2010 Steelers: Already a Successful Season

Following yesterday’s rapturous 31-24 win over the Ravens at Heinz Field in the AFC Divisional playoffs, it is time to declare 2010 another very successful season for the Pittsburgh Steelers.

The Steelers advance to next Sunday’s AFC Championship game against either the Patriots or Jets, marking the franchise’s league-high 15th trip to the NFL Final Four in the Super Bowl era and an amazing eighth appearance in a conference final in the past 17 years.

In all cases it should be a deemed a successful season when a team advances to the NCAA Division I men’s or women’s basketball Final Four, and the same standard holds true in professional football.

Pittsburgh’s 2010 season is even more impressive when you consider the adversity the team has had to overcome, including a) superstar quarterback Ben Roethlisberger‘s four-game suspension for buying an alcoholic drink for an adult under the age of 21; b) the good P.R. but bad football managerial move of trading Santonio Holmes; and c) rampant injuries to a veteran roster, including losing both starting tackles (Willie Colon and Max Starks), a position where the Steelers had the worst depth in the NFL on its roster entering the summer.

Moreover, while it was not the matchup this team needed in the divisional plaoffs to improve its Super Bowl chances, few things in life are more enjoyable than beating the Ravens in the postseason, particularly when it involves watching the Ravens self-destruct in a game they appeared to destined to win at halftime.

As for potential opponents next week, I only give the Steelers a 20 percent chance to beat New England, but give this squad a 60 percent shot of winning at home versus the Jets. Yes, the Jets beat the Steelers, 22-17, earlier this year at Heinz Field, but Pittsburgh was without Troy Polamalu and Heath Miller in that game, and their absences were the difference between winning and losing.

And does anyone actually believe a squad quarterbacked by Mark Sanchez would win a playoff game on the road against a great defensive team with Ben Roethlisberger at quarterback? I sure do not.

In contrast, just pop in the tape of Tom Brady and New England’s dismantling of the Steelers at Heinz Field earlier this year and it is hard to fathom the Steelers winning next week at New England. The beauty, however, is that Pittsburgh would not be dominated so profoundly in a rematch (even with the game at New England) and that the Steelers can be very aggressive on both sides of the ball, since they will be decisive underdogs.

However, to have any chance of advancing to the Super Bowl this year the Steelers’ must shore up their special teams, which nearly cost them the game against the Ravens, even though Pittsburgh was clearly the better team. They must also play smarter football (someone please read this to Chris Kemoeatu) after nearly being undone by 9 penalties for 93 yards against Baltimore.

Dick LeBeau is the architect of the 3-4 defense and may be the best defensive coordinator in NFL history. But Tom Brady has been his kryptonite, posting a 6-1 record as a starter against the Steelers, and regularly carving up LeBeau’s zone schemes.

Assuming New England is the opponent next week, the Steelers will have to blitz far more often against the Patriots and dare them to throw deep against man coverage, something LeBeau is reluctant to do because his No. 2-4 cornerbacks are not very good, particularly downfield.

Two points of optimism for that game, though: 1) Jonathan Scott was in his first start at left tackle for the Steelers in that game and despite being abused by the Ravens all day yesterday, he is a much better player now, and the Patriots do not have a pass rusher near the level of Terrell Suggs.

2) the Steelers’ rookie wide receiver duo of Emmanuel Sanders and Antonio Brown have become more intricate parts of the offense each game and will have a clear speed advantage over the Patriots No. 2-4 cornerbacks, who are also pretty weak.

Regardless, all I am thinking today is: Go J-E-T-S, because no Steelers fan with any common sense would prefer going to New England next week versus playing the Jets at home.

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  • Cols714

    8 times in 17 years is pretty awesome. Every two years we are playing to go to the Super Bowl. What a great team to be a fan of.

    Go Jets, I don’t want to face the Patriots. I’d give the Steelers an 80% chance of beating the Jets at home.

  • Monsoon444

    There is nothing that Steeler Nation would want more than to beat New England on the road in Foxborough next week.

    • Anonymous

      To each his own, but I personally prefer another ring.

    • Ted

      Agree. However, the thing I want most is a seventh ring and our best chance of that happening is not going to NE at all.

  • DC in ATL

    I’ll root against the Patriots today out of habit, but how awesome would it be to deny the Patriots a trip to the Super Bowl? It would be just returning the favor for 2001 and 2004.

    Having said that, no matter what happens next week this has been a wildly successful season.

  • NohSpinZone

    Guys, love the blog and the podcast but I do not like this narrative. This team has talent enough to win the whole damned thing and we shouldn’t be satisfied with anything less. If need be we can talk like this in hindsight way after the season’s over. Go Steelers — all the way!

  • EasyLikeSundayMorning

    Ted, two of SL’s loyal readers (Randy Steele and I) have already written in a previous thread that we’d prefer to play the Pats, and more commenters to this thread have agreed. What value is there in saying, “no Steelers fan with any common sense” would prefer this? You are entitled to your opinion, and we certainly don’t all have to agree on everything. But let’s keep our attacks focused on the opponents.

    Also, you may only give us a 20% chance of winning in Foxboro, but Accuscore and FO will likely have higher odds.

    • Ted

      ELSM, there was no personal attack meant. How could there have been when I was writing a column with no idea of potential replies?

      I will agree that a win at NE this year would rival the win at Indy in the divisional round in 05 and the win at Oakland in the AFC Champ game. in 74 as the best non-Super Bowl wins in Steelers’ history. BTW, I gave us about a 15% chance of winning at Indy in 05, so I would never say we have no chance.

      That said, no Steeler fan, including your or Randy, or any football fan in general, would argue that the Steelers have a better chance of winning at NE next week than we do of beating the Jets at Heinz Field.

      Thus, it is “common sense” to me to want to face the team you have the best chance of beating each round in the playoffs. Yes, it would be an amazing accomplishment to beat the Ravens and NE en route to the Super Bowl.

      But a win over the Ravens and hard-fought but close loss to NE is far less desirable than beating the Jets in an ugly game and actually getting to the Super Bowl. All that matters is winning and advancing (who cares about the opponent) and our best chance is undoubtedly against the Jets.

      If you believe that we have a better chance of winning against Brady at NE than beating Sanchez at home, then I have given you way too much credit. However, I assume you agree that our chances are better at beating the Jets, but instead relish the chance of a huge and vengeful victory at NE. I respect that bravado and confidence, but it is not common sense based on what gives us the best chance of getting to the Super Bowl.

      • Boogityboogityboo

        Who are you to talk about giving somebody “too much credit?” Nearly everything you’ve predicted this season has been wrong.

        • Randy Steele

          Mr. Kian doesn’t need me to defend him, but he’s brought up several good, thought-provoking points in his editorials all during the season.

          I would have loved the Steelers to have taken on the Patriots and beaten them. Hey, what Steeler fan wouldn’t. But guess what? We have the J-E-T-S, Jets Jets Jets instead, and we have them in our stadium. So let bombast begin.

          • RoB D

            I think that home field advantage trumps everything. Of course I’d rather play at Heinz Field than Foxboro. I know that it hasn’t seemed to be as MUCH as an advantage in recent years (ask NE about that right now!) but it”s still giving you a significant edge.

            Oh well..it’s all academic now. Tom Brady and his hairnet are one and done. Bring on the bombast..all that trash talk really didn’t help the Ravens any nor their worshipful fans in the MSM.

          • Rickmako

            Steelers have the Jets, but the Jets are tough and it will be another close game. If special teams continues to play the way they have, the Jets will win. I suggest a lot of squib kicks on special teams, 8 men in the box on defense and make Sanchez beat you. Stop their running game and no special teams mistakes and its superbowl. 7 rings for #7.

      • Anonymous

        It’s a sport, aform of entertainment. You all all free to have your own preferences. Ted (and I) value the Lombardi and prefer the matchups that make that most likely. Randy and Easy covet a victory over hated opponent New England enough to prefer playing them and risking the more difficult path to the ring (assuming like Ted that they agree that path is more difficult). These are merely positions of preference. “Common sense” doesn’t appear to me to be relevant.

        I think it would be more fair to consider it common sense if you have the same set of preferences as Ted since that would be equivalent to believing at home versus Jets is a higher percentage win than on the road at New England. But if your preferences are different, that’s a completely different matter.

  • countertorque

    Ted, I’ve got a new story line for you: The Steelers traded Santonio, not because of his suspension, but because they wanted to lower the odds that they’d have to face the Pats in the playoffs… and it worked!

    Just kidding. I just think it’s funny how this has worked out. Of course, you’ll have plenty of opportunity to tell me you told me so if Santonio gets the game winning TD in Heinz Field this week.