It’s no secret that Pittsburgh Steelers fans are spoiled. REALLY spoiled.
After the team’s 8-8 season, many fans have demanded that the team “Fire Mike Tomlin”. Others have said that the Steelers should cut ties with Mike Wallace, Larry Foote, Troy Polamalu, James Harrison, LaMarr Woodley, Max Starks, Ramon Foster, Willie Colon, Rashard Mendenhall, and many others. I agree with some of those assessments. I disagree with others. And I’ll be writing an article soon to talk about who I think the Steelers should keep and who they should cut ties with. But that’s not what I want to talk about today.
What I’d like to discuss is why an 8-8 record isn’t the end of the world. 8-8 basically says that the Steelers are a “middle-of-the-road” team. They lost to as many teams as they beat. They’re “average”.
For Steelers fans, being average is perhaps the worst sin that the team could possibly commit. Steeler Nation has come to expect better than average. And we expect the team to be “better than average” every single year. Even though that expectation makes no sense.
The problem with consistently being a playoff team is that you consistently get to draft in the latter portion of the draft. And that’s not good.
But that’s exactly what’s happened to the Steelers over the years. They’ve been a victim of their own success. How can a team infuse their roster with top talent if they consistently have to make their draft selection in the latter portions of each round?
Sure, you can draft the best guard, or center, or tight end in the entire draft with the 30th pick. But you can’t get the best cornerback drafting there. After all, there are certain positions that can only be replenished with top talent if a team is drafting near the top of the draft. For example, a team simply isn’t going to get a franchise quarterback drafting 30th. And they’re not going to get a shutdown cornerback drafting 25th. And it’s highly unlikely that a team will find a Pro Bowl caliber left tackle with the 32nd pick in the draft.
Sure, there are sometimes exceptions. Some players do slip through the cracks. Tom Brady is the example that is most often cited. But those instances are rare. Typically, if a team wants a shot at the best players in the draft, they have to lose more than half of their games. And the Steelers seldom do that. 8-8 is about as bad as it typically get for the Steelers. Pittsburgh doesn’t know what it’s like to go through a 2-14 season.
The harsh truth is that an occasional bad season is actually a GOOD thing for a team. If the Steelers hadn’t gone 6-10 in 2003, we never would have been able to draft Ben Roethlisberger. Just think about that for a moment.
Similarly, if they hadn’t gone 6-10 in 1999, they wouldn’t have been able to draft Plaxico Burress in 2000. If they hadn’t gone 8-8 in 2006, they wouldn’t have been able to draft Lawrence Timmons in 2007.
This year, the Steelers will draft 17th. That’s not a bad draft position. It’s not as good as drafting 1st, but it’s definitely better than drafting 30th. And I really don’t think that Steeler Nation would be willing to tolerate the type of season that it takes to earn the 1st pick in the draft. So 17th will have to do.