The Pittsburgh Steelers can thank the Cleveland Browns and the Oakland Raiders for making sure that they will be couch potatoes for the NFL 2009 post-season. They should also express tons of gratitude to their record-setting offense for occasional bouts of anemia because no team deserves to be in the playoffs if they cannot score more than six points on the frozen tundra by lake “Eerie” or allow the Raiders to spank their fannies at the “friendly” confines of Heinz Field.
It wasn’t the Ravens, Jets, Texans or Broncos winning or losing that pummeled the Black and Gold out of the post-season, it was the players in the Steelers locker room losing confidence in their ability to perform on a higher level. Could they have misplaced the trust in the man chosen to lead them?
Let this season be a hard lesson, learned by hard knocks for Steeler head coach Mike Tomlin. In order for history not to repeat itself, Mr. Tomlin had better realize that it is not prudent to use two faces when dealing with his players anytime, anyplace or anywhere. It’s okay to shaft the media because hey, we are just the media and we have shafts of our own but when you jerk your own players around publicly then more often than not they will lose the trust they have in you and may lose the burning desire to run through walls to play and win for you. In trying times if a leader is not careful in the handling of his subordinates, the cauldron of competitiveness will fizzle like a match lit in a monsoon. Tomlin must learn to put his hand over their shoulder in public and slap them up side their head in private. The media cannot help Tomlin coach because the scribes “have come to bury Caesar (Tomlin), not to praise him;” the quote used on his defense in 2009 will live well after this season.
Last Sunday at the Meadowlands the Bengals lost their season finale by resting their key players and leaving the playbook at home. That may come back to haunt them because when you also leave your heart at home that does not bode well for your future. I mean, c’mon, you could not be believe for a moment that the Steelers Nation was relying on the Bengals for a helping hand into the playoffs but just in case that they were, Pittsburgh should have realized that the Bengals were going to lay down against the Jets in a game that would help their nemesis of over four decades. Why? Well because you cannot teach an old dog new tricks. Maybe we should all realize that Cincy was faced with the possibility of playing the Jets twice in a week and chose not to reveal their cards but you mean to tell me that they could not play defense as well? The Jets may feel that once you beat a team regardless of the circumstances you can beat them again. The Bengals may win a playoff game or two but in the end they will revert back to who they really are, the “Bungles.”
It would have been nice to have three teams from the AFC North in the post-season but Cincy is one of a few teams that made it and are shaking in their boots even though they have nothing to fear but fear itself. Meanwhile, the Ravens have the heart but they may not have the horses, but wait a darn minute, they won it all competing as a wild card before and it’s a new season and anything is possible.
The Patriots lost more than a meaningless game to the Texans. Preliminary tests confirm that wide receiver Wes Welker tore both the anterior cruciate ligament and medial collateral ligament in his left knee in Sunday’s game at Houston. Welker’s injury, coupled with the Pats having to face the bloodthirsty B-More defense may well place the Pats into the category of one and done. Without Welker in the mix, the “Birds” will now use cover two on Randy Moss so much that he will more than likely feel that he is part of an ill-advised triple date. Welker makes the Patriots just an above average offense. Without Welker New England’s offense is suddenly slightly below average.
The Ravens defense now has the comfort of throwing the kitchen sink at the Patriot offensive line and they are going to put pressure on T. Brady and he will not have the luxury of 1, 2, 3 progressive reads. Oh, by the way, New England had better not entertain the notion of running the ball. Their best bet would be to isolate Ray Lewis in as much pass coverage as possible because Lewis has shown that when he is not hovering around the line of scrimmage, he is vulnerable. If the Patriots allow B-More to keep seven and eight men in the box, their hopes of advancing in the post-season are going to be sent home in a pine box.
As for the Steelers in 2010 watch out for dem, dere Browns.
(Aubrey Bruce can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org or communicate with him at his War Games blog: aubreybruce.blogspot.com.)