Big Moments, Small Steelers
By John Zaphyr
As a franchise, the Pittsburgh Steelers have never been known to have a locker room filled with players that come-up small when the moment calls for a big play. Six Super Bowl championships and seemingly annual appearances in the postseason have bred a history and a legacy of winning in Pittsburgh that has been carried on for the past 40 years.
But an 8-8 season in 2012 were defined by players making big mistakes at the wrong moments.
Brown was the team’s MVP in 2011 in a season in which he accumulated over 1,000 yards in receiving and return yardage. In the off-season, with wide receiver Mike Wallace sitting-out due to a contract dispute, Pittsburgh management gave Wallace’s contract money to Brown, making him the highest paid receiver in the “new money” crew. With the extra cash came extra responsibility. Brown was counted on being the number one guy, the new leader of the wide-outs as Hines Ward might have said, but Brown shrank under the pressure and increased scrutiny of being the guy. Brown’s reception total didn’t suffer much – down from 69 in 2011 to 66 in 2012 – but his receiving yardage really dipped, down to 787, and he didn’t have near the impact on special teams as he did the previous year. Brown was also dogged by an ankle injury that caused him to miss three games and his fumbles directly resulted in losses. In September, in Oakland, with the team nursing a slim lead, Brown took a pass into Oakland territory only to fumble the ball away as he reached for extra yards. Then, in Dallas, he fielded a punt and headed up field. He had plenty of green grass ahead but somehow he was stripped of the ball and, instead of his team having the lead and the ball, Dallas recovered and went on to win the game in overtime. Big mistakes at the wrong time certainly cost Brown and the team in 2012. To make matters worse, Brown went on the airwaves to discuss the lack of leadership in the locker room and claimed there was a division as well. Antonio will need to look in the mirror as he prepares for 2013 and ask himself if he is a solution or a big part of the problem.
How could anyone possibly accuse Big Ben of coming-up small in clutch situations? Since he stepped onto the football field as a rookie in 2004, Roethlisberger has been making huge plays for the Pittsburgh Steelers, winning football games in crucial situations. Who could forget his game-winning drive to win the Super Bowl against the Arizona Cardinals? An amazing moment. And, in 2010, his play was the catalyst for a tremendous comeback against the Baltimore Ravens in the divisional round of the playoffs. But, since then, Ben has, well, lost his magic. He couldn’t bring the Steelers back in that year’s Super Bowl loss to the Green Bay Packers and, with a chance to win the following postseason in Denver, he failed then too. Last year was worse. Key interceptions cost his team games against the Broncos, Cowboys, and Bengals, all when he had the ball in his hands with the game on the line. Ben has been one of the best big-game quarterbacks in football but his reputation has definitely taken a hit lately. Smart money, though, says he’ll mount a significant comeback in 2013.