F. Dale Lolley's Sports Column
Gap between Steelers, conference finalists is not large
Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert said this week what he was supposed to say regarding the team’s disappointing 2012 season – they weren’t good enough and he wasn’t good enough.
That’s the reality when you struggle to get to 8-8 and miss the playoffs.
But Colbert also said that the gap between the teams playing in today’s conference championship games and the Steelers is a big one. That’s not necessarily true.
The Steelers beat one of today’s AFC finalists, the Baltimore Ravens, on the road and probably should have beaten them at home, despite playing both games with a backup quarterback.
But, again, Colbert is disappointed by where the Steelers finished, as he should be It was Colbert who just a couple of years ago, after the Steelers lost to Green Bay in the Super Bowl, said that Pittsburgh’s talent was good enough to finish second, but second isn’t good enough.
Some franchises might be happy just to get to a conference championship game or Super Bowl. The Steelers consider anything short of a championship a failure.
It certainly will be for the teams playing in today’s games.
Like the Steelers, the Patriots, Ravens, Falcons and 49ers came into this season with Super Bowl expectations.
Two of those teams are going to be disappointed at the end of they day.
For New England, a win today would put the Patriots in their sixth Super Bowl in the Bill Belichick-Tom Brady era. New England is 3-2 in those games, but hasn’t won a Super Bowl since 2004.
As for the Ravens, this is their final chance to get a second Super Bowl for linebacker Ray Lewis, who won one in 2000.
In Atlanta, the Falcons got over a big hurdle last week with their first playoff win in the Mike Smith-Matt Ryan era – after three previous failures – and are considered one of the league’s up-and-coming teams.
And San Francisco’s mark on the Super Bowl era with Joe Montana and Steve Young is as impressive as any team, including the Steelers.
Those championship expectations are what separate the great franchises from the others. And those expectations are what will drive the Steelers and Colbert in this offseason.
The Steelers don’t believe in rebuilding. They believe in retooling.
The Patriots are 4-0 in AFC Championship games at home, but Baltimore came a Lee Evans dropped pass in the end zone away from ending that streak last January. That Ravens team was more formidable – at least defensively – than this one. Expect more of a shootout.
Take Baltimore to cover in a 27-23 loss
Atlanta jumped all over the weary Seahawks (back-to-back East Coast trips) and then had to rally to win after blowing a 20-0 lead. Colin Kaepernick gave Green Bay fits with his running, just as Russell Wilson gave the Falcons fits in the fourth quarter.
Take San Francisco, 31-24
Last Week: 1-2-1 ATS; 2-2 Straight up
Overall: 113-123-8 ATS; 162-95 Straight up
F. Dale Lolley can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org