´ Steel Curtain Rising: Understanding the Steelers Downward Spiral

Who gets the game ball for the win over the Colts?

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Understanding the Steelers Downward Spiral

A number of non-Steelers fans have emailed asking “How could the defending Super Bowl Champions fall from 6-2 to 6-7, losing to the Chiefs, Raiders, and Browns?”

It is a hard nut to crack, no doubt.

But in sports the concept of “learning how to win” is quite important. To find an example, look no further than the 1989 Pittsburgh Steelers, a team that faced tremendous adversity.

Given numerous opportunities to quit, the team fought on, bounced one of its division rivals from the playoffs, and came a dropped pass and a muffed QB-center exchange from going to the AFC Championship.

The naked truth is that the 2009 Pittsburgh Steelers are learning how to lose games.

From my vantage point, the Steelers have lacked an edge all year. I’ve been waiting for them to “snap out of it” and they seemed to do that against Minnesota, and then in the second half against Denver.

But the 6-2 record after the win at Denver offered a false hope.

Instead of finding an edge, they quickly found a way to fall of the edge. And the best way to explain why is through analogy, and one that we’ve all been through before.

Imagine this:

  • You woke up late.

Then because you were rushing, you dropped your coffee mug and cleaning it up delayed you even more.

  • Then, because of that, they got out of the house even later, but you win such a rush that you forgot something vital you needed for work.

So, in the process of cursing yourself for forgetting, you miss a key turn because you couldn’t change lanes on time.

  • When you finally pull in the drive way, you’re in such a hurry that you lock your keys inside the car -- with the motor running.

Then you realize your cellphone is inside the car. So you had to look for someone who would let you make a call.

  • Then when you finally do, you discover that you'd inadvertently let your AAA membership lapse....

It may be overly simplistic, but I think it sums up where the Steelers are. If you go back to the analogy above, at each phase it is the coaches job to step in and make sure a team does not compound on its error.

But the Steelers have done that. The run defense falters in Baltimore. Tackling gets sloppy. Normally sure handed players muff punts.

They're in a spiral. Tomlin has not been able to break them out of it.

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