It is official. The defending Super Bowl Champion Pittsburgh Steelers 2009 season is now over.
Perhaps there are some mathematical calculations that have them qualifying for the playoffs, but this team is as done as a team can be. Losing 13-6 to the Browns puts an exclamation point on a awful, ugly season.
The game was not shown here in Buenos Aires, and even the local bar which carries US sports was not showing it.
I had to settle for a live stream from SkyNetwork in the UK on the internet, with passable quality. Still, there were lots of stops and starts, which was fitting, as the Steelers were bumbling around looking nothing remotely like the team that drove 90 yards in less than two minutes to win Super Bowl XLIII.
Sky showed a stat of cases where teams more than 10 games below .500 had defeated a Super Bowl Champion.
One of those was Jimmy Johnson's Dallas Cowboys upset of the Redskins on Monday Night Back in 1988. Growing up in the DC area, I remember that game well, and it seemed a fitting metaphor. The Redskins looked every bit lost and hapless that night in giving Jimmy Johnson his first NFL win, as the Steelers looked in dropping their first loss to the Browns since 2003.
The Steelers lost the battle of scrimmage on offense, and their ability to protect Ben was laughable, although Ben's decision making left a lot to be desired, as did the play calling.
As for the defense? Well, it almost looks as if Joshua Cribbs beat them all by himself. And of course the night would have have been complete without some special teams screw ups, which the Steelers special teams were only too happy to provide.
Quit Watch is On
Now the watch is on to see if the players quit on Mike Tomlin, and if so how badly and what does he do about it.
His promise/threat to bench starters appears to have been empty, which is not a good sign. The Steelers quite simply have forgotten how to win games, and this tendency has snowballed.
It is difficult for a coach to pull his team out of a total tailspin. Tomlin has clearly not been up to the task.
It is a very open question as to whether his men respond.
The record reflects that Bill Walsh followed up his first Super Bowl victory with a 3-6 effort in the strike-shortened 1982 season.
He came back for two more Lombardi Trophies.
Parcells followed his 1986 Super Bowl with a 6-9 effort in the 1987 season, and he got another ring.
Tomlin is often erroneously put on the Bill Walsh coaching tree, (where he has NO place, click here to read why) but he is much more of a cerebral coach in the mold of Walsh, Noll, and Gibbs.
Hopefully the can learn from this. Perhaps he can follow suit.
But first he needs survive the next three games, which do not look to be pretty.
Steel Curtain will be along for the ride, until the bitter end.
And for those Steelers fans longing for something good, please come back to check out our series on the Steelers 1989 season – the next installment will be up in a day or so. (Believe it or not, the Steelers loss to Cleveland coincided with the 20 year anniversary of their shut out of the Jets.)