It's been a fun first year (at least until mid-November) of blogging at D.C. Steeler Nation, but I'll be going on hiatus for a few months. I'll be checking in periodically, especially around the draft, to air my uneducated views on the Steelers off-season priorities and how I think they've fucked it all up.
Meanwhile, coaching decisions are being second-guessed but no coaches are being fired. And every one who's ever played for the Steelers is having surgery. Huzzah.
Somehow, the team, despite having no appreciable offensive line during the year, has the best linemen going onto the market. Doesn't bode well for addressing that problem in free agency. If they could keep Faneca, that would be grand, if unlikely. I think Max Starks' worth is a little deceptive after a few satisfactory games late this season and isn't worth the money it would take to sign the highest rated tackle on the market. With Woodley coming on late in the year and Timmons being largely unused, I think Clark Haggans can be jettisoned.
Thanks for reading. Of course, you can always catch me slinging dick jokes over at Kissing Suzy Kolber. Enjoy spending the rest of the postseason drinking heavily and rooting against New England.
Kill me now.
Joe Gibbs hasn't even gone home yet to NASCAR Jeebus, yet 'Skins fans are already calling for the Snyder jet to load up the money sacks for a run at Bill Cowher. Do their insufferable dickbag fans deserve him? Could he coexist with Dan Snyder?
No and no.
But they're not the Ravens, so I'm all for it.
Either way, though, it would mean at least one date with the Steelers next season.
I mean, let's stack him on a pyre with Sean Mahan as kindling and immolate his ass.
Then let's draft five offensive lineman, someone who can tackle on special teams and maybe a another slot receiver. There you go. You have your off-season assignments.
Having erased an 18-point fourth quarter deficit largely through the passing game and facing a 3rd and 6 inside three minutes that, if converted, could have won the game for the Steelers, what does offensive guru Bruce Arians dial up? A quarterback bootleg run to the side of the line starting Trai Essex at tackle.
It's of little wonder that, given the ball back with great field position, the Jags were able to turn back a Pittsburgh comeback much as they did in the regular season meeting. Whether it was critical first half turnovers or special teams blunders, the mindless mistakes negated what seemed like solid gameplanning by the Steelers. They game out with a quick passing attack opening drive that lacerated the Jags' D and was solid against the run almost the entire game, for the exception of spying David Garrard, who has thrown three of his five picks this year against the Steelers.
Credit is due, especially to Hines Ward and Heath Miller, for leading the charge back when many other teams would have been content to fold late. The defense brought heat late in the game like they haven't in months. As one-dimensional as the offense was all game, once it got going - and it only took three quarters - it was slicing through the Jacksonville defense. It was a game the Steelers gave away twice, with terrible mistakes early on and bad playcalling late.
At the risk of sounding embittered, the officiating in this game was almost criminally bad. Silverback looked like he was held on a half dozen plays. The Jags clearly jumped on the short run that was their first score. How Santonio's catch at the end of the third quarter was overturned, I'll never know. For an extra nut-stomping, on the pick-six Ben Roethlisberger threw to Rashean Mathis, Gary Russell was hit with the same low blocking call when trying for a tackle like when Matt Hasselbeck received the same infraction in the Super Bowl against us.
Fitting, of course, that the Steelers season ended with a Roethlisberger sack.
It's no secret that the Steelers were a pass-first team this season on offense, even with one of the league's top running attacks. That's fine when your quarterback is the league's second-rated passer, though you'd like him not to get dumped on his ass five or six times a game.
With a coach who was hired in large part on his emphasis on violent, physical play, tonight is a real bellwether for the defense, which for the last month has played further off the ball, looked anemic against the run and is nowhere to be found when the opposing QB drops back.
The Jaguars are certainly one of the more physical teams in the league and there's no shame in being pounded by them, unless it's twice in one season on your home field. The Steelers know what Jacksonville is bringing as they've been victimized by it once already. If Pittsburgh wins tonight, it's almost certainly because they got back to the style of football to which we're accustomed from this team. If not, you have to think some wholesale philosophical changes make take place in their system.
If I have to listen through three hours of Madden blubbering about what a unheralded, tough team Jacksonville has while they're pummeling a depleted Steelers defense, I'm going to start randomly swinging at TV, until I have several of them skewered on each arm. That might up by bar tab a bit.
Oh yes, and Allen Rossum is still hurt, and because Willie Reid is a fumbletastic bust, the Steelers might end up using starting running back Najeh Davenport as a kick returner. Because apparently Cedrick Wilson is just too important to do such things. Wouldn't want to lose a receiver who never gets open.
But...uh...yeah...something positive and such.
UPDATE: Nevermind. Polamalu practiced and expects to play. I take it all back. IIIIII'VVVVEEE GOT A FFFEEEEEELLIIINNNNGGGG...
Willie Parker's absence, coupled with Trai Essex as a liability in run blocking means that the Steelers will probably rely heavily on the pass, a strategy not alien to them early in games this season. Roethlisberger played well down the stretch in the first contest to tie the game, but they still had the benefit of a solid performance from Willie Parker keeping the Jacksonville defense honest.
Of course, for a game that isn't likely to be a shoot-out, more import is going to be placed on whether the Steelers run defense can finally find its bearings again. Bear in mind, it was this Jaguars team that ran all over Indianapolis - 375 yards on the ground - late in the regular season last year before the Colts' defensive unit got their act together in the postseason. Is that indicative of a Steelers' turn-around? But if that can't spur one, it's not coming.
About a month ago, we were visited by the Post-Gazette's Dan Gigler to get a sense of our singular amalgam of debauchery and fandom. What resulted was this video posted today on the P-G site. This is footage from the day of the Patriots game, so Dan was forced to edit out several of my 15-minute unbroken strings of profanity. That must've been hard.
Sure, doesn't look like the Steelers have much in the way of momentum going into the postseason, but they've been in worse situations (2005) and persevered. You know, all the team needs is some tenacious play by the offensive line and the run defense, two things that have been wholly absent the last month.
And now Trai Essex is expected to start at left tackle Saturday. Fuck me sideways.