I have a confession to make. I take joy in other people’s pain. I’m not particularly proud of the fact, but I don’t think I’m alone.
I love that Roger Goodell’s NFL is dying in the ratings. The 2017-18 regular season marked the second consecutive significant decline. Last week’s divisional playoffs were down eleven percent nationally. Good.
And I love that ESPN continues to be a dumpster fire. From tanking ratings, to widespread sexual harassment by on-air personalities, and President Jon Skipper resigning over substance abuse issues, I have enjoyed every minute of their demise. I hope everyone on that network has to dive through Taco Bell dumpsters just to feed their families. Ok, maybe that was too much. I hope their families leave them before that happens.
But, as much as I hate Goodell and his mouthpieces in Bristol, I hate our enemies on the field even more. That’s why I’m taking almost obscene pleasure in the current state of affairs in Pittsburgh. You know, the team we were destined to play in the AFC Championship game this weekend.
The Symptoms of Disaster
How on earth did the Pittsburgh Steelers lose a home playoff game to the Jacksonville Jaguars? The answer is simple: they are not the New England Patriots. Pittsburgh is loaded with talent, yes. But, they are poorly coached, undisciplined, and childish. They are the anti-Patriots.
From the final whistle of their annual loss to New England in Week 15, Steelers players, coaches, and fans spent the better part of a month talking about their inevitable rematch in the AFC Championship Game. Hell, even a month before that December game, Mike Tomlin predicted the match-up in a ridiculous interview with NBC’s Tony Dungy.
But after Week 15 the chorus from the Tin City – sorry, steel is hard, you’re not – was loud and confident. Not only were they going to play the Pats in the AFC Championship game, they were going to win. They were the better team. According to Safety Mike Mitchell, it didn’t matter if the game were in hell, Haiti, or Foxborough.
The problem is, of course, that Pittsburgh has all the swagger and none of the game. New England was so in their heads that they forgot the cardinal rule of the NFL – on any given Sunday, anyone can beat you. Bill Belichick’s Patriots would never look past an opponent, certainly not in the playoffs.
Other symptoms of Pittsburgh’s season-long lack of discipline and focus include:
- Le’Veon Bell threatening to retire in the off-season if the Steelers franchise tag him rather than sign him to a long-term deal.
- Offensive coordinator Todd Haley shattering his pelvis after being involved in a “situation” outside a Pittsburgh bar that he and his wife had just been thrown out of.
- Ben Roethlisberger throwing every possible coach under the bus all season long when things didn’t go their way.
The Wrong Overreaction
Pittsburgh’s response to their division-round loss to Jacksonville was typical of many bad franchises. They drew the wrong lessons and overreacted.
Rather than listen to the finally rising chorus calling from Tomlin’s ouster, they fired offensive coordinator Todd Haley. Okay, technically he wasn’t fired, they just didn’t renew his contract. But, he was fired. So, the team that put up 42 points against the Jags didn’t have enough offense? Interesting assessment.
Haley had been the offensive coordinator since 2012, and in the last four seasons had guided the Steelers to no worse than the 7th best offense in the league. This season, Pittsburgh finished as the third best offense behind only (you guessed it) the Patriots and the Saints. Offense isn’t Pittsburgh’s problem. Leadership and culture are.
As if to double down on their poor decision, Tomlin not only didn’t get rid of anyone on the defensive side of the coaching tree, he gave them a vote of confidence. This, of course, is a group that allowed Blake Bortles to hang 38 points on them.
As commonplace as it’s become for idiots like the CHB to claim New England plays in a division full of tomato cans, it’s ridiculous how Pittsburgh gets a pass for the quality of the AFC North. Tomlin is an awful coach. His teams have simply benefited from playing Cleveland and Cincinnati twice a year – who unlike Miami and Buffalo have neither a defense nor an offense.
Poor management of undisciplined and unfocused players is a recipe for disaster in the NFL. As Patriots fans, we should be thankful that the Pittsburgh Steelers are too dumb to recognize their flaws.