Mehno: Their record speaks for itself
PITTSBURGH — Let’s get to the bottom line at the top:
When your playoff fate is in the hands of another team, you don’t have any business getting upset when that team blows your chance.
The Steelers never should have gotten to a point where they needed the Cleveland Browns to win in Baltimore to save their season.
After their wobbly 16-13 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday, the Steelers lingered on the Heinz Field turf to watch the end of the Browns-Ravens game on the big screen.
The Browns lost in the last minute, which doomed the Steelers to second place in the AFC North and a spot outside the AFC playoff field.
“It’s going to be a long offseason,” defensive end Cam Heyward sighed.
Good. The Steelers need some extra time to assess what went wrong here and try to fix it.
Once 7-2-1, they finished 9-6-1 in a season that saw them lose a fourth-quarter lead in five games.
Despite taking a defensive player in the first round of the last six drafts, their defense isn’t good enough.
Throw in some other factors — the front office badly miscalculating the Le’Veon Bell situation, Chris Boswell suddenly getting the yips — and it’s not good enough to make the playoffs.
So what happens now? The Steelers have a hands-on owner in Art Rooney II. He’s in the office every day, and he communicates regularly with his football people.
There will be extensive meetings in the weeks ahead, and here’s what should come out of that:
n Coaching changes. After the 1988 season, Dan Rooney ordered Chuck Noll to make changes in his staff. Noll balked, but he complied and fired five coaches. Those changes included the removal of Tony Dungy, a future Hall of Fame coach, as defensive coordinator.
The Steelers need to replace Keith Butler as defensive coordinator and Danny Smith as coach of the error-prone special teams.
n Drafting review. The Steelers need to examine the way they evaluate, draft and develop players. They’ve had some strong hits in the draft, like Bell, JuJu Smith-Schuster and T.J. Watt. They’ve also swung and missed on people like Jarvis Jones, Artie Burns and, in all likelihood, Bud Dupree.
Nobody hits on all their picks, but the Steelers need to do better.
n Free agency. The Steelers typically aren’t big players in free agency. But the salary cap will rise next year, plus they have their $14 million savings from the Bell debacle. Take a look and see what’s out there. The Steelers need immediate help at inside linebacker and cornerback. It’s unlikely a draft choice could come in and make an instant impact at either of those positions.
Don’t automatically shut off an important resource for player personnel.
n Help Tomlin. At the risk of the belaboring a point, the head coach has shown himself to be spotty at details like time management and replay challenges. Get him an assistant to help with those issues.
OK, here’s the crazy point — If Boswell makes a couple of the kicks that he missed, this column takes a whole different tone. But he didn’t, and here we are. Failure renders the status quo obsolete. “Might have been” doesn’t matter. The record speaks for itself.
The Steelers go into just about every season assuming they’ll be in the playoffs and hoping they’ll be good enough to at least reach the Super Bowl.
That isn’t happening this year, and they need to determine why.
They don’t want to end up staring at the video board, hoping another team can take care of the business that got away from them.
Mehno can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.