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Steelers' arrow still pointing up

The Steelers were hammered by the Patriots, and so it's no surprise they're being hammered by fans and media. But SCI publisher Jim Wexell remains adamant their arrow is pointing up.

Having once been dubbed "the most negative guy in the media" -- by no less than the quarterback -- I find it easy to be positive these days.

You call me a homer; I cite the quarterback's label.

I guess in that way it's street cred.

So it's with that preface that I came home from Foxboro to an interactive fan and media machine that's pushing Terry Bradshaw's "cheerleading" comments right back up the pole, and in general -- or so it seems -- applauding him as having been right about Mike Tomlin all along.

Should I just shake my head and move on? 

Because, I have a pretty positive notes column brewing in the back of my cranium. 

Should I just ignore this expected negativity and run with my own thoughts?

Nope. Not yet. 

It must be the bulldog -- (some would have another word) -- in me that causes me to feel the need to shoot down the bad guys first. I guess it's in my nature. I call one of the local reporters "the sheriff of media police," because he's always calling out stuff that is wrong. In fact, he called me out on twitter yesterday for suggesting the Pittsburgh Steelers blitzed more than what he deemed I should have felt. I think.

But that's neither here nor there. I'm just prolonging my preface, I guess, because I'm going to do a little policing of my own here, even though I don't appreciate it when done to me.

So, yeah, there's that hypocrisy, but on the drive home I listened to one of the reporters on one of the local radio stations reporting a "lack of discipline" in the Steelers' locker room. And, of course, this kind of stuff is met by a receptive public after such a loss.

She cited Antonio Brown's Facebook Live broadcast following the Chiefs game, and tied it to her perception that Tomlin allows this kind of buffoonery to exist. 

I guess we're supposed to believe Tomlin should've buried Brown, and that it's this kind of acceptability that cost them this game. But I thought Tomlin handled Brown's lapse rather well. And I don't believe for a second it had an effect on the game.

Is Brown a fool? Absolutely he's foolish. But watch him practice and you can see why he's needed. Did you watch the other Steelers receivers Sunday night? 

Brown had a decent game, in spite of being covered by the Pats' best man, Malcolm Butler, while also drawing attention from the safeties. But I'm sure he wanted a really big game in order to redeem his reputation, which is all fine by me.

Brown is clearly, to those watching practice, the best route-runner and scoring threat they have, and he works at it every day without failure. And it's not as if the Steelers have other WRs with his skills. Their final "seven shots" last Friday from the 2-yard line made me think they were going against the Chiefs again instead of their own defense. It was butt ugly.

So with that in mind, how harshly was Tomlin supposed to have come down on the one and only "diva" on this team?

How harshly does Bill Belichick come down on his fool, Rob Gronkowski, when he's out partying? 

Probably does what he can, but no one's coming down too harshly on those kinds of talents. They're needed. I remember coaching teenagers when our pitching ace blew off practice again before the title game. I asked for a team vote as to whether I -- who felt as a coach I needed to discipline the boy -- should bench him. The vote was unanimous not to.

I just didn't offer the boy a big contract when the season was over. 

Of course, that aspect was startlingly -- and admirably -- addressed publicly by Tomlin, too. 

But, oh, this reporter in this radio interview said that this lack of discipline oozed into the game. In fact, she said, Brown wasn't happy at all when DeAngelo Williams scored a touchdown. But when I returned and watched the film, Brown was happy enough to signal touchdown. He didn't run up and kiss Williams, but what do I care? That Brown may have been wanting the ball more is no sin. We all remember the great Walter Payton pouting about not getting the ball in his Super Bowl win, don't we?

Then came a taped interview, on the radio station in question, with LeGarrette Blount, in which he threw into the end of his commentary the discipline offered by Belichick as a difference between he and Tomlin.

THIS FROM A GUY WHO WAS CUT IN A DISCIPLINARY ACTION BY TOMLIN.

Sorry. Got a little carried away there. 

But, yeah, Blount's happier in a place where he scored 18 touchdowns and rushed for over 1,000 yards. He pouted here because no one gave him the ball. And then he was gone. Not sure if he knew they had a guy named Le'Veon Bell to handle most of that.

But much was made yesterday over the fool Blount's commentary and used against Tomlin as evidence of his "lack of discipline" on the team.

Remember, the nine-game win streak is over and he's a cheerleader again, because, well, look at that defensive game plan!

OK, let's go there. The tackling wasn't real strong in the back end on this gloomy night. Not sure how that plays into the lack-of-discipline spiel or the poor-game-planning decree. 

But they got things off to a bad start with some easy misses. And of course the corners gave the cushion we all lamented under Dick LeBeau, in, I believe, correctly thinking it's from a different era that QBs can't pick those soft zones apart all the way down the field. 

Of course, Tom Brady can. But the players said all along that to beat Brady and the Patriots, they had to win one-on-ones, that scheme didn't really matter all that much, because for one you can't blitz this guy all the time, in spite of a line that looked so soft the previous week. 

Remember, Brady had lambasted his O-line for losing its one-on-ones the previous week. For that, he was lionized by the New England media. And guess what? The O-line responded. 

Rookie Joe Thuney, whom I never really liked coming out of NC State, was thrown for a loop by fellow North Carolinian rookie Javon Hargrave on Hargrave's way to an early sack of Brady. But that was it, until Sean Davis picked up a coverage sack in garbage time. 

The Steelers hit Brady only three times all game, and I learned from one of the players that their game plan included hitting Brady at every opportunity, and it was hinted that the hits might not all be too legal, either. But the Patriots picked up every stunt, game and blitz the Steelers threw at them. 

Stephon Tuitt, the man fans and media counted so heavily upon, didn't have the great impact the Steelers needed. I asked him about it after the game, and his eyes filled with tears. He was absolutely distraught not only at the loss but at the thought he had let everyone down.

Tell Stephon Tuitt his team lacks discipline.

As for running primarily zone, this is a zone team that's hoping to one day be able to mix it up seamlessly and keep QBs such as Brady off balance. They drafted a cornerback in Artie Burns and a safety in Davis who offer that kind of hope. 

Well, they tried to mix it up anyway and Brady burned them, or burned Will Gay, who was flailing hopelessly at Chris Hogan for, what I believe, was the play that broke the Steelers' backs.

Was it the turning point? No, I believe that to have been the failure at the goal line to end the half. But even at that, and with a dropped bomb, a dropped TD, a missed extra-point, a missed fumble by the officials, ZERO calls from the officials and the loss of their MVP running back, the Steelers still trailed by only 20-9 when Brady burned their man coverage to set up a flurry of two touchdowns in the next 1:45, and the game was over.

The fears of the lack of Steelers weaponry, of losing Bell, of James Harrison being hobbled by his injury, of a young secondary, were all realized, and that's what Brady and Belichick do. 

At their home stadium, especially. 

After sliding through and winning that hopelessly weak division. 

Again.

Can the Steelers overcome this?

Of course. I believe the arrow is definitely pointing up. They'll add a pass-rusher to groom behind Harrison. They'll re-sign Lawrence Timmons, who to me is taking on a latter-day James Farrior look. They'll add another young corner and he'll compete with Senquez Golson for, I imagine, Gay's slot position. They'll be able to get away with more man coverage. They'll get after the QB. They'll get Martavis Bryant back.

Will it be enough to grab the needed bye and potentially play the Patriots at home next January? Well, that's thinking way too far ahead because this truly is -- no matter what the media and fans like to say -- a tough division, and winning it should still be the primary goal.

The Steelers have the quarterback and they have the O-line and they have the special playmakers and they have the ever-growing young defense. It's all been rebuilt.

And in my opinion they have the coach and they have the discipline. 

No matter what the media policing the situation are allowed to promulgate after a bad beatdown.


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