Any time your team cuts off contract negotiations with a player about whom a legitimate argument for “team’s best player” can be made and instead gives the same contract offer to his backup to send a message during a holdout, you have to write a blog post about it. Here are some quick-hit thoughts. I apologize if it comes off as scatterbrained, but it’s late Friday night as I write this (to be published tomorrow morning), and I’m in a glass case of emotionright now – likely brought on by doingTHIStwice tonight.
First, let’s state the obvious: the Mike Wallace’s holdout was stupid as soon as it started. I wish current NFL players were more informed of past league history. After finding out that James Harrison didn’t know who Ken Stabler is earlier in the week, we’re now dealing with Mike Wallace holding out of training camp despite being on a team who treats negotiations with a player holding out of training camp like the U.S. handles negotiating with terrorists. If you don’t feel like clicking the last link, the main quote from it is below.
Historically, the Steelers don’t negotiate with veterans holdouts who still have time on their existing contract. Wallace’s case is a little different because he was a restricted free agent who was given a one-year tender of $2.7 million for 2012. Still, the Steelers won’t resume talks with Wallace until he gets to camp, which means he must first end his holdout and sign his tender.
What made the holdout even worse were the reports that it was Wallace himself who initiated it – not his agent, Bus Cook, which is probably why GM Kevin Colbert said the following:
“We’ve chosen not to progress with negotiations at this point,” Colbert said. “Once we made that decision, we’re in a different mode.”
A 12-4 record and a playoff berth might be enough to get some people I know rather excited (Bucs and Dolphins fans, I’m looking at you). In Steeler Country, however, playoff berths are simply one step in the journey to a successful season – a small step at that. A truly successful season for the Steelers ends at the absolute bare minimum with the Black and Gold playing in the Super Bowl. Even last season, a Super Bowl loss, still feels a bit empty.
Now that it’s been completely acknowledged that this season ended far from successfully, let’s examine what went right, what went wrong, and how the team needs to eliminate the negatives to get back to where they want to be next season.
Steelers Offense vs Broncos Defense
Here’s the list of injuries on the Pittsburgh side of things.
Rashard Mendenhall – OUT
Maurkice Pouncey – OUT
Ben Roethlisberger – Hobbled, setback last week
Doug Legursky – Probably to play but missed Week 17 after Week 16 shoulder injury
Mewelde Moore – Hasn’t played since the game in San Francisco; expected to play
Add to that the fact that Running Backs Coach Kirby Wilson was badly burned in a house fire, and things are beginning to look ominous.
The Running Game
Redman ran incredibly well last week in his first extended stint as the lead back – until he fumbled twice in the fourth quarter. For all the talk by Pittsburgh fans about Mendenhall’s fumbling, how many fumbles do you think he has in his career? Six (seven if you include the one in last year’s Super Bowl). In 813 career carries. He carries the ball in a unique way that scares people, and he had one very high-profile fumble. But he’s not a fumbler.
Redman is capable of performing well over 20-25 carries. Mewelde Moore will see almost all third down work of more than one yard to go and will likely get 5-10 carries himself. Regardless of who it is, the run game has to show up. 3rd and long’s are not a way to thrive against two great edge rushers and when you have a gimpy QB.
Based on this article, Steelers players voted Antonio Brown the team’s MVP today. Some might find this a curious decision, but let’s look into it further.
If any observer of any Steelers game were polled and asked the question, “which Pittsburgh player would be missed the most if they weren’t in the lineup,” I would think the clear-cut answers would be Ben Roethlisberger and Troy Polamalu. The units that those players carry are so significantly different without them.
However, the award isn’t given based on that question. It’s given based on consistent performances. In a year where Roethlisberger had a SEVEN-turnover game and the defense led by Polamalu couldn’t take the ball away consistently, a guy who was 4th in the NFL Kickoff Return Average, 10th in Punt Return Average, and 2nd in All-Purpose yards (including his 1,018 receiving yards) is a nice choice for this honor.
When considering the relatively down years for the team’s most indispensable players, why not go with “Tony” Brown? I’ve been on the “Brown to the Pro Bowl” Bandwagon for the better part of a month now as he keeps getting better and better.
I certainly hope he can continue it into February – not on the Pro Bowl squad but in the Super Bowl.
There’s a really big NFL game this Sunday night. You may have heard about it. Here are some random thoughts as I get fired up for Sunday.
I’m glad the Steelers had a very difficult two-game stretch playing New England before Baltimore (easy to say now that they won of course). If Cleveland or another also-ran of the NFL had visited Heinz Field last week, I would have been getting pumped for the game vs. the Ratbirds last Wednesday. Instead, I worried about getting stomped by New England last week and then celebrated beating them this week. Only yesterday did I really begin getting my “hate level” up for Sunday night.
Below are some quotes from my second-least favorite-but-unfortunately-still-respected-and-feared-because-he’s-so-damn-good Raven Terrell Suggs (don’t worry, Ray-Ray, you’re still the least favorite but you don’t get the respect any more). If Suggs had said just one or two of these, it would be one thing, but his overdoing it and preening for reporters on the conference call shows a bit of false bravado in my opinion. Note: there were about seven or eight more like this.