Friday, January 8, 2010

Secondary is primary

A Deadhead would say “What a long, strange trip it’s been.”

The Steelers’ season is over, and while many are disappointed that they didn’t get the help they needed to get into the playoffs, everybody—even the Steelers themselves—agrees that it should not have come down to needing that help.

Things started out so well, as the Steelers went 6-2 and beat Denver and Minnesota.

Then came a bad slide in the middle, with losses to Kansas City, Oakland and Cleveland.

Maybe the Steelers were listening a few weeks ago when I called them the worst NFL team at that moment. After that, they won their last three games, including a stellar 500-yard performance by Ben Roethlisberger against the Packers. But it was too late, as there was just too much to overcome to make the playoffs.

Mike Tomlin has started to clean house quickly. He's fired the offensive line and special teams coaches, which were two of the weakest links on the team this season. But the most crucial area is the defensive secondary.

The secondary's weakness was exposed when Troy Polamalu was injured. We know that Polamalu is a world-class player who can put himself anywhere he needs to be on the field, but I figured that the rest of the secondary was strong enough to fill in.

The Troy-less pass defense was the weakest part of the team. In some of the most egregious losses, the Chiefs and Raiders were able to pass on the Steelers all day. One of the most embarrassing stats is the number of interceptions by cornerbacks during the season--one, by Deshea Townsend (who was not a starter) in the final game against the Dolphins.

Tomlin is already working to improve the Steelers for next year, but special emphasis should be placed on the secondary. While just about every position except quarterback (and maybe the receivers) could use some work, cornerback would be the perfect first-round draft pick.


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