Antonio Brown continues to sacrifice yards to save his body. Somewhere, Hines Ward is weeping in a corner. Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
Remember when the Pittsburgh Steeler defense was feared and revered as one of the best in the NFL? Remember when former Steelers OLB James Harrison used to cause offensive tackles to quake before the snap and certainly use that to his advantage when battling to the quarterback? Remember when opposing offenses used to plan their entire Sunday game plan around one player – Troy Polamalu? Remember when Troy and Ryan Clark would hit a player so hard that it would not only send the player into next week but also cause the ball to jar loose for a turnover?
Remember when the Pittsburgh Steeler offense had a strong offensive line that imposed their will on the defense, leaving gaping holes for stout runners, such as Jerome Bettis? Remember former Steeler wide receiver Hines Ward played so physically during a game you felt exhausted on your couch after watching him block, catch passes, and put his butt on the line every play? Remember when Ben Roethlisberger had ‘the magic’ and could mount a final 2:00 hurry up drive to win the game?
Remember when Bill Cowher was the head coach? Remember when he stuck that chin out so far you could seat a table of four for dinner on that thing? Remember the spit? Remember how Cowher would glare and yell and get in players’ faces…. during the game? Remember when he ran up to a referee during the end of the first half at Three Rivers Stadium and shoved a black and white still photo into the pocket of the referee to hammer home his point and argument?
What did the defense, offense, and coaching have in common in all those examples? The Nasty. The attitude to play hard every single down, be resilient, believe, and win. (As is pointedly put by our sister site City of Champions)
The Steelers of 2013 lack The Nasty. In fact, The Nasty hasn’t graced the shores of Pittsburgh’s north side in almost three seasons and is but a wisp of smoke that blends in with the grills from the tailgating. The Steelers are plagued with players and coaches who lack even an ounce of ‘nasty.’ The Steelers linebackers are not physical and are not feared. Troy is quickly becoming irrelevant on the field. Ryan Clark can’t tackle to save his life. When is the last time you saw ANY defender just put a ball carrier down hard on their ass?
The Steelers offense can’t run the football with their trio of backs. Even if rookie Le’Veon Bell has fleeting moments of good running, the offensive line is so bad and lacks any amount of nasty (all five of them combined) to get under a defenseman’s skin it doesn’t matter. And probably most egregious of all is the lack of physicality, attitude, and ‘nasty’ from the receiving core. For four weeks Steeler Nation has had to witness Antonio Brown whine about not getting the ball enough, and then at 0-4 continue to show us with his ‘first down ball drop signal’ he is doing what he’s paid to do. Not only that, but Brown is making sure that his first down ball dropping hand is left unhurt by consistently taking dives to the turf before he is actually tackled by defensemen. ZERO AND FOUR. WINLESS. And, when your team is down 17 points in the second half, you decide it best to just drop to the ground instead of fighting for every single yard or even fighting to get out of bounds. Disgraceful. But hey, at least Brown had that fat contract.
The Steelers coaching couldn’t prepare their next meal let alone a football team. Mike Tomlin is unemotional on the sideline. He seemingly refuses to make smart in-game adjustments. He can’t manage the clock or drives or personnel. His sound bytes are confusing and ineffectual. Todd Haley is as bad as Bruce Arians if not worse. Dick LeBeau may be brilliant and wise, but the other teams’ OC’s are making him look juvenile.
Sure the Steelers are probably a mediocre team in the talent column (and just as bad in the coaching column), so what’s all the complaining about? Well, even mediocrity should get you a win here and there in the NFL, and the Steelers
sort of won’t go winless for long. It’s the tenacity and ‘nasty’ that mediocre teams possess that gets them to .500 and maybe even beyond. The Steelers possess none of it. It’s attitude that will get them out of this terrible terrible rut. It’s the nasty. How they get that nasty back, I’m not sure many can answer. Certainly Steelers owner Art Rooney II doesn’t have any. Hell, even he lacks any kind of nasty. The coaching doesn’t have any answers. And the players, other than Ben Roethlisberger, are too busy giving excuses and playing damage control with the media.
So who’s the savior who will bring The Nasty back to Pittsburgh?