Let me begin by acknowledging that I am the only Pittsburgh resident to admit that I was not at Three Rivers Stadium during the Immaculate Reception. I�ve been a season ticket holder since the day after that epiphany and have attended non-Neil Stiller Bowls.
I�ve been disappointed but, until lately, never let down by our Stillers. During the 70�s, there was never any doubt because of the character and make-up of the team. In the 80�s, the personnel was sorely lacking at times but the effort and determination never waned.
And now the 90�s� beginning with playoff losses [Denver, New England, Dallas, San Diego, Kansas City and Buffalo] and summing up with hard felt losses this and last year to the powerhouses of the AFC cistern division� there is an obvious lack of commitment, dedication and substance. Where does the gavel fall? Is it the rumor mill? Egos? Talent? Lack of focus, or the coach??
Forget the rumors, who cares about anyone�s personal life unless it directly involves the team. They�re paid to perform, not to be role models, gods or in-laws. If it were simply a matter of ego, no one would have allowed some of the recent losses to occur. How little talent does a team need to avoid the embarrassment of losing to Cleveland at home� or anywhere?
Fourteen procedure penalties over the last two weeks certainly reflects a lack of focus, likewise dropped passes, poorly run routes, weak tackling and missed blocking assignments. Now that sounds like a discipline problem. Jeez, I�m beginning to sound like a Lombardi, perish the thought. At the last Ravens game, the coach challenged the defense to rise to the occasion � they promptly surrendered a TD. But the more important facet of that challenge was that the players did not appear to be listening. Their eyes were all over the stadium, some were not facing the coach and some were adjusting equipment. Dare I say that would never have happened to a Noll, Parcells or to most other coaches. This is emblematic of a lack of respect, maybe for the coach or maybe for themselves. Maybe the coach has propelled himself to appear bigger than the team.
Attrition through free agency has certainly taken its ugly toll on the Stillers. Placing too much dependence [money] on particular players has knotted the salary cap and constricted management, although by their own doing. These elements surely have helped to decimate productivity but that wouldn�t account for poor tackles, badly run routes, an ineffective specials team, miscues before the snap and a general lack of desire. The same talent that pounded Cleveland lost to them at Three Rivers. The same team that beat the Ravens in September was routed at Three Rivers. At any rate, this team will never get better with excuses. The Stillers have to wake up and realize that even average talent will be sub-par without discipline and dedication.
If cream rises to the top, so then does the fat in a jar of gravy. It�s time the coach stops with the sound bites and does a little introspection. Preparing for Sunday does not begin with a pep talk on the sidelines. It comes from a regime of hard work - Tuesday through Saturday. We don�t need damage control, we need a staff who will teach the basics and instill in the student an understanding that� [Enter your favorite cliché, the only one that comes to mind is: "Charity begins at home" but that�s too obvious this year]� Save a few players, this team is lacking in character. The team is not defined, not unified and with no direction. That comes from the aforesaid fat with the gravy.
Chuck L. (firstname.lastname@example.org)