5 Smoldering Questions: the 2016 Finale

mike-tomlin-and-kevin-colbert-1by Hombre de Acero

The 2016 NFL seasons has come to its end and, as much as we might not like it, the New England Patriots are 5-time Super Bowl Champions. Many if not most Steelers sites have long since shut the book on the Steelers 2016 campaign, but in keeping with this site’s commitment to offer an introspective view of the Steelers, we take one last Smoldering look at 2016 before shifting to the off season and free agency.

1. Shortly after our last edition of the 5 Smolderings, I was commiserating with a Dallas Cowboy fan who observed this:

“As much of a disappointment it is to lose in a Championship Game, it still can’t replicate the pain of that Divisional Round loss after twice tying the game in the 4th quarter; it’s still going to take a long while until I am over that game.”

The Steelers have had their share of heartbreaking AFC Championship game losses. Would it have been easier for you as a fan to swallow this loss had it gone down to the wire? More importantly, do you think the lopsided nature of the loss will have negative repercussions moving forward?

2. Speaking of which, the Steelers latest AFC Championship loss to the Patriots seems not only to have elicited negativity from the naysayers in Steelers Nation, but also inside the Steelers locker room.

Specifically we’re referring to the war of words that Ben Roethlisberger and Antonio Brown are waging through their proxies, Ron Cook and Dale Lolley.

This sort of thing has been, mercifully, rare in Pittsburgh. What do you make of it and do you fear this will spill over into the rest of the off season and/or into 2017?

3. Well before Tom Brady ever got his hands on his 7th Lamarr Hunt AFC Championship trophy, Steelers Nation saw no shortage of “fans” who bemoaned that “Tomlin still has only won with Cowher’s players.”

Various authors on this site have thoroughly debunked that idea and there’s no need to revisit it here.

However, Kevin Colbert inherited Jerome Bettis, Alan Faneca, Hines Ward, Deshea Townsend, Joey Porter and Aaron Smith—all pivotal pieces to success in Super Bowl XL and Super Bowl XLIII. And yet, no one ever accuses Kevin Colbert of being unable to win without Tom Donahoe’s players.

In this writer’s view this is a bad measuring stick, but even so, why isn’t Kevin Colbert held to the same standard?

4. In looking back at the season, Mike Tomin’s “Moving Train” metaphor seemed particularly apt to describe the Steelers 2016 season (with the exception of the Cowboys game). When the Steelers were on it, even when they were behind, they never seemed to lose control of the game. Conversely, when they got knocked off it, they never inspired confidence that they could come back and contest the game.

Do you accept that metaphor? And if so what does it say about the development of this team?

5. Tomorrow morning when you step outside of your house, Doc Brown and Marty McFly appear with the Delorean and offer to take you to the site of a meeting held on February 9th 2016 between Dan Rooney, Art Rooney II, Kevin Colbert and Mike Tomlin, where you’ll be allowed to use the benefit 20/20 hindsight to offer them ONE piece of advice for the coming year.

What do you tell them?

Off season bonus question:

6. If there is one thing that is clear about the 2016 season, it is that the New England Patriots’ dominance over the Steelers is unequivocal. They are to this era what the Steelers of the 70s were, with the Steelers perhaps occupying the place of the 1970s Cowboys.

Is it still possible for Pittsburgh to reverse that trend?

There you go folks. That wraps up our 5 Smoldering Questions for the 2016 season. We will of course have editions as warranted during Free Agency and the draft. Coming up with 5 engaging questions week in and week out gets more challenging with each passing season, but thanks go out to all of you who took time to share your answers.

Now have at it folks!


  • 1. When you get your butt kicked, you don’t go to sleep every night kicking yourself and saying, “if only….” There’s not that one play that’s stuck on a continuous loop in your head. You lay down, bleed awhile, then rise up to fight again. This was a young team, and this was a step they had to take. The negative repercussions will be zero.

    2.Shakespeare foresaw this when he entitled his comedy, “Much Ado About Nothing.” This one features a drama queen and a showboat who are acting out after a bad loss. But they really, really like one another. It’s all part of the silly season.

    3. Perhaps you should start with the fact that Colbert grew up on the North Side, went to North Catholic and Robert Morris, and his middle name – or last name – might as well be Rooney. He’s been here since 1957, so you gotta figure they’re all his players. Tomlin, on the other hand, is from Hampton, Virginia, which is a bit more to the south than the South Side. He’s only been in Pittsburgh since 2007, which – in Steeler years – makes him a transient. There’s another reason for the different standard and it’s different. Different as black and white.

    4. Don’t know. Homer is stuck with the DC Metro system, where the trains are frequently delayed and service is non-existent. Inertia is not your friend on Metro, because most often you are not moving. I guess what Tomlin was saying was that the team did well when it had its identity. Or something like that. Homer wasn’t really sure what Tomlin actually meant. But the thought of tying Roger Goodell to the tracks – a la Snidely Whiplash – is a pleasant thought.

    5. For heaven’s sake, don’t count on Gradkowski or that Landarius guy. Get yourself another backup QB stat.

    6. There is one way for the Steelers to reverse the humiliation. And that involves Gisele telling her hubby that she’s gonna cut him off from nuk-nuk unless he comes home once and for all. Tom Brady has been living rent-free in the Steelers’ heads for 15 damned years, and he’s gonna stay there till he retires. Once he leaves, all bets are off. Till then, folks, face it. We’re doomed.


  • 1. Perhaps it would have been easier to swallow, and certainly would have given a bit more hope for the future. But a loss to the Bradiots is always going to be painful (or is it the Cheatrichicks? Which would be a good name for a girl band…)

    2. I’m with Homer. I think it means both guys are pretty sore right now.

    3. As usual Homer brings the historic perspective, and as usual I didn’t know it. But it makes a great theory. But here’s a thought experiment from my profession. Although I auditioned and chose my own singers, it is frequently the case that a conductor leads a group they had no part in choosing. And at the end of the concert the reviewers generally don’t have much to say about the quality of the orchestra or the audition process which went into it. They focus, rightly, on how the conductor did.

    And that said, I’m quite sure there is still a small but vocal minority of Steeler fans who hate Tomlin, either because he’s black, end of story, because they believe he was chosen because he was black, which is an only slightly less obvious form of racism, or because they just don’t think he is a very good coach, whatever color he is. (I’m guessing Option No. 3 is a very tiny subset.) And I know for sure that this group still exists, amazing as this seems, because some D-bag commenter on Ed Bouchette’s Steelers chat the other day said explicitly that the Steelers would be much better if the Rooneys hadn’t hired Tomlin because he was a minority candidate. I would quote it exactly – it was even more offensive than that – but I can’t find the comment, or any from that guy, and suspect they were excised. If so, good for the PG.

    4. Tomlin has often used the “moving train” metaphor about players who were on the sidelines because of injuries – that when they returned they would have to get on a moving train. I think it is a good metaphor for the season, given the youth of the defense and receivers in particular. They had to learn on the fly. Sometimes it was more successful than others.

    5. Please send Martavis Bryant to live with me. Also send a set of really good deadbolts. And take away his cell phone and drivers license. If that doesn’t put him on the straight and narrow he’s beyond hope.

    6. Yes, it is possible. From this viewpoint it doesn’t look terribly probable, however. I watched that wretched Super Bowl, and will be writing about it when the pain has subsided somewhat…


  • 1. No and no. Under the best of circumstances it would be a difficult game to win. The Steelers were, for a variety of valid reasons, the underdog. Once it was clear that Bell was down and wouldn’t be getting up I began coming to terms with the likelihood that it wouldn’t be the Steelers’ day. Dallas was dealing with a different expectation. Best record in football, favorites not only for that game but the Super Bowl, playing at home and the best chance to make a deep run in a generation. The closeness of the loss was gut wrenching in and of itself, but there were also certain expectations that also have to be considered. They were, as the saying goes, probably already making their reservations for Houston.

    2. Legitimate pain, combined with the desire to create scapegoats, controversy and pathology for the sake of ratings, clicks, etc.

    3. Here’s your problem: the goal is to discredit a guy (Tomlin) who has been, in fact, very successful. Ten non losing seasons, two Super Bowls, 100 victories, well liked and respected, etc. And you want to slick (dishonest) about why you want to discredit him (see Rebecca), so you create this bizarre scenario to that attempts to support your position and explain away the contradicting facts.

    If it were applied to Colbert and, basically, anyone else you rewrite the history of the league. Bill Cowher, for example, went to Super Bowl 30 with Chuck Noll’s players, and he only managed an 8-8 record his last season with his own players. If his players are so great doesn’t that make him incompetent? Jon Gruden won a Super Bowl with Tony Dungy’s players, right? Jim Harbaugh went to the Super Bowl with Mike Singletary’s team, right? And what about the other side of the equation? When the Titan’s were giving him the pink slip, couldn’t Mike Munchak have countered that he was undermined by Jeff Fisher’s players? And what are the rules for when you transition and it becomes your team? Is it based upon a specific percentage of players who are ‘yours’? Or might it be time based?

    I guarantee there hasn’t been any thought concerning these questions, much less any answer that would make a lick of sense.

    4. I see it as a variant of the standard is the standard. Recognizing the difficulties of coming along in the middle of the fight, but having to be accountable to the demands of the situation nonetheless.

    5. Michael Vick on speed dial?

    6. Have to careful with this type of comparison. Steelers have been a young team moving out of rebuilding mode and learning how to win on the big stage. Pats are a veteran outfit that will have to prove they can continue to dominate as Brady declines. Time and the two team’s developmental arcs may resolve this without any special effort.


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