The finish to 2015 shouldn't be this sluggish, so here's to a New Year and the next game

SCI.net publisher Jim Wexell serving three masters but finding only one solution for the Steelers.

From the notebook of a sportswriter who's probably trying to serve too many masters down here in Orlando:
A.) It's a soccer tournament, so we're here because, you know, team, coach, life, probably in that order.
B.) While keeping an eye and ear on the happenings in Pittsburgh to satisfy Steelers fans who are probably still too mad to care about anything other than there-had-better-be-a-W this week.
C.) And it's New Year's Eve, so the social network is also calling. How utterly grim. Am I the only one who dreads this holiday?
* At least there's college football tonight.
* I read an Associated Press story this morning in which were enumerated the worst coaching calls this NFL season. Chuck Pagano led the list, followed by Tom Coughlin (two calls and also a Brad Wing decision), Bill Belichick and John Fox.
* Even the best coaches make horrible calls.
* Mike Tomlin's name wasn't on the list but I'm sure most have a full notepad at the ready. I really can't think of one that stands out. The fake field goal in Seattle was extremely clumsy but it was a first-quarter call against a Seattle team with a quarterback who was going to score on that defense.
* If I had to choose, I might go with Tomlin's decision to eschew the field goal on the first drive last week in Baltimore.
* The difference in this one is the Ravens weren't going to score like the Seahawks.
* A field goal there establishes a business-like, professional attitude.
* It seemed to instead be some sort of "unleash hell" machismo. Seemed to be anyway.
* I really have no other major complaint about Tomlin leading up to or in the Baltimore game. The peculiar Antwon Blake saga really wasn't a part of the loss because Ross Cockrell really didn't play all that well in Blake's place.
* The practices leading up to the game were much better than those leading up to the Denver game. Tomlin even walked around the locker room and dropped his brand of motivation onto players.
* Steelers are now 0-3 in Baltimore in December when the Ravens are out of it and the Steelers are in it.
* I still figured the players had found their prescription in Cincinnati, where they played with such great intensity.
* I assumed they realized that their poor start against Denver the following week was due to that lack of intensity. It should've scared them straight going into Baltimore.
* As you've known for some time, the outside linebackers aren't providing any pass rush. It appears the mainstream media is catching on.
* But there's effective pass rush from the interior. That's supposed to be the hard part.
Bud Dupree flashes Pro Bowl athleticism and Jarvis Jones doesn't, or hasn't. I know Joey Porter says to give him time to understand the defense, but even as Porter himself struggled to understand his defense as a player his athleticism flashed consistently.
* Again, I would love to see Steve McLendonStephon Tuitt and Cam Heyward used consistently as three-fourths of the 4-man front.
* Something a lot of us have had difficulty admitting is that Ryan Mallett played well. I can see why Belichick drafted him and why one of Belichick's assistants acquired him when he became coach of Houston.
* Mallett clearly has talent, twice that of Jimmy Clausen.
* Or Eric Zeier, if we want to go all the way back in time.
* There've been some awful Ravens quarterbacks destroyed by the Steelers defense.
* Back when great ballhawks roamed their secondary.
* The Steelers need one, no one doubts that, but I can't say I'm impressed with the crop coming out of college this season. It doesn't seem strong at the top, although it is weak in the middle and at the bottom.
* That's a take-off of the scouting line "He's small but he's slow."
* I am at a girls soccer college showcase so let's go with "she's small but she's slow."
* I have a few DBs in mind. I'll watch Florida State's and Houston's players in a day or two on tape. But my point is I don't see immediate help coming from the draft.
* That means it'll have to come in March, when the Steelers will need to make a Jeff Hartings-type of free-agent signing in the secondary.
* Of course, that's unlikely. Anyone with Hartings-like skill in the secondary will cost way too much money.
* I don't mean to be so pessimistic. But I may as well get it out of my system on the last day of the year.
* Not so pessimistic about the Buffalo Bills, though. They just have to cover Brandon Marshall.
* And as for the Steelers, they just need to realize they're not as good as the world makes them out to be during a three-game winning streak. Remember the Bengals.


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