Coach Mike Tomlin said it’s time to “wrap a bow” around the 2012 season, but what was inside the package definitely is not what any of the Steelers’ players and coaches had hoped for this season.
The Steelers finished 8-8 and out of the playoffs, far short of the Super Bowl expectations this team has every year.
“There is a certain level of disappointment that comes with sitting here, even right now, having an end of the season press conference,” said Tomlin. “Those are never our intentions. We desire to be a team that is consistently in the battle for the Vince Lombardi trophy. That didn’t transpire this year for a number of reasons, primarily that we didn’t do enough in the closing moments of close football games.”
The Steelers had eight games this season decided by three points or less and were only able to win three of them, Philadelphia, Kansas City and Baltimore. It was games that they lost, including early in the season to Oakland and Tennessee, by those close margins that came back to haunt them in the end.
“That will produce an 8-8-like record that will have you on the outside looking in,” said Tomlin. “Those of us that have been in this business for any length of time, we understand that and embrace that. The good teams, the dominant teams, aren’t necessarily dominant inside stadiums but they are dominant largely in moments, and they do what is required to get out of stadiums with victories. We didn’t do that consistently enough.”
So instead of spending this week preparing for the playoffs, Tomlin will be spending time conducting exit interviews with the players.
“We are on the outside looking in,” said Tomlin. “We don’t feel great about it. As a matter of fact, we dislike it. We are committed to doing what is required for us, in terms of moving forward, to ensure that we are not having similar conversations in the future.”
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Offensive line coach Sean Kugler said his goodbyes on Monday, heading off to his new position as head coach at University of Texas-El Paso. The Steelers will begin their search for a new offensive line coach, but are going to be methodical about it.
“I think it’s important that we hire the right man,” said Tomlin, who did say that Kugler will not be taking any Steelers’ assistant coaches with him. “We’re going to work swiftly but diligently. We’re not going to put any time constraints on it. The big thing is that we come out of it with the correct man to move forward with that group in 2013.
“I don’t have any preconceived notions in terms of the number of people I might interview and things of that nature or how it could transpire. I’ve been gathering information informally. I’ll continue to do that in a more formal manner here moving forward.”
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As Ramon Foster stood in front of the cameras in the Steelers media room on Monday, Maurkice Pouncey and Marcus Gilbert stood outside tapping on the closed door, smiling, taking Foster’s picture, and just having a little fun. It didn’t come as a surprise, as the offensive line is one of the tightest knit units on the Steelers’ team, a group that truly considers each other brothers.
That is one of the reasons Foster, a soon-to-be unrestricted free agent, is hoping that he is back in black and gold next year.
“The friendship part, it would be tough if I wasn’t here,” said Foster. “That’s just a part of the business. I hope I am here.”
Foster also knows the potential that exists on the offensive line with young players like Pouncey, David DeCastro and Mike Adams in the mix with a solid group of veterans, and would love the opportunity to be a part of the bright future the line has.
“We can be really good,” said Foster. “We have a lot of top-quality picks and young guys. I think the average age in our room now is 25 years old. Those guys are really good. I think everyone in our room now has played. We have depth. We just have to get everybody healthy this offseason and see how everything transpires.
“We have a lot of talented and special players on the line. You have all dynamics, smart guys and tough guys, every type of dynamic in the room. The talent is bottomless right now. I want to be a part of a line like that. Barring injuries, it could be a really special line.”
At this point, though, Foster doesn’t know what his future will hold. He will meet with Coach Mike Tomlin on Tuesday, which possibly could give some clarity to his future. But until free agency begins in March he will take Tomlin’s advice and reflect back on this season, one that finished with a disappointing 8-8 record.
“He said just remember what we had this past season,” said Foster of the message Tomlin delivered in a team meeting on Monday. “We were 8-8. That’s something you have to sit on for a little bit and remember it going into the next season. It’s something you can’t dwell on, but you have to reflect back on it before you move forward next year.”
Foster said that missing the playoffs will definitely serve as motivation going into the offseason, giving everyone that extra drive to not have this same feeling again.
“No doubt,” said Foster. “We split 3-3 in division play. We have a higher standard than that here. To come up short, it’s definitely not something that we were looking forward to.”
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Coach Mike Tomlin held his final press conference of the 2012 season on Monday, and one of the first areas he addressed was the health of the team, including some players who suffered injuries against the Browns.
Defensive end Brett Keisel and cornerback Keenan Lewis both suffered MCL sprains, but the good news is neither will require surgery.
Safety Ryan Clark suffered a severe contusion to his left quad and spent Sunday night hospitalized as a precaution.
“I have touched base with him this morning and he has been released,” said Tomlin. “He is resting comfortably at home. We did want to exercise caution with it to make sure nothing unfortunate developed in the middle of the night. He said it was uneventful and he’s well-rested.”
In addition Kelvin Beachum sustained a concussion, David DeCastro had a “severe” stinger, and Cameron Heyward suffered a broken rib against the Browns.
The other injury news centered on players who previously suffered injuries, including tight end Heath Miller who had ACL and MCL reconstructive surgery.
“There is no timetable on his rehabilitation or the steps in that regard to this point,” said Tomlin.
Cornerback DeMarcus Van Dyke had surgery to have his shoulder reconstructed and running back Baron Batch had a plate inserted in his broken arm. There isn’t a timetable on either player’s recovery yet. Tomlin also said quarterback Ben Roethlisberger will not require any type of offseason surgery as a result of the rib injury he suffered earlier in the season.
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The Steelers and Ford made the holiday season a special one for Diana Kostelnik of Latrobe, Pa., when she won the Ford “Toughest Truck Toughest Team,” contest and was presented with a 2012 Ford F-150 XLT SuperCrew wrapped in Steelers colors and logos.
“I’ve never won anything in my life,” said Kostelnik, 64. “I couldn’t believe it. We were shocked. This is awesome.
“It’s going to be cool driving around in it. We are really proud.”
The contest to win the truck began during Steelers training camp and extended through Dec. 14, with the truck on display at all home games as a part of the team’s partnership with Ford.
“As the official truck of the Steelers, it only made sense to celebrate that partnership by giving one away to a lucky fan,” said Joey Thurby, chairman of the Neighborhood Ford Store, a group of 81 Ford dealers in western Pennsylvania, southeastern Ohio and the panhandles of West Virginia and Maryland. “And by wrapping it in black and gold, it’ll hands-down be the best-looking truck in town.
“The toughest team deserves the toughest truck – and that’s why the F-Series is the Official Truck of the Pittsburgh Steelers. We couldn’t think of a better way to celebrate that partnership than to give away the ultimate tailgating vehicle.”
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