Pittsburgh Steelers History vs The New York Jets

At first glance, the Pittsburgh Steelers and New York Jets are two teams that share little history. They’ve only played 25 times. For comparison’s sake, the Steelers and Saints have played 17 times.

  • For the record, the Steelers own a 20-5 advantage over the Jets, 10-1 at home and 10-4 in New York

What the Steelers and Jets history might lack in quantity is made up in quality. Many meetings between these two teams have been steeped in significance, although that fact wasn’t always eveident at the time.

Click on the links below or scroll down to relive some of the key moments in Steelers-Jets History.

Jerome Bettis, Alan Faneca, Dewayne Robertson, Steelers vs Jets, Steelers history vs Jets

Jerome Bettis hurdles guard Alan Faneca evading Dewayne Robertson in the Steelers 2004 AFC Divisional playoff win. Photo Credit: Matt Freed, Post-Gazette

1969 – Super Bowl III, The Most Important Steelers Game in History – Not Involving the Steelers?

“I Guarantee Victory” – Joe Namath, prior to Super Bowl III

You know the story. The NFL and AFL were merging, and the brash young quarterback of the upstart New York Jets guaranteed victory despite being an 18 point underdog.

The Jets took an early lead, Don Shula of course waited too long to put Johnny Unitas in, and the biggest upset in Super Bowl history was on.

On the Colts sidelines that day was a young assistant named Charles Henry Noll. Who knows what happens if the Colts win? Does the added notoriety lead to a better offer for Chuck Noll? Does perhaps stick around hoping to repeat? We’ll never know. One thing we do know is this:

  • Noll learned that the Colts were too tense prior to Super Bowl III felt it cost them the game.

Chuck Noll avoided the same mistakes when he led the Steelers to Super Bowl IX. The rest, as we say, is history.

1983 – The End of Eras

December 10, 1983, Shea Stadium
Pittsburgh 34, New York 7

A moment far more bitter than sweet for Steelers fans. The Steelers snapped a three game losing streak, but the price, as Myron Cope would write a decade later, was “the last throws that were left in Terry Bradshaw’s arm.”
Bradshaw opened with a pass touchdown pass to Gregg Garrity and followed with another touchdown pass to Calvin Sweeney. And that was it.

  • Not just for the game. Not just for the season. But forever.

It was the last NFL game at Shea Stadium. It was the last pass of the last game of Terry Bradshaw’s career. It was the last time the remnants of the Super Steelers would ever contend.

Too many eras ended that day.

1988 – So Far, Yet So Close

October 10, 1988, Giants Stadium
New York 24, Pittsburgh 20

The 1988 Steelers had started 1-6, but on the previous week, led by Rodney Carter, Gary Anderson and Rod Woodson, the Steelers had thumped the Broncos to snap a six game losing streak. Could Chuck Noll’s boys make it two in a row?

The Steelers jumped to a 10-0 lead but, as was the case many times during the 1988 season, the Steelers saw that lead evaporate in the second half.

1989 – The Shadow (and Promise) of Things to Come

December 10, 1989, Giants Stadium
Pittsburgh 13, Jets 0

Steel Curtain Rising discussed this Steelers-Jet’s match up in the tribute to the 1989 Steelers, celebrating Greg Lloyd’s announcement to the NFL that he was a force to be reckoned with, as he knocked Pat Ryan out of the game, caught an interception, and WWE-style three counted a concussed Al Toon.

Greg Lloyd, Greg Lloyd Steelers Career

Greg Lloyd. Photo Credit: Getty Images, via Zimbo.com

  • Jet’s fans jeered “Joe Must Go!” calling for their coaches head. Joe did go.

Unfortunately he arrived in Pittsburgh; hiring Joe Walton became Chuck Noll’s fateful mistake.

1990 – IF Only this Could Have Been a Divisional Game…

November 25, 1990, Giants Stadium
Pittsburgh 24, Jets 7

This victory was sandwiched in between losses to the Cincinnati Bengals. The 1990 Steelers would finish 9-7. Unfortunately, only one of those victories came against an AFC Central team.

One more divisional win would have put the Steelers into the playoffs….

1992 – Cowher Power’s Second Victory – Barry “Bananas” Foster Romps

September 13, 1992, Three Rivers Stadium
Pittsburgh 27, New York 10

Rookie head coach Bill Cowher’s Steelers shocked the NFL in defeating the Oilers the week before. Chris Berman remained unconvinced, predicting that Brownie Nagel would lead the Jets to victory.

  • Barry Foster had other ideas, as he ran for a then team record 190 yards.

The Steelers revival under Bill Cowher was was on!

2000 – Vinny Testaverde – New Uniform, Same Result

October 8, 2000, Giants Stadium
Pittsburgh 23, New York 3

The Steelers had tormented Vinny Testaverde in Tampa, Cleveland, and Baltimore. Would things be different in New York?

Afraid not. One week after upsetting the Jacksonville Jaguars in a game that set the tone for a decade, the Steelers showed they were for real. The Steelers did not intercept Testaverde because he got only one pass off before getting knocked out of the game.

2001 – Hines Ward’s First 10 Catch, 100 Yard Game

December 6, 2001, Heinz Field
Pittsburgh 18, New York 7

It is hard to believe that the Steelers had one of the NFL’s best-kept secrets and it is hard to believe that his name is Hines Ward. The previous week the Steelers had lost Jerome Bettis, who had been dominating the league in rushing, and were in need of leadership.

Hines Ward delivered posting his first 10 catch game while breaking the 100 yard barrier for the first time.

2003 – 40 Passes, in the Snow….?

December 14, 2003, Giants Stadium
New York 6, Pittsburgh 0

Ok, it was 38 passes not 40, but the Meadowlands are a difficult place to throw in December, let alone in a blinding snow storm. That didn’t stop Mike Mularkey from throwing the ball, which did stop the Steelers from winning.

During the next draft that proved to be one of Kevin Colbert’s wiser non-decisions

Jerome Bettis broke Franco Harris record that day, causing Mike Prisuta to plead for the Steelers to part ways with the Bus. 1,309 yards and 22 touchdowns and a Super Bowl later, Bettis would prove Prisuta wrong.

2004 – Regular Season – Rookie Roethlisberger’s 11th Victory

December 12, 2004, Heinz Field
Pittsburgh 17, New York 6

The Jet’s played this one closer than the score might indicate, as Curtis Martin crossed the 13,000 yard barrier, marking the first time that 13,000 rushers faced off against each other.

Rookie Ben Roethlisberger won his 11th consecutive game, in route to setting the rookie record.

2004 Playoffs – Steelers Football at Its Best: Pure Power Rushing Carries the Day

January 15, 2005, Heinz Field
Pittsburgh 20, New York 17

People remember this as the game where Ben Roethlisberger started playing like a rookie. They remember it for the Jet’s Doug O’Brien missing 2 field goals that cost his team the game. But the real beauty of the game was the effort put forth by the Steelers running back crops.

  • Jerome Bettis ran 27 times 101 yards and a TD
  • Duce Staley ran 11 times for 54 yards

That might not be an overwhelming total, but both backs had to come out due to injuries at critical times, and the Steelers ability to beat the Jets into submission with two power rushers was a sight to remember.

2007 – Tomlin’s First True “Trap” Game?

November 18, 2007, Giants Stadium
New York 19, Pittsburgh 16

During Mike Tomlin’s rookie season the knock on him was that his Steelers “played down to the competition.” No where was this more apparent than against the Jets. New York was 1-9 in route to 4-12, but the Steelers struggled all day, as Bob Ligashesky’s special teams gave up a 33 yard punt return that allowed the Jets to send the game into overtime where they won by a field goal.

2010 – Jets Out Fox Steelers

December 19th, 2010, Heinz Field
New York 22, Pittsburgh 17

The New York Jets stumbled into this game and seemed prime for the picking. However, Al Everett’s special teams, which had been a strength all season long, gave up a touchdown on the opening kickoff. The Steelers fought back with a workman like performance and tied the game at the half.

  • But the miscues continued in the 2nd half.

First Mark Sanchez scored on a 7 yard bootleg after the rest of the Jets offense executed a perfect play fake up the middle. Then Sanchez faked a perfect drop back while LaDainian Tomlinson took a direct snap that converted a third down and burned previous time off of the clock. Rex Ryan’s Jets outfoxed the Steelers.

Finally, when the Steelers were trying to mount a come back Jason Taylor ran unblocked on a tackle of Mewelde Moore, giving the Jets a safety at the 2:38 moment.

2010 AFC Championship – Steelers Defeat Jets, Head to Super Bowl XLV

Sunday January 23rd, 2011, Heinz Field
Pittsburgh 24, New York 19

It was a tail of two halves. During the game’s first 3 minutes, the Pittsburgh Steelers played two of the best quarters of football in franchise playoff history. Running back Rashard Mendenhall took over the game in the first half, running for 97 of his 120 yards during the game’s first 3 minutes.

Rahsard Mendenhall, Steelers vs Jets, Steelers history vs Jets

Rashard Mendenhall had a career game vs the Jets. Photo Credit: Gregory Shamus, Getty Images via ESPN

Ben Roethlisberger capped off the Steelers offense’s scoring run at the 2:00 warning of the first half, putting the Steelers up 17-0. 47 seconds later, Ike Taylor strip-sacked Mark Sanchez and William Gay recovered the ball and put the Steelers up 24-0.

The Jets, to their credit, managed to get on the board with a field goal before the half, but it only appeared to be window dressing at the time…

  • Except it wasn’t. That Nick Folk field goal sparked a 19 point New York rally.

In the second half, New York harassed Ben Roethlisberger relentlessly, and shut down Rashard Mendenhall. On offense a 45 yard strike to Santonio Holmes started the scoring for the Jets, followed by a safety and a Jerricho Cotchery scored in the bottom half of the 4th quarter.

  • Unfortunately for the Jets, the safety was set up by a failed 4th and goal attempt at the 1.

Those two series gave New York 9 points when it needed 14, and left Pittsburgh with the ball with 2:56 left to play. That series saw Ben Roethlisberger connect on his first two consecutive passes of the afternoon, first hooking up with Heath Miller for 14 yards on 2nd and 9 and then hitting rookie Antonio Brown for 14 on 3rd and 6.

Going into the game, Peter King had profiled how Rex Ryan had implored his General Manager to get him the players he needed to get past the Colts and Patriots in the playoffs. Rex Ryan fulfilled his goal, and so did the Steelers who were AFC Champions and off to Super Bowl XLV.

2012 – Steelers Workman Like Effort Rebounds from Opening Day Loss

September 16th, 2012, Heinz Field
Pittsburgh 27, New York 10

The Steelers had open the 2012 season severing as fodder for Peyton Manning’s debut with the Broncos in a defeat raised troubling questions about the Steelers defense. And the defense didn’t do much to answer those as the Jets put 10 points on the board quickly while the Steelers offense could only manage two 45 yard Shaun Suisham field goals.

But the Steelers defense kept the Jets off the board for the entire 2nd half, while Ben Roethlisberger led 3 clock consuming drives that ended with Heath Miller, Mike Wallace and Isaac Redman touchdowns.

2013 – Steelers Snap 0-4 Start

October 13, 2013, MetLife Stadium
Pittsburgh 19, New York 6

The Steelers started 2013 by going 0-4, the franchise’s worst start since Bill Austin’s tenure in 1968. Unfortunately, as their game against the Jets began, things looked startlingly familiar as the Steelers lost a player during warm ups, lost tight end David Johnson early on, failed to protect Ben Roethlisberger and started each drive deep in their own territory.

But Brett Keisel and Cam Heyward in his debut as an official starter, helped force Jets to settle for field goals after a long drive. The Steelers then assembled 3 straight Shaun Suisham field goal drives.

Ben Roethlsiberger and Emmanuel Sanders added a touchdown to open the 2nd half, and just when the Jets looked to make it competitive again, Ryan Clark netted the first turn of the season. When the dust settled the Steelers finished with a 19 to 6 victory which, while not impressive, did get Pittsburgh in the win column for the first time in 2013.

2014 – Another Tomlin Team Gets Tripped up in Trap Game

November 9th 2014, MetLife Stadium
New York 20, Pittsburgh 13

Mike Tomlin, Steelers vs Jaguars

Mike Tomlin on Steelers sidelines. Photo Credit: Karl Rosner

The Pittsburgh Steelers ended their two year playoff drought in 2014 but it took and up and down ride to get there. Sure, the Steelers noticed some impressive wins, like the victory over the Ravens in Joe Greene’s Jersey retirement game, but also struggled against inferior teams.

  • And the loss to the Jets is probably the best, or worst example of that.

After giving up a field goal on the opening drive, the Steelers could do nothing on their first procession, allowing Mike Vick to hook up with T.J. Graham for a 67 yard touchdown on the Jets next play from scrimmage. Ben Roethlisberger responded by hooking up with Antonio Brown who promptly fumbled away the ball at Pittsburgh’s 21. It only took Mike Vick 6 plays to hook up with Jace Amaro for 5 yards.

  • The first quarter wasn’t even over, and the Steelers were down 17 to 0.

Things didn’t get much better for the Steelers, who saw Ben Roethlisberger throw a Red Zone interception on their next possession. The Steelers defense held the Jets to just one field goal on the rest of the day, but Steelers offense could only muster two Shaun Suisham field goals until Ben Roethlisberger hit Martavis Bryant for an 80 yard touchdown with 1:16 left to play.

The 2014 Steelers would rebound for a strong finish to the regular season, but 2014 loss to the Jets counts as one of Mike Tomlin’s worst trap games.

2016 – This Steelers Win over the Jets Came at a Cost

October 9, 2016, at Heinz Field
Pittsburgh 31, Jets 13

The final score makes this game look like a slam dunk for the Steelers, but the truth is that much more up or down event than the naked eye suggests. Nick Folk put the Jets on the board first with a field goal, but Ben Roethlisberger quickly hooked up with Sammie Coates to when he converted a 3rd and 7 with a 72 yard touchdown pass.

However, the New York Jets scored 10 unanswered points and appeared to be set to take a 13-7 lead into the half when they scored a touchdown at the 2:11 mark.

Ben Roethlisberger engineered a masterful 2 minute drill that saw him hit Le’Veon Bell, Antonio Brown, Sammie Coates and Xavier Grimble before connecting with Jesse James at the 0:44 mark for the go ahead touchdown.

  • The Steelers dominated the second half, shutting the Jets out and scoring two touchdowns.

But victory came with costs. Sammie Coates, who otherwise had a career game with six catches for 139 yards and two touchdowns, needed stitches at half time, and never, ever approached that level of play again. The game also represented the end Markus Wheaton’s season, which set up a Steelers playoff run where Cobi Hamilton and DeMarcus Ayers would become defacto starters.

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4 Steelers Who Must Step Up to Pull Pittsburgh Through the Playoffs

After much sound and fury, the Pittsburgh Steelers have qualified for the AFC’s sixth seed as a Wild Card in the 2015 playoffs. Numerically speaking, four wins is all that separates the Pittsburgh Steelers from the franchise’s seventh Super Bowl Championship.

With that, we give you 4 Steelers who must step up to pull Pittsburgh through the playoffs.

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Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger

This first entry might come as a surprise, but it comes first for a reason. Ben Roethlisberger can’t win a seventh Super Bowl for the Steelers all by himself, but there is no way Lombardi number seven finds its way to Pittsburgh this season without a strong post-season from Ben Roethlisberger.

Since the middle part of 2013, it has generally been accepted inside Steelers Nation, and to a lesser extent outside of it, that Ben Roethlisberger had finally taken his place alongside the elite quarterbacks of the league such as Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Drew Brees and Andrew Luck.

  • Ben Roethlisberger’s statistical success in terms of passing yards and such, is the most often cited state to state this case.

But more disciplined play is the real reason for Roethlisberger’s success. Todd Haley found a way to harness Ben Roethlisberger’s swashbuckling style of play in a way that resulted in greater efficiency and economy. Yes, having weapons like Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell has helped, but to chalk up Roethlisberger’s improvement to a better supporting cast does a disservice to both Roethlisberger and Haley.

  • Lately chinks in Roethlisberger’s armor have begun to show.

Fortunately, Ben’s sack totals remain stable, but the “stupid interception” has returned to his game. Perhaps he’s trying to force the ball to Antiono Brown too much. Perhaps he’s actually become too comfortable with Todd Haley.

  • Neither explanation really matters.

In quantities terms, Ben Roethlisberger’s 2015 interceptions per-attempts rate is 3.4%. That’s a 26% increase over his career average of 2.7% and his worst mark since the 2006 season. Since the Steelers bye week, Roethlisberger has thrown multiple interceptions in 4 of 6 games.

In qualitative terms, the interceptions Ben Roethlisberger threw in the Broncos game, Ravens game, and the Browns game were of the Kordell Stewart variety – this this comes from someone who defended Kordell tooth and nail during the “My buddy’s the cop… phase of Kordell Stewart’s career.”

Even the best quarterbacks will throw interceptions. Terry Bradshaw’s career is a testament to that reality. His career interception percentage was 5.4, and in only one of the Super Steelers four championship seasons did Bradshaw’s pick percentage drop below Roethlisberger’s 2015 number. Moreover, Ben Roethlsiberger’s interception percentage in 2005 was… 3.4.

  • Might Steelers Nation take that as a good omen?

Not on your life. Ben Roethlisberger simply must be more disciplined, much more disciplined with the ball if the Steelers are to go anywhere in the playoffs.

Wide Receiver Martavis Bryant

People forget, but during the first 1/3 of the Steelers 2014 season, critics decried the Steelers offense as “horizontal.”

That changed with a bang with Martavis Bryant entered the lineup. The during the later half of 2013, the Steelers showed that with Roethlisberger, Brown, Bell and Heath Miller, the Steelers offense could be good. Bryant’s entry into the lineup was supposed to make the Steelers offense lethal in 2015.

  • And fortunately, Steelers Nation has seen flashes of that.

Against the Arizona Cardinals, Martavis Bryant took simple slant pattern pass from Landry Jones and transformed it into a 88 run that sealed victory over one of the NFC’s toughest teams. In the simple span of the Steelers victory over the Colts through the Denver game, Bryant caught 21 passes for 250 yards. To his credit, Bryant’s also had some success in drawing pass interference penalties.

  • But Bryant has made more highlight reels of late for the plays he hasn’t made.

Too often he’s failed to contest catches. Other times he appears to be out of synch with Ben Roethlisberger. And he’s had way, way too many drops. Bryant closed 2015 with two one catch games.

Markus Wheaton has stepped up his game and proven that he can be a viable option when Antonio Brown can’t get open. But Wheaton hasn’t done enough to make defenses fear him. That’s supposed to be Bryant’s void to fill. Against the Browns, the Steelers were concerned enough about Bryant’s reliability that they replaced him with Darrius Heyward-Bey (for the record, the claimed Byrant was sick).

Regardless of whether it is in sickness or in health, the Steelers won’t go far in the playoffs if Hewyard-Bey has to replace Martavis Bryant often.

Outside Linebackers Jarvis Jones, Bud Dupree and/or Arthur Moats

OK, that is squeezing three players into a list of our key Steelers who need to step up. But the point remains the same: The Pittsburgh Steelers have invested a lot of their personnel capital in outside linebackers, and do not have much to show for it.

During the Dick LeBeau era (and to that end we’ll include the Jim Hasslett and Tim Lewis eras) the Steelers pass rush has lived and died with their outside linebackers. For that matter, much the same can be said of the Steelers pass rush following Chuck Noll’s switch to the 3-4 in 1983.

  • Until Arthur Moats dropped Austin Davis on Sunday, the Steelers outside linebackers hadn’t gotten a ( meaningful) quarterback sack in weeks.

To his credit, Keith Butler has found ways to get pressure using Cameron Heyward and Stephon Tuitt, as well as in using his safeties and corners on blitzes. He’s also dropping his outside linebackers into coverage more often than happened under Dick LeBeau.

It says here that James Harrison can still make plays for the Steelers and he will do so if given the opportunity. But the Steelers can’t use Harrison as a full time starter during the playoffs. That means the pressure on the quarterback must come from Jarvis Jones, Bud Dupree and/or Arthur Moats.

If the Steelers defense is to have any chance of surviving the exposure to NFL playoff caliber quarterbacks in the post-season crucible, then Jarvis Jones, Bud Dupree and Arthur Moats must get into the quarterback’s frequently and with unrestrained ferocity.

Special Teams Coach Danny Smith

Yes, Pittsburgh Steelers special teams coach Danny Smith isn’t a player, and can’t “step it up” the way, say, Jarvis Jones might.

The Pittsburgh Steelers special teams have a decidedly Dr. Jekyll-Mr. Hyde history that has alternated with their special teams coach, and that has continued in the Mike Tomlin era. Bob Ligashesky was a disaster. Under Al Everest, the Steelers special teams make game-changing plays. Under Amos Jones the Steelers special teams struggled giving up a touchdown on a punt return and a blocked punt.

  • Under Danny Smith, the Steelers special teams have never been a liability.

Yes, the punting game struggled in 2013 with Zoltan Mesko’s erratic performance, but that’s not Smith’s fault. It is time however, for junior to take out the car and do more than not dent the front fender.

The Steelers are going into the playoffs without DeAngelo Williams at full health, and with a defense that at its best is a “bend-but-don’t-break unit.” But when the defense pressures the passer, that forces turnovers, which helps the Steelers win. If Ben Roethlisberger steps it up and his receivers follow suit the Steelers can compete in the playoffs.

But this is Pittsburgh. Success isn’t measured in playoff appearances, playoff wins, or even Super Bowl berths. Pittsburgh measures success with Lombardi trophies.

If the 2015 Steelers are to bring home Lombardi Trophy number 7, they’re going to need an edge, and Danny Smith’s special teams must step up to provide that, whether that comes in the form of kick returns that impact the game, forcing fumbles on returns, downing punts at the one, blocking kicks or some other combination thereof.

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Watch Tower: Joe Starkey Perpetuates the Ike Taylor vs. Keenan Lewis Myth

Old-school football purists took heart from Super Bowl XLVIII because it proved the dominating defense has a plays in today’s NFL. For Steelers fans that reality was sobering because it revealed just how far the Steelers defense has fallen. The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review’s Joe Starkey took the occasion to make a poignantly valid critique of the “Stained Curtain.”

Starkey’s conclusion is largely correct, but in reaching it he helps purvey a myth that is gaining currency within Steelers Nation and the Watch Tower takes a look….

Steelers Defense in Decline

Starkey minces no words:  The Steelers defense died in Super Bowl XLV at the hands of Aarron Rogers. He then cites steep declines in killer key defensive performance indicators sacks, interceptions, fumble recoveries, and rush defense.

  • Given stats, perhaps “Stained Curtain” is too tame a term to coin.

While it was less blunt, Steel Curtain Rising drew similar lessons from Super Bowl XLVIII (if you, my beloved reader, can entertain the legal fiction that Steel Curtain Rising and the Watch Tower are in fact separate).

  • But if the conclusion is not up to question, some of Starkey’s reasoning however is.

The core of the Watch Tower’s bone with Starkey lies in a key observation he makes regarding recent Steelers personnel decisions.

Colbert and Tomlin allowed cornerback Keenan Lewis to walk without an offer while retaining Ike Taylor and his exorbitant cap hits. [Emphasis Added.]

Before breaking down the nuances of Starkey’s statement, let’s be clear:  While it may not grow to Dan Marino proportions, doubtlessly decision to let Lewis leave will haunt the Steelers. Lewis was clearly  blooming into a top cornerback, and cornerback who should have stayed a Steeler.

  • That remains true even if Cortez Allen grows into the player the Steelers thought they had when they chose him over Lewis….

…Wait. Was the choice the Steelers made last year to take Allen over Lewis or was the choice about taking take Taylor over Lewis?

If you’re confused, you should be, because the story is changing before our very eyes, and that’s where the Watch Tower shines its lights.

In the Midst of Some Revisionist History?

A year ago, the talk out of the South Side was focused on the Steelers decision to opt for Cortez Allen over Keenan Lewis. In addition to bringing back William Gay, Kevin Colbert needed to make the football equivalent of a “Dollar Ball” type decision. (Now, how that process evolved and who drove it is another interesting question which the Watch Tower would like to look into.)

  • But that doesn’t change the fact that the alternative in play was Allen vs. Lewis, and not Lewis vs. Taylor as Starkey seems to imply now.

The Watch Tower makes the point of singling Starkey out here, because the Lewis vs. Taylor story is gaining ground on various sites and Twitter feeds within Steelers Nation.

Fans will be fans. Passions of the moment and short memories drive sports bar and golf course conversations never mind if the fact get warped – yours truly once heard a graying Steelers fan demand Joe Walton’s return while watching the Steelers offense struggle sans Barry Foster late in the 1993 season.

Fair enough. Let fans be fans. But journalists have a higher responsibility to the facts. It’s one thing to say the Steelers erred in not focusing on Taylor vs. Lewis, it’s another to imply they did indeed and made the wrong choice.

  • And if Starkey thought the Steelers should have pink slipped Taylor a year ago, he should have said it then.

A quick Google search using “Joe Starkey Ike Taylor” only brought up one article between January and April of 2013. In that missive, Starkey mentions Ike Taylors “9.5 million cap hit” but makes no suggestion that the Steelers should have cut him.

More broadly speaking, a cursory search of the terms “Ike Taylor Keenan Lewis” during the same period finds little real discussion in Steelers Nation over the possibility of cutting Taylor to keep Lewis.

The Watch Tower generally likes Starkey’s work, having praised him for sounding the alarm very early on Bob Ligashesky and Larry Zierlin and for having the guts to publicly question the press’ ability to assess any character changes made by Ben Roethlisberger.

But the Steelers thought process a year ago involved Lewis vs. Allen, and Starkey does the discourse in Steelers Nation no favors by implying otherwise.

Quick Word on Colbert and Tomlin’s Drafting

Starkey takes aim at Mike Tomlin and Kevin Colbert’s drafting record stating point blankly that they have “failed.” He backs up his claim by citing Ziggy Hood, Thaddus Gibson, Alameda Ta’Amu, and Crezdon Butler.

There’s no argument that those were missed picks, but picks like Lawrence Timmons, LaMarr Woodley, Cameron Heyward, William Gay, and Cortez Allen illustrate that Colbert’s cupboard for drafting defense is far from bare.

Thanks for visiting. To read more analysis of the media that cover the Steelers, click here to read more from Steel Curtain Rising’s Watch Tower.

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Steelers Fire Al Everest As Special Teams Coach

In a shocking and totally uncharacteristic move the Pittsburgh Steelers fired special teams coach Al Everest.

Unlike his predecessor, Mike Tomlin has not been wont to fire his assistant coaches. He resisted pressure to fire his first special teams coach  Bob Ligashesky  after the 2007 campaign when the Steelers special teams were a glaring liability.  He went to the mat for Bruce Arians after the 2009 season when management preferred to see the oft criticized offensive coordinator go.

But this isn’t an issue of Tomlin being willing to fire or not fire an assistant coach. NFL teams do not fire coaches during the preseason.  Todd Haley did it while in Kansas City, and it was taken as an immediate sign of coaching instability.

(A quick survey of non-NFL sites already has some pundits chalking the move up to the “Todd Haley effect.”)

Insights into Al’s Exit Absent….

The news of Everest’s was broken by Jay Glazer on Twitter at 1:24 pm. Since then the scribes in the Pittsburgh press corps have had all day to consult their sources, yet no one has any news on why Everest was let go.

Jim Wexell admitted on Twitter that he never understood why Everest’s replacement, Amos Jones, hadn’t been given the job in 2010.

Alan Robinson of the Tribune-Review offered a possible chink of light on the subject with his comment that Amos Jones “already was doing much of the on-field coaching.” Dale Lolley added to the story by reminding readers that Jones and Mike Tomlin had been friends since coaching together at the University of Cincinnati back in 1999 and 2000.

Fair enough.

But Mike Tomlin certainly did not wake up “think, ‘gee, wouldn’t it be nice to give my buddy Amos a promotion, he does all the work anyway’ and issue a pink slip.

Clearly there’s more to the story.

Reviewing the Everest Record

Al Everest joined the Steelers in January of 2010 after a season where special teams breakdowns had cost the Steelers a minimum of two games.

He made an immediate impact in 2010, with splash special teams plays contributing directly to the margin of victory in road contests vs. Tennessee and Cincinnati.

But special teams performance waned during the later part of 2010, contributing to the Steelers a home loss vs. the Jets. Everest’s special teams also benefited from a rather, “generous,” call in the AFC Divisional playoffs vs. Baltimore.

A quick review of Steel Curtain Rising’s post-game Report Cards for 2011 (click here to review) shows a similar mixed bag. While special teams did come up with big plays and solid play in general, they also suffered two blocked kicks and got suckered by a fake punt vs. Kansas City that never should have happened.

As I observed back in 2009, the history of Steelers history with special teams coaches features an ensemble of Dr. Jekyll-Mr. Hyde characters (click here for the full article).

In that light, Everest clearly continued the trend, as his special teams improved markedly from Bob Ligashesky’s disastrous units.

Now Steelers Nation had better hope that Amos Jones can buck the trend.

Thanks for visiting. Click here to check out the rest of Steel Curtain Rising. Or… Follow @SteelCurtainRis

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The Steelers vs. the New York Jets History

At first glance, the Pittsburgh Steelers and New York Jets are two teams that share little history. They’ve only played 19 times. For comparison’s sake, the Steelers and Saints have played 14 times.

This week of course, Mark Sanchez and Santonio Holmes head to Heinz field in a game that will go along way to determining both team’s playoff fortunes.

What the Steelers and Jets history might lack in quantity is made up in quality. Many meetings between these two teams have been steeped in significance, although many times the significance was not apparent at the moment.

Click on the links below or scroll down to relive some of the key moments in Steelers-Jets History:

1969 – The Most Important Steelers Game in History – Not Involving the Steelers?
1983 – The End of Eras
1988 – So Far, Yet So Close
1989 – The Shadow (and Promise) of Things to Come
1990 – IF Only this Could Have Been a Divisional Game…
1992 – Cowher Power is Born as Barry “Bananas” Foster Romps
2000 – Vinny Testaverde – New Uniform, Same Result
2001 – Hines Ward’s First 10 Catch, 100 Yard Game
2003 – 40 Passes, in the Snow….?
2004 – Rookie Roethlisberger’s 11th Victory
2004, Playoffs – Steelers Football at Its Best: Pure Power Rushing Carries the Day
2007 – Tomlin’s Trap Game Trip Up

The Most Important Steelers Game in History – Not Involving the Steelers?“I Guarantee Victory” – Joe Namath, prior to Super Bowl III

You know the story. The NFL and AFL were merging, and the brash young quarterback of the upstart New York Jets guaranteed victory despite being an 18 point underdog.

The Jets of course took an early lead, Don Shula of course waited too long to put Johnny Unitas in, and the biggest upset in Super Bowl history was on.

On the Colts sidelines that day was a young assistant named Charles Henry Noll. Who knows what happens if the Colts win? Does the added notoriety lead to a better offer for Noll? Does perhaps stick around hoping to repeat?

We’ll never know. One thing we do know is this:

  • Noll learned that the Colts were wrapped too tightly prior to Super Bowl III felt it cost them the game. Noll avoided the same mistakes when he led the Steelers to Super Bowl IX.

The rest, as we say, is history.

The End of Eras
December 10, 1983 – Steelers 34, Jets 7

A moment far more bitter than sweet for Steelers fans. The Steelers snapped a three game losing streak, but the price, as Myron Cope would write a decade later, was “the last throws that were left in Terry Bradshaw’s arm.”

Bradshaw opened with a pass touchdown pass to Greg Garrity and followed with another to Calvin Sweeney, but that was it.

  • Not just for the day. Not just for the season. But for good.

It was the last NFL game at Shea Stadium. It was the last pass of the last game of Terry Bradshaw’s career. It was the last time the remnants of the Super Steelers would ever contend. Too many eras ended that day.

So Far, Yet So Close
October 10, 1988 – Jets 24, Steelers 20

The 1988 Steelers had started 1-6, but on the previous week, led by Rodney Carter, Gary Anderson and Rod Woodson, the Steelers had thumped the Broncos to snap a six game losing streak. Could Chuck Noll’s boys make it two in a row?

  • The Steelers jumped to a 10-0 lead but, as was the case many times during the 1988 season, the Steelers saw that lead evaporate in the second half.

The Shadow (and Promise) of Things to Come
December 10, 1989 – Steelers 13, Jets 0

Steel Curtain Rising discussed this Steelers-Jet’s match up in the tribute to the 1989 Steelers, celebrating Greg Lloyd’s announcement to the NFL that he was a force to be reckoned with, as he knocked Ken O’Brien out of the game, caught an interception, and WWE-style three counted a concussed Al Toon.

IF Only this Could Have Been a Divisional Game…
November 25, 1990 – Steelers 24, Jets 7

This victory was sandwiched in between losses to the Cincinnati Bengals. The 1990 Steelers would finish 9-7. Unfortunately, only one of those victories came against an AFC Central team.

  • One more divisional win would have put the Steelers into the playoffs….

Cowher Power’s Second Victory – Barry “Bananas” Foster Romps
September 13, 1992 – Steelers 27, Jets 10

Rookie head coach Bill Cowher’s Steelers shocked the NFL in defeating the Oilers the week before. Chris Berman remained unconvinced, predicting that Brownie Nagel would lead the Jets to victory.

  • Barry Foster had other ideas, as he ran for a then team record 190 yards, and the Steelers revival under Bill Cowher was was on!

Vinny Testaverde – New Uniform, Same Result
October 8, 2000 – Steelers 23, Jets 3

The Steelers had tormented Testaverde in Tampa, Cleveland, and Baltimore. Would things be different in New York?

Afraid not. One week after upsetting the Jacksonville Jaguars in a game that set the tone for a decade, the Steelers showed they were for real. The Steelers did not intercept Testaverde because he got only one pass off before getting knocked out of the game.

Hines Ward’s First 10 Catch, 100 Yard Game
December 6, 2001 – Steelers 18, Jets 7

It is hard to believe that the Steelers had one of the NFL’s best-kept secrets and it is hard to believe that his name is Hines Ward. The previous week the Steelers had lost Jerome Bettis, who had been dominating the league in rushing, and were in need of leadership. Hines Ward delivered posting his first 10 catch game while breaking the 100 yard barrier for the first time.

40 Passes, in the Snow….?
December 14, 2003 – Jets 6, Steelers 0

Ok, it was 38 passes not 40, but the Meadowlands are a difficult place to throw in December, let alone in a blinding snow storm. That didn’t stop Mike Mularkey from throwing the ball, which did stop the Steelers from winning.

  • The Steelers failure to draft Chad Pennington was a subplot that day. During the next draft that proved to be one of Kevin Colbert’s wiser non-decisions

Jerome Bettis broke Franco Harris record that day, causing Mike Prisuta to plead for the Steelers to part ways with the Bus. 1,309 yards and 22 touchdowns and a Super Bowl later, Bettis would prove Prisuta wrong.

Rookie Roethlisberger’s 11th Victory
December 12, 2004 – Steelers 17, Jets 6

The Jet’s played this one closer than the score might indicate, as Curtis Martin crossed the 13,000 yard barrier, marking the first time that 13,000 rushers faced off against each other.
Rookie Ben Roethlisberger won his 11th consecutive game, in route to setting the rookie record

Steelers Football at Its Best: Pure Power Rushing Carries the Day

January 15, 2005 – Steelers 20, Jets 17

People remember this as the game where Ben Roethlisberger started playing like a rookie. They remember it for the Jet’s Doug O’Brien missing 2 field goals that cost his team the game. But the real beauty of the game was the effort put forth by the Steelers running back crops.

  • Jerome Bettis ran 27 times 101 yards and a TD
  • Duce Stanley ran 11 times for 54 yards

That might not be an overwhelming total, but both backs had to come out due to injuries at critical times, and the Steelers ability to beat the Jets into submission with two power rushers was a sight to remember.

Tomlin’s Trap Game Trip Up
November 18, 2007 – Jets 19, Steelers 16

During Mike Tomlin’s rookie season the knock on him was that his Steelers “played down to the competition.” No where was this more apparent than against the Jets. New York was 1-9 in route to 4-12, but the Steelers struggled all day, as Bob Ligashesky’s special teams gave up a 33 yard punt return that allowed the Jets to send the game into overtime where they won by a field goal.

Free free to share your memories of Steelers-Jets match ups past and/or offer your thoughts on the upcoming game.

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Steelers Hire Al Everest as Special Teams Coordinator

As has been reported, the Pittsburgh Steelers have hired Al Everest as special teams coordinator, making him the first coach to hold such a title.

Everest most recently coached in San Francisco, with mixed success. He did however win special teams coach of the year honors in 2002 when he was with the New Orleans Sanits.

Al Everest replaces Bob Ligashesky, whom Mike Tomlin fired immediately following the Steelers 2009 season. Under  Ligashesky, in 2007, the Steelers gave up touchdowns on both punt returns during the regular season, both of which proved to be costly. In the Steelers playoff loss to Jacksonville, Ligashesky’s also gave up a 96 yard return that set up the Jaguar’s first touchdown.

  • Mike Tomlin stood by his special teams coach, claiming that special teams was more about “want to.”

The Steelers special teams did improve somewhat in 2008, but they became a chronic weakness this past season, costing the Steelers at least two games if not more.

Mike Tomlin continues to interview candidates for the vacant defensive assistant position and the vacant wide receivers position.

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Steelers Lose Shipley, Interview April

A.O. Shipley, a Pittsburgh area native and former center for Penn State, has refused a contract offer from the Steelers and instead signed with the Philadelphia Eagles, reports the Post Gazette.

It was first reported that Shipley declined to sign with the Steelers when the team could not tell him who his position coach for 2010 would be — which many took as a sign that Larry Zierlien’s days were numbered.

However, A.O. Shipley told Mike Bires of the Beaver Times that he was looking for a team that would give me the best chance to make a 53 man roster. Shipley was a 7th round draft pick for the Steelers in 2009 and spent the 2009 season on the team’s practice squad.

Tomlin Interviews Bobby April

The search to replace fired special teams coach Bob Ligashesky is on and, although there is not much out there on his replacement, what little news there is, is encouraging.

Ed Bouchette reported in Post-Gazette Plus yesterday that Mike Tomlin was interviewing Bobby April. April severed as the Steelers special teams coach in 1994 and 1995. He was last seen on a Steelers sideline running up to Bill Cowher and encouraging him to call a surprise on sides kick during Super Bowl XXX.

The kicked worked, and today still forms an important part in the legened of the greatest comeback that never was…. (Thanks Neil…)

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Steelers Fire Bob Ligashesky – Special Teams Coach Sent Packing

During the Steelers 2007 season special teams breakdowns, in the form of returns for touchdowns cost the Pittsburgh dearly.

  • A punt returned for a touchdown ultimately was the difference in a 21-14 loss to the Arizona Cardinals
  • A kickoff return for a touchdown cost them a game against the Jets, a 1-8 team that would finish 4-12 (sound familiar?)
  • And of course the kick off return for a touchdown played a huge role in the Steelers 31-29 playoff loss to Jacksonville.

When the dust settled no heads, however, rolled. Mike Tomlin reviewed the film and determined that the Steelers special teams deficiencies were rooted in personnel and not coaching.

The Steelers coverage units improved markedly in 2008, but what had been a bad dream on special teams in 2007 turned into an absolute nightmare in 2009.

And this time it cost Bob Ligasheksy his job. As well it should.

It is true, as John Harris pointed out, that several of the choices the Steelers made for their final cuts came back to haunt their special teams.

But Joe Starkey, Harris’ colleague at the Tribune-Review, pointed out shortly after he was hired, Ligasheksy’s prior track record as a special teams coach indicates he does not deserve the benefit of the doubt a second time around.

Who Will Replace Ligasheksy?

The Steelers have made no move to replace Ligasheksy but speculation in Steelers Nation is rife that Bobby April will return. April coached the Steelers special teams from 1994 and 1995 – probably the unit’s best overall period.

April had been special teams coach for the Bills, but was let go along with the entire staff.

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Bob Ligashesky Did Not Begin Steelers Special Teams Woes (But It Appears He Has Contributed)

Steelers Nation is rightly in an uproar over the team’s special teams failures which most recently gave the Bengals the 6 point margin which cemented their series sweep. Unfortunately, special teams snafus have a precedent in Pittsburgh, one whose familiarity does little to ease frustration.

A (Not So Pleasant) Stroll Down Memory Lane

Chuck Noll was the last in the NFL to hire a full time special teams head coach. What prompted him to change?

  • 6 blocked punts in 1988, plus another errant snap in the mud at Cleveland Stadium at resulting in the ball being hiked 50 yards behind the line of scrimmage.

Noll hired George Stewart in 1989, and the Steelers special teams improved significantly, so much that Bill Cowher’s decision not to retain him in 1992 raised eye brows.

Steelers fans lived to regret that decision. In 1992 John Guy’s special teams were normal.

  • A year later, they gave up 3 punt returns for touchdowns, plus a blocked punt in the playoffs against Kansas City in overtime that cost them the game.

This was all the more ironic, given that Cowher cut his teeth in the NFL as a special teams coach. Ed Bouchette was on record as saying that special teams were “Cowher’s baby.”

Perhaps that explains something. Cowher hired Bobby April, and under him the Steelers special teams excelled.

Yet, April after coaching with the Steelers in 1994 and 1995, April opted to go back to native New Orleans.

Cowher replaced him with Ron Zook, who fielded decent special teams from 1996 to 1998. When Zook departed after the 1998 season to take a job in the college ranks, Cowher replaced him with Jay Hayes, who did an OK job in 1999, but it went down hill from there.

  • Arguably, it was poor special teams play that cost the Steelers a playoff spot in 2000, as they contributed directly to losses to the Eagles and Giants
  • Special teams reached the height of ignominy, in 2001, where the Patriots upset the Steelers in the AFC Championship on the strength of a punt a blocked field goal returned for a touchdown

Steelers Special Teams in the Mike Tomlin Era

Mike Tomlin, like Cowher, caught people’s attention when chose not to retain his predecessor’s special teams coach. Instead Tomlin replaced Kevin Spencer, who fielded fine special teams, with Bob Ligashesky.

Credit Joe Starkey for calling this one. On January 31, 2007 Starkey wrote this of Ligashesky:

Again, it’s possible Ligashesky is going to become the special-teams version of Bill Belichick. He had some good years at Bowling Green. But if I’m the guy doing the hiring, and I’m looking at his recent job performance, I’m cringing.

In 2003, Ligashesky coached Pitt’s special teams. The Panthers were last in the Big East in kickoff and punt returns. They also finished 116th in kickoff coverage, which might not seem bad until you consider 117 teams played Division I-A football.

In St. Louis this season, Ligashesky’s units allowed an NFC-worst three kick-return touchdowns. The Rams somehow managed to finish below the Steelers in punt and kick return average.(27th and 26th, respectively) and had the 28th-best kickoff coverage team. The punt coverage was better — 10th overall — but allowed a touchdown. (Emphasis Added.)

The Steelers special teams were absolutely atrocious during Ligashesky’s first year as special teams coach, giving up TD’s both punts and kicks, costing the Steelers the Jet’s game.

  • They also gave up a kick off return for a TD in the playoffs against Jacksonville, giving the Jaguars 7 points in a game that would be decided by two.

Mike Tomlin determined that it was the Steelers personnel, and not Ligashesky’s tutelage that caused the Steelers special teams woes in 2007, and to his credit, they improved in 2008.

That Was Then This Is Now

Just nine games into the season the Steelers special teams have given up 3 touchdowns on kick off returns. Once against Cleveland, once against Minnesota, and once against Cincinnati.

To that you can add the 7 points the Chargers got off of the on-sides kick they recovered. At the time it looked like they got caught with their pants pulled down. Mike Tomlin said they’d actually prepped their team to ready, which makes it worse.

What Ails the Steelers Special Teams?

It is hard to say what exactly is wrong with the Steelers special teams. First the word was that special teams weren’t the same without Andre Fraizer, who was out against Cleveland and Minnesota.

Of course Fraizer played against Cincinnati, and that did not prevent the Cincinnati from scoring a quick six on a kick off return.

They cut reserve linebacker Arnold Harrison today, in a move that appears to be related to his special teams performance. They’ve promoted Donavan Woods from the practice squad to take his place. Woods played some special teams while on the active roster in 2008, and his return is supposed to bolster the unit.

Of course that is what they said when they brought Carey Davis back after putting Frank “The Tank” summers on IR.

Will the Steelers get it together on special teams in 2009? It is hard to say.

  • It is easy to say this, if they don’t the Steelers have no hope netting Lombardi Number Seven, even if they do slide into the playoffs.

Finally, when Tomlin decided to retain Ligashesky in 2008, Steel Curtain Rising gave him the benefit of the doubt. That was then. This is now.

  • Curtain’s Call: Barring a dramatic turnaround on special teams, Ligashesky’s head has got to roll at seasons end. If not before.
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Watch Tower: Steel Curtain Rising Reviews Its 2008 Goofs

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.

The Offensive Line Did Shuffle, Just Not the Way We Predicted…

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.

Confused?

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.

Tomlin Wise Not to Push It Too Hard in Latrobe

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?”

In this light Steel Curtain Rising questioned the long injury list early in training camp and urged the team to heed James Harrison’s entreaties to pick up the intensity.

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.)

For Whom the Bell Doesn’t Toll When It Strikes the 11th Hour

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.

It Looks Like Santonio Holmes Is Going to Stick Around

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.

Blaming Too Much on Bruce?

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.)

So Bob Ligashesky Wasn’t the Special Teams Culprit of 2007

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.

Who watches the watchmen? Steel Curtain Rising’s Watch Tower casts a critical eye on those who cover the Steelers. Click here to read all articles carrying the Watch Tower label.

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