PITTSBURGH - After careful in-depth analysis, here's the Pittsburgh Steelers' biggest problem: They don't have enough good players.
This is what happens when teams don't draft well. It's bitten the Steelers before, back in the 1980s before the salary cap made it even more critical to steadily replenish the roster .
The Steelers assembled a nucleus of talent that was good enough to get to the Super Bowl three times in six years.
But players get old or get hurt or get too expensive, and they go away. Hines Ward, Aaron Smith, James Farrior, Santonio Holmes, Alan Faneca, Willie Parker and James Harrison are among the talented players who have departed.
How many have the Steelers adequately replaced? The double whammy of the salary cap and poor drafting have hit hard.
Things were a little crowded on the North Side Saturday with Pitt playing a football game at Heinz Field at 12:30, and the Pirates meeting the Chicago Cubs at PNC Park at 7:05.
That's just a warm-up for this Sunday, though. The Pirates play their last home game of the regular season at 1:35. It's likely to be a sellout.
The Steelers are home for a game against the Chicago Bears that kicks off around 8:25.
That will put about 100,000 people and their vehicles in a four-block area over the course of eight hours. That should be interesting, given that most of the roads in the immediate area are two lanes.
It would be a good idea to build in extra time if attending either game.
Pitching a fit
A.J. Burnett took to Twitter to emphasize he was not aiming his hissy fit at teammate Clint Barmes the other day in Texas.
He was unhappy with the defensive shift that had been called from the bench and not with Barmes' play on a ball that went for a two-run single.
So he was throwing the manager and the coaching staff under the bus rather than the shortstop. Does that make anything better?
Doesn't matter who made him angry, Burnett's reaction sent the message, "Hey, this isn't my fault." It wasn't a good thing to do, just as probably wouldn't appreciate one of his outfielders throwing his arms up in disgust as a home run ball sailed over the fence.
Have a problem with the shifts? Strike out the batter.
The Pirates could have some interesting decisions to make when they set their postseason roster.
If Starling Marte can't bat, he won't have enough value as a pinch runner and defensive replacement to carry. Marte has to be able to play through the pain his injured right hand causes.
Will Jason Grilli rebound well enough to get a spot, or do the Pirates put Kyle Farnsworth on the roster as a late-inning option?
There are decisions to make. Of course, they have to nail down a postseason spot first.
Mehno can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org