Another “interesting” weekend as a Steelers fan. We were the width of Antonio Brown’s outside cleat from stealing a win late against the Miami Dolphins. I say “stealing” but when you have snow on the pitch and you’re playing a team from south Florida outside, the fact that you are only in a position to “steal” a game from them, I think it’s fair to say that something is badly wrong.
Bob Labriola on steelers.com suggested that all was left was to “win and pray”. Ike Taylor was more defiant: “we still got jobs, we still got games to play” said the aging corner, who has his game of the season next weekend against Cincinnati and the one player in the league who he seems to be kryptonite for, AJ Green.
Trib columnist Dejan Kovacevic was “more assertive” in his view of the Steelers. He is also totally right. Enough is enough.
Taylor, age 33, is contracted until the 2015-2016 season and is due $11.9 million next year. He gets burned all ends up all the time by everyone except, oddly, Green. I get it, it’s not easy being a DB in the NFL at the moment, particularly if the league institutes new rules on hitting of receivers below the waist which is being called for in light of Rob Gronkowski’s ACL tear. This isn’t even factoring in the complicated pass interference rules which see DBs give up huge penalty yards on occasionally marginal calls. You need much, much better DBs to cope in this NFL compared to years gone by. There aren’t many around, but the ones in Pittsburgh are perhaps due for replacement. Taylor is far from the major issue in this team – although at $12m next season you could perhaps argue he is a part of it.
We have too many guys earning too much money and not performing. Case in point: LaMarr Woodley.
LaMarr Woodley is contracted until 2017-2018 and is guaranteed $22.5 million. And he has played like a guy who knows he is guaranteed twenty-two and a half million dollars throughout this season. CUT HIM AND CUT HIM NOW (or, trade him, either or). If we do, maybe we can afford to keep the infinitely more productive Jason Worilds, who has been almost a revelation since the shift to LOLB. This is why we drafted him above Sean Lee (or at least, lets tell ourselves this is why).
Now, I’m willing to consider the possibility that it is our D as a whole that has been in trouble this season, but that suggests that Dick LeBeau is the one that needs to go. Truth is, even if he does, we’ll still have way too many guys in their thirties playing on both sides of the ball. Our O line has shored up a bit, perhaps miraculously, and has a few younger guys who have impressed, but when you examine our salaries, you’ll see deals that look like they belong in MLB. Long years, old guy, high money. Disastrous.
There are some guys on sensible deals: Antonio Brown is contracted until the 2018-2019 season with $8.5 million guaranteed. Brown has developed into our best receiver this season and Jerricho Cotchery has impressed. While it saddens me to say, Emmanuel Sanders has developed a dropping problem that will not make him a viable option next season unless he lowers his financial expectations.
Let’s be honest here, we’re done. Even if we beat Cincinnati, we have to go to Green Bay where we might face Aaron Rodgers. The Packers look pretty much done as well, so they might shut Rodgers down for the year if his collarbone doesn’t heal fully in the very near future. That would be bad news for the Steelers as it might put us in a position to win.
We could end up 8-8 for the season. And what good would it do us? No playoffs, no good draft pick in a draft where we seem likely to lose one of our late round picks because Coach Tomlin sort of got in Jacoby Jones’s way (what a dumb punishment that is – if you can prove he meant it, ban him! Taking draft picks is the sort of thing that should be done for an ORGANIZATION that has broken the rules, not in cases of an individual who may or may not have).
The solution? Trades. The NFL isn’t really a trading league, but we NEED to make some. Our cap hit is ridiculous next year and our space could be as low as $63k. Find a team that will take guys like Woodley, even if it means taking 50 cents on the dollar for him. We could also just cut him and take the cap hit, but perhaps we can bring in draft picks through these trades and we not only badly need them (thanks to Tomlin’s touchline dance) but we need to use them wisely.
Next season is not a total wash yet. Even if we end up 8-8 we can still put ourselves in a position to perform next season. It will, however take a lot of creativity on the part of our front office.