Regular readers know Steel Curtain Rising relishes holding the media accountable. In our Watch Tower column we critique, analyze, pick apart, (nit pick), and comment on the performance of those who cover the Steelers.
As Steelers Nation begins offering its predictions and prognostications for the 2009 season, it is only fair that Steel Curtain Rising take its own medicine.
So following the tradition established by legendary Washington Post writer David Broder, Steel Curtain Rising offers its “goofs column,” where we fess up to what we got wrong.
That’s right. Never too shy to gloat when right, we must also face up to our 2008 errors, which spanned the 2008 Draft, the pick of Dennis Dixon, Max Starks and the Offensive Line in general, pace of Tomlin’s second camp , 11th hour signings that never happened, Santonio Holmes’ future with the team, the non-turning point for the offense, and joining the chorus against Bruce Arians and Bob Ligashesky .
Really, You Should Have Taken Colbert His Word
Prior to the 2008 draft, Steel Curtain Rising urged readers to ignore Kevin Colbert’s promise to “take the best available player.” Instead, we pointed to previous statements, such as 2003 when Colbert defended the status quo in the Steelers secondary prior to the draft only to trade up big time to pick Troy Polamalu.
We thought they would do the same thing in 2008 and focus on getting an offensive or defensive lineman at all costs in early rounds. And Steel Curtain Rising urged everyone to watch what Colbert did, not what he said. Perhaps Mendenhall and Sweed would beg to differ….
Maybe Dennis Dixon Wasn’t a Bad Pick Up
Giving in to knee jerkism, Steel Curtain Rising lambasted Colbert and Tomlin for picking a quarterback in the 2008 draft.
While the pick seemed illogical at the moment, Dennis Dixon has progressed well thus far, and if he can seriously challenge Charlie Batch for the back up spot, he will deliver excellent value as a 5th round pick.
Prior to the draft, Steel Curtain Rising published a well-crafted piece seemingly exploring all of the scenarios that the Steelers would have to undergo to settle on their starting front 5 for 2008.
The training camp offensive line shell game never even came close to evolving. Sure there was “competition” between Hartwig and Sean Mahan, while Essex and Max Starks split time at the backup right tackle slot, but the starting 5 remained stable through camp.
Of course injuries did force the Steelers to rebuild their line during the 2008 season, but Steel Curtain Rising certainly takes no credit for predicting that.
The Max Starks Situation
Treading close to Steel Curtain Rising’s “Football Only” rule, let me paraphrase a once famous Boston Senator: Steel Curtain Rising was in favor of the Steelers transitioning Max Starks, before we were skpetical about it, which preceded our ultimate approval of the move.
Then you’ve got a good reason, because Steel Curtain Rising was all over the map on the Max Starks issue.
Bottom line? Stick with your instincts, because the man who was derided for being a very expensive back up tackle on opening day had a huge role in saving the season.
When Pittsburgh repeatedly failed to close tight games in 2007, many in Steelers Nation questioned under their breath “Would Bill Cowher have let this happen….? Have the Steelers lost their killer instinct?”
Pittsburgh’s performance against Jacksonville in week 5 established the Steelers as the NFL’s toughest.
If anything, Mike Tomlin’s refined pace is what kept the team fresh down the stretch. Tomlin knew something we didn’t. (And yes, that is something that will come true again and again.)
In recent years the Steelers have resigned a veteran during the week leading up to opening day. In 2006 it was Ike Taylor and in 2007 it was Kendall Simmons.
Immediately after the final roster cut the Steelers shipped 2007 starting center Sean Mahan back to Tampa Bay. Steel Curtain Rising immediately saw this an attempt to clear cap room to make a final signing.
No 11th hour signing took place in 2008.
They did try to resign Marvel Smith, but Smith balked at re-upping, choosing instead to test the free agent waters.
The Offensive Turning Point That Wasn’t
The glory of the Sixth Lombardi Trophy rightly defines the Steelers 2008 season. This triumphant glow will cause many to forget the madding inconsistency that characterized the Steelers offense for much of the year.
The offensive line rebuilding and injuries to Willie Parker and Ben were big parts of that.
But when Pittsburgh piled up tons of yards, but few points against San Diego in the regular season, Steel Curtain Rising declared that the Steelers had turned the corner and would put it all together on offense.
While that game did mark improvement, consistency continued to elude the Steelers offense for the rest of 2008 – except of course when the game was on the line.
Which counts in the Steelers favor, but alas not ours.
Santonio Holmes had only been having an OK year when got busted for marijuana possession. In contrast, Nate Washington had been establishing himself as a dangerous deep threat – especially on third down.
That coupled with the Steelers semi-consistent policy of not tolerating players who run afoul of the law led Steel Curtain Rising to suggest that the Steelers might opt to resign Washington and unload Holmes.
Ooh…. Do we wish we had that one back now…. Perhaps not, but Steel Curtain Rising was dead wrong there. Washington continued to perform, but Holmes slipped it into high gear, and was at the center of the big plays that defined each of the Steelers three playoff victories.
This one makes the list if for no other reason than the impassioned and well-argued defense that one of our readers made of Bruce Arians after the Super Bowl.
Bruce Arians took a lot of heat in 2008 from this site and the rest of Steelers Nation as the Steelers offense lacked rhythm and our once vaunted running game was shackled.
While we’re not ready to back off all the criticism we made during 2008, Bruce Arians certainly got the last laugh, and we’re thankful for that.
(In our own defense, we did say in training camp last year that Arians probably did not have the line to establish a power running game, and as the season wore on it became clear that he didn’t.)
Special teams had been a horrendous weakness in 2007. When Mike Tomlin decided to retain special teams coach Bob L. Steel Curtain Rising officially gave Tomlin the benefit of the doubt. But it didn’t take too savvy of a reader to understand know how we really felt.
If they Steelers special teams did not become strength last year, they did improve dramatically.
We’ll keep that in mind the next time Mike Tomlin declines to make a knee-jerk decision.
Looking Forward to 2009
If you read Steel Curtain Rising often enough you’ll undoubtedly recall other moments of err. (Not to mention the mundane typos, the skipped prepositions, or the slip up that renders an entire sentence unreadable – thank you to everyone who pointed these out!)
So be it. Sometimes you call it right. Sometimes you call it wrong.
But Steel Curtain Rising will always call it as we see it.
We had a blast doing it last year, and we hope you’ll join us as we get ready to do it again in 2009.