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Starkey: Ode to a rotten season

| Saturday, Dec. 29, 2012, 10:58 p.m.

Larry Foote is one of several Steelers veterans sure to take a long look around the locker room after the season finale against the Cleveland Browns.

Some might never see the place again.

“You never know,” Foote said. “I'm going to start with myself and the other 30-somethings, look down the line at some of the guys with multiple Super Bowl rings. I'm going to be wondering if we're back.”

Before the signing of the yearbooks — and before what should be a horrendous game against the Browns — we bid farewell to Mike Tomlin's worst season and possibly the Steelers' first losing season since 2003.

Envelopes, please …

Most valuable

Heath Miller. I'll let Mike Wallace speak on Miller's behalf: “He was our most consistent guy, week in, week out.”

Honorable Mention: Ryan Clark

Least valuable

LaMarr Woodley. Twelve games, four sacks, 'nuff said.

Honorable mention: Rashard Mendenhall

I'm tired award

Curtis Brown, who can usually be found sleeping at his locker before Wednesday practice

Honorable mention: Jonathan Dwyer, who set the unofficial team record for tapping himself out of games

Most inspirational

Charlie Batch, who turned in one of the more inspirational performances you'll see in the comeback win at Baltimore

Rookie of the year

Mike Adams. Had moments where one could envision a long career. Otherwise, the class was notable mostly for Alameda Ta'amu's drunken rampage through the South Side.

Tools of the incompetent award

Special teams. Aside from Shaun Suisham, who is a football god (as long as he doesn't have to kick laces-in), and Chris Rainey, this group was a disaster under Aim-less Jones.

Biggest surprise

Keenan Lewis. People laughed when Lewis pronounced himself Pro Bowl-ready. Then he led the AFC in passes defensed. Question is, can he be re-signed?

Honorable mention: Todd Haley and Big Ben never blew up on the sidelines (yet). Of course, it's possible they were never in close enough proximity for that to happen.

Biggest disappointment

Wallace, Antonio Brown and Emmanuel Sanders have an extremely high opinion of themselves; their collective performance did not come close to matching it.

Honorable mention: Mendenhall didn't bother to attend the Chargers game. Worse, he wasn't man enough to explain his actions or to apologize to teammates.

What was he thinking award

Antonio Brown backpedaled the final 20 yards of a 78-yard punt return. Typical of the season, the return was called back on Curtis Brown's hold (at least ol' Curtis was awake for the play).

Hit of the year

Clark nearly beheaded RG III.

Iron man award

Max Starks was the only offensive player to take every snap.

Bronze bust award

Ziggy Hood arrived at camp with a newly sculpted body, then played like a statue.

Best play

Roethlisberger held the ball for 8.9 seconds on that remarkable touchdown pass in Dallas. Call it the Immaculate Suspension.

Honorable mention: Miller's pylon dive at Baltimore; Wallace's turn-on-the-jets sprint in Jersey.

Worst play

Ben's mindless late interception (as opposed to his mindless early interception) last Sunday.

Honorable mentions: Baron Batch lost one in the lights; Sweezy nearly died on an end-around; Brett Keisel jumped offside on Oakland's fourth-and-2 at the Steelers' 6.

I-still-can't-believe-it-happened award

Brick-footed Byron Leftwich went all Steve Young on a 31-yard TD run against Baltimore.

Worst coaching move

Tomlin played a slapstick game of musical running backs at Cleveland (how come nobody else got benched for their first mistake in a game?), but he topped it against the Chargers. With a chance to make it a two-score game by going for two, trailing 34-16 with 6:07 left, the head coach quit. He amazingly chose to keep it a three-score game. Linguists from around the world are still trying to decipher his initial explanations. Two days later, Tomlin couldn't bring himself to admit the gaffe, saying he didn't go for two because “it was bleak.” Yeah, especially when the coach gave his team no chance.

Quotes of the year

• “Excuses are tools of the incompetent.” — Tomlin, whose team rarely used excuses but often found incompetence.

• “Haley's offense is not a big-play offense; it's kind of a dink-and-dunk offense.” — Roethlisberger, two days before the game at Cincinnati.

Roethlisberger said that only to me, yet I read several media interpretations of what he meant and how he said it. Amazing.

Just know this: If you believe that Ben is a fan of “Haley's offense,” you're delusional. Ben doesn't like Haley's offense. Period. That doesn't mean it can't work. Doesn't mean Ben and Haley hate each other. Simply means Ben doesn't like Haley's offense. Any other account of the situation is wrong.

Thank you.

Joe Starkey co-hosts a show 2 to 6 p.m. weekdays on 93.7 “The Fan.” His columns appear Thursdays and Sundays. He can be reached at

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