Friday, November 28, 2008

Steeler Update

Despite injuries to key personnel, a sub-par year for (injured) quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, and a schedule that is acknowledged to be the toughest for any team in the NFL this year, the 2008 Pittsburgh Steelers are currently 8-3 and leading their division.

I pause to note this now, because this could be the high point of their season. The toughest part of that tough schedule is coming up, and it is conceivable that they will win only one of their remaining 5 games. They play New England on Sunday, followed by Dallas the following week--two talented teams that looked beatable earlier in the season, but are coming off their most impressive performances. Then Baltimore, their division rival that always plays them tough, and Tennessee, which has lost only one game. Even their last game with Cleveland is not a total lock, given the inconsistency of the Steelers offense this year.

Of course, they could very well win 3 of those games, and possibly all five. They have the top rated defense in the NFL, and if key personnel stay healthy (which was a problem last season), they can keep games close. The offense is a bigger problem. Injuries to offensive line players, running back Willie Parker and the nagging shoulder injury to Big Ben, make the offense truly unpredictable. Ben and other skill players (including back-ups in newly prominent roles) can make brilliant plays, but it's hard to count too much on improvization.

The coaching has also been inconsistent this year: seemingly brilliant at times, and pretty bad at others (the loss to the Philadelphia Eagles the most obvious case in point.)

The Steelers were inconsistent in their 05 Super Bowl season as well, until they got healthy at the end of that season, just in time for their incredible post-season. That seems unlikely this year, but they do appear to be a better team than last year, and if they can win their division, anything can happen.

As for my sportitude, I find myself less patient with the aggravations of broadcast games--the inconsistent officiating, as well as the frequent and long commercial breaks--and the injuries impinge more and more on the game. So I've mostly recorded the games, read the accounts so I could isolate the parts of the games I want to see, and I watch those. I haven't watched a game live all season, though I've kept up with the score via computer. I will say in my own defense as a fan, most of the games have been pretty ugly. Steeler defense can be fun to watch, but that can turn grim if the offense isn't clicking.

So to sum it up: the Steelers could still end up with a mediocre record, but they have enough potential and proven ability that, with some luck, they could go all the way.

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