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Pitttsurgh Steelers lose Kansas City Chiefs in Wild-Card Game

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Mike Tomlin believes in his Steelers’ future, and you should, too.

Mike Tomlin believes in his Steelers’ future, and you must, too.
Illustration: AP

Earlier than the Steelers obtained run out of Kansas Metropolis like everybody predicted (including their quarterback), Pittsburgh was up 7-0 5 minutes into the second quarter. I assumed that perhaps that they had an opportunity as a result of all this group has carried out with a problematic corpse or Mason Rudolph enjoying QB over the previous couple years defies the legal guidelines of recent soccer. If I hadn’t been watching with a die-hard Okay.C. fan who was calm when usually he’d be a bundle of pessimism, I might’ve had real concern about Patrick Mahomes’ confidence step by step unraveling on account of Andy Reid osmosis.

I bordered on anxious for a few causes: 1) Mike Tomlin is a good coach, and a couple of) The group appears to run like Disney; even when a present or film underwhelms, they proceed to interrupt information and stroll away with wins. Yeah, Ben Roethlisberger performed like Boba Fett post-Sarlacc Pit the previous few years, however their model/success has them ingrained within the dialog.

It was good to see a participant who everybody — apart from probably the most overprotective Steelers followers — needed out of the league look so vastly, overwhelmingly washed that there’s little question his profession is over. Stephen Knox wrote in regards to the hero’s sendoff he obtained however shouldn’t have, so if you wish to get offended about that or snicker at NBC omitting “accused rapist” from its phrase cloud graphic, you possibly can learn that here.

The previous couple of paragraphs however, I’m not going to speak about “7,” as Tomlin so glowingly referred to him. I’m going to speak about what Pittsburgh does at QB going ahead, and the way their technique and infrastructure will in all probability result in a greater end result than you’d see from most NFL groups attempting to rebound after dropping their franchise passer. (See Giants, New York.)

If the specialists are to be believed, and Rudolph is the Steelers’ plan for subsequent yr, then I’m not right here to guage or provide metal linings about subsequent yr’s group. They’ll most certainly go .500 or barely higher once more and perhaps sneak into the playoffs with a bit of luck as is the naked minimal below Tomlin.

Right here’s what he stated after they beat the Browns in Week 17 and secured one other non-losing season (vis USA Today):

“Our agenda, this yr, is to get into [the] single elimination event after which pit our expertise in opposition to others in that single elimination event in an effort to win the World Championship. That’s our mentality yearly.

“And so with that mentality, it’s simply sure {hardware} that you simply anticipate to select up alongside the best way. And should you don’t, you’d be significantly dissatisfied. That’s simply an expectation that we’ve got right here in Pittsburgh.”

It’s no surprise the media, his gamers, and Steelers followers love him. He’s among the finest quotes within the league on prime of being among the finest coaches. If he says they’re going to attempt Rudolph subsequent yr, I imagine him, and I imagine in him. (That blind religion stops in the event that they attempt to repair Dwayne Haskins, as a result of that’s an inconceivable ask alongside the traces of correcting Russell Westbrook’s jumper or Charles Barkley’s golf swing.)

It’s simple to say Pittsburgh ought to’ve drafted a successor earlier, however discovering that QB and never pissing off your man alongside the best way looks as if it was too delicate of a balancing act for the group, in order that they targeted on shoring up flaws Roethlisberger had masked for thus lengthy.

T.J. Watt and the protection had been an enigma this season as evidenced by my lack of ability to begin them the fitting week in fantasy, but in addition by their capability to strain QBs, cease the go, and maintain groups out of the tip zone — they led the NFL in sacks (55), had been ninth in fewest passing yards allowed per recreation, and had been tied for seventh in fewest TDs allowed — whereas being abysmal in opposition to the run, yielding a league worst 146 yards per recreation.

Minkah Fitzpatrick recorded 124 tackles, which led the group, and when your security leads the group in tackles it’s actually because working backs are getting free within the secondary as a result of they’re usually getting previous the entrance seven. Whether or not the Steelers had been drained, unhealthy, or each, up entrance is debatable, however continuously being relied on to get stops as a result of your offense can’t rating, or getting the ball run down your throat as a result of the opposite group is defending a lead/afraid of your go rush, are key factors that needs to be made in any debate in regards to the protection.

It’s equally tough to gauge their offense, too, as a result of even when JuJu Smith-Schuster doesn’t get harm, they had been severely hindered by 7’s lack of ability to boost his yards-per-pass try above 7 (6.2 for the season). Their reworked offensive line was capable of open up sufficient holes for rookie Najee Harris to rack up 1,200 yards, in order that’s promising if subsequent yr’s group is equally passing challenged, and it in all probability will likely be.

I’m not a fan of reaching for a quarterback who’s not there, and the Steelers ought to keep away from tying themselves to any of the underwhelming prospects within the 2022 NFL Draft except they fall to them ala Mac Jones and the Patriots. Nonetheless, not like New England, Pittsburgh made due with a QB who, you understand, aged, and so they have the expertise, teaching, infrastructure, and expertise vital to stay related.

As Tomlin said above, relevance isn’t their purpose, however they might need to accept that till they determine the reply at quarterback. This yr’s playoff berth and the primary quarter and a half in opposition to Okay.C. confirmed that they’ll cling in there, and that’s an awesome omen for whoever is chosen, signed, or promoted to steer the offense.

You simply hope whoever that participant is, he’s worthy of a coach as nice as Tomlin, a group as gifted because the Steelers, and a metropolis as devoted as Pittsburgh.

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