlin’s does the NFL need?
Though it pained me to experience, there was a bit of a cleansing feeling when pundits and fans talked about the organization cleaning house for next season. It was a bit of exorcising the demons that tormented Steeler Nation for about the last 12-18 months. Does the vote of confidence increase for Tomlin, Haley, and LeBeau giving them all one more season to ‘see what they can do?’ Do players like Ryan Clark stay on contract for another season because as much as guys like him were part of the problem during the 2-6 run, he was also on the field during the recent turn around. I will concede that some younger players have had a chance to step up and play well. That’s been great to watch. But what about ‘the others’?
I’m all for winning. And, I would love to see the Steelers in the playoffs year after year going for that Lombardi trophy. There’s just something about this season that won’t sit well with me if there’s very little to no change because the team made a playoff push.