The First Steps On Road To Recovery

Mike Prisuta talked to Steelers leadership about what went wrong in 2012. Ryan Clark, Casey Hampton, Ben Roethlisberger and Brett Keisel responded.

It's been said no problem is ever solved until it's first acknowledged as a problem.

In terms of the 2012 Steelers having won just seven games and looking at a best-case scenario of finishing at 8-8 and out of the playoffs, Ryan Clark is already there.

"It's easy, we didn't make plays," Clark responded when asked how this team could have slipped so far so fast. "There isn't anything to figure out. Other teams had players step up and make plays in moments of the game when it mattered and we didn't. Or, even if we did, we didn't make enough of them.

"We keep bouncing it around like, ‘what happened?' We're just not a good football team. You can try to make as many excuses about the mistakes made as you want, but we are a 7-and-8 outfit. We played 7-and-8-type football, and when you play 7-and-8-type football, you get 7-8. And that's what we are right now.

"We're not the Super Bowl teams of the part. We're not the 12-4 teams or the division champions of the past. We're the 2012 Pittsburgh Steelers and we are below .500."

So at least they've got that part figured out.

The next step is to avoid a recurrence of becoming another .500-at-best team in 2013.

Casey Hampton has an idea along those lines.

"Early in the season, man, you can't give away games you're supposed to win," Hampton said. "That comes back to bite you at the end of the day. You gotta win those games early so later on you can afford to drop a game or two when your health isn't there and you know guys aren't at full strength.

"You gotta win the ones you're supposed to early."

Maybe not all of them – recall that New England lost to Arizona at home in September – but at least half of them.

Had the Steelers won at least twice in the four-pack that was at Oakland, at Tennessee, at Cleveland and San Diego at home, the games at Dallas and at home against Cincinnati wouldn't have been as crippling and the outlook would be much different heading into the regular-season finale.

You knew that already, but it's still nice to hear it from one of the principles involved.

Another thing they'll have to fix is their performance late in games, the quarterback more than any of the rest. To salve that wound Ben Roethlisberger intends to apply, among other things, perspective.

"In the past I've prided myself, and us, on fourth-quarter comebacks," Roethlisberger said. "I've always been good at it; this year I wasn't. I don't think there's a rhyme or reason why.

"I don't think there's any reason to panic. I've been pretty good for eight years doing it and had one not so good year. There's not going to be any panic (in the offseason). There will be a focus on ‘keep striving to get better.'"

Last, but certainly not least, there must be reflection.

When the Steelers lost the Super Bowl to Green Bay, Kevin Colbert's assessment was blunt: "We were good enough to be second best and second best isn't good enough."

Dealing with 7-8 will require the same type of individual and collective assessing of where the Steelers are individually and collectively and how far away they are from where they intend to be each season.

"You have to look in the mirror," Brett Keisel insisted. "You have to look in the mirror at your professional resume and figure out the things that maybe you're not doing right and, hopefully, adjust and change some of those things and make sure when you come back the next time that you're ready to go."

Part of that should involve an individual and collective accounting of the team's leadership, but also an examination of whether the followers actually want to follow the leader's lead, and if so to what end.

"Maybe," Keisel continued. "You can only say so much and address something so many times and you don't know if you're making a difference or not.

"Hopefully guys can learn from this. Hopefully, this season that's gone this way, hopefully guys can learn from it and became better players for it."

That'll do until free agency and the draft.

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