It has become an annual tradition in the NFL that the Monday immediately following the end of the regular season becomes the day that all the teams that missed the playoffs decide who to cast the blame on. Of course, these scapegoats are never the players on the field but are the coaches, general managers and sometimes even presidents of the disappointing team. The Eagles, Bears, Cardinals, Jets, Bills, Browns, Jaguars, Chargers and Chiefs all made changes to either their coaching staff or their front office on “Black Monday” following the 2012 NFL regular season.
One disappointing team that did not announce any changes was the Pittsburgh Steelers, although many of their fans around the web have been pointing fingers on their own. The two members of the Steelers’ personnel that are drawing the ire of the fans are offensive coordinator Todd Haley and the man that signed him to a contract last offseason, general manager Kevin Colbert. The criticism directed at Haley is mostly because the Steelers have a great quarterback and a few dynamic, play-making receivers but the Steelers’ coach decided on a “dink-and-dunk” offense instead. Colbert is blamed for pretty much every flaw that the Steelers had in the 2012 season.
The Steelers’ fans are used to winning so it is unacceptable to them for the Steelers to have this much talent and to only manage an 8-8 record and miss the playoffs. The Steelers’ fans calling for Colbert’s head on a platter is crazy though. The Steelers didn’t have an official general manager position until just last season but Colbert has been executing the duties of a general manager without an official title since 2000. These are some of the things that Colbert has accomplished during that time:
– Colbert signed an undrafted free agent from Kent State University by the name of James Harrison. Harrison has been named to five Pro Bowl games and was named the 2008 NFL AP Defense Player of the Year.
– In 2003 it didn’t seem like the Steelers’ would get much with the 27 th pick of the draft but Colbert made a swap with the Chiefs that vaulted them into the 16 th spot where they signed Troy Polamalu. Like Harrison, Polamalu has earned an AP Defensive Player of the Year Award.
– Colbert signed a big kid named “Big Ben” out of Miami of Ohio. While Roethlisberger had gotten a lot of attention for a player from such a small school, people were debating whether top picks Eli Manning and Phillip Rivers would win a Super Bowl first. Roethlisberger has won two Super Bowl rings, the same amount that Eli has and two more than Rivers.
– For four years the Steelers had a great tandem of receivers in Hines Ward and Plaxico Burress. Ward was a sure-handed possession receiver but Burress was the tall, flashy, play-making receiver that everybody in the NFL wants. Some eyebrows were raised when Colbert decided to give Ward money and let Burress walk but now Ward is 8 th in NFL history in receiving yards while Burress shot himself in the leg and has never been the same again.
– The strength of the Steelers is their young receiving core. The combination of Mike Wallace, Antonio Brown and Emmanuel Sanders is as good as any young trio in the NFL but Colbert didn’t use any high draft picks to acquire them. Wallace and Sanders were both third round draft picks and Brown was taken in the sixth round.
– Other good draft choices by Colbert include drafting Brett Keisel in the 7 th round, drafting LaMarr Woodley in the 2 nd round, drafting Lawrence Timmons in the 1 st and trading down in 2001 and still drafting Casey Hampton.
– Colbert not only signed James Farrior away from the Jets but he also brought the linebacker in to play a position that he had never played before. Farrior has gone on to be a key piece of the Steelers’ dominant defenses.
– Colbert drafted an immediate Pro Bowl center from his first snap when he drafted Maurkice Pouncey out of the University of Florida.
All of those decisions by Colbert equaled to three Super Bowl appearances and two Super Bowl victories. During Colbert’s tenure the Steelers have only had one losing season out of thirteen seasons. Their record during that time is 135-72 and their playoff record is 12-6.
Past success doesn’t always equate to current success. If it did then nobody would ever retire. There is always a possibility of a coach, player or general manager being passed by but Colbert’s success isn’t far enough in the rearview mirror for the Steelers to be kicking him to the curb. The past draft or two haven’t produced a great deal yet and Colbert has been handcuffed by the new salary cap and unable to sign any big free agents. It’s possible that the 2012 season could be the beginning of the end for Colbert but he certainly shouldn’t be standing in the unemployment line after one 8-8 season.
Todd Haley is a bigger question mark, but that’s also why the offensive coordinator should keep his job. Haley is a question mark. Nobody knows whether he is the right man for the Steelers offensive coordinator position because he hasn’t been given a chance yet. In his first season as offensive coordinator Haley didn’t have his quarterback for three games, had terrible backup quarterbacks, had an offensive line that was seemingly held together with scotch tape, had a running attack that didn’t have its starting running back healthy all season, had a number two receiver that was injured for much of the year and had a number one receiver that sat out of training camp and the preseason and had to learn the offense on the fly. Anybody that claims they were able to tell if Haley has what it takes to be an offensive coordinator in the NFL based on the Steelers’ offense in 2012 is full of it. So far Haley has never had one full game with the quarterback, receivers and running backs that were supposed to be starters this season.
If Steelers’ fans want to point fingers then their fingers should be pointed in the direction of the players. It was the players that failed in 2012. If the Steelers failed to make the playoffs due to aspects of the game that Colbert supposedly hasn’t fixed-the defense and offensive line for example-then that would be one thing but the Steelers lost because of the area of the game that Colbert actually had made the strongest part of the team. The Steelers failed to make the playoffs because of Roethlisberger and the receiving core.
In the Steelers’ biggest game of the season up to that point Roethlisberger threw an interception in overtime against the Dallas Cowboys. The interception was returned inside the 10 yard line and the Cowboys kicked a game-winning field goal. The following week the Steelers again played their most important game up to that point and again Roethlisberger threw an interception that set up a game winning field goal. In both games errors by Roethlisberger directly lead to a loss. It might sound harsh to blame Roethlisberger for a play that takes seven seconds when the length of the game is sixty minutes but how it works when you’re the quarterback. When the Steelers win games at the last second Roethlisberger gets the credit, he shouldn’t expect anything different when the Steelers lose games at the last second.
Roethlisberger had plenty of help blowing games from his wide receivers though. Steelers’ receivers couldn’t hold on to the ball all season. There were some games when the receiving core had the dropsies but worse than that was their twelve fumbles. For those of you that don’t keep track of fumbles by receivers, twelve is astonishing. Fumbles by receivers are far less common than fumbles by running backs because they aren’t running through traffic as much. Most teams have just three or less fumbles from the receivers. The worst teams in the league usually only have six or seven. The Steelers had twelve. I’m sure some blame will fall on Haley again. The Haley haters will say that the receivers aren’t used to their new offense or they’ll say that the receivers aren’t disciplined enough. That might be the case if receivers just aren’t catching the ball-and even then it’s a pretty flimsy excuse for the receivers-but when the receiver runs the route correctly, catches the ball but then fumbles later in the play that is just a bad performance by the receiver.
The offseason will certainly be a big one for Haley and Colbert. Haley will continue to try and get players to buy into the “dink-and-dunk” system and he won’t have as many excuses next year if Rashard Mendenhall is healthy from now until the beginning of next season. Colbert will have an even bigger season as he tries to figure out how to re-sign Mike Wallace and Rashard Mendenhall while also figuring out what to do with James Harrison, how to fix the offensive line and hopefully find a new backup quarterback. At this time next year it’s possible that Haley and Colbert both could be looking for a new job but the Steelers were right not to participate in the NFL blame game this time around.
All stats and records were found at Yahoo! Sports.