Pittsburgh, PA. For any Pittsburgh Steelers fan, this had to have been a very difficult off-season to deal with. Let’s be honest, this is easily one of the most successful franchises in the NFL, and all of sports for that matter. Their followers expect nothing less than deep runs into the playoffs, and championship trophies as well. Some would say, they are the gold standard in pro football, as this organization has six Lombardi Trophies to their credit. Since 1969, they have had a total of three head coaches, which is just simply unheard of in pro sports. Mike Tomlin continues on the tradition of tough, hard-nosed Steeler-style head coaches. There just aren’t many, if any, better run franchises than the Pittsburgh Steelers. When the Steelers made the trip west to the Rocky Mountains last January, it was going to be business as usual, and just about all football fans were expecting a workmanlike road playoff victory. But three and a half hours later, and an 80-yard pitch and catch in overtime, the season was over….just like that. The end of the year for the Pittsburgh Steelers came in shocking fashion, and was something they and their fans were not used to. For a team who is so used to winning, it may have begun a slow downward spiral, and one that has all the makings of lasting well into 2012.
For years now, there has been something called the “Super Bowl hangover”. Many times throughout the past decade or so, the team that has lost in the Super Bowl has missed the playoffs entirely the following season. Something about losing in the big game has done a number on that particular team. Well, in this situation, the Pittsburgh Steelers loss back on wildcard weekend could definitely produce the same outcome in 2012. That was such a shocking, bitter pill to swallow, that it could be hard for them to bounce back this year. Several other factors point to this as being a down year for the Steelers. The holdout situation regarding Mike Wallace is becoming a problem. Pittsburgh’s best receiver is nowhere to be found, and if and when he does report to the team, there is a good chance that he won’t be in football shape. Muscle pulls or strains could very well be in the cards for Mr. Wallace this year, if he ends up playing at all. The Steelers also have plans for two rookie offensive linemen to get a lot of playing time. Rookie linemen protecting Ben Roethlisberger? Not an ideal situation. Although the defense has always been Pittsburgh’s identity, this one is getting quite old. James Harrison and Troy Polamalu are just a couple of the guys who are well into their thirties. Starting running back Rashard Mendenhall is coming back from an ACL tear, and probably won’t be ready until October at the earliest. Then there is just simply the law of averages. In the last twenty years, the Pittsburgh Steelers have had a total of three losing seasons. That is unheard of success, especially in the salary-cap driven NFL. Their division is not an easy one either. Baltimore is always a tough opponent and an AFC contender, and Cincinnati is young and only getting better after a trip to the playoffs last year. The bottom line is this….there are just too many signs that point to the Steelers having an off year in 2012. They will bounce back in the coming years, like they always do, but this season will end up being a disappointing one for the black and gold.
The first week, at Denver, will tell everyone a ton about where this Steelers team is at. They will have all the motivation in the world to come in and ruin Peyton’s party. Avenging that difficult loss back in January will also be on their minds, and a win on September 9th would do them wonders in moving on. But what happens if they lose again to Denver? A loss for Pittsburgh in the regular season opener could be just the thing that sends them into a season-long tailspin….One that they won’t recover from until 2013 at the earliest.
Denver Sports by J Simp