“The Pittsburgh Steelers‘ Way” is a simple reference about how the Steelers handle their business in comparison to other NFL franchises and organizations, and how the Steelers have been the picture of stability everywhere from their ownership to their coaches. However, the question that I had to ask myself yesterday after the Steelers were defeated at home against the Miami Dolphins was simple: What happens when the “Steelers’ Way” doesn’t work anymore?
That is a question with many different layers, but it all stems from the top down in my opinion.
Ownership has been a staple of the Steelers’ franchise for as long as anyone can remember, but it isn’t like it used to be. Art Rooney was the patriarch of this fine institution and after four Super Bowl victories and his death, handed it down to his son Dan Rooney. Dan took the reins, brought in Bill Cowher to succeed Chuck Noll, and Cowher responded with success and eventually a Lombardi trophy to boot.
Then enters Mike Tomlin, but this time Dan’s son Art Rooney II had become the team President as Tomlin led the Steelers to a Super Bowl 43 victory. Shortly after, Dan Rooney took over as the United States’ Ambassador to Ireland and left Art Jr. to fend for himself.
From there, the water flows downhill. Coaching decisions have been questionable at best. How can you forget the Bruce Arians “retirement”? Arians retired, and then came out of retirement to coach for the Indianapolis Colts about a week later. He then garnered the Coach of the Year award and is now the head coach of the Arizona Cardinals. Remember that? Happy retirement Bruce!
With the Arians departure came Todd Haley, the much-maligned and much-talked about offensive coordinator that is just as well known for his outbursts as he is for his expertise. To say that questionable coaching decisions and hires have been made is an understatement. Believe it or not, I could go on.
From the coaches, it stems to the players within the organization. Kevin Colbert, the Steelers’ GM, continues to swing and miss with the valuable high draft picks. Sure, there have been some diamonds in the rough like Antonio Brown drafted in the sixth round, but what about the first- and second-round busts that frankly haven’t produced?
Mike Adams looks to be a waste of a pick at left tackle, Marcus Gilbert still has to prove he is a quality tackle at the NFL level, Ziggy Hood is not nearly the player they thought he would become at defensive tackle, and until five games ago, Jason Worilds looked like a second-round bust. Add some Limas Sweed, and you have yourself a recipe for drafting failure.
The “Steelers’ Way” was to be built around three parts: consistency, quality drafting and loyalty. The Steelers have been consistent and loyal, but what if that has now become a bad thing?
Take a look at other franchises. The perfect example would be the most consistent and successful team since 2000: the New England Patriots. Bill Belichick has become known for releasing players a year early rather than a year late. It makes sense in today’s NFL. He traded Richard Seymour to the Oakland Raiders when everyone thought he was crazy. He got quality draft picks in return and his organization hasn’t skipped a beat since, and that is just one example.
The Steelers on the other hand, are doing the opposite: keeping players too long and suffering for it. James Farrior, Hines Ward, Aaron Smith, Casey Hampton, Brett Keisel, Ike Taylor and Larry Foote are all examples of players that could have been moved earlier in their career for a possible return, but instead were left to waste away salary cap space and leaving gaping holes in the lineup because of it.
The Steelers are a team not in transition, but desperation. The holes left are not small holes in the wall, but holes that are beyond repair. The Steelers aren’t one player away from contending. Quite frankly, the Steelers are in trouble. The only way out of this jam is change. Throw away the current “Steelers’ Way” and create something new, because what has worked in the past sure isn’t working now.