It's been readily apparent for weeks that the Steelers were too banged up and otherwise out of sorts to put together another bid for the Super Bowl. Most likely they were going to lose to New England in six days in Foxboro, but they should have enough - even with half the defense sidelined or compromised - to down a 8-8 team, even on the road.
The Steelers might have (could argue they should have) pulled it out, but poor coaching and, more importantly, a lack of adjustments kept them from advancing. Moreover, the Steelers just became evidence for the many Tebowtards out there that Timmy is "for real", whatever the hell that means. I'll give the guy credit, of his 10 long completions, a lot of them were pinpoint throws that were downright impressive. But a lot of quarterbacks in this league will excel if the opposition is defending their receivers in man coverage with no safety help.
I don't fault Dick LeBeau for trying that scheme at the outset. Who would trust Tebow to make accurate throws the way he has played? But how was that still the coverage by the time overtime rolled around? LeBeau's ancient and maybe that advanced age makes him more resistant to change than he should be. Shit, it took four or five losses to the Patriots before he tried something new with them. If anything, the loss deprives us of the chance to see if LeBeau would actually stay creative with the challenge of New England. It could have been hubris that convinced him even after his defense got burned several times in the second quarter that lowly Tebow couldn't hit another open receiver streaking down the field.
I'm not among the irate knee-jerkers calling for LeBeau's ouster or even the dispatching of Ike Taylor. Obviously, Taylor was put in a difficult position with Ryan Mundy giving him no help over the top. But you can't be a supposed shutdown corner and get abused the way he was by Demaryius Thomas. Thomas is a great young player who has been on fire the last month of the season. Not really a guy to take lightly in single coverage, even if it's Tebow throwing to him.
The clock management on the final drive of regulation was atrocious. The Steelers seemed to have more issues with that this season than at any point in Tomlin's tenure. Mike is a guy who talks a good game about being hard on himself and his strategies, and he usually, if not always, follows through on that. Let's hope he makes a point to revisit some of those blunders between now and September.
Give it up to Ben playing hurt and rallying the team back. He was obviously hobbled and appeared to have reaggravated his injury at one point in the game, but stuck it out and was solid throughout. Can't say his receivers did him a lot of favors either. Jerricho Cotchery and Mike Wallace had two critical drops on what would have been big plays when the throws were there. It's nice that Wallace made the Pro Bowl as a starter and all, but I can't image that it did a lot for his contract demands that he forgot how to catch the ball the second half of the season.
Had to have heartened a lot of Mendenhall's detractors to see Isaac Redman play so well. That's probably the brightest point for me. If Mendy didn't just suffer a torn ACL, you could conceivably see him offered as trade bait, both to acquire another pick and maybe clear some cap room for Mike Wallace.
In some ways, I guess losing to Tebow isn't as bad as losing to New England, because then at least the last meeting between the Steelers and the Pats was a victory and we don't have to hear about how this season was a repeat of 2004, when the Steelers won the regular season meeting, only to drop the playoff rematch with the Greatriots. That said, I'm not watching a goddamn minute of SportsCenter or any sports talking head show all week.
Pretty shitty showing by the refs yesterday. The botched fumble on the lateral seems to be getting all the attention, OF COURSE. It was a terrible call, no doubt, but the Broncos got their share of breaks as well, if you wish to count three grievous no-calls on Harrison holds, a puzzling incidental contact explanation when a defender tripped Antonio Brown streaking toward the end zone (the Steelers had to settle for a field goal instead) not to mention what could have been a helmet-to-helmet hit on Mike Wallace in the second half. There was some garbage officiating throughout the weekend, which makes yet another case for full-time officials, but don't hold your breath or anything.
Yeah, the Steelers will be back next year, presumably healthy at a lot of positions where they didn't finish the year healthy, so that's nice. Except people like James Farrior, Casey Hampton, Brett Keisel, Ike Taylor and Max Starks are gonna be a year older. Will Starks still be a capable tackle for one more year. Does anyone trust Willie Colon being worth another shot if he even comes back? Another postseason loss that showed that the corner play is a liability might lead you to think a DB would be a big priority come draft time. Who knows, though. With Green Bay and New England the likely participants in the Super Bowl, the line of thinking may just be that defense doesn't mean shit so long as you can put up 40 per game. That would lead you to think that the Steelers are a strengthed O-line away from being a serious threat again.
There's also the matter of the middle linebackers. Fans are furious with Lawrence Timmons, who did have a down year, but James Farrior has lost a step as well. They're two positions that certainly must be addressed. So even though Mike Wallace is the only guy to be concerned about, the Steelers have some veteran fat they can trim, but will have to have a big score or two in the draft to be able to enter 2012 with an eye on another championship run.