Monday, December 02, 2013

Steelers haven't earned the right to dance

By Mark Madden
December 1, 2013
Emmanuel Sanders caught a third-quarter touchdown pass to cut the Steelers’ deficit to 13-7 at Baltimore this past Thursday. Sanders celebrated by imitating Ray Lewis’ iconic dance in the retired Raven’s home stadium. (pictured above) What’s wrong with that? Let me count the ways.
-- The Steelers were still trailing.
-- Sanders is a marginal NFL receiver. Lewis is a sure-fire Hall-of-Famer and, perhaps, the greatest linebacker of his era. Who is Sanders to mock Lewis?
-- Would Sanders have mimicked Lewis if Lewis was still in uniform? If Lewis might later get a chance to bust Sanders up? Doubtful.
-- Sanders followed up his histrionics by dropping a very catchable two-point pass that should have tied the game. Season over. Playoff hopes dead. The disco was closed.
Sanders’ shimmy didn’t cause that crucial conversion to slip through his fingers. But it’s just another example of why the Steelers are so very unlikable. A low-rent talent ridicules a foe of 100 times the accomplishment, then fails in the clutch.
Veterans like Brett Keisel and Troy Polamalu surely know better. How do they put up with this nonsense? The Bill Cowher-era vets have seen better days. A better way. So have you.
Hines Ward occasionally pulled similar routines. But Ward made plays, and he won. Big difference. Ward holds onto that last pass.
Mike Tomlin’s sideline two-step was equally absurd. Does anyone believe Tomlin “lost his placement?” Can anyone imagine Cowher doing that? Chuck Noll? Tomlin took a step toward Jacoby Jones before he stepped away. If what Tomlin did wasn’t intentional, it was careless and embarrassing. Yet Tomlin smirked.
The Steelers won three games, and the bizarre glut of lousy teams contending for the final AFC wild-card spot allowed optimism to come cascading back.
But the Steelers aren’t a playoff team. They never were. They won’t be next year. They’re headed in the wrong direction. Maybe they’re without direction.
The Ravens came out throwing deep. The Steelers ran on their first five plays from scrimmage. Tomlin and offensive coordinator Todd Haley chose to emphasize what the Steelers can’t do. Franco and Rocky no-showed. It’s a fantasy world.
Flacco was throwing bombs. Ben Roethlisberger was handing the ball off. As usual, Roethlisberger was asked to bail out the Steelers. He nearly did.
Ike Taylor got crushed again. He’s not a shutdown corner. He’s a target. Opposition teams go after Taylor. He’s washed up. Taylor is one of many the Steelers must dump at season’s end.
The defense forced one punt and got zero takeaways.
The Steelers are what they are, which is 5-7.
There’s no denying that the Steelers have been successful under Tomlin. In seven years under Tomlin, the Steelers have won one Super Bowl and got to another.
There’s also no denying that discipline and decorum have steadily eroded as the Steelers get further away from the Cowher era. You don’t see the Cowher guys acting foolish. Perhaps it reflects on the newest generation of players more than anything. Perhaps it’s got something to do with the team’s upper management.
The Steelers used to bleat about a higher standard. These days, not so much. That’s smart. It doesn’t exist anymore. In fact, the very notion dies a bit more each day.

Mark Madden hosts a radio show 3-6 p.m. weekdays on WXDX-FM (105.9).

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