The 2009 Steelers are not that much different from the same group that won the Super Bowl last year, except for the injuries to Troy Polamalu and Aaron Smith.
In fact, it could be argued they are better in several areas - the running game, the offensive line and punting. This year's Steelers also knocked off three teams - Vikings, Chargers and Broncos - that would be headed to the playoffs if the season ended today.
Then why are the Steelers struggling at 6-5?
Many reasons could be pinpointed as to why the Steelers have lost three straight games and have blown four fourth-quarter leads, but one that may not be as easy to explain is the team just doesn't have an edge to it this year.
Last year, the Steelers won many games in the fourth quarter with the rallying cry that "Steelers football is 60 minutes.'' This year it's been more like 50 minutes.
Four years ago, the Steelers were all but eliminated from the playoffs when they lost to the Cincinnati Bengals to fall to 7-5. They then went out and beat the Chicago Bears in the snow behind an inspired effort from Jerome Bettis and went on to win eight straight games to become world champions.
They played the rest of that 2005 season with a chip on their shoulders. They need to find that same kind of chip now or this season will go down in history as a failure.
Maybe Hines Ward's controversial comments will help the Steelers gain that edge, or maybe they'll rally behind Mike Tomlin's saying they're going to "unleash hell.'' (Just wondering, if the Steelers win this Sunday, will the players be able to thank God for the victory?)
The Steelers have two very winnable games against Oakland and Cleveland. If the Steelers can take care of business against those two teams, they then could have Polamalu back to face Green Bay at Heinz Field and then a rematch with the Baltimore Ravens, also at home. The regular season ends in Miami.
The Steelers still have reason for hope, but they have to start finishing games.
At this stage, just getting to the playoffs, even as a sixth seed, would be welcomed. Once you're in the playoffs, as all Steelers fans know, anything can happen.
Especially if a team is playing with an edge to it.
Missing man returns
One obvious area where the Steelers are not as good as last year is their kickoff coverage unit. They have really missed Anthony Madison, who was a gunner for them but was released before the season.
The Steelers re-signed Madison on Wednesday.
They've been using Stefan Logan to cover kicks - you may have noticed, he's the guy usually chasing the opponent into the end zone. Logan has done a decent job at returning punts and kickoffs, but it's been no better than what Santonio Holmes or Mike Wallace may be able to do.
The Steelers kept Logan at the expense of a guy like Madison. It would appear now to be a bad move.
Frank can be reached at 946-7461 or firstname.lastname@example.org.