F. Dale Lolley's Sports Column
Mediocre Steelers headed for offseason of change
Pittsburgh Steelers cornerback Cortez Allen (28) is tackled by Cleveland Browns center Alex Mack (55) after recovering a fumble in the fourth quarter of an NFL football game in Pittsburgh, Sunday, Dec. 30, 2012. The Steelers won 24-10. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)
The lights were turned off on the Steelers’ 2012 season Sunday, following a 24-10 win over the Cleveland Browns, with the results showing this was a team mired in mediocrity.
In Pittsburgh, mediocrity is something only the Pirates hope to achieve. For the Steelers, who have had just four seasons at .500 or below since 1992, it’s unacceptable.
Along the way to their 8-8 finish, the Steelers were good enough to beat any team in the NFL. They also showed they could play poorly enough to lose to any team, as well.
It was that kind of season.
While the front office begins the process of determining who stays and who goes, those who will return in 2013 are left to sift through the ashes of Pittsburgh’s first non-winning season since 2003.
“There was rage. There was definitely frustration, because we’re used to being good around here,” said veteran defensive end Brett Keisel of the emotions the team has gone through.
“We’re used to winning games in the end that we lost this year. That’s probably been the most frustrating thing. We would get into position to win, and it just didn’t happen this year. It’s frustrating knowing you missed an opportunity, especially as an older guy. You don’t know how many opportunities you’re going to get. That’s probably the most frustrating thing, knowing the type of talent we’ve shown in flashes this season and not being able to capitalize week in and week out.”
And that is the key for these Steelers. They have talent. But that talent only seemed on display in spurts.
More often, the Steelers did a pretty fair job of helping the opposition as much as they did themselves.
Early in the season, it was a defense that seemed unable to hold a lead, as the Steelers squandered fourth quarter advantages in Denver, Oakland and Tennessee.
When the defense finally got things figured out, the Steelers put together a nice midseason run, winning four games in a row before quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was lost for three games with shoulder and rib injuries.
When Roethlisberger returned, he obviously was not as good as he was prior to the injury, throwing costly fourth quarter interceptions in losses to Dallas and Cincinnati that led to the game-winning scores.
It all added up to 8-8 and what promises to be an offseason with a little more change than usual.
“It’s tough,” admitted Roethlisberger. “You are used to seeing the same faces around here. You want everybody back, but you know that is not what is going to happen. We hope to get everybody back, and we wish everybody the best.”
The Steelers went 3-5 this season in games decided by a field goal. That means they were either just good enough to lose in a number of games, or they had some misfortune along the way and are close to turning things around.
“I think we are close,” said Keisel. “Maybe some of these guys need this. They need to realize that everything doesn’t come the way we think it’s going to. You’ve got to work your tail off in the offseason. You’ve got to work your tail off in the film room. You’ve got to come to play every week. I’m not saying guys didn’t come to play every week, but we’ve definitely got to be more consistent if we want to go where we want to go.”
And 8-8 was certainly not what they wanted – at least not until the past week when they openly talked about not finishing with a losing record.
Sunday’s win assured that, but little else.
“Obviously, .500 is not what you do with the Pittsburgh Steelers,” said safety Ryan Clark. “We can do better. I think every guy needs to be held accountable. If they see they can make changes in places, we’ve got to roll with it.”
F. Dale Lolley can be reached at email@example.com