I listen to sports talk radio on my way home from work. I know, I know, I’m a glutton for punishment. The undisputed king of Pittsburgh sports radio is a fella by the name of Mark Madden. I know MM is a polarizing figure to many but I enjoy him because unlike many of the guys on our local all-sports station, he’s actually from Pittsburgh. And he interviews porn stars. Mostly the latter.
The past week, his show has been nothing but calls from hysterical Yinzers over-analyzing the Pittsburgh Steelers devastating loss to the Denver Broncos and proposing 101 different ways to fix the team next season. Madden’s take has been the NFL is now an offensive league, with rule change after rule change meant to help offenses finally having taken hold, and the Black and Gold should stop worry about loading up on defense and spend that money bolstering the offense. While I won’t argue with his saying we need to invest in the offensive line, he couldn’t be more wrong about the state of the NFL (not that the arrogant blowhard will ever admit it). In fact, we all were.
Throughout this season, I’ve been very vocal about the death of Stiller Football. I’ve wrote about how this team wasn’t your father’s Steelers. And many other media types around town have echoed these sentiments and applauded Pittsburgh’s move into 21st century football. The Steelers built a team that featured an explosive offense and a bend-but-don’t-break defense because that’s what it takes to win in the NFL.
Until this weekend.
The consensus three best offenses in football are the Green Bay Packers, New England Patriots and New Orleans Saints. On Saturday, the Saints and their 24th ranked defense got dumped by the 49ers, who have the 9th best defense in football. Yesterday, the defending champion Packers (31st ranked defense) were upset in large part to a hellacious defensive effort by the New York Football Giants. The Pats (32nd ranked D) are still alive but only because they had the good luck to face the worst team remaining in the playoffs. Next week, we’ll see how they do when they take a stab (ha!) at the Ratbirds and football’s 3rd best defense.
Crazy-ass final four minutes aside, the Niners don’t have an elite offense. Sure, Alex Smith’s balls dropped in that frenzied final drive but most of the game they leaned on running back Frank Gore. The G-Men controlled the Pack thanks to the 1-2 punch of Ahmad Bradshaw and Brandon Jacobs. And, of course, Baltimore’s entire offense continues to feed off the play of Ray Rice.
So, basically, three of the four teams remaining the playoffs got there by running the ball and playing great defense. Hmmmm… Where have I heard that recipe before? Oh, right, it was the map the Steelers followed for the better part of the past 35 years before employing a cast of 45 year old greybeards on D and rolling out the Flying Circus on offense.
All season, I’ve been talking about how the Steelers need to adapt to the future. After watching this week’s playoff games, I’m starting to think maybe they’d be better off going back to the past.