Before I begin to talk about yesterday’s slop-fest in Cleveland, I would like to take this opportunity to extend some “Congratulations” towards the San Diego State Aztecs football team for their fantastic efforts during the 2012 regular season. On Saturday, the Aztecs clinched a share of the Mountain West title and finished their 9-3 campaign with a 42-28 win over the Wyoming Cowboys in Laramie. S.D.S.U.’s football team battled hard this year, and capped their 2012 campaign off with a 7 game-winning streak. But what made the Aztecs’ 2012 season even more impressive was the fact that their starting Quarterback Ryan Katz was lost midway through the year with an ankle injury.
I tip my hat to Adam Muema and the Aztecs. Mandatory Credit: Brian Losness-US PRESSWIRE
With a 5-3 record and their starting Quarterback sidelined, the Aztecs could have just mailed it in like some professional football teams when they have had their starting signal-callers go down (*cough*cough*). Nobody would have blamed S.D.S.U., and it seems to be all the rage in the N.F.L. right now amongst some franchises without adequate backup situations in place. You know, in spite of some writers expressing their doubts at the beginning of the year about a team in the A.F.C. North and their inadequate Quarterback depth.
But there was “No Quit” in this Aztecs team. They simply relied on their veteran backup Adam Dingwell and the masterful running of Adam Muema (1,355 Yards, 16 TD’s) and Walter Kazee (822 Yards, 8 TD’s) behind their stout Offensive Line. The Defense, led by stud Cornerback Leon McFadden (please Steelers, please consider drafting him) also stepped up down the stretch to help the team reel off some incredible Wins like their 21-19 triumph over then-#19 Boise State on the “Smurf Turf.”
I understand that this team will not get any sort of recognition outside of Mountain West fanbases or Southern California. And you know what? That’s fine. But lack of headlines aside, I just wanted to extend a “Thank You” to Head Coach Rocky Long and the rest of his staff and players for their hard-nosed and physical play. As a San Diego native and long-time Aztecs fan, I just wanted to say that you guys were truly a treat to watch and follow during your adversity filled season.
Wallace being boxed out for the ball. Mandatory Credit: David Richard-US PRESSWIRE
Do not get me wrong, I knew that the Steelers would have their hands full yesterday, and I even picked Cleveland to upset them. But yesterday’s game was downright painful to watch, and although it makes me sad to type, here are my thoughts from the 20-14 Loss:
- Kevin Colbert, whatever moves you make this offseason, please allow Mike Wallace and Rashard Mendenhall to walk after the season. From his poor ball-security, to his inability to run between the Tackles, and his recent Knee and Achilles injuries, I believe that Mendenhall’s career is at an end with the Black & Gold. To me, there are plenty of Backs around in April’s Draft (Stepfan Taylor, Johnathan Franklin, Mike Gillislee, to name a few) who could easily make up for his loss and eventually exceed his productivity on the field, and could be had at a much lower price.
- As for “Dropsy McDropsalot,” his bouts with drops and being boxed out on deep balls has become tiresome to watch. Emmanuel Sanders (5 Catches, 75 Yards on Sunday) might not be the type of deep threat Wallace is, but he is a productive target and can catch whatever he gets his hands on whenever his number is called. This team would be better off looking towards the Draft for another speedster to replace Wallace, receiving a 3rd Round Compensatory Pick in exchange, and allowing a team like the Cowboys or Redskins to overpay and “make it rain” for Wallace’s “Clifford Franklin-like” skill-set.
- Am I the only one pleased with the way Jason Worilds played yesterday? When healthy, Worilds is a downright force off of the edge, leads the team lead in Sacks (5.0). In fact, I noticed almost zero dropoff in production and play from #93 all day long as he was effective against the run and attacked Brandon Weeden when he dropped back to pass (4 Tackles, 2.0 Sacks, 1 PD, 3 QB Hurries). Heck, I would say that Worilds played a better game yesterday than LaMarr Woodley ($61.5 Million) has played over the last two years. How or why Mike Tomlin or Dick LeBeau have not rotated Worilds (when healthy) in with James Harrison & Woodley to keep them fresh over the last two years has been quite perplexing. And as bad as it has been to see hobbled and over-paid veterans struggle on the field this year, it has truly been a shame to watch youngsters like Worilds, Steve McLendon, and Cameron Heyward rot on the bench when they could be receiving valuable game-experience and reps.
- This team has nobody to blame but themselves for their backup Quarterback situation, and deserve to reap what they sow right now. How or why veterans like Byron Leftwich and Charlie Batch were left on this roster without a young, Pro-Style, and potentially effective Quarterback also being groomed behind Big Ben over the last seven seasons is a downright joke. Omar Jacobs? Brian St. Pierre? Tyler Palko? Dennis Dixon? Jerrod Johnson? Troy Smith? These guys were not the answers in the least bit, and should have never been considered viable options in the first place! Sure, the Brian Hoyer signing is nice, but a “too little, too late” move in terms of him doing anything of relevance this season. Even with Hoyer’s addition, I still hope this team can bring in some competition from somewhere else this offseason to really solidify the depth behind Big Ben. Remember, Roethlisberger will be entering his 10th season in 2013, and it would be comforting to have some depth behind him that is not calcifying by the day or at the very least can lead the Offense on a scoring drive or two if they must replace him.
- 8 bleeping Turnovers?! The Steelers coughed up the ball entirely too often yesterday. As I alluded to before, the stable of Backs on Pittsburgh’s roster are not cutting the mustard, and now that Chris Rainey looks to be out for a significant period, help must come and must come fast from talent outside of the organization. There is no excuse for the type of lackadaisical ball-security this team put on display on Sunday afternoon, and it will continue to be a problem until better personnel is brought in, or jobs are in jeopardy because of piss-poor execution.
- For those of you whining about how the Steelers did not get that Fumble around the 2 Minute Warning, STOP IT! Does it stink that the rule is in place? Heck yes! Is it unfortunate that the call affected the Steelers at such a crucial time? Heck, yes! But you know what? The rule is the rule, and it would not have made a difference if Pittsburgh’s Offense had not turned it over 8 times during the game! Hey, I know, maybe the team should have rushed for more than 49 Yards. If you want to place blame anywhere, start with the team, not the officials.
- The utter lack of discipline this team has displayed throughout the year in terms of their penalties is terrible, and I really hope that Tomlin and the rest of his staff instill some discipline this week. Tomlin has always been one to talk tough with his “Standard is the Standard,” “Excuses are for the Incompetent,” “Unleash Hell,” and “5 Star Matchup” mantras, but now that he has an undisciplined, under-manned, and under-achieving team at his disposal, it is time for him to step up as a Coach, clean up the undisciplined messes, and make the best out of his current situation. The Steelers looked ill-prepared to go out and win a football game yesterday, and Tomlin must rally his troops to salvage an “almost lost” season.
At 6-5, this team still has a shot to make the postseason, and the final 5 games should be a fantastic litmus test for the players and Coaching Staff. I want to see if some members of this team have any “fight” left in them, or if they are simply content to “mail it in” like some members did in 2009. I am also intrigued to see some of the younger players I alluded to before (Worilds, Heyward, McLendon), as well as like Cortez Allen, Curtis Brown, and see if they can step up when they are asked to contribute. I still have some faith in this team as there are some on the roster (Heath Miller, Sanders, Worilds, Lawrence Timmons, Ryan Clark, Larry Foote, Harrison to name a few) continuing to play at a high level. Whether or not other members of the team can step up their play though is an entirely different issue altogether, and I hope that if the Coaching Staff begins to see some “mailing it in” down the stretch, they are disciplined swiftly and made accountable.
Readers: Is the season lost? How awful was that game? Who deserves the most blame? Can this team recover? Why?