Why don't the Steelers just lose their final games and get a higher draft pick?">
Why don't the Steelers just lose their final games and get a higher draft pick?">

Not quitting gives hope

<b>PITTSBURGH -</b> The question has been there for several weeks now, even when the Steelers still had a "chance" to earn a spot in the playoffs. <br><br> Why don't the Steelers just lose their final games and get a higher draft pick?

Sunday, we saw why in the Steelers' 27-7 victory over the Oakland Raiders.

As much as some fans wanted the Steelers to tank, even they will admit it would not be any fun to be a fan of the Raiders right now.

Yet, that is basically what they wanted the Steelers to be. The Raiders have quit on this season.

Thankfully, the Steelers have not.

What difference does it make?

You can take this to the bank: The Steelers will be back in the playoffs before Oakland is again.

The Raiders have an attitude problem. They're now quitters. And quitters are people who have accepted, no embraced, losing.

That is part of the attitude Marvin Lewis changed in Cincinnati. Whoever the next coach is in Oakland will face a similar task. Not only will that new coach have to find new players, he's going to have to look at the players who are left over and realize they are tainted by the fact they quit.

The Steelers have no such problem.

Look at Dewayne Washington. As much as he's been trashed - and rightfully so - he didn't go into the tank. It would have been easy, even understandable, for Washington to quit on this season when he was benched by head coach Bill Cowher over a month ago.

Instead, Washington kept quiet, admitted he hadn't been playing well and took his benching like a man. He didn't point fingers, didn't blame anyone else.

Bill Cowher has many shortcomings as a head coach. He's not a great Xs and Os guy. He may not be a great evaluator of talent. But he hasn't lost this team. They still believe in what he's doing, for better or for worse.

That gives them hope for next season.
  • © Alonzo Jackson took the linebackers and coach Keith Butler to Morton's Sunday night for dinner. His treat.

    The team's rookies do this every year for the veteran players at their position.

    Sunday, as I spoke with Joey Porter about it, Jackson sat next to him in a chair looking like a man who was counting every dollar he would have to spend.

    And then, Porter and I had this exchange:

    Me: "Did you do that when you were a rookie?"

    Porter: "Yeah."

    Me: "How much did you have to spend."

    Porter: "I think the bill was five thou. I was supposed to split it with Chad Kelsay, but his grandfather died that week and he had to go home for the funeral. I couldn't give him his half of the bill when he got back. He was going through a tough time."

    Trust me on this: Jackson's face when Porter said five thousand was priceless.

  • © Jackson probably wouldn't mind dropping five or six thousand dollars on a dinner if he were playing more.

    Heck, even Russell Stuvaints was active on Sunday, while Jackson stood on the sideline in street clothes.

  • © Kimo von Oelhoffen now has eight sacks and has done enough to keep himself around again next season, even if he is just a part-time player.

    Then again, the fact he has eight sacks despite sharing time with Rodney Bailey is very, very impressive.

  • © The Raiders had a field day running at Jason Gildon on their touchdown drive. Gildon was nowhere to be seen.

    They can't cut him soon enough once the season is over.

  • © John Steigerwald likes to quote Tommy Maddox's record when he throws for over 260 yards. It was 1-7-1 before Sunday's game. It's 2-7-1 now.

    Of course what Steigerwald doesn't take into account is all the games last season when Maddox threw for 150 to 200 yards in the first half and the Steelers threw the ball five times in the second half as they ran out the clock.

  • © If only the Steelers could line up against Rick Mirer every week .

    You can't blame a guy for dreaming.

  • © Nice to see Antwaan Randle El make an offensive contribution. Where's that been all season?

  • © The Steelers had 154 punt return yards compared to minus-3 for Oakland.

    Oakland's Shane Lechler will make the Pro Bowl because of his gaudy punting average. But he was horrible Sunday, more intent on kicking the ball far than he was keeping Randle El from getting a good return.

  • © Jerome Bettis will have another big game next Sunday against the Jets and the following week against San Diego. Make no mistake about it though, the Steelers need to acquire an explosive running back.

    Look at what Clinton Portis and Jamal Lewis did Sunday.

  • © Sorry Amos Zereoue, you're not an explosive running back.

  • © The Dumbest Team in America had five penalties for 50 yards, while the Steelers had nine for 85 yards.

    Is it just me, or do the Steelers get called for an inordinate amount of holding penalties?

  • © I'm guessing all the holding penalties are a product of their running backs not hitting the hole quickly enough. If you've got to hold that block an extra second to allow Bettis to lumber or for Zereoue to stutter step his way through the hole, you're bound to get caught with your hand in the cookie jar.

    That's my theory and I'm sticking to it.

  • © Overheard in the pressbox Sunday: "Doesn't Miami losing help the Steelers' chances?"

    My reply: "For what?"

  • © Prior to the game, our Jim Wexell dubbed it the Ben Roethlisberger Bowl.

    Hate to disagree with my good friend, but the Raiders are playing for Eli Manning, not the Miami (Ohio) quarterback.

    Oakland isn't going to win another game and will have a top-5 pick. The Steelers, meanwhile, will be between 10 and 15 and won't have a shot at either.

  • © Don't worry, however. Quarterback isn't all that great of a need. While it's true it would be nice to draft one and groom him for down the road, the Steelers are close enough to being a playoff team in 2004 that they wouldn't anyway.

    Bill Cowher needs to win now, not three years from now. They can win in 2004 with Tommy Maddox at QB. A new cornerback and a new running back are much greater needs.

  • © Then again, maybe a bold move like Baltimore made this season would be a thought.

    Why not trade tomorrow's picks to get your corner, running back and quarterback of the future this year.

    Then you can let the quarterback and running back grow up together.

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